Although the BP oil disaster has killed 11 men, poisoned thousands of animals, and ruined the livelihoods of millions of Americans, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) still believes that the foreign oil giant has suffered the most. Gov. Barbour has dismissed this catastrophe from day one, comparing the toxic oil to “toothpaste” and worrying about the impact of paying damages on BP’s finances. In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Barbour brushed off the suggestion that the conservative ideology of deregulation should be reconsidered, saying that “the idea that more regulation is necessarily better, I think a very suspect idea.” In fact, Barbour cited the greatest environmental catastrophe in American history as proof that “the market system works,” saying that BP is the biggest victim “in this deal”:
I think right now every oil company in the world says, I don’t want to pay $100 million a day to cut corners on drilling a well. And that’s where I believe the market system works. Nobody’s got more to lose in this deal than BP.
“We’ve had a small amount of oil” reaching Mississippi, Barbour conceded, but he claimed that in “almost all the tourist areas, there hadn’t been one drop of oil.” Barbour’s fossil-fueled outlook is unhampered by the facts. Oil has been washing up on Mississippi’s barrier islands for a month now, and Barbour was at Republican fundraisers in Washington, DC, as major oil slicks reached Mississippi’s inner beaches last week. “Countless oil patties” have now washed ashore “along the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” including the major tourist beaches of Biloxi. Last night, “the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality closed the last open portion of Mississippi’s territorial marine waters” to all commercial and recreational fishing.
Unlike BP — whose 2009 revenues were $239 billion — Barbour’s constituents face the loss of their jobs, health, and homes. Fortunately, Barbour’s insensitivity is not shared by other Mississippi politicians. “The Gulf oil spill is devastating to Mississippi jobs and our way of life,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said Wednesday. “There are going to be long-term effects to be dealt with, that it is not just going to be oil on the beach today,” Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) said Wednesday. “It is not just going to be this year’s shrimp, this year’s oyster crop.”
“I find myself dreaming of waves of brown oil,” said Kim Cheek, 47, a “social worker and musical director at Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis, MS,” who helped rebuild her church from the ground up after it was washed away by Hurricane Katrina five years ago.
“When you think about it all, how this has changed everybody’s life and how life here revolves around the water and the beach and the seafood — just even going to get a shrimp po-boy,” said Ocean Springs, MS marine scientist Harriet Perry after finding oil contaminating crab larvae, “it’s just overwhelming.”