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Majority says BP is primarily responsible for Gulf oil spill

Rochester Business Journal
June 4, 2010

A large majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say BP PLC—and not U.S. regulators—is responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent, readers disapprove of the government’s response to the oil spill.

Six weeks after an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico leased by BP, crude oil continues to gush out of a broken pipe nearly a mile below the surface. A series of attempts to plug the leak have failed, and the spill—the worst in U.S. history—now has released almost twice as much oil as the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, according to government estimates.

Last week, President Barack Obama extended for six more months the moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells. A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, he had unveiled a plan for expanded offshore drilling.

On Wednesday, federal regulators approved the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water.

Seventy percent of respondents say Obama should continue with his plan for expanded drilling.

Roughly 800 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted June 1.

Who bears primary responsibility for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
BP: 84%
U.S. regulators: 16%

What is your opinion of the federal government’s performance in response to the oil spill?
Strongly approve: 5%
Approve: 35%
Disapprove: 32%
Strongly disapprove: 28%

Should President Obama permanently withdraw his plan to expand offshore oil drilling?
No: 70%
Yes: 30%

COMMENTS:

It’s BP’s oil platform, so they are to blame for the environmental disaster they have caused. BP and the oil giants lobbied Congress hard so they wouldn’t have to follow stricter safety standards followed in other countries (automatic shutoffs are required in most other countries with offshore platforms), so now they need to pay the price for those efforts. Regulators were lax and relatively useless, but you don’t blame the police when there’s a murder in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this environmental disaster will spread far and wide and be felt for generations.
—Mike Thornton

I think we’ve disproved forever the notion that offshore drilling is safe. If the money it took to drill that well had gone into offshore wind turbines, we’d be powered up for a good long while. It’s really time to invest in renewable, non-carbon-based energy.
—Barbara Grosh, Cool Rochester

It seems clear to me that BP, while still primarily responsible for its own actions and corner cutting, was simply following the lax regulations that the Bush/Cheney administration permitted.
—Bruce Newman

Everybody is to blame. President Obama goes to the beach for his photo op and picks a quarter-size piece of oil and says, “See, this is what it looks like.” No it isn’t! It looks like hundreds and hundreds of football fields! He also states that he is in control. Baloney!
—G. William LaDue

At minimum, U.S. regulations on safety for offshore drilling should meet those of the EU.
—Karen Kall, On Kall Marketing

This speaks to the problems of regulators becoming too cozy with the industries that they were established to regulate. Government has a role to ensure the profit motive does not drive companies to make choices that could result in significantly damaging social costs. I don’t believe in onerous regulation, but smart, focused regulation that protects the public’s interest makes sense. This event has significantly damaged BP's claim of being a green company with "BP" standing for "Beyond Petroleum." I would concentrate on solving this problem as quickly as possible and then on insuring that all other drilling rigs have controls in place to prevent repeat events. Given the unprecedented scale of this event, I am not sure that anyone can predict the extent, repercussions or longevity of the damage. As a scuba diver who has repeatedly witnessed the beauty, interdependency and fragility of the undersea world, it makes me very sad to think of+ the vast devastation that this event has wrought. This is yet another evidence point that we need to actively pursue cleaner, safer, more renewable alternative energy sources. This is the focus of many companies in our region.
—Brad VanAuken, president, BrandForward Inc.


It’s hard to believe that BP, after decades of developing the technology for deep-well offshore drilling, can’t find a faster way to stem the flow. After all, isn’t that plume of oil spewing forth just like dollars leaking from a bank? You can bet if that was Bank of America’s vault leaking coins into the ocean, there would be hundreds or even thousands of tankers positioned all around the gulf equipped with suction pumps filling their holds with the errant coins. Perhaps the fact that BP will eventually be “forced” to raise its prices on petroleum products has more than a little bit to do with what, to a lot of Americans, seem like a very slow and inadequate response.
—Donald Carpenter

The lesson to me isn’t that BP is irresponsible or Obama is incompetent. This should be a wake-up call that all of our systems are vulnerable. We will probably never be able to factor out risk due to human error, nature or chaos. It should make us humble, and a little wary of the technocrats.
—Jim Trowbridge, Urban League of Rochester

