Gulf Watch: One Year Later
The following program is it WSF production in partnership with W. Edu and Bay News 9.
On April the 20th 2010 the Gulf oil rig Deepwater Horizon explodes and catches fire. More than 100 workers are rescued but 11 others are unaccounted for and are later declared dead after two days. The rig seeks an underwater camera discovers oil leaking from the blown out wellhead deep below the surface. The rig's operator oil giant BP makes several attempts over the next three months to stop the flow. While Gulf Coast states scramble to contain the widening spill. Finally on July the 15th BP announces the well is capped but an estimated 4.9 million barrels have spewed into the Gulf. Florida does not face the catastrophic environmental damage suffered by other states but the impact on our fishing and tourism industry is severe. What we have learned from the Gulf oil spill and what questions remain. Next on Gulf watch. One year later.
Gulf watch one year later is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Hello everyone. I'm Al Rachele from Bay News 9. It was one of the largest environmental accidents in American history. Yet some experts say it actually could have been much worse. Others believe that we may not know the full extent of the damage for years. One thing we do know the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people throughout the region continue to be affected. Joining me for our panel discussion Dr. Steven Murawski a research professor at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. David Maika executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council Dardenne Rice Florida program director of the Gulf Restoration Council and Seth Mikie an associate professor of political science at USF. Ladies and gentlemen thank you so much for joining us. All right still we start with you right off the top.
When somebody thinks about the Gulf oil spill what word or words come to mind when you think of that.
Well in terms of my interpretation of the Gulf oil spill I look at the tremendous human carnage the human damage as well as the impact on the Gulf's resources. What will the long term legacy be of this oil spill in terms of the productivity of the ecosystem the fish populations that are there. Can we connect the spill to many phenomenon that we see in the Gulf right now in terms of marine mammals turtles and other things. Yeah. David what do you think.
Well certainly the tragedy now is something that we think of the loss of human life of colleagues that I work with and then where we go from there to secure our nation's important resource. The core of our energy supply in the United States for now and in the future and how we're going to do this in the future in an environmentally sensitive way that protects our resources and protects commerce as well.
Daryn I think those are great terms to that I would add corporate negligence and lack of government oversight. Deep water drilling is a risky enterprise. And clearly this BP oil spill disaster it shows that we don't have the resources to even begin to know how to stop or fix an accident of this magnitude.
Mm hmm. So think about how how fleeting issues can be coming from a political science perspective. This was just a massive disaster. One of the biggest we've had and yet public opinion has moved off it fairly fast. You know when you think about what's on the minds of the typical voter it's almost like a different day. And of course the effects are still there. And we have to think about these issues in terms of energy and what we're going to do in the future.
You know these news cycles tend to move so quickly from one subject to the next. Let me go back to you Steve and say OK if there was one question in the top of your list that you would like to have answered or one situation that you have resolved as a result of this oil spill what would that be.
Well one thing that we realized early on in this bill is we did not have the ability to observe the ocean at the levels that we needed to actually understand this phenomenon as it developed. And so if one legacy can be an operational ocean observing system that gives us a 24/7 capability to react not only to oil spills but all sorts of catastrophes like hurricanes and other things and really understand their magnitude. That will be a major accomplishment.
DAVID Well what certainty are we going to have is an industry or any industry in the energy field moving forward and going forward to develop the kinds of resources that we need particularly in my industry in oil and gas which supplies America with 60 percent of our energy resources every day. And here in Florida those numbers are even higher. So it's critical to get some certainty of how we're going to proceed with the development of the resources.
OK Daryn the same thing too. I would like to see Congress adopt the recommendations of the oil spill commission the oil spill commission was chaired by Governor Bob Graham and William Riley who was head of EPA under Governor excuse me under President Bush. Right. And there was a very solid set of studies and recommendations to go forward that recommended greater accountability greater oversight. And Congress has yet to act on those recommendations and that's one thing I would really like to see come out of this next year.
And Seth what about political leadership because this is really I mean it was it was such a ping pong him her. She gave us.
Yeah. I mean that we know that this country's never really had an energy policy. And as long as you know the price of gas doesn't go up too high the American voters sort of moves away and is comfortable with what we have. And so it's sort of a yo yo that we have out there in terms of once it reaches a certain level then the public really reacts viscerally and ask for change. But we don't seem to have leadership at the national level that really wants to address an energy policy for the long run. And even if we did it would be hard to get there given the polarization of the two political parties.
So it seems to be a long ways off and a lot of blame to pass around all the way around the table as they might say you know a question that arose almost immediately after this accident and me being on the air throughout most of this was OK how much oil is actually leaking out. Steve Newborn reports to Florida scientists found themselves in the middle of a sometimes very contentious debate.
Soon after the Deepwater Horizon exploded. University of South Florida scientists gathered 350 miles to the east in St. Petersburg to plan their response. USF was uniquely positioned in the days after the oil spill two years earlier. The college purchased an ocean going research vessel the Weather Bird what they found made national headlines during.
There was the formation of the subsurface hydrocarbon boom very very toxic compounds incorporated into the subsurface bones benzene Tallia lean Ethyl benzene and xylene. And in any case these are well regarded as highly toxic and even carcinogenic.
