Friday, March 16, 2012

After the spill: the State of the Gulf Coast Today

I was driving in my car the other day when a commercial came on the radio extolling the virtues of the gulf coast as a particularly attractive vacation destination. Nothing about the commercial seemed abnormal until the speaker uttered his final words, “brought to you by the good people at BP.” Considering the immense ecological and financial devastation that the British Petroleum oil spill caused the Gulf Coast, I found this message rather odd. While I understand that British Petroleum sponsoring commercials attempting to boast tourism is part of their broad public relations plan attempting to restore their image, as well as to compensate the states that have been most impacted by the oil spill, I have to wonder what the current condition of the gulf coast is today. Has BP made good on their promise to restore the Gulf Coast to its previous form? Has BP adequately compensated those whose livelihoods were more or less destroyed?
 In the summer of 2010, a massive explosion occurred at a deepwater horizon drilling rig off the gulf coast, resulting in a gushing oil wellhead. All told, almost five million barrels of oil spilled into the ocean before the well was eventually capped (Hoch, 2010). In the aftermath, thousands of fishermen were put out of business, as the oil made the once lucrative shrimp and fishing industries in the gulf coast practically non-existent.  A 2010 report by the US Travel Association predicted the economic losses for Gulf Coast businesses and individuals would top $23 billion over the next three years (Big price tag for recovery of Gulf Coast, 2010).
Today, the gulf coast is a shell of what it once was. Take Louisiana oyster farmers for example. In 2011, their annual catch was cut in half, resulting in their smallest harvest since 1966. Also, because of the legitimate health and safety concerns associated with gulf seafood, apprehensive customers have significantly reduced demand (Strassmann, 2011). While there is demand for large shrimp off of the Gulf Coast, the supply has been significantly reduced, likely as a result of the oil spill. In BP’s response, “Tom Mueller, a spokesman for BP, said in an e-mail that the energy company has paid more than $8 billion to individuals, businesses and governments and spent $14 billion on ‘the operational response’ to the spill” (Johnson, 2012). Although tourism was adversely impacted immediately after the spill, the industry has rebounded to some degree, which could to some extent be attributed to the $179 million BP has committed to advertising and marketing for the Gulf Coast (2012), which likely paid for that commercial I heard on the radio. While it looks like the Gulf Coast is rebounding, it is remains to be seen what the long term impact of the oil spill will be, regardless of how much money BP throws at the problem.

List of work cited
 Hoch, M. (2010, August 2). New Estimate Puts Gulf Oil Leak at 205 Million Gallons| The             Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved   March 16, 2012, from   puts-oil-leak-at-49-million-barrels.html
Johnson, A., Brubaker, L., & Fisk, M. C. (2012, February 24). BP Spill Victims Still Feel Economic Impact as Trial Nears - Businessweek. Businessweek - Business News, Stock Market &       Financial Advice. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from      impact-as-trial-nears.html
Nivac – Big price tag for recovery of Gulf Coast. (2010, August 3). Nivac. Retrieved March 16,    2012, from
Strassmann, M. (2011, April 18). Gulf seafood industry still smeared by suspicion - CBS News.     Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News - CBS News. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

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