There’s a BP station on the route between my home and my work, and that’s where I always get my gas.Â I’m not a fan of boycotts, especially ones that primarily victimize local business owners with no say in corporate affairs.Â Besides, the station charges the same price for cash or credit.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been only five months since BP’s gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was capped. It’s just six months since the sad spectacle of President Obama declaring he wanted to know “whose ass to kick,” while his press secretary asserted “I’ve seen rage” from the President.Â The so-called “worst oil spill in history” has disappeared.
In “Oil Spill Hysteria,” Professor Robert Nelson explains in the Weekly Standard why the Gulf incident, despite spewing more than 20 times the volume of oil as the Exxon Valdez, caused so much less damage.
Start with the fact that the Gulf spill occurred in 5,000 feet of water, while most spills come from tankers at the surface. It took time for the oil to get to the surface, giving the oil-eating â€œbugsâ€ of the Gulf opportunity to do their work.A second important factor was that the spill occurred 50 miles from the coast. This left more time for responders to apply chemical dispersants and for wave action and other natural forces to decompose large amounts of oil. What oil did reach the beaches often took the form of tar balls that were less environmentally harmful than actual slicks. Cleanup workers could simply pick them up.
By contrast, the Exxon Valdez spill immediately spread over the surface of the ocean, where many birds and other creatures came into contact with it. Prince William Sound, where the spill began, is an enclosed body of water, and the spilled oilâ€”some of it in the most toxic formsâ€”quickly reached the shore. In addition, the sound has no significant natural oil seepage and so lacks the associated oil-eating organisms. The water is much colder and less conducive to such natural activity. The mammal populations in Prince William Sound and the other affected areas were larger, too.
And yet, the hysteria continues to drive policy.Â The Obama Administration this month announced a seven-year moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf, thereby making it likely that the response to the oil spill will cause more economic damage to the region than the oil spill itself.Â Between the Gulf overreaction and Climategate, it’s been a tough year for environmental alarmism.