President Barack Obama on Monday named the final five members of the independent commission he tasked with investigating the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, launching a probe that could last until year’s end.
The roster of new members includes science and engineering experts and two oil spill veterans — one who was involved in guiding the restoration of Alaska waters after the Exxon Valdez tanker accident and another involved in handling Valdez-related claims. There are no representatives from the oil and gas industry, although one of the previously named co-chairmen, William Reilly, is a director of ConocoPhillips.
According to a White House statement, Obama selected: Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Terry Garcia, a vice president of the National Geographic Society; Cherry Murray, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Frances Ulmer, chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Obama had previously chosen as co-chairmen Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, and Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agency head. The panel is modeled after commissions that studied the Challenger explosion and the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant.
“These individuals bring tremendous expertise and experience to the critical work of this commission,” Obama said in a statement. The panel will “work to determine the causes of this catastrophe and implement the safety and environmental protections we need to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.”
The panel’s job is investigating the causes of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion; the administration’s and BP’s response to the disaster; and regulations governing offshore exploration. Its findings could influence the future of offshore drilling for decades.More »
It looks like the nearly six-week run in lower gasoline prices is just about over.
Gasoline prices have dropped about 8 percent since hitting $2.93 per gallon on May 6 on the back of lower oil prices. Pump prices fell 0.3 cent to a national average of $2.698 a gallon today, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.
Prices are now about the same as the 2009 peak.
“We may wobble down another nickel or up a nickel, but what you see now on the street probably will be close to what you pay for July 4th weekend,” said OPIS’ Tom Kloza.
Kloza expects that prices likely will climb beginning in July as hurricane season starts in earnest and as new investments are made in crude for the third quarter. Investors worry that hurricanes can damage crude and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and refineries along the Gulf coast. Shutdowns can send prices higher.
Gasoline prices have dropped 2.6 cents in the past week and are 17.9 cents below where they were a month ago. Prices are 3.5 cents higher than a year ago.
In Houston today, drivers paid an average of $2.536 a gallon.
Motorists have benefited as oil prices fell since reaching an 18-month-high of $87.15 a barrel in early May. Worries over the European debt crisis, a big drop in stock prices and a stronger dollar helped push oil below $70.
Prices have since come back, with benchmark crude for July delivery rising $1.34 to settle at $75.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
A weaker dollar and a stronger euro also helped oil prices. Since crude is priced in dollars it becomes cheaper to investors holding other currencies when the dollar loses value.
BP said today that the cost of its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has risen to $1.6 billion. The estimate does not include future costs for lawsuits already filed against the company over the spill that began nearly two months ago. The spill, so far, has not affected oil prices, although BP shares have tumbled. BP stock was down almost 8 percent today.
In other Nymex trading in July contracts, heating oil rose 1.97 cents to settle at $2.0250 a gallon, and gasoline gained 2.67 cents to settle at $2.0764 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 22.5 cents to settle at $5.006 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Brent crude gained 85 cents to settle at $75.20 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.More »
There’s been lots of pictures of oiled birds and other sea life, but an oysterman in Louisiana snapped this picture of a crab covered in oil last week. The crab was caught as a crew was checking the impact to oyster reefs of oil coming ashore from BP’s runaway Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. The reefs are in the southern Louisiana marshland, about 20 miles inland from the Gulf Coast.More »
I spent the end of last week and part of the weekend in southern Louisiana, which crackles with a sense of public outrage at BP that, not surprisingly, us unsurpassed elsewhere. From fishermen to oilfield workers, folks blame BP for robbing them of their livelihoods.
The picture above is of BP’s operations near Houma, which is teeming with cars, temporary trailers and tents in the parking lots. Cars were also lined up along the highway, and the place was a bevy of activity. A lot of local boat owners have come here to file claims or offer their vessels for spill clean up duty.
Clean up efforts are in full swing along the Grand Isle beaches, which are closed to the public. Crews are filling thousands of bags of soiled sand.
The bigger worry, though, what will happen as the oil – and the chemical dispersants — moves into the marshes. Local fishermen fear it may kill the marsh grass permanently, turning prime shellfish grounds into open water.
One former oysterman told me he was working on a drink he calls a “BP Spoiler.” He’s still perfecting the recipe, but he’s thinking two parts gin, one part Louisiana black molasses, and one part something green, perhaps green apple schnapps. My suggestion: absinthe.
The idea, he said, was to create a beverage “so foul nobody would want to drink it.”
The joking helps make the reality easier to bear. The scale of the potential damage is so huge, just in Louisiana alone. I left and headed back to Houston with a lingering question: Despite all its promises, how can BP ever possibly make this right?More »