BP refused to give Hollander and other U.S. researchers a sample from near the wellhead so they could compare its chemical fingerprint.
Eventually Hollander got his sample. In math.
Wasn't the only scientist who butted heads with BP. Ian MacDonald was one of the first people to question what BP and the government were saying about something very basic.
How much oil was gushing into the Gulf and then they said that there was a spill rate on the order of a thousand barrels a day coming out. And at that time I was looking at satellite data as I do as part of my research and we looked at the satellite data and we could see that there was a spread of oil that was way in excess of what we thought we should be seeing.
Well I guess that point was saying that it was twenty six thousand five hundred barrels a day that was my minimum. And they were saying 5000 and I said well I might be wrong.
BP was taking video of the oil gusher that could answer McDonald's questions they just weren't releasing it and the government wouldn't help.
We got some very strange answers from the government. The government said well that video all belongs to BP and it's up to BP whether they should release it or not. And that point you know I just found out if you are waiting here we had a spill of national significance you know livelihood and possibly the health of the people of this region certainly the health of the ecosystem in this region was in jeopardy and we were getting the run around very clearly.
So McDonald turned to the media the media put pressure on politicians who put pressure on the Obama administration and BP who released the live video feed of the gusher.
Turns out there were more like 50000 barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf every day even more than what McDonald's originally feared after the gusher was kept the camera turned away from the scientists.
But they say the story of what's happening to the Gulf is just beginning. Hollander says a lot of the damage took place deep at the bottom of the Gulf.
With the accumulation of petroleum maybe you could call it sort of like a dirty blizzard of material sinking downward and accumulating on the side of its surface and that sediment a mile down in the Gulf has smothered much of the marine life.
What Hollander calls a toxic Bath Tub Ring other tiny organisms or the form there are reports of dead dolphins and turtles washing ashore and fish with suspicious lesions.
This could take decades but I think you'll start to see you know definitive. Responses within the ecosystem certainly on the order of five to seven years. So there's that aspect of the living resource which is really important. You know the fish health and safety as we're seeing with Fishley lesions these are really important questions that need to be addressed which are not going to be resolved within within weeks but more with likely within months to years.
McDonald agrees that we're just starting to learn the effects of the spill. But he's learned another lesson about politics.
Everybody in this region and probably everybody in the country had a deep sympathetic response to seeing all that oil I was seeing those dead birds on to see it go on and on and on with all of the power of the government and all the wealth of BP you know completely impotent to slow it down and make a mistake after mistake and telling one big fib after another.
I mean that was a real demonstration of ineffectuality and USFSA David Hollander's says he's learned another lesson about chance.
We actually dodged a bullet if that's even feasible to say with a spill this large. But conditions could have been much worse. The winds blew from the north south east and west and it wasn't till six weeks after the spill was there oil landing in the marshes there was no tropical storms. The loop current broke off in the middle of May. A rare occurrence. These are all events that conspired to isolate the oil into the into the northern Gulf of Mexico not bringing it into the into land into the marshes into New Orleans nor bringing it around the peninsula of Florida through the Keys and up and through the Florida Straits up to the east coast.
He says if there is another spill in the Gulf Florida certainly won't be so lucky. For Gulf watch. I'm Steve Newborn in St. Petersburg.
Siddharth let me ask you. Could this spill have been a lot worse. I mean we hear that same said by all of the scientists that were out there.
Could it have been. Well let me tell you. Eleven people did lose their lives. This began as a human tragedy. Several people escaped thankfully. And but this unfolded as an environmental tragedy that had deep economic consequences in the Gulf of Mexico region. Could it have been worse. It's hard to say and we certainly saw I think just a horrible catastrophe in our lifetime. It took months to plug up this well. Right. I know at one point in time we really didn't know what the trajectory of time was going to be when we would actually be able to stop the oil from falling. So you know at that point in time during those few months it was it was a scary time for Americans it was a scary time for people that live in Florida because we were just waiting to see how bad this was going to get.
And Steve let me ask as so. Is there still oil out there. I mean because this got to be the big contention was it at the surface or what is it in these plumes that I had never heard anybody talk about it before was it down the bottom.
Well you know this spill was absolutely unique for the nature of it that you know we had oil going to the bottom oil and midcaps and oil at the surface never before really seen other than in some small experiments. There is still oil in the environment. There are some that as David Horner on the piece explained that's trapped on the settlements in the deep water. There's also you can find some at the toe of some of the beaches up along the northern Gulf Coast. But by and large the vast majority of this has been diluted into the environment and in many cases evaporated.
Now that surprised me with the two things surprised me. Number one that it evaporated and they said oh yeah there are microorganisms that actually eat up that oil. So that was all kind of new information for all of us.
David Absolutely and in one of the lessons learned is is the kind of education that we've got about the power of Mother Nature.
It's part of an agent of of cleanup in this regard and and as Dr. McDonald and we're just beginning to learn those lessons and we're the science is headed here and Bpeace commitment of a half a billion dollars $500 million toward independent research will help us go a long ways to learning lessons from that and the science will evolve and it's really important with the science as it's learned to get it verified and not overreact to individual reports or scientific studies are done not to undermine them at all.
But verifications and you represent the oil industry last year was BP vilified unjustifiably besides Tony Hayward saying you know I'd like to have my life back too which has to be the PR gaffe of the year.
