NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Lessons From The Horizon Blowout: More Hype Than Harm

August 6, 2010

Only two weeks after BP began capping the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout, people have begun to ask, "Where's the oil?"  The fact that skimmer ships sent out to clean the water of oil are unable to find oil to clean is leading the mainstream media to question whether environmentalists tried to exploit this unfortunate event by making it seem worse than it really was for political reasons, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. 

Fortunately, the damage from the spill is proving far less than the frightful claims of environmentalists, says Burnett: 

  • The Horizon blowout has killed far less than 1 percent of the number of birds killed by the Exxon Valdez spill.
  • And while we've heard horror stories and seen pictures of oil-coated marine mammals, it turns out to be the same pictures shown over and over again since wildlife response teams have only collected three visibly oil-coated dead mammals thus far.
  • It's true that about 350 acres of Louisiana's valuable coastal marshes have been soaked by oil; however, this is far less than the 15,000 acres of wetlands lost each year in no small part because of federal programs.
  • Despite the spill, the region's fish and shrimp have tested clean, prompting the gradual lifting of the harsh restrictions that had shut down the fishing and shrimping industries. 

Environmentalists hyped the spill in an attempt to push the Senate to pass the largest energy tax in history.  Though the Senate's energy bill had nothing to do with the safety of offshore oil rigs, the green lobby tried to link the two in the public's mind.  Fortunately, neither the public nor, ultimately, many senators were buying it, says Burnett. 

Unfortunately, environmentalists were successful in convincing the Obama administration to shut down new offshore oil and gas production after the spill.  This was despite that fact that the scientific panel that President Obama appointed to recommend a response said that a moratorium was unjustified and could make a bad situation worse, says Burnett. 

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Lessons from the Horizon blowout: More hype than harm," The Hill, August 5, 2010. 

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