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Energy Giant BP Said Oil Spill Would Be a 'Welcome Boost' For Australia's Economy

Stranger than satire.

SCIENCE AF STAFF
6 APR 2018
 

The Great Australian Bight is an extensive and pristine string of southern coastline that draws crowds of tourists every year. 

But you know what would make that coastline even better? An oil spill.

 

At least – that's what the energy giant BP suggested as part of its bid to drill in the area.

According to a 2016 report, released under Freedom of Information laws, BP suggested an oil spill in the Great Bight would be a "welcomed boost" to local Australian economies.

"What an incredibly stupid thing to say, it certainly wouldn't have been a welcomed boost the local economy, we could have done very nicely thank you very much without it," Allan Suter, a Mayor of one of the coastal towns, told the ABC.

"A spill like the one that happened in Mexico would be devastating, and if there was the slightest danger of that happening then obviously the drilling wouldn't be supported."

In reality, an oil spill in the region would pollute up to 750 kilometers (466 miles) of beaches and shoreline, and it would disrupt the migration of the endangered southern right whale.

All of this devastating information was in BP's own modelling, and the company's failure to manage these risks is why its attempt to drill in the area was rejected twice.

 

However, a BP spokesperson said the report, which BP tried to suppress for two years, does not reflect the company's viewpoint.

"This correspondence relates to a draft document that was never finalised," the spokesperson said.

"We acknowledge that a number of aspects should have been better thought through and articulated, even in the draft stage."

Even though BP has now withdrawn its proposals, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is still worried about the future of the Great Bight.

"We are very concerned because even though BP has pulled out … we can see how negligent they were in their commitment to protecting the Great Australian Bight," she said.

"They have pulled out but their leases have gone to Statoil, so the risk of this oil slick, of an accident like this happening, of the devastation to Kangaroo Island and our coastline still remains very real."

Still, the Norwegian oil company Statoil has promised they won't make the same mistakes.

"We will only undertake drilling activity if we can do it safely. By the time we drill we will have spent more than two years planning this well to satisfy ourselves that we can operate safely and in accordance with Australia's strict environmental and regulatory requirements," Statoil said in an emailed statement.

 

Former Greens politician and activist Bob Brown is less certain about Statoil's ability to protect the region.

"Statoil must meet the same standards required of BP: its shareholders, not least the Norwegian government, need to know the company cannot reasonably meet the cost of keeping Australia's southern ocean and coastlines safe from an oil spill which could take months to cap," he said.

"Statoil should drop its plans."

The future of the region remains to be seen.