The Austin Chronicle

Safer Drilling? Whoda Thunk?

By Richard Whittaker, July 6, 2010, 5:12pm, Newsdesk

Gov. Rick Perry just announced he's forming a new body to look into preventing future oil disasters. The Gulf Project will bring together academic researchers, engineers and scientists to research safer deepwater drilling. Nice idea but does the term too little, too late, mean anything to anybody?

Let's run over that timeline:

Feb. 15 Deepwater Horizon begins drilling in the Gulf. Over the next two months there are regular complaints from the engineering team about serious problems with the drilling.
April 20 Fire on Deepwater Horizon causes an explosion, killing 11 workers
April 22 Rig sinks
April 24 Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry announces that the well head is leaking
April 30 First oil reaches islands off Louisiana
May 9 Tar balls reach Alabama
May 19 Oil reaches mainland Louisiana
June 4 Tar balls reach Florida
June 12 Wreckage from Deepwater Horizon washes up in Florida
June 27 Tar balls reach Mississippi
July 4 Tar balls on Galveston initially thought to be from Deepwater Horizon leak: Later found to be from other sources, which is somehow supposed to be an improvement.

July 5 Confirmed Deepwater-created tar balls found on Texas' Bolivar Peninsular.
July 6 Perry decides, "Huh, preparing for an oil slick. Now there's a novel idea."

What makes this all rather questionable is that Texas has been a center for the offshore oil industry for decades: Partly because of proximity to the Gulf reserves and partly because "industry regulation" is a swear word around here. In fact two of the three firms involved in the current disaster, Halliburton and BP North America, are based out of Houston, and the third, Transocean, only shifted its headquarters to Switzerland last December.

So don't worry about this being some pesky liberal environonsense: This is still pure drill, baby, drill. In his press release, Perry said, "To keep our status as the energy capital of the nation and preserve our environment, jobs and economy, Texas must become the world leader in developing the next generation in offshore oil exploration safety and response."

Perry called the Gulf Project "an unprecedented collaboration." The fact that it is unprecedented is the most savage indictment of all.

There has been no response so far from any Gulf Coast walruses.

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