Big Oil Needs to Grow Up

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Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion
Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion

It’s hard not to cringe when visuals of 3.5 million gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico are being plastered all over the news. Louisiana’s fishing industry can soon be devastated as the spill moves closer to U.S. shores, not to mention the environmental impact on wildlife.

Monday top guns from BP, Transocean and Halliburton testified before Congress, in an effort to find answers into the April 20 explosion of drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 crew members and sank 50 miles off the Louisiana coast pumping 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.

Anyone watching the hearings had to be dismayed at the spectacle of the blame game. BP America’s chairman, Lamar McKay, blamed Transocean, the rig operator. Transocean’s Steven Newman blamed Halliburton, who was responsible for the cement that is supposed to keep gas from escaping up the well pipe. Halliburton’s Tim Probert said the company was just following BP protocol.

Where does this leave big oil? Up the proverbial creek with no paddle. Well, almost. The environmental and alternative energy lobbies are in high gear, leveraging this tragedy as yet another reason to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil, even though that’s the main reason for drilling in the Gulf. The GOP’s 2008 tagline “drill, baby drill” has reared its ugly head, putting both the Republican Party and big oil in a quandary.

While politics is at play here, the main focus for the oil industry should be a unified response. A collaborative approach is best to weather the political and financial fallout from the Deepwater Horizon debacle. Disarray only further widens the gap between the three entities involved in the disaster, and opens up the industry to targeted attacks. The bottom line is that they can’t go it alone, and will ultimately suffer from their own demise.

The reality is that the U.S. needs oil for the moment, while it may take decades for an alternative energy infrastructure to fully be implemented. The oil industry now needs to take responsibility for its actions and work together on a solution. Otherwise, the political spectrum will be too strong to overcome, and alternative energy will be here much sooner than later, which could be a good thing.

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