3rd Feb 2023

EU offers equipment to US as oil spat brews

  • The cleanup operation in the Gulf of Mexico (Photo: Deepwater Horizon Response)

The European Union has pledged to send additional equipment to help contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even as Washington and London appear to be heading for a diplomatic spat over the disaster.

"Europe is determined to fight this ecological disaster alongside the US authorities," the EU's crisis response commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, said in a statement on Friday (11 June) after several member states offered support.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Sweden, Germany, Norway, the UK and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) agreed to provide booms used to restrict the oil spreading following a US request on Thursday evening.

Dutch equipment is already being used by US authorities who are desperately trying to contain oil escaping from an underwater well after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, leased by UK energy giant British Petroleum, exploded on 20 April, killing 11 workers.

Latest estimates suggest 25,000 barrels per day are still escaping despite a partial capping of the well last week.

On Friday, British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg warned against a growing row between the two sides of the Atlantic. "I don't frankly think we will reach a solution to stopping the release of oil into the ocean any quicker by allowing this to spiral into a tit-for-tat political diplomatic spat," he said from Spain after a meeting with the Spanish prime minister.

The caution comes after Mr Clegg's boss, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday reminded the US of the "economic value" BP brings to the US, as share values in the embattled company plummeted.

Earlier in the week, US President Barack Obama launched a direct attack on BP's chief executive Tony Hayward, saying he would have fired the executive if he was in charge of the company. He added that he was on a fact-finding mission to find out "whose ass to kick" over the disaster, which pundits say could damage Mr Obama's political standing.

British press report that the two leaders are set to discuss the issue in a telephone call tomorrow.

Lessons for Europe?

The ecological disaster caused by the spill has prompted European politicians to examine their own safety procedures and ability to cope with a similar event, while environmentalists say the event highlights the West's continued over-dependence on fossil fuels.

"This is clearly a result of politicians believing that the oil industry knew what they were doing," said Greenpeace spokesman Mark Breddy. "Drilling for oil is not the solution, we must develop renewable resources."

Norway indicated earlier this month that it will not allow any deepwater oil and gas drilling in new areas until the investigation into the explosion and spill in the US Gulf of Mexico is complete.

National regulators in a number of member states have been told by governments to double-check safety procedures, while the EU is looking into the need for new legislation.

EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger called in senior energy executives on 11 May to explain their ability to deal with a comparable incident. The German politician is keen to identify any loopholes in the bloc's current legislation, although officials stress that Europe's deepwater drilling is much less prevalent than in the US.

In July, the commissioner will consult with national regulators and may then come forward with new proposals.

"If it turns out from these consultations and the analysis of the Gulf of Mexico accident that there is something we do not have in place, then he will consider making a proposal," Marlene Holzner, the commission's energy spokeswoman, told this website.

Europe's legislation in the oil sector was stepped up after the sinking of the Erica and Prestige oil-tankers in 1999 and 2002.

Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by another 0.5 percent to a 14-year high, and expects to hike rates by another half percent in March. But what does that mean for the green transition?

Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk

Draft legislation in Poland aimed at relaxing some of Europe's strictest laws surrounding onshore wind-turbines has been derailed by a surprise last minute amendment, which could put Poland back on a collision course with the EU.


More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  2. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  3. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  4. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  5. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU
  6. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  7. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  8. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us