Deep-well drilling would not have been necessary in the first place had so-called environmentalists not forced the closure of conventional drilling in the barren outskirts of Alaska and other remote areas! They always produce the exact opposite of their stated intent.
—James Stevens, Rochester

We need offshore drilling. This was a disaster, both ecologically and politically, but we need that oil. Keep drilling, but make sure to have more safety provisions in place. BP should have been prepared for a worst-case scenario, and it wasn’t. With the right precautions, there is no reason to stop deep-sea drilling.
—Kenny Harris, EPIC

As long as profit is the sole reason for any action by corporations and they are allowed to regulate themselves, this type of gross negligence will continue to happen. Greed may or may not be good—that is up for debate—but it certainly cannot be expected to regulate itself!
—Dan Palmer, city of Rochester

There are thousands of offshore oil rigs throughout the world all running exceptionally. But here in the states, we have the enviro-duffuses who forced all new exploration to be 120 miles offshore. Had this type of problem happened in 300 foot of water not 5,000 foot, it would have been resolved in three days.
—Jim Duke

Truth be known, both the archaic environmentalist and their cowardly political cronies who are beholden to them are more to blame than any other group!
—J.A. DePaolis


Why would we rely on the Fed to respond to an oil spill? The oil company spilled (is spilling) the oil. They should respond. The Fed should only be expected to relentlessly apply pressure to resolve the issue at hand, take legal action as necessary and ensure that everything is being handled in compliance with the laws. Our reliance on the Fed has grown out of hand. It's an organization where approximately 30 percent of its employees are necessary and unproductive yet continues to grow because every time something happens, they create a new department or committee to soothe our complaints that the Fed didn't take responsibility for the fault of others.
—Matt Petrangelo

Many parties are to blame for the disaster. Short-cuts and "cost-savings" by BP, lax Administration Regulators and complacency by the president of the United States.
—Jack Bent

It sounds like we have more than just an oil leak here—maybe we need to have a better control and less political influence.
—David DeMallie

Let's stop the gushing oil first, then clean up and lastly understand what went wrong and how do we do better in the further.
—Ed Schlueter, president, Medgraph, Inc.

The oil spill is a classic example in which the "consequences of the down side" should take precedence over minimizing the problem. The down side economic, ecological, and political consequences must be understood up front and minimized. No solution will be perfect, but ….
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

In America, it seems we're expected to find a scapegoat onto whom the blame for this incident can be blamed. Personally, I don't find it so easy; the blame for this incident lies all over. It starts with Bush/Cheney relaxing drilling regulations, which overrode recommendations for well safety systems that would have eased capping. It resides with the Obama administration for not putting regulations and safety requirements back in place quickly enough. Blame lies with greedy BP officials who preferred to do without the parts, and conceited engineers who thought it was acceptable do drill without them. Blame also lies in all BP's shareholders, who through their quest for maximizing profit affect decision-making throughout the company. Blame even resides with everyday Americans, who demand continued access to cheap oil to live our "great" lifestyle, risks be damned—until something goes wrong. We should now be looking at how the entire American system—capitalism, government and individuals—works as one big game that with a singular goal of profit results in pervasively short-sighted, dysfunctional decision making throughout. We should be reevaluating our priorities to decide what we might want more than cheap energy. We should be asking ourselves how much more we might be willing to pay, or how much more nominal a profit margin we might accept in our stocks if it meant it would avoid disasters like this. But instead, we're just looking for someone to pin the blame on, so we can get back to business and life as usual.
—Perette Barella, Devious Fish

At this time, it is pointless to cast blame. Like disasters around the globe, it's our turn, again, to deal with a crisis of great magnitude. My angst is over the repeated failures of stopping the leak and containment. Multiple plans should have been put in action rapidly. Instead, I keep reading about Plan A not working, then Plan B a month later, than Plan C a month after that. And still no results. Didn't someone ask BP what would happen if there was an explosion and resulting spill? Why wasn't a secondary drilling platform built "just in case"?
—Rich Mileo

