Senate will probe BP on use of dispersants in oil spill

Heavy oil flows through the current in Barataria Bay near Grand Isle, La.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: BP engineers could start as early as today with an oil-spill tactic known as "static kill." Meanwhile, BP is dealing with congressional questions about the chemicals the company used to help break up the oil. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.


Mitchell Hartman: This week, a Senate committee holds hearings on BP's use of chemical dispersants back in the spring and early summer, when as much as 60,000 barrels of oil a day were spewing into the Gulf. Dispersants make it easier for oil to evaporate or be consumed by bacteria, but their effect on marine life is unknown, and they've never been used in such deep water.

Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, meanwhile, wants to know why the Coast Guard let BP continue spraying large amounts of dispersants after the Environmental Protection Agency told the company to scale back. All this scrutiny and bad press could give government officials cover to attack our oil addiction, says Manuchehr Takin at the Center for Global Energy Studies.

Manuchehr Takin: To impose taxes, bring in policies to reduce dependence on oil, give incentives on other energies. These, which the public might have been criticizing in the past, probably will be more easily accepted.

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, defends its oversight of BP, and says it gave the company leeway to use dispersants to deal with the oil on a case-by-case basis.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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