South Park: Coon and Friends 2. What could possibly be worse than a fire that kills 14 people.

In this episode, the kids of South Park, Colorado don their superhero costumes and become “Coon and Friends” to protect their town from crime. Meanwhile, BP drills into the ocean outside of New Orleans (in a boat that reads “BP: We Care”), and causes a massive oil spill. As fighters of crime, Coon and Friends vows to assist the Gulf with their troubles. However, another superhero, Captain Hindsight, is already working to critique BP on what they could have done to avoid the spill:

Captain Hindsight: “You see where that rig is drilling?”

People in New Orleans: “Yes”

Captain Hindsight: “It’s in too deep of water. They shouldn’t have drilled in that deep of water because now they can’t get machines deep enough to fix the spill.”

People of New Orleans: “Ah-ha!, yes, yes.”

Captain Hindsight: “Now if it’s a valve that ruptured then what they should have down is installed a backup valve in case that broke.”

People of New Orleans: “I believe they did install a backup safety valve, Captain Hindsight.”

Captain Hindsight: “Hmm. Right. Then they should have had a backup safety valve to that backup safety valve!”

People of New Orleans: “My god he’s right!”

Captain Hindsight: “My work here is done!

Meanwhile, BP CEO, Tony Hayward, shoots an advertisement where he says the phrase “we’re sorry” over and over again.

 

However, BP, now Dependable Petroleum (DP), drills further into the ocean in an attempt to stop the spill. However, by drilling deeper they open a gateway to another dimension and monsters escape from the hole and start terrorizing the earth.  A television reporter states: “The oil company stated that it knew a portal to another dimension was there but didn’t think drilling into it would prove problematic. Now hundreds of creatures from another dimension are spilling out into our reality and wreaking havoc.” Hayward shoots another “we’re sorry” advertisement and then determines that if DP drills on the moon it will change its gravitational pull on the Earth and calm the ocean, which will allow them to place a cap on both the spill and the dimension gateway. Of course, drilling on the moon causes them to release the dark lord, Cthulhu, and as a result, causes 3000 years of darkness on earth.

 

This episode is an obvious parody of the aftermath of the explosion of BP Deepwater Horizon. BP is characterized as a bunch of careless fools who perform risky tasks without researching what their consequences might be. However, the writers are also attempting to show that the BP hatred might be a little overwrought. The introduction of the character of Captain Hindsight is meant to show that while we realize all of BP’s mistakes now, it is because we are viewing them in retrospect. The writers are also attempting to show that maybe the media is making a bigger deal out of the spill than it actually is, after all it’s not like they released the dark lord Cthulhu. The writers of South Park are famous for taking this middle ground. They parody both sides and often do not come to an obvious conclusion about what is right.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life=energy, environmental degradation, nature fights back, corporate ruthlessness, exaggerated inequalities.

The Newsroom: Trying to Toss a Hat on a Fire Hose

The first episode of the TV series, The Newsroom, follows the story of the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, which took place on April 20, 2010. The episode describes the event from the perspective of journalists who put out a national news show. The journalists discover information about the explosion and the spill and relay that information to their audience .

Senior producer Jim Harper reads an associated press (AP) alert that there has been an explosion on a BP oil rig about 50 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. The AP reporter claimed that coastguard evacuated 7 people all of them critically injured, and they are searching for 11 confirmed missing, and that flames from the rig had reached 150 feet in the air. Journalist, Neal Sampat reads the report and determines that there might be a bigger problem than the missing crew members. He claims that since the rig was drilling at 18,000 feet below sea level that the explosion could have caused a massive oil spill and that fixing it would be like “trying to toss a hat on a fire hose.”

Sampat and Harper experience some resistance from outgoing executive producer, Don Keefer, but are able to convince their bosses, incoming executive producer, Mackenzie McHale and news anchor Will McAvoy, that the story is worth pursuing. Harper receives two phone calls from anonymous sources, one at BP and one at Halliburton, a company that was used to supply the cement mix for the oil rig. Harper’s source from BP claims that BP does not know how to cap the well, and Harper’s source from Halliburton said that Halliburton performed tests on the cement mix and the tests showed that it was going to fail.

Neal: “After an explosion like that, the first thing that’s supposed to happen is the underwater blowout prevent should automatically close.”