Well Governor Gramm who co-chaired that I think he gave BP very very high marks. So rather than me as an industry person saying that Bob Graham is is a leading spokesman for the state of Florida as a true Floridian and he gives the company very high marks for their response efforts in this regard. Looking back now certainly there were mistakes made and I think overall he's done a very good job.
OK. But the public relations side of things is we couldn't seem to get any figures that agreed. And I'm just talking about half the copy's story said barrels of oil and others said gallons of oil. And so it was these were so greatly different that we didn't know where they're coming from.
Well I think everybody was in that situation of figuring out Millot nearly 200 millions of gallons of oil versus how many barrels and what the impact that on means. Just to go back to a second I just want to say that BP was not alone. Bad actor. This was a very unfortunate accident that happened on their watch but BP these practices are pretty typical of the industry. And so BP vilified to some degree yes. Should they have been to some degree yes. Are they much worse off than any other oil company. I don't think so. Now as far as like figuring out the initial amount of oil that that. We were wrong with the initial estimates it showed how woefully unprepared that we were and we were basically building the fire truck while the house was burning down. We had no idea how to know how to prepare for an accident.
It doesn't have to do an energy there. You know I think it's important to recognize that our industry is operating in the Gulf in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 65 years. More than 40000 wells have been drilled and never has that kind of occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico where the U.S. operator occurred before. So there was significant safeguards in place. But yes indeed mistakes were made and many learning opportunities are made tighter regulations adoption of of recommended practices now into requirements standards creation of the center.
So let me ask you from a political standpoint you had Bobby Jindal of Louisiana who basically said I'm fed up with this response I'm getting bulldozers are going to build dikes they're going to keep the oil. You had a lot of play and then it was well who's really in charge is the Coast Guard really in charge or is BP really in charge. And then what kind of pressure could the president apply or as some people said not apply to get this thing cleaned up quicker and I remember his big quote was let's get that blight thing fail get it plugged Yeah.
And that seemed to be a lot of the reaction was oh my gosh isn't there something he can do and then eventually it it was just that the science and technology wasn't fast enough to to really cap it at the time that people wanted it camp. And so we realized just let the thing go. And I think the perception after everything is said and done is how remarkable things did clean up in the sense of what we saw and what was expected initially. I mean this was yet to pick on the media a little bit. I mean this was sort of Katrina part two. This was kind of the way this was going to be a colossal disaster. And at least from the perception of the public when all said and done people don't even think about it that way and people quite frankly aren't even thinking about it outside of the states effect.
Well hold that thought because later on this program we talk about gas prices they are thinking about it. The oil spill occurred just as the 2010 political campaigns were heating up for at least one candidate. The accident and its aftermath provided both a boost and a letdown. Here's more from Susan Giles one talk.
The chocolate brown waves that buffeted Florida's Panhandle during the oil spill also define the political ebb and flow of Florida's Governor Charlie Crist for the spell he was embroiled in a tough U.S. Senate race against Marco Rubio who was stealing the limelight from Crist. And then.
When the first tar balls stain Pensacola beaches Christie became a daily fixture on national television.
Crist channeled his populist outrage against BP at the same time he abandoned the GOP to run as an independent. For weeks he rode high in the polls like the oil gusher. It didn't last.
The image of him walking on the beach barefoot with his sleeves up talking to somebody. That's the kind of image you want from a politician and of course Charlie Crist knows full well how to run a politic and how to run a campaign.
USF political scientist Susan MacManus says Chris poll numbers fell as the oil spill dragged on and day in and day out when it was still leaking and the cap wasn't on.
People began to get very cynical and very pessimistic and I took it out as they always do on the chief executive of the state.
Crist called a special session of the legislature to ban oil drilling off Florida's coast. The House ignored the bill and adjourned after less than an hour.
How can they can they say it should be over when President Truman was president. He called the Congress to do nothing but today I want to say to the do nothing would just give me no for I think a lot of analysts thought that maybe that would force the legislators hand and strengthen him as a leader.
But there's also that in politics don't call for something unless you know you can pull it off. And he obviously didn't have the political will among the Republicans to call a special session it just didn't work. And in a way it made him look a bit weak.
Crist lost his Senate race to Rubio and a new governor took over with a new and less confrontational attitude to warn the people on the one year anniversary of the blowout. Rick Scott visited a Panama City shipyard to announce he wouldn't join a multi state law suit. Scott also wanted to show the world that Florida had survived the disaster.
For this part the State is back to work. We've got great beaches great lakes so very much many Panhandle restaurants and hotels say business is back to normal.
But that's not true for some charter boat operators.
I've got four boats here and I'm getting phone calls from one that. Will. Tell me. My business is down and down. The street for day like this. Do you blame for the past. I'd say commination BP oil spill on the live in prices. Oil prices going up.
Hill. Charlie Crist is still trying to ban drilling in state waters. This time through a voter referendum.
Recent polls show a majority of Floridians now support offshore drilling well drilling is always going to be an issue in Florida and is probably always going to be a very volatile issue where opinions change depending upon the economic circumstances or the natural disaster. And that's what makes any kind of political solution to it extremely difficult.
