Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

Article excerpt

Review: Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America By William R. Freudenburg and Robert Gramling Freudenburg, William R. and Gramling, Robert. Blowout in the Gulf. The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2011. 240 pp., 5 graphs. ISBN: 9780262015837.US$18.95, cloth.

On April 20th 2010, eleven oil workers died as the Deepwater Horizon, a gigantic offshore plant rented by BP to drill deep in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and, after burning for 36 hours, sank, causing an uncontrolled eruption of oil one mile below the sea level. Oil poured out at a rate of 56,000 barrels per day, until July 15th, causing one of the largest marine disasters in the history - second only to Saddam Hussein's intentional opening the oil spigots as his forces retreated from Kuwait in 1991 - and frustrating the hopes of the Gulf residents, reassured in vain by BP and the government of a quick solution of the spill. Just like the complexity of its assessment, the magnitude and duration of the Gulf disaster were distinctive, due to its wide-reaching and prolonged impact in the region associated with the extensive use of dispersants.

The roots of the Gulf disaster and its aftermath have been thoroughly analysed by William R. Freudenburg and Robert Gramling, professors of environmental studies and sociology, respectively, who shared a long-time collaboration as observers of the oil industry. In a previous work, Oil in Troubled Waters: Perceptions, Politics, and the Battle Over Offshore Drilling (State University of New York Press, 1994), they put the clash over offshore drilling in appropriate sociological and historical contexts, investigating the attitudes welcoming or opposing it, and forecasting that the argument would continue. In the case of Blowout in the Gulf, the focus is on the BP accident, but the discourse is set into a broader perspective, which includes the carbon economy, the fading energy independence of the USA, and the ever more risky actions associated with oil and gas recovery, e.g. from deeper wells, beneath the arctic ices, or fracturing shale deposits.

First, the book tackles technical details- how an oil reserve was formed, how it can be discovered, and, more difficult, how can the oil get out of it - which, though essential to know what's going on, are usually skipped by news reports. …

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