Obliviscence Behind Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
    2010-06-17 11:23:48     Xinhua      Web Editor: Jiang Aitao

U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday announces permission for oil drilling 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Virginia shorelines at Andrews air base on the outskirts of Washington. [Photo: Xinhua/Reuters]

Obliviscence of past lessons stands as one of the reasons behind the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker hit Prince William Sound's reef off the U.S. state of Alaska and spewed 34,000 tons of crude oil into the sea, inflicting severe damage on the marine environment and killing numerous birds and animals.

The accident led to a ban on U.S. offshore oil development in 1990. However, the Bush administration, apparently forgetting the Alaska catastrophe, proposed scrapping the ban in 2008 due to the profitability of oil exploration and the spur of presidential elections. Congress later passed a bill to lift the ban. At the end of March, President Barack Obama formally announced the partial resumption of offshore drilling.

It is rash to restart the drilling when no sufficient attention has been paid to supervision and technology.

Not long after Obama's announcement, a drilling rig, leased by British oil giant BP, sank on April 22 in the Gulf of Mexico, after exploding and burning for roughly 36 hours. The untapped wellhead has since been spewing as much as 40,000 barrels of crude oil daily into the Gulf.

Economic interests seem to have overridden environmental consideration as opinion polls over the past two years showed that the majority of U.S. citizens favored offshore oil exploitation.

Another example of the forgetfulness is the negligence of the U.S. government department that supervises offshore oil exploitation.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which is tasked with checking and monitoring the safety of offshore drilling, also counts on growing oil and gas output for the federal government to take a bigger slice from the revenues, a situation that underscores its inability to effectively supervise the oil and gas exploitation.

A U.S. Interior Department report said Minerals Management Service officials lacked professionalism and didn't stick to regulations and systems.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill serves as a powerful reminder of the heavy price to pay if the pursuit of profit prevails and calls for safety are not heeded.



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