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BP oil spill may ‘hit UK ties with US’
London, JUN 7 (IANS):
Published on 8 Jun. 2010 12:11 AM IST
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The British government is concerned that criticism towards energy company BP for its failure to curb the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may hamper the country’s relationship with the US.
The scale and ferocity of the US attacks are said to have disturbed David Cameron, The Telegraph reported quoting government sources. With American midterm elections only five months away, Whitehall officials are understood to be concerned that the issue is becoming a political football in the US.
Some American politicians have suggested that BP should be barred from future government contracts. The move would be likely to benefit US rivals such as ExxonMobil and Chevron. The disaster has come up in discussions between William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, and his US counterpart, Hillary Clinton, the daily said.
However, Downing Street has declined to comment on whether the issue has been raised between Cameron and US President Barack Obama.
Business Secretary Vince Cable warned that the crisis was having “major indirect effects” on the British economy. BP is the biggest supplier of oil and gas to the US military with contracts worth USD 2 billion (GBP 1.4 billion) a year.
The company is loosing its support from other oil firms as the industry faces the prospect of a halt to the expansion of offshore drilling. Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, was called “the most hated and clueless man in America” by the New York Daily News.
Referring to the attacks against him, Hayward said: “I think it is understandable when something of this scale occurs... that people are frustrated and emotional”.
BP said that its costs for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico spill have reached $1.25 billion (£870 million) as it set out plans to place a second cap on the leak.
The company confirmed that it would build on its success of last week, when an initial containment cap was installed, by installing a second, longer-lasting system. It is also pressing ahead with the drilling of two relief wells, which are scheduled to be completed by August. The first containment cap was placed over the leaking well late on Thursday after a riser pipe was ruptured. The new cap would redirect the oil and gas to a new free-floating riser about 300ft below sea level. The system is intended to allow the company to suspend operations and move if hurricanes strike the region.
BP said that its costs exclude the $360 million in funds for the Louisiana barrier islands construction project, a new research facility into oil disasters which BP signed up to last week.
The official leading the US Government’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico warned against celebration at the weekend as BP claimed to have got a partial grip on the leak nearly seven weeks after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Bob Fryar, vice-president of the oil company, had said that he was “pleased” by the success of a containment system that is filtering off 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) of oil a day.
In response Admiral Thad Allen, the US Coast Guard commandant, said: “I don’t think anybody should be pleased as long as there’s oil in the water.” He compared the slick to an enemy that was “holding the Gulf hostage” as it claimed more land, livelihoods and wildlife.
“There will be oil out there for months to come. This is a siege. It’s going to go on for a long time,” he said. “This is a war, an insidious war, and it’s attacking four states at one time.”
The “cut-and-cap” technique carried out by subsea robots last week succeeded in capturing what BP said was nearly half the daily flow from the Macondo well between midnight on Friday and midnight on Saturday.
Tony Hayward, the chief executive, said that further improvements would be made to the containment system this week, allowing it to capture “probably the vast majority” of the leak.
BP’s triumph on the seabed was tempered by the worsening situation on the surface. In Louisiana, birds sat trapped and exhausted in a thick tide of oil, prompting a demonstration in New Orleans by protesters dressed as dead and ailing birds.
Beaches in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi were sticky with tarballs. Civic officials in Alabama complained of a “nightmare” blighting their communities’ economies and ecologies, and scientists predicted that the Gulf’s recovery could take decades.
“Can we put everything back exactly as it was? No,” said Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation. He told The Times: “BP has made a commitment to helping the Gulf recover, but only time will tell. BP has proclaimed in their press releases and oral statements that they are committed to full transparency. Unfortunately, BP’s transparency has an opaque lens in front of it.
“I personally, and everybody I have spoken to, finds it very, very difficult to look at the images of those oiled birds. And the oiling of birds that we’ve seen so horrendously illustrated is only one small measure of the total impact of this spill.”
Questions remain over precisely how much has leaked, how much is still leaking, and how much can be captured.
A scientific task force appointed by the US Government estimated last month that between 12,000 and 25,000 barrels (504,000 to 1.05 million gallons) a day have been leaking from the well.
In cutting the damaged pipe from the oil well in order to fit a cap over the top and divert some of the flow to a surface tanker, engineers may have increased that flow rate by up to 20 per cent, the White House said last week.
While the disaster has put thousands of fishermen out of work — with a third of the Gulf’s fisheries now closed — BP has hired 4,000 unemployed people across the four affected states to help with the clean-up.
In his weekly radio address President Obama defended his Administration against accusations that its response to the disaster had not been aggressive enough, and repeated his pledge that BP would be held accountable for the damage.
“These folks work hard,” he said of the fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen who were now out of work. “They meet their responsibilities but now because of a man-made catastrophe — one that’s not their fault and that’s beyond their control — their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong.”
BP has launched a $10 million public relations campaign with television adverts that feature Mr Hayward apologising for the spill.
“To those affected, and your families, I am deeply sorry,” he says. “We will get this done. We will make this right.”

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