As memories of the oil spill fade she says high gas prices may put offshore drilling back on Florida's agenda. For golf watch I'm Susan Jiles.
Now I have to tell you that during a recent interview that I had with Governor Scott he said that they are working with BP in a friendly fashion and they're trying to come up with a rubric There's a fancy word to try to determine how much money BP should pay the state for the lost tourism dollars. They're apparently going to use the bed tax in three years back from the bed tax to see how much money they collected. Go ahead one or two years and then the difference then is God says he's going to go to BP and ask for that money. The other question with the whole panel. Yes or no. Do we make the right move by not suing BP.
Steve history will be our judge. I'm concerned about the loss of leverage when you don't have the consortium of five states so I think we should have sued.
I think considering the kind of damages that we've been we've made exactly the right decision that we have a working relationship with a corporate entity here who's been cooperative today. And any time the lawyers become involved often the consequences are higher cost and diffused in directions that aren't beneficial to us. So so far I think as a Floridian we've made the right decision certainly from an industry perspective.
I think we may have made a big mistake. I think like Steve said We lost some leverage. And I think what the governor Scott's administration one of thinks it's troubling is the lack of transparency. He seems to be more comfortable being cozy with big business than being then going after a bad corporate actor and suing them and looking out for the rights of Florida.
No unfortunately I'm on the fence about this. But I think to some extent BP was pleasantly surprised in the sense that I think they thought initially they were going to pay a lot more. And so in that sense I think that they're willing to open up the wallet because they can afford to do so.
Right. And they put 20 billion dollars in this kind of an escrow account and so far only about $9 billion of that has been spent. Still a lot of money. Now another question for you. Should there be punitive damages. And now again this is likely to go on another five six seven years it took 10 years before we even got the Exxon Valdez even close to being settled and some people say it still isn't Should that be punitive damages.
You know I think there should be and what's at stake is that under the Clean Water Act BP can be fined according to every every barrel of oil if BP is found criminally negligent then they can be fined up to like right around $4000 per barrel of oil. So the difference between whether BP is criminally negligent or not makes a huge difference to states like Florida that would have those clean water act fines come back to us to help address the economic damage we suffered.
Now I'm going to be real point blank on this and if I'm asking it wrong was BP intentionally trying to hide the amount of oil that was escaping because I've talked to engineers who have worked on deepwater rigs who say quite frankly we just didn't know.
And I think that's probably closer to reality. There was an unknown factor at the beginning stages there. But I do need to weigh in I think when it comes to punitive damages I think it's unfair to make that determination now. When you have a cooperative entity as long as that is going on if if the natural resources damage assessment is is complied with appropriately. I think that the company is trying to be a responsible corporate citizen and that should not be under that should not be a delay.
No there shouldn't have been bumping between scientists and BP originally going into this because the fact of the matter is we still don't know how much marine damage is out there nor was there an instrument for scientists like you to go to that we could use to say well we need to do more research. We should have been doing this a long time ago.
Well you know the gold standard on the the volume of oil coming out is a gauge right on the rig. We didn't have that gauge on the rig and so there was lots and lots of speculation using you know really heroic methods to try to estimate what was coming out there when the gauge was actually put on and the Flow Rate Technical Team interpreted it. There was really convergence on those estimates so I agree to a certain extent this was a little bit of trying to engineer this on the fly as opposed to sort of willful.
Now I can remember one morning coming into the newsroom and at Bay News 9 and they said look at these video see that red stuff that's more oil coming ashore as well what it ended up being was red tide and anybody who knows Florida but from the air it sure looked like oil. So you had all of that going on. Louisiana Alabama and Mississippi are handling the lawsuits quite differently than we are.
So how long before we know if we did make the right decision. When I say we the government.
Well it's a matter of the settlement of this case and you know this could drag on for quite a long time. The natural resource damage assessment won't even be completed until the end of this year in terms of the initial reports. And so it depends on whether BP actually settles that lawsuit before they go to trial or this wants to drag out. Remember Exxon Valdez took an enormous amount of time to settle.
Now as we mentioned Florida so far has been spared the kind of onshore environmental damage faced by other Gulf states. Some oil did come ashore in the Panhandle yes but nothing like what we saw in the areas of Louisiana Mississippi and Alabama. For west central Florida the damage has been mostly economic lost revenue. Tourists stayed away by the thousands last year fearing incorrectly that our beaches were covered with oil. They have started coming back. But as Carson Cooper tells us at least one bay area resort fears the long term impact of last summer's spill.
The trade winds resorts on St. Pete Beach is the largest resorts on the west coast of Florida for president and CEO Keith Overton and his seven hundred employees. The oil spill occurred at perhaps the worst possible time.
The economy was struggling to begin with before the oil spill and then we had the coldest winter on record.
So coming into the year. We were optimistic that things were going to be. Better and maybe the recovery was inside. And of course that didn't happen early on. And then as soon as the weather started getting warm we saw signs that travel was going to pick up again and that you know Florida was going to be a popular destination spot was some kind of demand.
And then the oil spill occurred and all of that got washed away.
The trade winds like many businesses that rely heavily on visitors to Florida makes most of its money during the four month tourist season. The oil spill hit right at the beginning of what usually is the resort's busiest time of year.
I think it really hit home when you saw 24 hours a day that high definition camera of every single major network in the country.
