Fool me once, shame on Big Oil….

How many Gulf rigs need to explode before we realize the future lies with clean, safe energy that never runs out?

Today’s guest bloggers are CAP’s Van Jones and Jorge Madrid.

Failing oil rigs are like roaches — if you see one, it probably means that you have 1,000 more somewhere in your house.  So it is not surprise that another offshore oil rig exploded last week in the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Thankfully, no lives were lost, but at least one was injured, according to early reports.  We were told that the rig was not ‘producing’ oil and gas at the time – but then again, the BP well that dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the gulf was not technically ‘producing’ either.

All of us can feel some relief that this incident was not as catastrophic as the BP disaster. But it shouldn’t take an oil apocalypse to get our attention. We are facing a continuing threat in the gulf from multiple points of potential peril.

There are currently more than 4,000 active oil and gas rigs in the gulf, along with 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells lurking in the hard rock. There are 1,000 decaying oil rigs and drilling structures.  We have been told time and time again by the oil industry, lobbyist, and pro-drilling lawmakers that offshore drilling is safe. They have told us that serious accidents cannot happen here in the United Sates because the technology is too advanced.

No one should be fooled anymore – accidents do, in fact, happen.  Sometimes these ‘accidents’ look more like acts of criminal negligence, like the $500,000 safety valve on the Deepwater Horizon that BP failed to install.

Needless to say we have a systemic problem. But powerful forces in Washington keep convincing themselves that these tragedies are isolated incidents. But the American people should not accept this political game.  Each one of those oil rigs is a potential disaster waiting to happen.

We need two things right now:

1. We need to get inspectors on those rigs NOW.

It is very clear that the industry and ‘drill-baby-drill’ fanatics cannot police themselves.  We need to know how many rigs are malfunctioning, leaking and needing repair.  BP should pay for this work, but the industry as a whole should be held financially liable.  While we are at it, why not employ residents of Gulf states affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster to conduct those inspections?

2 . We need to make bolder moves to get off oil in the long-term.

More inspections, regulations, and tightened safety procedures are only a band-aid for a much bigger problem: our country’s addiction to fossil fuels.  We are literally extracting death from the holes we’ve drilled in the gulf.  The future of the gulf, and our country’s energy supply, is not down those holes.

The energy, jobs, and prosperity of the gulf should come from the wind, sun, and earth’s own power.  A strong commitment to renewable energy can create 8,500 well-paying manufacturing jobs in Louisiana, and about 77,000 jobs in the entire gulf region, according to a study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project.


While this may be the latest failure of the offshore oil industry, it represents a failure of our national will.  It is a safe bet that we will continue to see more tragedies inflicted on an already devastated region.  We cannot conscionably pretend that there are no more faulty rigs in the gulf; we need to demand our lawmakers take action now!

9 Responses to Fool me once, shame on Big Oil….

  1. ToddInNorway says:

    Industry data on offshore wellbores that have the classic signatures of subsurface leaks support this overall view. Note though that the leak from the BP blowout was 4.9 MILLION (NOT billion) barrels.

    But most importantly, I think your suggestion of using the offshore industry capacity currently used to build rigs and service them can be converted to developing offshore wind turbine parks is the answer to most of our energy transition questions. Northern Europe has started this process and it is a huge driver for wind turbine manufacturers and installers. Lots and lots of jobs and project activity!

  2. BillD says:

    I read that there were over 100 oil platform explosions and fires in the Gulf last year. They were not reported. After the BP disaster, everyone of these accidents will be reported in the national media. This is going to be a big headache for oil companies and their proponents.

  3. Jeff Huggins says:


    What I find interesting is how the oil-people make arguments in the one case that clearly show the problems with their arguments in the other case.

    In other words, we are told these are one-off accidents, and rare, and that there is no systemic problem with deep drilling. We are told (by the oil-people) that oil-people will be responsible and that they wouldn’t want to drill if there was a systemic problem with large risks. After all, they’re responsible.

    Yet what happens if we apply that thinking to climate change? After all, that IS a systemic problem. Climate change DOES involve major risks and pose major threats — and that’s putting it mildly. We HAVE all been warned about it. It is exacerbated by every barrel produced from a well and combusted in a car. So, where is this good ‘ole responsibility that the oil-people presumably tell us about when they assure us that deep drilling is safe and that they wouldn’t want to do it either if it wasn’t safe?

    But their illogic is an obvious problem. It’s too easy to point out. The bigger problems are now these …

    We shouldn’t need to rely on the problem of deep-water explosions to motivate action on climate change. Oil companies have been fooling us for ages now, and they are insistent on business-as-usual that’s bringing about climate change. This is nothing new or surprising. The problem is that WE haven’t acted on it yet. We have not found the will or the ways to bring about change. Five of the most profitable six companies in the world (or is it six of the top seven, I forget?) are oil and gas companies, and they keep producing, and they confuse and deceive the public, and they try to derail responsible legislation, and the climate change problem grows and grows; and yet we find ourselves needing to point out another rig explosion in order to have that issue addressed and build the broader case for change!?

    There is something “not going well” in our change movements. There must be (big) things that we are not doing right, or doing effectively. Are our leaders (in the movement) talking about, facing, and fixing those problems? Do we need (in some cases) new leaders? From where I sit, I am not seeing or experiencing much effectiveness on the part of the movement. Sorry for the honesty and (as you can tell) frustration.

    The present post (on the latest explosion) is very good, and appreciated, but the “case against oil” has been solid for a long time now, and the fact that we haven’t been able to do anything about it says something about our present approaches and effectiveness, I think. Are we facing that?

    With good intentions,


  4. fj2 says:

    1. ToddInNorway,

    “But most importantly, I think your suggestion of using the offshore industry capacity currently used to build rigs and service them can be converted to developing offshore wind turbine parks is the answer to most of our energy transition quesitons. Northern Europe has started this process and it is a huge driver for wind turbine manufacturers and installers. Lots and lots of jobs and project activity!”

    Yes! This is the type of stuff that should be emphasized to the fossil fuel industry for reinventing their business models.

  5. BillD says:

    My understanding is that the Administration is phasing out tax credits for fossil fuel development and increasing credits for renewable energy. This is the way to go. It’s not politically feasible to strongly restrict drilling but it is possible to shift the economic balance between fossil fuels and renewables. This is just the purpose of the now defunct cap and trade system.

  6. mike roddy says:

    Good post, and nice to hear from Van Jones. Converting drilling platforms to offshore wind installations is a fantastic idea.

  7. Lore says:

    I’m afraid as long as greed, cowardice and relatively cheap oil exists we will continue to take our chances drilling everyhwere we can. Even though we are bound to see more of these catastrophes happen in the future. The public will, as that of the current and any future administrations, is to make every effort to uphold business as usual. Ultimately we will sacrifice many millions for this way of life.

    In any case the game is pretty much up. We can certainly expect within the next 3-5 years another oil shock. Only the next time it won’t be driven just by financial markets and it won’t go away.

  8. Rick says:

    Imagine if you could earn money off every car that moved, every transport truck, every train, every ship, every airplane, every farm vechile……………….?

  9. Well said Von. I recently organized an initiative called Spirit of the Gulf Coast in response to the situation with the spill and the ongoing insanity of our energy policy. Our goal is to bring the stories of the people who live in the coastal communities front and center so that we can keep the human element in focus as we discuss the need to move forward and embrace alternative energy sources, conservation, efficiency, etc. I referenced your article in my latest blog post on the site:

    I would love to work with you on this if there is some synergy. Thanks for the great work you are doing in this field!