According to the Washington Post, British Petroleum was told by employees that the company was not sufficiently monitoring and repairing its Alaskan Prudhoe Bay pipeline in February, 2004.
"If we find [a] pipe that we know is rotten, they have to replace it," said an unidentified employee in a BP report. "My concern, however, is that they are not taking a look at every piece of pipe that they need to be."
The report goes on to say, "Contractors, suppliers and the conservation community were concerned about BP's purported drive to support the highest standards, yet push for reduced costs in its operations."
And, according to environmental lawyer, Peter van Tuyn of Anchorage, "[BP has] known about these problems for a long time and promised for many years to fix them, and they haven't done so."
How many times do we need to learn the same old lesson? For Big Oil, it's about Big Bucks and nothing more. And despite record profits, these companies fail to take adequate safeguards. Consequently, Americans are being asked to foot the bill for – at best, corporate irresponsibility – at worst, corporate crime.
Representative Sherrod Brown – running for Senate against Oil-subsidy-buddy, Mike DeWine – notes that oil companies are currently earning $1,300 per second while consumers suffer at the pump and Republicans continue to vote for billions in oil subsidies.
Representative Edward Markey told the New York Times, "With oil above $70 per barrel and BP making record profits, it can afford to properly clean and maintain its pipelines. This sudden loss of production will dramatically increase oil prices and the American people will be footing the bill for this combined failure of D.O.T.'s regulatory oversight and BP's corporate responsibility."
This most recent example of Big Oil screw-ups in Alaska should finally put to rest the ludicrous notion that oil companies can be trusted to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (along with the fact that the US Geological Service estimates that ANWR drilling wouldn't supply even one year of US domestic consumption nor would it hit the market for 10 years!). Sure, there will be some head-in-the-sand types such as Senate Energy Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, who will twist this nightmare into a call for more drilling at home. But for the rest of us who live on this planet the important question is this: What now?
Consider what longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader proposes: a profit-based "extraction tax" to be levied on oil companies to be used for development of alternative fuels and vehicle efficiency; a tough price-gouging law; and campaign finance reform that limits the ability of Big Oil to influence lawmakers through extravagant campaign contributions.
But, above all, during this time of greed and unprecedented environmental degradation – isn't it time to rally around a new Apollo Project to develop a sane energy policy that also addresses our climate crisis? (On the same day that the BP story broke, the New York Times reported that the last seven months were the warmest on record – "almost certainly related in part to the continuing buildup of heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases linked to global warming," said Jay Lawrimore of the National Climatic Data Center).
Senate Democrats have signaled a substantive step in the right direction with the Clean EDGE Act, which Senator Harry Reid says "…will expand the use of renewable and alternative fuels, provide relief from high prices and put America firmly on the path towards energy independence." Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi have also co-sponsored the related Safe Climate Act.
And the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group – led by the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone – has formed a consortium of 22 of the world's biggest cities to purchase energy-saving products and reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.
It's not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense too. Environment California Research & Policy Center tells of 12 pioneering businesses and institutions in California that have reduced their global warming impact by more than 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, while saving more than $13 million annually.
Nader writes, "With all the websites and blogs, why can't a million energy consumers band together to start one big energy reform rumble that will be heard by both Washington and the oil giants?"
We can. It begins this November. Make sure your representatives make substantive commitments to energy independence and greenhouse gas reductions.
It's time to rumble.