Jim: “The flames are still 150 feet high, so that obviously didn’t happen. Now when they get the fire out, they’re gonna send a submersible ROV down there to turn the preventer on manually, but my source says ‘at that depth with that much pressure, it has to be the mechanics that failed and not the electronics.’ In other words, trying it manually isn’t gonna work either.”

Neal: “So they’re gonna have to build relief wells and that’s gonna take months.”

Jim: “Months of oil spilling into the Gulf at a rate of 4.2 million gallons a day.”

Don: “And just for the record, the Gulf of Mexico contains 643 quadrillion gallons of water. I think you may be overreacting.”

Jim: “You are dramatically underreacting.”

Don: “I’m the only one who isn’t dramatically doing anything.”

Jim: “In four days, it’ll have spilled as much oil as the Exxon Valdez. It’s a week before the oil reaches Louisiana shores, three days if the wind shifts.”

Mac: “Is the wind gonna shift?”

Jim: “Only if Louisiana’s luck stays exactly the same.”

Don warns Jim that if he takes Halliburton’s name through the muck and is incorrect, that they will destroy his career and his livelihood: “If you’re wrong about Halliburton, that’s the first line of your bio forever: ‘Isn’t this the same guy who said that Halliburton caused that spill?’ And, by the way, you publicly accuse them of negligent homicide and you’re wrong, they will take you to court. They will win and they will end up owning AWM. They will have their own record label. They will have theme parks.”

Despite all of this McAvoy agrees to not only run the story but to make that their primary focus for the show. The team continues to investigate during the broadcast to make sure that they cover every angle. Associate producer Margaret Jordan discovers that there was a lack of government oversight from the Minerals Management Service in inspecting the well.

Maggie: “It’s the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and they have 56 inspectors overseeing 3,500 production facilities that operate 35,591 wells in the Gulf region. That’s according to the Interior Department, not Wikipedia.”

Mac: “56 inspectors for 35,000 wells?”

Jim: “It gets better.”

Maggie: “Inspections for drilling rigs are required monthly, but Deepwater Horizon was only inspected nine times in 2009 and six times in 2008. The last inspection was done 20 days ago by Eric Neal, who was sent by himself even though he had only just started his training as a government inspector of drilling rigs.”

 

The point of this energy narrative is to expose how when corporations and government work together that serious negative consequences occur for the weaker force, in this case the environment. These two corporations were trying to make money and save money and in so doing they cut corners and pursued dangerous options. The point of government is to ensure a citizen’s right to safety and therefore regulate the unsafe practices of businesses, but since oil is needed by both the business world and the government, the government shirked its duty.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life=energy, environmental degradation, corporate ruthlessness, political oppression, exaggerated inequalities.

Futurama: The Birdbot of Icecatraz. A Tragic but Faraway Story

Professor Farnsworth sends the Planet Express crew on a mission to tow the Juan Valdez, (reference to the Exxon Valdez), “an orbiting supertanker full of rich Columbian dark matter.” Leela refuses to go on the mission because she concerned that the tanker will leak dark matter oil into a penguin preserve on Pluto that the tanker must pass by.

Leela: “Dark matter oil? What if we hit something? The tanker could leak.”

Professor Farnsworth: “Impossible. The tanker has 6,000 hauls. So unlike me, it’s entirely leak-proof.”

Leela decides to join a group of protesters instead of captaining the mission, leaving Bender in charge. Naturally as a result of Bender’s inferior piloting, the tanker catches on an iceberg, which cuts through all 6000 hauls and causes dark matter oil to leak into the penguin preserve.

Bender is ordered to five hours of community service to clean up the oil spill. In addition, the dark matter oil causes the penguins to greatly increase their reproduction causing overpopulation.

Just like the episode in my last post, “Birdbot” uses extremes to point out the ridiculousness of how governments and corporations handle oil transportation, spill prevention and spill management. Granted, this episode also pokes fun at environmental groups as well. However, a supposedly unleakable tanker leaks into an animal habitat (adorable penguins instead of fish, gulls and other ocean dwelling creatures) due to lack of corporate and government oversight. The environment is severely damaged and is unable to be cleaned up and the animals suffer horrible consequences, just like in the event of a real oil spill.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, environmental degradation and destruction, corporate ruthlessness, nomadic existence.

The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz Episode highlights