We realized you know after several months went by that that the physical damage was probably not going to occur at least not on our beach anyway.
And then it became a perception issue using BP money Florida spent millions in advertising announcing to the world that its beaches were not covered at all. But the message was not enough initially anyway to counter the image held by many potential customers.
We suffered about a 1.4 million dollar economic loss and that's a profit loss just in the last six months. We're now calculating our future losses. And it's going to be you know in the tens of millions of dollars just for our company alone.
Travis Johnson is a trade winds general manager. He says it was not just the resorts that was affected but also many neighboring businesses as our occupancy goes down or our rates go down the demographic of our customer changes a little bit.
Our local community is going to feel the impact as well. All the local rush attractions partnerships that. Are equally feeling the pain of being.
Given the constant image of oil spewing into the Gulf.
Overton says he understands why people stayed away people over the years who have come here year after year were forced as a result of this to choose to go somewhere else. You know we don't blame them. You know they were risking their time and their time poverty already. Were they going to take a chance and come here or were they going to go somewhere else. And the risk there is is that they went somewhere else and had a great time and now maybe they don't come back in the future.
The trade winds ran an advertising campaign of its own in an attempt to offset the loss of out-of-state guests.
We combated that by discounting significant. And we targeted local drug market. Areas of. The state as well as the south and east.
And the hope was that we could continue to sustain our occupancy and we were able to do that to some degree occupancy only fell slightly a point or two.
But Overton says because operating costs remain the same. Those discounted prices made profits disappear.
We've cut staff we've laid people off as a result.
We have everybody in our company for example has been operating under a six and a half percent. Reduction. And we cut their hours to the profit off.
Overton says filing a claim with BP was nuts and easy process early on with BP.
I mean we were flat out denied. BP just took a position they were almost indignant about it to take a position that you just don't have a claim on your beach. And we're going to pay.
But eventually the resort was able to convince the oil company that its losses were real and stemmed directly from the spill.
We do 40 percent of our business in meetings and conventions here. People who are planning those meetings and conventions they're looking forward into the future and they're looking at us now but they're thinking about a meeting that's in maybe 2012 13 14.
And so for about six months there. There was so much concern about the long term effects and the unknown of what was going to happen with the oil spill. That all those meeting planners just chose to pick a different destination for all of those bookings. And we lay that business out into the future quite a long ways. And so we won't see the losses from that for many years to come.
The trade winds received its first payment from BP in late 2010. The resort remains in settlement negotiations for Gulf watch.
Kirsan Cooper David let me ask you these states Texas and Louisiana one of the things that Bobby Jindal was so concerned about the governor of Louisiana was not only that people would be laid off as a result of the moratorium that went into effect was that the state would lose a lot of revenue.
The state of Florida does not get as much revenue or do we get any revenue from offshore drilling. Do we do we do get some.
Actually we do and in the form of revenues back from the federal government it's important to note that oil and gas sector is about seven and a half percent of our gross domestic product of the United States in about nine point two million jobs across the country rely on the oil and gas sector. So that is an important part of our entire economy and changes to that obviously affect Florida. But you know the moratorium and the political theater so she definitely had an effect on our industry and continues today. We move from a moratorium to what we call a permit tourism slowly slowly just beginning to get get processing of permitting to move forward again. And that is very costly to our industry. We've got to move forward to get the supply of our core energy product back to the United States.
Your group is the Gulf Restoration Network and you are out of Louisiana so you know what kind of havoc this played on people's livelihoods if they could not work in the oil industry.
Yes and we're very sensitive to that. But the political and economic dynamics in Florida are totally different. We rely on our 65 billion dollar a year tourism industry right the beach condos lodging restaurants businesses provide nearly a million jobs statewide. Clearly in Florida the dynamic is this that a clean beach is worth more than an oil field.
Now we've been talking about this referendum politically speaking again. Is this going. Where are we going to go with that. Do they think voters are going to end up voting in favor of that.
I mean first she got to get it. And I think that it's like I said I think at this moment in time it's just sort of in the backdrop. I mean it's not really in the front of people's minds. Right.
And you know we'll talk about those gas prices and how those two things relate. Let let's get back again to the safeguards because I don't know where they're going have time of these other things to talk about it. There are a lot of people say that the industry as a whole didn't know a couple of things. I'll mention them they didn't know that those underwater Rovers couldn't shut off the oil because the valves wouldn't turn because the rovers would start spinning backwards. They didn't realize how long it took to get a rover down in the bottom of the water. They didn't realize that the pinchers that were used to cut off the pipe don't work when the pipe bends and is crimped. And in this particular case that's what happened. So what do we do about those errors that were made that way.
Well one of the things the industry has done as I mentioned is increasing our standards recommendations to government which have been adopted. And then also the creation of what we are we are committing a billion dollars to the Center for Marine safety and that's a very significant focus particularly on those kinds of issues how in going forward and one thing I got to mention about Florida with regards to tourism certainly tourism and agriculture are number one and two industries and they're heavily reliant on energy.
But what wasn't mentioned in the clip that's really critically important for your viewers to note is that actually last year tourism did increase and we had higher tourism numbers than previously that the economy of 2008 really was a big setback in 2009. The 2010 numbers did ultimately overall increase. How much more would they have been in spite of that.
