As the disaster in the Gulf has played out over the last 47 days, it has become painfully obvious just how much control big business has over our federal government.
BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates during the past 20 years. Obama has received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP money in the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.
On top of that, the oil giant has spent millions each year on lobbying — including $15.9 million last year alone — as it has tried to influence energy policy.
The government adamantly denies a cozy relationship with big oil, but I believe there are obvious signs that the Government in bed with BP.
One. BP is still in charge
If someone sets your house on fire, you don’t invite them back to help clean up. BP has repeatedly claimed responsibility for this disaster, yet it is left alone to stop the spill and clean up the mess on its own terms, at its own pace. This is unconscionable.
The Obama administration has defended its decision to leave BP in charge by claiming we do not have the technology to stop a leaking pipe. This is especially scary considering how easy it would be for a terrorist to attack one of these undefended rigs. As we have all seen on Twitter and Facebook, “We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t stop a leaking pipe.”
Two. We still do not know how much oil is actually leaking
This to me is incredible. Don’t we have a vested interest in accurately measuring this? Especially considering that the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf determines the amount BP can be fined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Under the Clean Water Act, EPA can fine BP $1,100 per barrel spilled. If BP is found to be “grossly negligent” the fine is increased to $4,300 per barrel spilled. That is nearly 4 times as much.
Current estimates vary wildly from 12,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels per day. This means, at day 47, BP could be liable for fines of anywhere from $620,400,000 to $3,102,000,000. And that is for the basic fine. If found grossly negligent, multiply those numbers by four. Obviously there is a huge difference in the amount BP can be fined. We need to measure this now. If not for the fines, then so we better understand the environmental impact.
Three. We cannot raise the liability cap for oil companies
Currently, there is a $75 million limit on compensation for economic damages. This number pales in comparison to the actual economic damages facing businesses that depend on the Gulf.
The Florida tourism industry alone could take a $60 billion hit. Factor in potential $3.2 billion losses facing Louisiana fishermen and you soon realize the $75M is a drop in the bucket.
Democratic legislators have failed time and time again to pass new legislation that would raise these liability caps from $75 million to $10 billion. The most recent effort was thwarted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a key oil industry ally who said that the bill would end up empowering only the “biggest of the big oil” companies to drill for American’s offshore resources. Seriously? You mean we actually want “small” oil companies drilling in our waters? Imagine if a “small” company had created this oil spill. They would have declared bankruptcy before the fires were put out and we would be left footing the bill.
If we can’t pass such obvious legislation like this in the middle of a disaster, how will we ever expect to pass it once this is over? I don’t know about you but I am tired of mortgaging my children’s future to pay for others’ mistakes.
Isn’t it time for a change?