The oil spill/rig collapse in the Gulf of Mexico has done so much environmental damage to date, and has the potential to do so much more that the U.S. government cannot afford to wait around for BP to start doing a cleanup. Action should have been taken by the government weeks ago—and billed to BP. There is no time to waste. We will all end up paying for this mess!
—Ann Tracy, Pittsford

This is another unintended consequence of a poorly crafted and badly managed government policy. The U.S. allows only deep-water drilling for an industry that has had only shallow-depth experience. There was a time that available technology allowed us to recover a submarine at a depth several times 5000 feet, there was a time that we walked on the moon—science and all it brings to this country's business and society is out the window as we try to cure all social ills of the world. There is no thoughtful balance—there is less compromise. Where are the real statesmen and women? It seems that they have been replaced by politicians of the worst sort.
—Bob Miglioratti

First of all, this is about the people, marshes, sea and wildlife whose existence is in jeopardy and who need help. But: What does it help to blame? Even the president of the United States can't pull on a Superman suit go down there and stick a finger in the hole to save the Gulf of Mexico. What's underway at the bottom of the Gulf is an attempt to tame the forces we called hoping they'd serve us by technological means never tried. With any technology we use—if it's a hammer, our cars, nuclear power or oil drilling—there is always a risk that accidents will happen. The difference is that with a hammer you only hit your own thumb—with nuclear or deep-sea drilling, the effect is on millions and can ruin oceans or vast areas of land. By wanting the benefits, we accept those risks. Our government's role is to provide a framework for a prosperity that respects our environment and holds up ethical standards of our acting as a nation, business or individual and enforces when necessary. And not least, it's their role to organize soldiery effort to help those who are affected by disaster.
—Hans von Gehlen, president, MindSetter LLC Success Training

Accidents such as these tend to provide lessons that when applied to future drilling will greatly reduce the chance of it happening again. If you look at our space program, for example, we have learned a lot of hard lessons over the years, but we get better each time we launch. This is a horrible disaster that can't be taken back, but we can learn from it so we can do better next time.
—David Wagner

Obviously the owners and operators of the oil well should be primarily accountable for any issues, either accidental or as a result of poor management. U.S. should kick them out and take command of the area since the spill will contaminate the Atlantic coastline of America before long.
—Peter Schlachter

Obviously, no party to the oil drilling wanted this mess. BP is interested in profit, so they minimized their costs by ignoring worst-case scenarios. Clearly BP had not prepared procedures, or marshaled equipment and other resources, to deal with a potential catastrophe, so they’re starting from scratch and improvising as they go. They have displayed wholly inadequate management. But our governmental regulators have been in bed with the industry for decades, and the result of their lax oversight is now clearly apparent. We have confused “business-friendly” with personal self-interest. And we have deluded ourselves into thinking that corporations are responsible citizens, they’re not. They have one motivation: profit. Our government should have a different motivation: the safety and well-being of the country and its citizens. We use regulating devices in all kinds of systems. Thermostats in our homes, autopilots in our aircraft, process control devices in our manufacturing plants, in food supply, in medicine, in pharmaceuticals, etc. Now the Obama Administration has now had a second, monumental wake-up call. First, he inherited a financial system with broken regulating agencies and systems, and now an energy supply system with broken regulating agencies and systems. I am sure honest investigation will show many more such broken systems. I think Obama ought to put all the appropriate government resources to work on solving this problem and then bill BP for the costs. He ought to streamline the processes by cutting through the morass of agencies, put someone in charge of the whole thing and get it done. We cannot wait for further negotiations and compromise to protect the environment, the food supply from the Gulf, or the millions of people in all the countries who are being affected. Then we should appropriate substantial monies to develop and deploy alternative energy sources, such as solar, and make the research available to all citizens. Government should encourage the next generation of energy, not protect the status quo of current big interests. From a management perspective, the situation is both outrageous and ludicrous. And we the people are allowing this to happen.
—Bill Crocca

