Ripples of oil

May 19, 2010 2:32:35 PM PDT
The oil has yet to hit the beaches in the Gulf of Mexico. But the BP oil spill is nonetheless causing economic ripples. In fact, make that economic tsunamis.

Florida, which depends mightily on tourism, is more than a little worried about the effects of the (at least) 5,000 barrels of oil that are spitting into the Gulf. So worried, in fact, that the State Department of Environmental Protection is, according to the New York Times, guaranteeing oil-free beaches for only 3 days at a time.

There are about 20,000 people now working on the oil spill, and after weeks of spewing, the makeshift tube that's supposed to capture some of the oil before it gets into the water is doing its job. But, again, it's only some of the oil.

Deeply troubling are the efforts of some politicians to block the passage of a new law requiring BP and other oil drillers to bear major financial responsibility for any disaster. Right now, BP's liability is capped at less than $100 million. Chump change compared to the cost of trying to cap the leak, clean up the damage, and make up for the loss of jobs and income.

Lawmakers want to increase the liability to $10 billion. And for good reason: There are about 4 dozen currently active oil and gas exploration and production rigs in the Gulf - just like BP's Deepwater Horizon. Could it happen again? Duh.

A good friend of mine, journalist and ocean environmentalist Dave Helvarg whose new book "Saved By The Sea" details his love affair with the water, tells me that he was on a BP deep water platform years ago, and "I asked the rig boss what happens if there's a blowout one or two miles down. 'Guess we'll find out, if it happens,' was his response. Now we know." Frightening that there was no fail-safe plan. We urge our kids to understand the need for and memorize an escape route in case of a fire. Yet we don't demand anything close to that for the for-profit corporations that drill deep into our oceans looking for oil.

Meanwhile, among those worried about where the currents take the oil slicks - Cuba. And now the U.S. State Dept. confirming that it's talking with Cuban officials on how to respond to the slick - and what to do if it washes on shore.

Hey? at least the two countries are talking.

We'll have the latest on the oil spill, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, the recession has had a fascinating side effect - vasectomies are up. At least in New Jersey. One doctor - Dr. Erik Seaman - says that the procedure is one way people think they can get control over their future.

Phil Lipof has our story tonight.

Finally, a word about us. The man who once headed WABC TV as president and general manager, and who went on to head the entire ABC owned and operated stations, Walter Liss, announced today that he's retiring. Walter's been a strong and constant presence over ABC's stations for decades. Most of us who work here, owe - directly or indirectly - not only our jobs to Walter, but also the success of the television station.

We're going to miss him. We're also going to miss our current general manager, Rebecca Campbell, who today was named to replace Walter. She's a dynamic leader, with a heart as big as her brain; and she'll do a fantabulous job.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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