BLACK GOLD

The 20-Year Gulf Oil Rush

On one level, the BP oil disaster was the product of a defective blowout preventer. But on another, it was 20 years in the making. It all started in the wake of the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989 when Shell announced it had struck oil in the Gulf of Mexico. That triggered a massive easing of regulations, reaching all the way up to Bill Clinton, leaving the oil industry to call the tune. Even environmentalists agreed to tolerate drilling in the Gulf, dubbing it a "national sacrifice area." An extensive report by The Wall Street Journal has now found that the story of those 20 years closely mirrors the tale of the financial industry. And analysis today of the oil industry’s excesses sounds as if it could easily be referring to Wall Street, too. "The industry convinced nearly everyone in government that what they were doing was so sophisticated that it was both totally safe and impossible for government to understand, much less regulate," said one California congressman. "Government was romanced.”