Lunchtime Vid: An Oil Spill History Lesson

Rachel Maddow takes us on a disturbing trip down memory lane

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The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has dominated the national conversation for more than a month, with experts pondering the environmental, political, and economic impacts of the ever-expanding oil slick. As Obama addresses BP in his first press conference in more than a year, we turn to Rachel Maddow for a tour through the annals of history. "Reporting from dévù vu land," she finds some eerie similarities between the mess in the Gulf and past eco-disasters:

Thirty-one years ago, in June 1979, an oil well called the Ixtoc blew out in the Gulf of Mexico. It started spewing thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf every day. And it's not just the disaster itself that should sound familiar to you, it's also the techniques that they were using at the time to try to contain the spill.


Relief wells. Nine agonizingly long months after the Ixtoc well exploded, a pair of relief wells finally allowed the engineers to cap the leaking well. That was 31 years ago. I am 37 years old, and this happened when I was 6. Those hair cuts are back in fashion. And the stuff that did not work back then is the same stuff that hasn`t worked now. Same busted blowout preventer, same ineffective berm, same underwater plumes, same toxic dispersants, same failed containment domes, same junk shot, same top kill -- it's all the same technology. The Ixtoc well, which couldn`t be plugged for nine months, was in roughly 200 feet of water. Now, in 2010, we're using the same exact techniques to try to plug a well that is leaking in 5,000 feet of water.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.