Every time a BP executive appears on television, I think of the garage scene from the movie "Animal House."
An expensive car belonging to Flounder's brother has just been trashed on a drunken road trip, and the smooth-talking Otter comforts the distraught Delta pledge with these cheery words:
"You f——- up! You trusted us! Hey, make the best of it."
If only the BP guys were half as honest.
Incredibly, almost eight weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, the company that caused the disaster remains the primary source of information about it.
Predictably, much of that information has been stupendously, tragically wrong, starting with the low-ball estimates of how much crude was leaking into the sea.
BP didn't know the answer when the rig went down, and it doesn't know the answer now. Nobody does.
Every day we see streaming underwater video of that mile-deep gout of oil, billowing and unstaunched. The image is only slightly less sickening than the pictures of dead sea turtles and gagging pelicans.
Some people I know can't bear to watch anymore, so painful are the feelings of helplessness and frustration. What's happening before our eyes is the slow murder of one of the world's most bountiful bodies of water, a crime precipitated by reckless corporate decisions and abetted by our own government.
Imagine a so-called regulatory process that allows oil companies to sink a drill 5,000 feet or even 10,000 feet through a living ocean without any reliable backup for when a blowout preventer fails to prevent a blowout.
Duh, let's build us a big ol' steel dome and drop it on the leak.
If that don't work, we'll blast us some golf balls and shredded tires into the hole.
Or maybe a giant sody straw might do the trick!
Obviously these boneheads didn't have a workable Plan B. Worse, nobody in government figured that out until it was too late.
This is what millions of dollars in campaign contributions buys — a free pass from Washington. The federal Minerals Management Service basically worked for Big Oil.
It was a relationship that flourished during the Bush-Cheney years, and not much changed when Barack Obama took office. Despite serious safety issues throughout BP's North American operations, the MMS blithely accepted the company's word that everything was peachy on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in the Gulf of Mexico.
Even today, in the midst of the worst oil spill in history, the Obama administration is still relying largely on BP's word, although by necessity and not choice.
CEO Tony Hayward continues to say things that would merely be silly if not for the dire context. Last week he declared that, despite the findings of several sets of researchers, no submerged plumes of petroleum are spreading through the Gulf.
"The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There are no plumes."
He sounds just like the pet-shop owner in the famous Monty Python sketch who is trying to convince a disgruntled customer that his extremely dead parrot is only napping.
As of this writing, the latest news from BP concerns its new oil-collecting contraption, which is said to be siphoning 15,000 barrels daily from the fractured wellhead. The company has promised that within days it will be capturing "a vast majority" of the flow from the Deepwater Horizon.
Unfortunately, attaching the new device required re-cutting the riser in a way that actually increased the volume of the leak. Many experts believe that millions more gallons than before are now pouring into Gulf waters.
So, at the end of the day, all we really know for certain is this: The oil keeps gushing, and nobody's figured out how to stop it.That much we can see for ourselves on the dreary underwater video.
Back on land, not a soul is able to state with certainty how much has been spilled, where it will end up or what the ultimate damage will be to the Gulf and beyond.
Meanwhile, the coastal marshes of Louisiana are dying, and brown glop soils the beaches of Alabama and northwest Florida. The seafood industry is being crippled, and tourism is reeling.
And our government, which possesses neither the technology nor the expertise to plug the leak, is stuck in a grim alliance with the perpetrators.Oil spills are like hurricanes: One is all it takes to change everything.
From the president to the industry's cheerleaders in Congress to all those state and federal regulators, too many people accepted the oil executives' sunny assurance that deepwater drilling posed no serious threat to this country.
In the immortal words of Otter, you f——- up.
You trusted them.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.