Tuesday, 29 June 2010

After BP disaster, oil exploration off UK's South Coast hots up

The environmental and social catastrophe of BP's ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico hardly needs more description.

Many thousands of commentators have shown how the disaster is destroying local economies and unique cultures as well as devastating already threatened ecosystems.

The usually on-the-ball Naomi Klein has written of how all of this is, perhaps, just the inevitable result of an ongoing 'battle' between human society and global ecosystems (or nature, if you like).

Ever eager to find a way to make money from anything at all, the bookies are already offering odds on a range of outcomes: which endangered species will be made extinct first, for example? (Current favourite is the Kemp's Ridley Turtle)

BP has announced its direct costs have already risen above $2bn, and the firm has agreed a compensation package of some $20bn.

You'd expect all of this to lead to change in the law: either the introduction of a new international crime of ecocide to put CEOs of companies responsible for this sort of mess behind bars, or, intriguingly, a 'three-strike-and-your-out' rule that would dismantle any company that repeatedly broke social or environmental laws

At the very least, you'd think the oil companies would be shying away from new undersea oil exploration ventures while they work out the long-term implications of the BP rig explosion.

But exactly the opposite appears to be the case. Green Party Euro-MP Keith Taylor has today warned that oil exploration off our south coast is hotting up, with one Australian firm alone, Norwest, reported to have found seven new sites in the 'Wessex Basin'.

We know what the alternatives are - and are already investing in large-scale off-shore wind turnine 'grids' in exactly this area.

Wiser people than I have made two compelling observations about the BP disaster: first, that oil-damaged marshes, habitats and beaches may take generations to recover, if they ever do, and secondly, that when a wind-turbine fails, the cost is likely to be a splash.

Let's hope we learn from events 'over the pond' - and allow no new oil exploration (let alone drilling) off the coast of the UK.

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