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See Also: Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Clare Spencer | 11:59 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

Commentators discuss the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Christopher Beam in Slate catalogues a series of PR mistakes he thinks BP has made after the spill:

"Since the initial explosion on the oil rig in April, BP has made some missteps. For example, the company initially told reporters that the rig was leaking 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The real figure turned out to be 5,000 barrels, after a new leak was discovered. Even then a BP spokesman downplayed the number as somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000. 'That hurt their credibility early on,' says Timothy Coombs, who teaches public relations at Eastern Illinois University. 'People wondered, How much can we trust you?' It also violated a rule that Larry Smith of the Institute for Crisis Management tells his clients: 'Don't speculate. If you know, say so. If you don't know, say you don't know'... BP also needs to grasp that though it may not be a villain, people perceive it that way."

John Gapper says in the Financial Times [registration required] that the disaster should have been avoided:

"The blow-up is less a reminder of BP's legacy than an example of the safety and environmental dangers that it and other oil 'supermajors' face by drilling in such difficult spots. Risk-taking is not something from their past that they have overcome; it is what they must do.
"The bleak reality is that, no matter who committed the original sin, oil has been gushing into the Gulf from 5,000 feet beneath sea level for two weeks now with BP not being able to halt the flow. That does not say much for a company that flaunts its expertise in deep-water drilling to investors and governments."

The former chairman of environmental organisation the Sierra Club Carl Pope argues in the Huffington Post that people have to start thinking seriously about an alternative way of transporting oil and an alternative to oil:

"If we electrified our railroads, as Europe has done, we wouldn't need to use any oil for rail shipments. As it is, UPS regularly has the lowest carbon footprint among its competitors because it relies heavily on getting its containers onto railcars, using trucks only for the 'last mile' from the nearest railhead.
"Investing in our freight-rail infrastructure is obviously also key to developing a world-class passenger-rail system, since in most of the country outside of the Boston-Washington corridor freight and passenger trains would share the same railbed.
"Right now, the debate is focused on a goal of shifting ten percent of America's truck traffic to rail. That's not ambitious enough. Given the evidence that's pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, we need to get America off of oil as quickly as we can."

Paul Krugman says in the New York Times that this disaster will reinvigorate environmentalists:

"For the most part, anti-environmentalists have been silent about the catastrophe. True, Mr. Limbaugh - arguably the Republican Party's de facto leader - promptly suggested that environmentalists might have blown up the rig to head off further offshore drilling. But that remark probably reflected desperation: Mr. Limbaugh knows that his narrative has just taken a big hit.
"For the gulf blowout is a pointed reminder that the environment won't take care of itself, that unless carefully watched and regulated, modern technology and industry can all too easily inflict horrific damage on the planet."

Andrew Sullivan says in the Atlantic that the disaster made him pause to consider whether the economic gain of oil outweighs other loss:

"Even if it makes economic sense to keep drilling for the time being, even if a growing economy will require carbon fuels for decades, even if we have yet to find a way to develop non-carbon energy that can easily replace carbon at a reasonable price... does not the sight of this wound in the deep sea prompt us to look again at the models we simply assume about life on this planet?
"I'm not talking here about the logic once one has conceded the modern world's attempt to master the earth as a resource so as to create the fantastic wealth and technology and health many human beings now have access to. I'm talking about a humbler view toward the moral and ethical cost of such an achievement."

The National Review editorial is headlined "Yes, keep drilling":

"Oil remains the most cost-effective source of transportation fuel we have; as long as our economy is thriving, we will need to produce or import a lot of it. Global-warming alarmists and zealous proponents of alternative energy have already made the BP spill the new Exhibit A in their case against fossil fuels. In evaluating their claims, we should be mindful of the economic and environmental costs of the spill relative to those associated with their preferred alternatives."

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