Gulf of Mexico

The Reverse Katrina
May 06, 2010

WASHINGTON—Ever heard the one about the guy who hated government until a deregulated Wall Street crashed, an oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, a coal mine collapsed, and some good police work stopped a terrorist attack?       Rarely has the news of the day run so counter to the spin on the news of the day. It's hard to argue that the difficulties we confront were caused by an excessively powerful "big" government. Rather, most of them arose from the government's failure to do its job in the first place.

May 05, 2010

In late April, when a deadly explosion sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, few thought the incident could turn into one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. But that’s exactly what is now happening. The underwater well is gushing more than 5,000 barrels of crude each day into the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s unclear how long it will take to plug the leak. As the oil slick creeps toward the coast, it could inflict billions of dollars in damage on the local fishing and tourism industries, while putting various wildlife refuges at risk.

More Oversight Failures In The Gulf
May 05, 2010

Yesterday, William Galston had an excellent piece on our site exploring the snuggly relationship that oil companies had with the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is supposed to oversee offshore drilling, during the Bush years. The most glaring example: Back in 2003, government regulators decided that oil companies didn't have to install $500,000 remote-control shutoff switches at their rigs—the sorts of devices used in places like Norway in Brazil.

Forget Offshore Drilling Until We Get Some Answers
May 04, 2010

While it may take months to stop the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not too soon to begin asking some questions about why it happened and what can be done to minimize the chance that something like this will happen again.

Who Pays For The Oil Cleanup?
May 03, 2010

So who pays for an oil-spill disaster like this one? Matthew Wald offers some context. Big, wealthy oil companies like BP are usually expected to pay to the cleanup costs themselves. But that still leaves the cost of all the indirect damage to fisheries and wildlife habitats in the area. In that case, under current law, an offshore rig operator is liable for up to $75 million in damages.

Outsourced Drilling Isn't Pretty, Either
May 03, 2010

It's quite possible that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will put an end to further offshore drilling in the United States—at least for awhile. Florida Senator Bill Nelson is already calling for a stop to all new exploration and drilling in the Gulf; he's called any new energy bill that has support for new offshore drilling "dead on arrival." The Obama administration, meanwhile, is sounding a lot more circumspect about its earlier plans to expand drilling off the coasts.

Disaster Votes
May 03, 2010

Lots of people expect that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will spur Congress to pass some sort of new environmental regulations in the months ahead. After all, that's what happened after the Exxon Valdez disaster, the Three Mile Island nuclear scare, and so forth. But here's a twist: Matthew Kahn links to a 2007 paper he wrote on this subject, which finds that, while oil-spill-type disasters do force new regulations onto the legislative agenda, they don't make lawmakers any more likely to vote for them: Unexpected events such as environmental catastrophes capture wide public attention.

Planet Doom
April 28, 2010

For most of the 2.5 million years that humans and their predecessors have been around, the Earth has been a volatile place. Subtle shifts in the planet’s orbit have triggered large temperature swings; glaciers have marched across North America and Europe and then retreated. But, about 10,000 years ago, something unusual happened: The Earth’s climate settled into a relatively stable state, global temperatures started hovering within a narrow band, and sea levels stopped rising and falling so drastically.

Sea Serpent Of The Day
February 09, 2010

Where do sea serpents come from? Legend and myth, of course. But many scientists think the giant oarfish, which can grow up to 55 feet in length, has been the main inspiration for all those myths over the years. A few oarfish corpses in various unsavory states have washed up on shore over the years, including a 16-footer that was the inspiration for this Harper's Weekly sketch titled "Monsters of the Sea." But no one's ever seen an oarfish swimming in the wild, at least until now.

Aquacalypse Now
September 28, 2009

Our oceans have been the victims of a giant Ponzi scheme, waged with Bernie Madoff–like callousness by the world’s fisheries. Beginning in the 1950s, as their operations became increasingly industrialized--with onboard refrigeration, acoustic fish-finders, and, later, GPS--they first depleted stocks of cod, hake, flounder, sole, and halibut in the Northern Hemisphere.