BP is to blame for the blowout, but the real disaster is the failure to fix the problem, and Obama clearly bears blame for that lack of leadership. He had 1 1/2 years to review all information, regulations and procedures, and to close down wells if there were a danger, including the danger of inability to respond. Did he even bother to look at such risks before advocating more offshore drilling? If not, why not? If he did, why did he advocate more offshore drilling if our country has no ability to respond to a spill? On 9/11 Bush grounded ALL planes until he evaluated the national risk. Obama still has no idea what caused the BP disaster, but has he shut a single offshore well? The buck doesn't seem to stop in the oval office anymore; it seems to start there, blaming everyone else. Obama is a one-trick pony. His one answer to everything is money, but it won't solve the Gulf crisis. He has the entire Army Corps of Engineers available; are they trained for this? If not, why not? Maybe it's easier to keep blaming, bossing and brooding about BP, and continue to let oil pour into the Gulf? A strategist leader would have required BP to bring ALL the solutions and fixes simultaneously, not sequentially. Obama could still make a bold move and seize the well as a matter of national security if he knew what to do with it. Also, a sufficient time has passed to let other drilling companies compete to stop the flow. Whoever does the job should then get to keep the well. Stooping down to pick up a little piece of tar on a beach and then going home to Chicago for Memorial Day is not leadership. Obama's new logo should be an oil-soaked pelican sitting on his shoulder.
—Diane C. Harris, president, Hypotenuse Enterprises, Inc.

We don't have all the details of what lead up to the catastrophe. Clearly the conflicting priorities of cost/schedule vs. safety and responsibility was a major root cause. Citizens always lose when cost/schedule trumps safety and caution. Historically, disdain for stringent safety protocols lead to: the Chernobyl meltdown, the Union Carbide Bhopal chemical spill in India and the Challenger shuttle explosion, and more recently the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster. It’s not just the CEOs of big corporations that don’t do the right thing when left to their own devices, on-site supervisors and managers are not rewarded to make the safe or prudent choice. Our corporate cultures diffuse accountability and reward speed and production. We also tend to overstate the positive role of technology and eschew redundancy to keep profits high. When all is said and done, this spill will have resulted from multiple, human decisions that put cost before safety and prudence. Americans and our environment will pay an unprecedented price. Human activities that have the potential for such widespread, devastating adverse consequences must be much more heavily regulated and constantly overseen. This environmental Armageddon is not this administration’s fault. After more than a decade of bureaucratic regulatory malaise, turning the ship of government around takes time, just like turning an aircraft carrier around. Even if the Obama administration started day one to undo all the deregulation previously enacted, it will take years to enact and implement reform, even with congressional support. Obama’s legacy will be how aggressively he acts in getting meaningful regulatory reform. No doubt the American people will now support his efforts.
—Frank Orienter, retired, Nuclear Power Training Manager

As long as profit is the sole reason for any action by a corporation and they are "allowed" to "regulate" themselves, this type of gross negligence will continue to happen. Greed may or may not be good—that is up for debate—but it certainly cannot be expected to regulate itself!
—Dan Palmer, City of Rochester

I agree with the halt of permits for new drilling. Until better risk management can be implemented, no new drilling should be done. The best scenario would be to not have a spill and as such strict rules need to be established and managed. Further, should those procedures, fail, a ready contingency plan needs to be in place. The cost of this needs to fall squarely on the companies that would profit from the success of the wells. It may also be a good idea to have such companies have insurance or a fund set up to handle problems like this.
—Terry Abbott

It seems our government has shown little urgency in addressing this "disaster" as the damage this continuing spill is causing on the environment is reaching incalculable proportions.
—Jon Freitag, Rochester

Your first question is lacking. Both U .S. regulators and BP are responsible, as well as anyone else making money from offshore drilling. Just like the "Financial Crisis" until some people at the "TOP" are lead away in handcuffs nothing will change. There's a lot of talk about moving away from oil dependence but it appears to be just that talk. The USA produces 2 percent of the world’s oil production but consumes 25 percent on a daily basis. Corporations and investors go where the money is. Until we make alternatives profitable things will remain the same.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport

The politically correct bureaucrats and politicians bowing to the big money people and then using extreme environmentalist groups to force deep offshore drilling into deeper water albeit a riskier situation—5 miles deep plus. Shallow offshore drilling, less than 1 mile deep, is typical and there has never been a problem. However, the big money people that own mansions along the ocean coastline don't want to see several miles from shore the very top of a drilling platform in shallow waters. So the big money and influence pushed drilling into deeper waters that was not necessary a choice by BP. The federal government used the extreme environmentalist groups as cover to keep their big money donors happy at the expense of all those who do not own ocean front property in America. That said, these are the same big money people whose homes get demolished when a category 4 or 5 hurricane comes through and our tax dollars rebuilds their mansions. BP has a role in this but the risk was created by the federal government decades ago all in the name of big money campaign donors. Five-mile-plus deep drilling is not necessary. Shallow drilling is safe, necessary and we should be doing more of it until such a time we have a real Energy Policy for CHEAP, clean and affordable alternatives. Those being sucked in by wind and solar alternatives—in 10 years it might meet 3 percent of our needs and it will not create CHEAP and affordable power ... a minor point the government is not telling you as they subsidize the big money people behind solar and wind. Also, some additional reality, the volcano eruption in Iceland, an Act of God (or nature), put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all this, cap and trade will prohibit in 50 years. Do you really believe that we won't have more eruptions? Cap and trade is a scam to create a trading exchange where a handful of big money people will get richer ... probably the same folks that own the mansions on the oceans front. I don't believe in global warming, I believe in science. And the recent doctoring of scientific data supporting "global warning" should signify a very simple thing to understand—it's always about money. It's not about the truth—it's about making money. Stop being sheep. Time to vote out all the incumbents.
–Dave Rusin, American Fiber Systems, Inc.

We cannot stop drilling because we still need oil! But better oversight sounds like a reasonable response. I have never heard a good explanation of what caused the rig explosion in the first place. Was it terrorism? Was it truly an accident? I'd like to know for sure. Either way, this incident is a rare occurrence, and should be treated accordingly!
–George Thomas, Ogden

For all drilling platforms a fail-safe system and a back-up system should be required. Here is another proof that greed and not safety, or concern for people and environment, are the main concerns of our free enterprise. All drilling in the ocean should be suspended until fail-safe systems are available, installed and tested.
–Bert Lux

If the regulators would allow the oil companies to drill closer to shore where the depths are much more manageable, we would not have this problem. Without offshore drilling, gasoline will be $7 a gallon within a few years, that is, until the U.S. runs out of money, then it will be non-existent. Plus, there are more spills with supertankers than there are with offshore drilling.
–Joe Fabetes, Rochester

By its omission of a remote-controlled shutoff at the seabed, BP failed to use reasonable preventative measures.
–Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency, Inc.

BP is responsible to keep their activities safe, and to avoid accidents, ideally independent of outside regulators. BP's companions are also guilty. All three are responsible to fix the mess. The federal government and the U.S. taxpayers should not get involved in this process. After the negative response to the bail-out of the banks, the president would be crazy to put taxpayers' money to help out rich BP. Our regulatory system has been destroyed by the opinion that 'industry will do it right.’ Since businesses are only interested in 'making money,' they will cut costs at all costs. The BP disaster brings back the insight that businesses must, unfortunately, be supervised to 'do the right thing.' The BP disaster should not stop further drilling, but should cause stronger laws and supervision to impose stronger safety measures.
—Ingo H. Leubner

Clearly the lack of strict regulation was a factor in the spill, but BP bears the primary responsibility. In the future, the U.S. government will. We need to ensure regulations that hold companies much more accountable. They should be required to show viable accident prevention and spill correction plans before approval to drill is granted.
—Emily Neece

Just because they drill in U.S. waters does not make it U.S. oil, it just goes on the open market. We need to move forward with a Manhattan-type project in fuel cell and other types of energy development (not corn!) so we don't continue to consume as much oil. We need a forward thinking energy policy that will allow us to employ Americans and not make us dependent on others. I would pay a much higher gas tax to help. Conservation is one simple way to reduce our dependency.
—Alan Oratz, Kula Concrete Design

