Five companies – Shell Oil, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp., BP America – together spent about $33.8 billion to explore for new oil and gas in the past three years, according to answers the companies provided this month to a House Energy & Commerce subcommittee.
Let’s compare that figure with how much three of these companies told Congress they have spent on research and development to prevent and clean up oil spills.
–ConocoPhillips said it spent $1.3 million over three years on research on safer drilling technologies, but did not specify how much it spends on accident prevention and spill-related research.
–ExxonMobil said it spends $50 million a year on oil spill response, drilling and deepwater development research activities.
–BP said the company spent $29 million over three years on safer drilling operations research, but does not have a budget for oil cleanup research. (BP has now pledged $500 million for cleanup research.)
And the calculator says…it’s not even worth calculating: the safety and cleanup budgets are just a wee tiny fraction of these companies’ oil exploration budgets.
But surely the federal government was picking up the slack, right? Hardly. Congress appropriated only $5 million of the $30 million in research grants to universities authorized under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 after the Exxon Valdez disaster, according to the Coastal Response Research Center. What happened to the other $25 million?
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement – formerly the ultra corrupt Minerals Management Service until earlier in June – collects $13 billion a year in oil drilling royalties. But the agency has been spending between $6 million to $7 million a year since 1995 on oil spill research. That’s barely enough to warrant mention.
What this all tells me is that there is blame a plenty on all fronts for what’s happening in the Gulf. And in the end, all roads come back to the major influence that fueled years of shameful neglect: greed.