A summary of events on Friday, June 11, Day 52 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
With each new look by scientists, the oil spill just keeps looking worse. New figures for the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico show the amount of oil spewing may have been up to twice as much as previously thought, according to scientists consulting with the federal government. That could mean 42 million gallons to more than 100 million gallons of oil have already fouled the Gulf's fragile waters, affecting people who live, work and play along the coast from Louisiana to Florida — and perhaps beyond. The estimates varied widely. But most had more oil flowing in an hour than officials once said spilled in a day.
The oil spoiling the teeming marshes and white-sand beaches of the Gulf Coast is also threatening the pristine image of the burly, take-charge leader who has become the federal government's go-to guy in a disaster. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, one of the few federal officials whose reputation survived Hurricane Katrina intact, is facing growing criticism that he and his agency are overwhelmed by the catastrophe. It's unfamiliar territory for a former Coast Guard Academy football captain who has managed responses to crises that include the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
BP has not only made a series of public relations gaffes — none greater than the CEO's complaint that "I'd like my life back" — the company hasn't followed its own internal guidelines for damage control after a spill. Executives have quibbled about the existence of undersea plumes of oil, downplayed the potential damage early in the crisis and made far-too-optimistic predictions for when the spill could be stopped. What BP has lacked, crisis management experts say, has been much of a show of human compassion.
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has brought out thousands of people who just want to help. But there isn't much for them to do unless they own a Hazmat suit. Directors of charities and BP PLC say the outpouring has been huge among people with vivid memories of Hurricane Katrina five years ago. However, cleaning oiled birds and tar-stained beaches isn't as straightforward as clearing rubble. In many cases, it's been difficult to find enough work for all the volunteers. More than 15,000 from across the country have signed up on BP's official website, said BP spokesman Mark Proegler. Others are volunteering through charitable organizations, environmental groups and state agencies.
OIL IN EVERYTHING
So the Gulf oil spill has you ready to quit petroleum cold turkey? Louisiana's brown pelicans have more of a chance of avoiding Big Oil than you do. Oil is everywhere. It permeates our daily lives in ways we never think about. It's in carpeting, furniture, computers and clothing. It's in the most personal of products like toothpaste, shaving cream, lipstick and vitamin capsules. Petrochemicals are the glue of our modern lives and even in glue, too. And because of all that, petrochemicals are in our blood.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become a lonely defender of BP PLC, declaring the world should not rush to point fingers at the British oil giant for the oil spill. Bloomberg, who often sides with CEOs and private businesses entangled in public relations catastrophes, said he'd rather have BP worrying about stopping the leak than devising a legal strategy.