If my house was on fire, I'd expect the government-sponsored fire department to come and to put out the fire. If I bore some responsibility in the matter, I would have to pay up to my responsibility. Where is the government? This will be Obama's Katrina. Where is FEMA. With Katrina, by this time the head of FEMA was gone. If this had happened under President Bush, he would have had hell to pay. I missed Obama at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Monday. I guess his return to Chicago for some politicking was more important.
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com

Is this a popularity poll? All I know is what I read in the newspaper...OK TV too. I call this a "How are we doing Poll" looking to check the media's success is making views their way. Useless feedback for the purposes of furthering anything.
—Will Herzog

No other country has suspended offshore deep water drilling. Why should the United States? This is the same sort of response we had to the Three Mile Island incident in 1979, yet no other country suspended the development of their nuclear generating capabilities (at least not because of Three Mile Island). Now we look at nuclear generation as beneficial from the standpoint of climate change, but there are no new plants under construction in the United States. We cannot afford extreme draconian measures if we hope to be energy independent, and if we wish to reduce our balance of payment issues or curb our deficit spending habits.
—Dennis J. Sugumele, P.E. D.J. Sugumele & Associates, LLC

It greatly concerns me that companies that deal with great environmental risks really don't have sound, well-tested, and backup plans for these types of potential risks before they become issues, and our government doesn't check.
—C. Barrett

This disaster is a national disgrace. First of all, whoever was in charge of the oil rig at the time of the explosion is responsible, and that is apparently BP. It was THEIR responsibility to ensure that all the safety equipment was in working order. They did not. BUT—and it's a really big but—the U.S. government should have responded immediately with every ship that could safely pump off the spilled oil and make every effort to contain the mess. THAT is what should have happened. Sure, it is "convenient" to have BP as the "witch to burn," but the fact is, this is a U.S. disaster. It's going to affect our coast line and environment for decades. If we had made this response, and it didn't work, AND, we had no other options, I'd say that the government did all it could. As it now stands, I just don't believe it did. AND, talking about future drilling scenarios when we still have a million gallons a day of this miserable "stuff” blasting up from the bottom of the gulf is just too much like THINKING about closing the barn door while all the horses are still running through it.
—Rick Bradley

This accident falls squarely on the shoulders of eight years of energy and environmental deregulation by the Bush administration, in combination with the cronyist corporation Halliburton. Calling it Obama's problem is like calling the economic meltdown his problem. We should send President Bush and the CEO of Halliburton the check for the cleanup. BP needs to step up the effort on cleanup—Halliburton has plenty of profits to absorb said invoice.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed, Inc.

I surely hope we are not so ignorant in this country that we don't see the huge "teachable moment" here. Every American must do all he/she can to reduce the need for new oil and gas wells, coal and nuclear plants, etc. How? Be energy smart! Switch to Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent bulbs (they'll pay for themselves quickly), turn electronics all the way off using a power strip, and just learn new, less wasteful habits. Sign up to take part in Cool Rochester's Low Carbon Diet program at www.CoolRochester.org. Find hundreds of tips on saving energy at www.ProjectHOUSE.sitesvp.com. Sign up for a Home Comfort Assessment (Energy Audit). Get a Green Home Makeover from Green Irene. It's all good—your wallet and the planet will thank you.
—Margie Campaigne, AKA Green Irene Project HOUSE

This is as dumb a poll as the ones seen on CNN. We don't have enough information to do more than hip-shoot an answer. Your other polls are generally better thought out. Please return to that standard.
—Jon Wilder, president, Stericert Co.

(c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.
 


What You're Saying 

tom jake at 5:14:12 PM on 6/4/2010
What is wrong with the people that are watching these animals suffer? Why don't they at least put them out of their misery? Are we that stupid?
Dustin Baker at 8:41:09 PM on 7/23/2010
Ann Tracy couldn't have said it better!

The time for waiting for BP has long since passed and we need to expand cleanup efforts now and bill BP later. By the way, American interests hold about as much BP stock as do the British, which I'd imagine somehow makes BP's bo...  Read More >

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