Five Months, Eight Days: BP's Gulf Oil Spill

The Takeaway asks: Where has the oil gone?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Off the coast of Fort Pickens, Florida, Todd Farrar, a senior Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique team leader, finds evidence of oil below the water's surface on September 17, 2010. (Flickr: Deepwater Horizon Response)

We've come a long way, baby...

The Macondo well may be sealed and "dead," but the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is going to be felt for some time to come. We're spending the whole hour wrestling with some of the unanswered questions and lingering issues that the BP oil spill has left in its wake. To help us navigate these dirty waters, Robert Hernan, author of "This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from the Fifteen Worst Environmental Disasters Around the World" joins us for the hour.

Also, check out our timeline of the entire disaster, spanning from the Deepwater Horizon's construction in 1998 through when it was declared "dead" on Sunday.

So now that the Macondo well is officially "dead," where did all of that oil go? And what will be the lasting environmental impacts on the Gulf? Toxicologist LuAnn White, director of the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Public Health joins us with her insight.

Over the last five months we spoke to a number of Gulf residents. Now we check in with some of them again. Eddie Spence owns 10 restaurants and employs over 300 people in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Also in Alabama, we're joined by Johnny Greene, a fisherman, and Tim Kant, mayor of Fairhope. In Mississippi, we hear from Captain Kathy Wilkinson, a "boat captain and master naturalist," who operates an eco-tourism business. And in Louisiana, we speak with Captain Danny Wray, the owner and operator of Calmwater Charters in Grand Isle.

Despite the closing of the Deepwater Horizon well, there's still a lot at stake for BP says Lisa Margonelli, author of "Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank" and fellow at the New America Foundation. She explains what's at risk for the company.

How do we make the Gulf marketable again? For some ideas, we turn to Mike Foster, vice president of marketing for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. We also get the perspective of a Gulf Coast mayor. Mayor Gayle Oberst of Panama City Beach, Florida says her city was hit hard by the oil spill but has also benefited from BP grants.

What are the lessons to be learned from this disaster for the oil and drilling industry? Peter Bommer, a petroleum engineer at Abraxas Petroleum Corporation, has a few ideas. And Robert Hernan answers some of your questions.


Fire boats battle a fire at the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
An oil slick from the sunk Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is seen off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, April 28th 2010
Joe Raedle/Getty
Boats surround the leaking oil from the site where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform sank as work continues to contain the leak on May 9, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.
John Moore/Getty
BP CEO Tony Hayward (C) answers questions from the media on an oil-stained beach on May 24, 2010 at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Hayward said that BP is doing everything possible to clean up the spill.
John Moore/Getty
A BP cleanup crew shovels oil from a beach on May 24, 2010 at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. BP CEO Tony Hayward, who visited the beach, said that BP is doing everything possible to clean up the spill.
A screenshot of the live feed of the Gulf oil leak, May 26, 2010
Joe Raedle/Getty
Workers remove small globs of oil that have washed up on Pensacola Beach from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on June 5, 2010 in Pensacola, Florida.
A sign expressing frustration with BP because of the devastation caused by the oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico can be seen on side of the road in Grand Isle, Louisiana, June 5, 2010.
Charlie Neibergall/Getty
A ship passes through oil covered water near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on June 19, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Chris Graythen/Getty
Oil soaked boom full of tar balls is seen near a pier on the beach on June 14, 2010 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Chris Graythen/Getty
Ships assist in clean up and containment near the source of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill July 27, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Alex Wong/Getty
Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the BP Oil Spill Victim Compensation Fund, testifies on July 22, 2010, during a hearing before several Senate committees on financial recovery for the Gulf of Mexico


Peter Bommer, Mike Foster, Johnny Greene, Robert Emmet Hernan, Mayor Tim Kant, Gary King, Lisa Margonelli, Mayor Gayle Oberst, Eddie Spence, LuAnn White, Captain Kathy Wilkinson and Danny Wray

Produced by:

David J Fazekas and Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [5]

johnny benson from hinckley minnesota

i think that oil spill was as gay as me.

--Hi Johnny, can you clarify what you mean?

Dec. 21 2010 01:23 PM
Bill Harrison from Fairhope, AL

David from Manhatten - That is a tired, lame old argument. We do not have those choices. We can reduce our petroleum "profile" and many of us have. We can design greener cities - Fairhope is a leader in this... but we live in a society where petroleum is important and necessary. Our problem is with irresponsible, criminally negligent petroleum companies. You don't stop driving because some people abuse the privilege by driving drunk. You put the offenders in jail and remove their driving privileges. We need to punish - severely - BP for their MANY safety violations - they lead the industry in egregious violations. We need to ensure that it is far more expensive for petroleum companies to violate safety requirements than to simply ignore them and pay the fine.

Sep. 22 2010 05:42 PM
David from Manhattan

"Responsibility is clear," Hockenberry says, implying BP alone?

No way. BP may own a lot of the blame, but at least as culpable are everyone who chooses to live a car-dependent life, especially those who choose to leave a city to live in the suburbs for their own imagined comfort.

Sep. 21 2010 09:04 AM
maura from miami beach

i want to know for how long will water and surrounding ecosystems be monitored for damage and who will pay for this?

Sep. 21 2010 09:00 AM
Matt from NYC

I'm wondering: have Gulf residents begun to reevaluate their loyalties and/or economic dependencies on Big Oil.

Sep. 21 2010 07:24 AM

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