Oil industry's debt to America

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2010

The tragic rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico, which took the lives of 11 offshore workers, was a terrible blow to their families and their communities. The thoughts and prayers of all of us in the oil and natural gas industry go out to everyone touched by the disaster. We know the lives lost can never be recovered and that our neighbors along the Gulf coast continue to suffer.

Advanced technologies, redundant safety systems, strict procedures and crews mindful and repeatedly drilled in the importance of safe operations should have prevented this tragedy. But, for reasons still unknown, and despite a strong record of safe and reliable production, the accident happened. And, as an industry, we are facing that reality and getting on with the hard work of restoring the gulf and making our operations even safer. We owe that to the nation that has placed its trust in us to responsibly develop our oil and natural gas resources.

Our first priority is to stop the leak that still threatens gulf communities. BP and the Coast Guard, along with support from many in the industry and thousands of volunteers, have worked tirelessly to do this, and they will continue until they get the job done. Second, we must continue to clean up the oil and protect the Gulf Coast, where millions of Americans live and work. And third, we must find out the causes of the accident and do what is needed to prevent it from happening again.

We are putting tremendous resources into each of these critical jobs. BP is working simultaneously on several strategies to stop the leak. The best scientists and experts are trying every possible approach. Industry response agencies have deployed 1.5 million feet of boom to help protect the coasts. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of dispersant have been applied to break up the oil. And more than 500 vessels are working to get the oil out of the water whether by skimming it, absorbing it or burning it. About 13,000 people from industry and government are involved in the response effort with more than 2,500 volunteers also trained and on the scene.

BP has said it is committed to paying all necessary cleanup costs and all legitimate claims for other loss and damages caused by the spill. It has provided $100 million to the gulf states to assist their response efforts and already paid hundreds of claims.

Meanwhile, the government, working with the industry, has started gathering information to help determine the causes of the accident. And industry has two task forces staffed with its best and brightest examining how to improve our technology and operations to cut the risks of a future accident.

This was an unprecedented occurrence, and it is an unprecedented industry response. It has to be. America relies on oil and natural gas and the economic growth and job creation they fuel. Producing energy our nation needs is our job. Producing it safely is and will continue to be our most important obligation.

• Jack Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association that represents the oil and natural gas industry.

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