BP 'bailout' a decade after Gulf of Mexico

Fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon. US Coast Guard / handout / EPA.
Fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon. US Coast Guard / handout / EPA.
Bank of England hints at £900m lifeline for BP - a decade after its gross negligence led to one of the worst environmental catastrophes in living memory.


People from across the world are commemorating the 10 year anniversary of BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill - which took eleven lives and ruined thousands more.

Communities are today still fighting the deadly impact of big oil companies in the Gulf.

And yet last week, when the Bank of England published a list of bonds it could buy to stabilise the economy after the impact of the coronavirus crisis this included bonds relating to BP that make up nearly £900 million. 


On Monday 20th April 2010, an explosion took place on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform killing 11 rig workers.

An estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days, ruining lives, livelihoods and ecosystems. BP was found “grossly negligent” for its role in the disaster, and was issued the largest corporate criminal fine in US history.

A number of organisations around the world have come together to commemorate the day with a digital artistic action that involves people from around the world pouring a dark liquid into water.  Those taking part are asked to count from 1 to 87 - the number of days the oil spill went on.

Oceana, the US conservation charity, has also published a new report titled, Lessons We Cannot Forget From The BP Disaster. It has confirmed that the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster had catastrophic impacts on Gulf ecosystems and economies, and many impacts are still felt today. 

The BP disaster directly reduced popular recreational activities — including boating, fishing and beach visits — between May 2010 and November 2011. This translated to a loss in the recreation industry of more than $500 million, with thousands losing jobs and livelihoods.


A survey of nearly 2,600 Gulf Coast residents revealed a 25 percent increase in the medical diagnosis of depression since the rig explosion. Gulf residents who were directly exposed to oil were on average twice as likely to report new physical or mental health issues as those who were not.

It also reveals that government regulators and the offshore oil and gas industry remain poorly suited to prevent and deal with the ongoing and significant risk for such a disaster to be repeated. 

Rob Noyes is a senior campaigner at Platform, a climate justice organisation, and has coordinated the commemoration alongside the group BP or Not BP.

He said: "Last year, BP undertook its first global advertising campaign since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy - an act of sickening hypocrisy only continued by recent gestures toward a ‘net zero’ future.

"In truth, ten years later - the oil industry remains just as socially negligent as it was in 2010. In the gulf alone, there’s enough miles of pipeline to circle the earth.


"At a time of huge grief, we’ve coordinated this action today to commemorate the pain the industry bought communities across the gulf. Ten years on, with no lessons learned, we cannot prop up companies like BP - and we must disentangle their sordid, colonial roots from our society, through divestment and refusal of sponsorship."

Imani Jacquelie Brown, an artist and researcher from New Orleans, and organiser of Fossil Free Festival, said: “The oil field known as the 'Macondo Prospect' was named after the fictional town featured in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' novel, 100 Years of Solitude; in the fictional Macondo, an amnesiac population incapable of learning lessons from the past sat by as disasters were repeated generation after generation.

"Will we live out the legacy of the fictional Macondo, continuing business as usual as soon as the present crisis is out of the spotlight? Or will we finally see the bankruptcy of our present economic system and choose to prioritize human health and ecological sustainability over our truncated vision of economic solubility?”

Chris Garrard, from Culture Unstained, said: "BP will see this 10-year anniversary as an opportunity to draw a line under its spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the ruling that it had been 'grossly negligent' and the record-breaking fine it received as a result.

"But the lessons haven’t been learned. While communities and species are still feeling the impacts, BP is pushing ahead with more high-risk, deepwater drilling in the Gulf. With the oil price at a low, we should be calling time on this reckless pursuit of oil we can’t afford to burn and instead, setting in motion the just transition we so urgently need."

This Author

Kennedy Walker is a campaigner with Platform.