That's certainly for a book but from a scientific standpoint we are going to get your thoughts on this is that I don't think we really realize and we won't know for several years what kind of damage something like this could do to life to living things. We've known that we've had this dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that very thing people think as a result of all the silt and the fertilizers that washed over the Mississippi River. But we've never had anything like this was so much on the bottom of the ocean where these creatures that crawl and live and particularly the fish may be affected to the point where are we going to be able to recover those numbers.
Well if you look at the spill the real damage in fact may be not the visible damage the cryptic fauna the the fauna under the water may in fact be the most damaged by this and by that I mean the carcinogenic and toxic compounds in oil the PH's they're very toxic to the very young life stage just like eggs and larvae that are free floating. And we know that you know the area offshore was wide and so potentially down the road we could have generational effects on some of these populations. And this is why it's so important to monitor them over time so that we can separate out natural variability from what we think the oil stove effect would be if if we are a public that tends to forget things very very quickly.
Who's going to remind us then of what we escaped the bullet we dodged per se.
Well I think that's up to our responsible elected leaders to stick with this restoration process. It's important that the state of Florida gets the money coming back to us from the natural resources damage assessment that money will address the eight counties in Florida and the panhandle. But what about the other counties on the Gulf that were affected economically like areas in Tampa Bay. Well we'll get help from clean water act money. So we really need our leaders to work in concert to keep up the pressure keep up and implement stronger oversight over the offshore oil drilling industry but also we need to make sure that we get the restoration funds coming back to us that we deserve.
Right. And one last thing about BP. I understand that they know that that the oil industry in general has now put together a faster response team that they didn't have that existed before and a greater cooperation. Next segment I do want to talk about these deep water wells in particular because I understand they're the ones that can cause an awful lot of problems. I want to make sure that we can all remember to talk about that as we get into our next segment.
For those against drilling in the Gulf the oil spill became a rallying point but as you'll see they face not only a well-financed and well-organized opposition but also a public with often changing priorities. Here's Bobby O'Brien with more.
Susan Glickman opposed drilling in Florida's gulf waters long before the Deepwater Horizon disaster. She's a consultant to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
This is a map of the Gulf Coast. And as you can see Florida has been protected. We don't have near shore drilling. We don't have drilling in federal waters. But when you go over to Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana you can see sort of a whole network of pipelines and platforms where they're drilling. And what we are looking at is the decision whether or not we want to industrialize the coast of Florida which would fundamentally change why people come to Florida.
And the beauty the natural environment here. Glickman calls herself an energy advocate.
I advocate at the federal at the state. And at the local level for policies that are going to move us to a low carbon economy and to clean energy.
But she admits that convincing people to consider alternatives to oil is seldom easy.
It often feels like a David and Goliath battle that you're in but when you have an oil spill like we saw that really significantly hurt our tourism industry and our fishing industry we don't even know what the outcome of it is what the oil spill has done to our populations in Alaska at the Exxon Valdez they lost their entire herring industry. And as we know they're still probably 75 percent of the oil is still in the Gulf of Mexico.
LICHTMAN believes that despite the Gulf spill many people don't think there are viable alternatives to oil. She says that perception is false.
We know how to run cars more efficiently and we know how to run cars on different kinds of foods that are not polluting.
So we have that technology. But what we lack is the political will to move forward. And that is largely because of the influence of these entrenched industries that make an awful lot of money now selling us oil.
Political scientist Susan MacManus says there are other factors as well.
Can't say enough how much economics affects people's attitudes about offshore drilling. On top of that you have to look at what people are thinking about oil coming from the Middle East. So that to the degree that we continue to have turmoil there that also contributes to people wanting to say well let's get our oil here and not be dependent upon someone else.
The oil spill made people mad. Because clearly it was. It was. Error. It was cutting corners by the oil industry.
A tragedy like that's the last thing that you want to have happen. But you you sort of assume if something like that did happen it would wake people up.
McManus says with the public economic reality often trumps environmental concern.
A poll even showed that the people in the panhandle the most devastated by a plurality of those people said that they still supported the idea of drilling. Why. Because it's their economy it's how they make a living for golf watch.
I'm Bobbie O'Brien so that here becomes the big question.
OK. How do you make the transition to all these new forms of energy and can we drill our way out of the oil shortage that we face in the world. And this is the biggest hot button set and I'm going to go for you for that. We can't get there fast enough.
And that's the reality and I think a tragedy like that an environmental disaster does mobilize people. And the question is how long does it sustain the voters interest. But there's always another election. And you know we're going to have an interesting Senate race and we're going to have a presidential election in 2012. And it's clear already that Senator Nelson will be opposed to a position of drilling. And so this issue will resurface. It will get traction in the minds of the voter because it will be an issue that the parties fight over but fighting over an issue and moving from there to policy is is a huge step. And I just don't think we're there yet.
So let's talk about from a Marine Biology standpoint what is the difference between what we call these deep water wells and Wells that are closer to land and then add a third part of that. Why are we why we're doing it on the water. Why can't we drill the way it would be a little bit easier to contain.
