When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig went up in flames, a friend in New Orleans wrote that you could smell the fire all the way in the city, describing it as the sweet, acrid smell of burning crayons. And then he added a few words, which called up the five years spent in recovering from Katrina: “Here we go again."
The Gulf Coast is plain tired of recovering. Would it be out of the ordinary if the region could thrive and enrich the nation with seafood, commerce, energy sources, music, and culture that no other city in the United States can match? Without all the disaster drama? Well, darlin, life just ain’t that simple.
1999 BP advertisement
According to some of our Gulf coast representatives, the BP oil spill is a “statistical anomaly,” whereby the deepwater drilling moratorium is unfounded. Really? British Petroleum has such a good record? Well, let’s see: the 2005 BP oil refinery explosion in Texas City, TX, which killed 15 workers and injured 170; the 2006 BP pipeline leak in Prudhoe Bay, AK; several more spills in Alaska; and add to all this charges of manipulating propane prices. Yeah, sure they’re clean: as clean as the waters their pipes in the Gulf of Mexico are spewing crude oil at – what is it now, 100,000 gallons a day? According to the radio program, Democracy Now, it is now apparent that the “BP Oil Spill Confirmed as Worst in US History.” So much for that anomaly idea.
And then there’s the fact of the many oil rigs that continue to operate in the Gulf of Mexico, despite the moratorium, and the 49 offshore drilling plans approved without complete environmental assessments. Hold on though: it’s even more complicated than that. On the Gulf coast the fishing and oil industries have worked side by side for decades, each providing a wide base of support for the economies of Texas and Louisiana. So when the companies running a rig don’t have a backup plan for emergencies – yes, like this one – everyone gets hurt. That workers die is unforgiveable. That the coast, along with its fragile wetlands and wildlife, is mired in an ongoing deluge of oil is unbelievable. That the billions of dollars BP has accumulated over the decades were never invested in research on “how to cap a leak immediately if one should occur” is unthinkable.
Louisiana shouldn’t have to feel forgotten, a lost cause, “Lose-iana.” The depth of culture in New Orleans and the delta lands is immeasurable. And by culture I mean, the people, all of them: musicians, culinary chefs, Krewes, waitresses and waiters, writers, fishermen and fisherwomen, oyster shuckers, artists, mechanics, Saints, preachers, singers, deck hands, therapists and teachers. From all this humanity, surely new ideas will grow from old ones, and oil will sink back below the surface and new sources of energy will grow. It’s the Gulf, after all, where the sun shines and the wind does indeed bend marsh grasses against its shores.