Early Wednesday morning the Pemex oil platform, Abkatun Alpha blew up off the West coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The explosion killed four people and sent 16 to the hospital. 300 people managed to escape the blazing wreckage. Three people are still missing.
This image, one of several that were made available to Greenpeace by anonymous workers, shows smoke and fire on the shallow-water Abkatun, a permanent platform in the Campeche Sound in the Gulf of Mexico.
The rig might as well have imploded, though, given the swift clamp-down on facts and sudden empty space devoid of independent information. What we know about the blaze is only what Pemex and the Mexican government would tell the world.
Oil companies are reckless, stumbling, unwieldy behemoths and Pemex is no different. However, the speed at which they managed to start bottle-necking information about the burning rig could be commendable, if it weren’t so deceitful.
Pemex boats were on the scene, with the help of the Mexican navy, said a Pemex statement; an evident connection between the government and the oil company. A government that does little to hold Pemex accountable when terrible things happen, which they do, often.
How long they took to get there, what their evacuation procedure was, how they contained the blaze, how they were sure there was no oil spill, why the no fly zone, why they are not letting anyone else approach the site, which pictures can be confirmed as reliable – all these questions haven’t been answered so far.
Greenpeace Energy and Climate Change Project Leader Gustavo Ampugnani talks with a Pemex representative outside of one of their offices in Ciudad Del Carmen, Mexico on April 3, 2015. He was making a formal request to Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) for permission to document the impact of the explosion on the Abkatun. Photo by Prometeo Lucero/Greenpeace
Pemex is not the first fossil fuel company in league with governments to engage is this kind of stone-walling and runaround. Nor will they be the last. They’re just not very subtle about it.
British oil interests in the North Sea have long been known to have the British government’s help with emitting a polluting smoke screen.
Even the Russian government – famous for spin and so entrenched with Gazprom it’s difficult to tell them apart – can’t escape independent reporting on their rigs.
So really, the obfuscation on the part of Pemex and the Mexican Government is nothing remote and nothing new. It’s a microcosm of what has been happening and what will continue to happen around the world if governments continue to be sycophantic to the fossil fuel industry. This is why we all must stand up and demand transparency and accountability from oil executives and our leaders.
When it comes to profit, it’s far cheaper for companies like Shell, Gazprom, BP and Pemex to smother their failures under a layer of lies and throw some pittance at a half-baked ecological restitution than check their own abilities to handle an imminent oil spill.
And make no mistake; there is no hiding behind governments when an oil spill occurs in the Arctic. The full ineptitude and carelessness of the fossil fuel industry will be laid out before us just as clearly as the pristine Arctic will be starkly blackened by the oil which will cover it.
It’s time to expose the fossil fuel industry for what it really is; a mindless, out-of-control profit machine hell bent on making cash while sacrificing the welfare of our planet.
It’s time to show them that we know the answer to our energy needs lie in the sun and the wind, and no amount of polluting emissions will hide this reality anymore.
To follow Greenpeace Mexico’s progress in trying to access and document the site of the Pemex Abkutan platform, follow @greenpeacemx
To join our activists following a Shell oil rig as it heads to the Arctic go here.
Arin de Hoog is a the interim head of news for Greenpeace International.
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