Well the so-called ultra deep wells the wells find greater than 5000 feet are a very recent phenomenon in the Gulf. Only since the mid 1990s have we had significant amount. But it's interesting it's accounting for more and more of the total amount of oil coming out of the Gulf. Currently we get about five hundred million gallons barrels of oil a year out of the Gulf and almost half of that now is out of these ultra deep wells which are tremendously productive or tremendously productive which means there's a lot of money coming out of them. What we didn't understand was that the risk assessment from the shallow wells is not the risk assessment we should have for the deepwater wells. You know our history is relatively thin our history not only the Gulf of Mexico but off Norway Brazil and elsewhere. So this industry is looking at this particular incident as history for understanding the ultra deep drilling throughout the world.
Why do we go so deep.
Well the Marine Well containment company which would be created will help us with the kind of equipment to deal with those deep water type of situations in a much better way that wasn't around a year ago and now has been created to it's one of those if you will silver linings from there but what's really key here now and Dr. McManus heard on that is reliable and affordable energy supplies for Floridians and for America. And we believe in the industry this is a key point. We call him the keys to energy future that we can produce here in the United States about 90 percent 92 percent of our oil and gas needs in the next 20 years for America. We're way way way way below that now we're not even half there now if allowed to have access to the resources and part of that being in the Gulf of Mexico which currently supplies us 25 percent of our fuel now every day my industry has to supply to Florida. Twenty five million gallons not barrels gallons of motor fuels. We've got to get there. Quietly Congress last week had BPA had to roll back some of our current requirements because the technology is not there for implementing some of the next generation fuels that Susan Glickman was talking about. It hasn't evolved as quickly as you want our core resource if you do your homework is going to show us that oil and gas is part of that the energy future in the next 20 30 years.
So environmentally speaking then. OK. We still we still want to have that goal of getting there but how do you make that transition without it being so painful in the pocketbook. Because we all love talking you know the environment we love environment. Man when it's five bucks a gallon for gas forget it.
Right. Well you know I agree with Susan Glickman statement that we have the technology but we're lacking the political will. Our government just bailed out the auto industry.
Maybe it would be a nice payback for the auto industry to now manufacture cars that get more miles to the gallon that go further on a gallon of gas and help us achieve a transportation system that addresses the fact that we're dependent on oil and that we're dealing with climate change issues. The thing is is that we have clean energy solutions that are just staring us in the face. And until we come up with a serious cheap clean safe national energy plan we're going to continue this dangerous path to try to keep drilling in deeper and deeper waters. And we do not have we aren't ready yet to contain spills or accidents for that for drilling and waters that deep.
And yet we also know that for things like solar power and wind power that the reason that they are economical right now is because they are subsidized by the government. So the question is is again I'm getting this transition period. This oil spill brought a great amount of attention to the fact that we are not transitioning to whatever the next source of fuel is quickly enough without there being strong political personal and economic ramifications for all of us.
You know I think that slowly the marketplace is adjusting regardless of what politicians are doing. I mean we've seen these commercials with electric cars now and different companies have them now. And we've seen relocations right here to St. Petersburg. You know for wind power so I think that the marketplace is still adjusting and doing what it has to do even though politicians aren't reacting to these things. But I can tell you that public opinion is strongly in favor of alternative energy. There's no question about it.
They are but they're also very much in favor of reliable in affording affordable technology. Technology is in front of us but it's very costly right now. There's a race going on in our industries at the forefront of that. And we've invested over 100 billion dollars in the last 10 years looking for that next type of technology.
Could your industry live without the subsidies that you currently get right now.
And I have to ask that I mean on the physical Well we don't believe that we get any subsidies whatsoever. There are provisions in the tax code that all manufacturers get that we get it we don't believe that we should be singled out for punitive treatment because we're profitable right now. I think the worst thing that we could do is to do is to pass increased taxes on an industry that's profitable right now in an economic recovery that ultimately would lead to higher cost for Americans. I think that would be horrible policy.
All right. Now we've talked about the environmental impact of the spill. We've talked about the economic impact and the political impact. There was also an emotional impact especially among people whose families have been dependent upon the Gulf for literally generations.
Greg Kopp reports Hubbard's marina at Johns Pass and its associated restaurant tavern and properties have been in Patricia Hubbard's family since the 1950s.
Today she is their chief financial officer. The.
Oil spill when it first happened I was talking to different prospective tenants about coming and leasing space offering one way.
The affects of the oil spill have been. Really. Fun from one extreme to the other. The oil spill actually pushed some people into this area mid summer which was OK for the dolphin watch half happens but off shore the fish and everyone thought it was close. So are long range trips and are all day trips. We're down 16 70 percent.
Hubbard says the family businesses were already hurting because of the recession. The oil spill made things worse. Hubbard says the family is still waiting for reimbursement from BP. In the meantime she says two of their businesses have filed for bankruptcy.
They anger mixed with the disbelief. That. This was really happening. It was like someone died. It was now we're born and raised here. We read we make our living. On the golf. And the golf. But. It's also our recreation. We bury people in the golf. We're married on the beach. You know this was so much a fabric of what my family is. And to sit and watch that. Oil spewing into the Gulf. Thousands of gallons a day. After day. After day. It. Sort of. Morphed into a rage.
