Monday, May 03, 2010

Oil spill fallout

A mishmash of notes on the aftermath of the spill...

That's video of Obama speaking in Louisiana yesterday for those who may want to see what he had to say. At a time like this when the Gulf is facing such a catastrophe, his presence and commitment were probably reassuring.

What can you say, the vastness of the disaster in the Gulf and the sheer size of the resources needed to cope with it are just phenomenal. This interactive NY Times feature is worth a look (hit Play). It shows how the spill has expanded since day one.

In terms of collateral economic losses suffered, the U.S. has a $1.6 billion reserve fund as a result of a tax put into place after the Exxon Valdez spill. They're saying that $1 billion of it could be used for this spill, for fishery losses and others. If losses are greater, there might be arguments down the road since BP's cap on economic loss damages is $75 million, in exchange for the tax they and other oil companies pay into this reserve fund.

By the way, speaking of a preventative tax in the event of disaster, where have we heard such things in recent news...I'll leave you to ponder that one.

Questions for we have any such reserve fund in place for Atlantic offshore drilling? What is the state of our offshore oil safety planning anyway? Do we assume such disasters couldn't happen to us? Down the road, what does it mean for the notion of Arctic drilling? We seem to be sleepwalking toward some assumed pursuit of Arctic resources. This letter to the NY Times plainly lays out how we should be re-assessing that pursuit:
Louisiana’s spill gives pause to decisions to expand drilling in Alaska’s Arctic, our harshest offshore waters. This summer’s planned exploratory drilling would be subject to the region’s extreme weather and sea ice; drill sites hundreds of miles distant from spill response vessels; and extremely limited response capacity.

A timeout on offshore Arctic drilling is warranted until a more realistic view of spill response is addressed.
Also of note today, Krugman is pointing out one silver lining to this thing, perhaps, the resurgence of the environment as a priority given the pictures emanating out of the Gulf.

Similarly, it's hard to see how this disaster won't have influence on Canadian support for environmental action and rekindled discussions of our energy strategy, particularly renewables and nuclear.