Thursday, December 15, 2011


Chevron's oil spill off the coast of Brazil.

Brazil got lucky this time in that the spill came on a Chevron project rather than on a Brazilian Petrobras project. Pointing the finger at the bad gringo corporation is a great smokescreen to hide the fact that Brazil is investing billions in dangerous extreme deep-water drilling that will inevitably produce its share of accidents, not to mention the fossil fuel contribution to global warming. There is so much deep-down oil off the coast Rio de Janeiro state that ex-President Lula and many others previously concluded that "God is Brazilian."

Treehugger reports about the current situation:

Things just keep getting worse for Chevron. First, a deepwater drilling mishap off the coast of Brazil last month caused thousands of barrels of oil to spill into the Atlantic, which only after some dodging did Chevron take responsibility for, followed by Brazil's petroleum agency deciding to suspend the company's drilling rights altogether. And then there are the fines which could end up costing Chevron close to $100 million. But lo, it gets worst yet. Today, the oil giant admitted that the situation is far from resolved as many had assumed. That's right, the leak continues, and Chevron's not sure when it can be stopped.

[Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that "A Brazilian federal prosecutor on Wednesday asked a judge to shut down all Chevron Corp. and Transocean Ltd. operations in Brazil in a lawsuit that seeks some 20 billion Brazilian reais ($11 billion) in damages from the companies, the latest legal broadside to the firms since oil leaked from a well they operate in early November."]

[Update 2: Reuters has an interesting analysis by Jeb Blount that says there's a new breed of Federal prosecutors who are taking aggressive stands in defense of the environment and it is scaring investors. Maybe Brazilian public opinion which has become strongly pro-environment in the populous urban areas is beginning to have an impact. Know hope.]

Weeks after the spill began in early November, loosing an estimated 110,000 gallons in the waters 230 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Chevron moved to plug it with cement. Still, several hundreds of gallons continued to trickle up from the sea floor.

And now, nearly a month after their initial fix was put in place, Chevron Brazil's environmental supervisor Luiz Alberto Pimenta Borges told leaders that oil is still leaking, and that his company isn't sure quite how or when it can be capped.

This ongoing spill is Brazil's worst in recent memory, though many fear that it will hardly be the last. Allowing companies like Chevron rights to drill in the region's oil-rich Frade field was just one element of the nation's ambitious energy ambitions directed at becoming one of the world's leading exporters of petroleum over the course of the next decade. The latest incident serves as a unwelcome reminder of the dangers of offshore drilling; evidence of just how easily things can go wrong, and just how difficult they can be to right.


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