Recently the family situation improved with the announcement that the pier aquarium would be leasing a large section of Johns Pass village. The aquarium is scheduled to open in December of 2012. But Patricia Hubbard says the family's financial future remains in doubt.
I think one thing it's done for us is and hopefully other folks in the state of Florida is that when the oil company stands there and says this can never happen we know yes it can.
Farther to the south. Sean Dutchie her owns native rentals on Anna Maria Island. He specializes in kayak rentals and Acco tours.
When news of the oil spill broke he was worried when you count on the tours and stuff like that to put food on the table or mom and pop kind of operations so.
Definitely some stress there although no oil reached.
Anna Maria Island doc Shavers business was affected by kayak sales went down because nobody wanted to buy a kayak and defiantly have been waiting for years to come. So we just just didn't know it was the uncertainty uncertainty of the. Situation was. Pretty scary. Instead of a physical presence it had more of a mental presence.
Doc Rivers says 15 months later his numbers are still down. I expected.
More of a renewed interest in the environment because of the oil and stuff and I heard some of that but. Not really that many more eco tours because I wouldn't say his father Marty owns the sun and surf beach.
He estimates his losses from the spill at around $50000 were coming off of a few good years in a row and starting to.
Get back to where we should be. And when the oil hit we had about a good solid month. Of increased business like we had been doing. And then the Europeans had to cancel and then that came down and we started getting affected by people canceling on the businesses and our summer was quite off actually. And it's just now coming back.
Jennifer Armstrong who's a partner with datcha ever in the beach shop looks forward to the day when the oil spill no longer dominates conversations for Gulf watch.
I'm Craig cop and we wouldn't be doing service of this story if we didn't mention one other thing. I don't want to get on a bandwagon on this thing but some of the people that got Gulf oil settlements really surprised me. I met three high school three school college kids that were working at a restaurant and they each got between seven and $9000 a tattoo artist got $10000. And yet the jolly trolley which travels up and down the beach asked for a million dollars because they lost ridership. They didn't get money so I think there's a lot of still bad vibe going on about that too.
I think unfortunately that happens in the wake of a lot of disasters wherever you go there's always going to be some people who are in the script useless. And unfortunately that's just par for the course. I don't think this particular disaster was any different than what we've seen in past disaster.
He wasn't too generous by but others say you know bring it on.
Well they did release that over to an independent contractor to do that. And Ken Feinberg organization has done the best they could under very difficult situations.
Yeah I've been in a couple of those meetings and or at least talk to him about those meetings and those have not been the most pleasant things. All right. Well we don't want to leave you frustrated because we don't have any answers for you hopefully we do have some of the topics that we've been talking about. So let's start out with each one of you. Lessons learned. What did we as a state as a nation as people learn from this.
Well there's lots of lessons learned here I'll focus on two. Number one the importance of accounting for the human factor in Engineered Systems. Because no matter what technology half it has to be maintained it has. It's is only as good as the people operating from a scientific point of view. We learned that sometimes oil doesn't float. Now that was actually predicted by the National Research Council and a study a few years ago. If we're going to be in this deep water drilling thing our mindset of how to be prepared for oil spills needs to change. You know all oil spills aren't at the beach. Sure. Sure. David Professor I think you hit on several points.
The human endeavor of the US involvement does involve regretfully risk and moving forward. We also have to understand and I think we do that we need energy to maintain our quality of life in other countries around the world. Third world countries are our arch driving forward to that. My daughter and I were talking about something that we call first world pains recently. Yeah. In some of the first world pains that we we except when we are hindered a little bit in understanding the rest of the world wants to catch up to our oil and gas are important part of our future in our energy mix. I think we as Floridians understand that going forward. And that's why I think polls are indicative that we have to move forward with this industry in a manner that does not harm our environment and it protects our vital resources. We as Floridians all love and enjoy doing for generations.
We have to evaluate risk and a whole new way just because there might be a slight chance or a small chance that it could explode. We have to look at the fact that a catastrophic accident has such a huge impact on our quality of life our our natural resources our economy that there's just too much less and less time because of the volatility of oil prices.
This issue isn't going away in a tourist state that we have with parties that are opposed on an issue such as drilling. We'll see what happens in the next election and policy's probably going to bump forward.
In other words stay tuned folks. There's more on this story coming your way. Want to thank my guests for joining me today Stephen Moore and David Micah Darden rice and Seth McKee. And want to thank you so much for watching. For golf watch one year later I'm Al Rachele.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Gulf Watch: One Year Later
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- This program predominantly features a panel discussion regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Topics covered include the effects of the oil spill on economic and environmental issues in Florida. Also included are segments regarding the political impact of the disaster.
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Host: Ruchel, Al
Panelist: McKee, Seth
Panelist: Mica, David
Panelist: Rice, Darden
Panelist: Murawski, Steven
Producer: McQueen, Bill
Producing Organization: WUSF
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Identifier: L-811 (WUSF)
Format: Betacam Digital (Digi Beta)
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- Chicago: “Gulf Watch: One Year Later,” 2011-07-14, WUSF, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 19, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_304-16c2g2nd.
- MLA: “Gulf Watch: One Year Later.” 2011-07-14. WUSF, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 19, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_304-16c2g2nd>.
- APA: Gulf Watch: One Year Later. Boston, MA: WUSF, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_304-16c2g2nd