Image: Oil off Barataria Bay, La.
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
Boats are seen along the oil damaged shoreline in the northern reaches of Barataria Bay, La., on Thursday.
updated 6/18/2010 7:32:51 PM ET 2010-06-18T23:32:51

At least 22 nations — including Britain, where BP is based — have offered oil-collecting skimmers, boom, technical experts and more to help the U.S. cope with its worst-ever environmental disaster. But their generosity comes with a price tag.

The State Department confirmed that nearly every offer of equipment or expertise from a foreign government since the April 20 oil rig explosion would require the U.S. to reimburse that country.

The offers reveal a hard truth about the United States' international friendships: With the U.S. widely regarded as the world's wealthiest nation, there is a double standard regarding foreign aid after a crisis, especially with offers from relatively poor countries.

U.S. disaster aid is almost always free of charge; other nations expect the U.S. to pay for help.

"These offers are not typically offers of aid," said Lt. Erik Halvorson, a Coast Guard spokesman. "Normally, they are offers to sell resources to BP or the U.S. government."

Only Mexico, with wide swaths of poverty among its population, offered the U.S. anything for free. It said it would give the U.S. government some containment boom. BP separately purchased 13,780 feet of boom and two skimmers from Mexico in early May, according to the State Department.

"We're not disappointed," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday. "We're quite pleased with the international offers of assistance. What we're concerned with right now is getting these types of assistance as they become available, as they are useful to our cleanup operations, getting them into action so they can clean up the Gulf."

The offers include:

  • Britain, America's closest ally and headquarters to London-based BP, said it would sell chemical dispersants and containment boom for use cleaning up the spill. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, has previously complained about what he called "buck-passing and name-calling" in the U.S. against BP.
  • Russia, which received $70.5 million in U.S. aid last year and $78 million in 2008, said it could send boom, oil containers and ships if the U.S. paid for them.
  • China offered containment booms for a price. When a major earthquake struck in northwest China in April, the U.S. quickly gave $100,000 for relief supplies, and after another major earthquake in southwestern China in 2008, the U.S. donated $500,000 through the U.S. embassy in Beijing to the Red Cross to buy and deliver emergency supplies there. Congressional researchers estimate the U.S. spends roughly $30 million on foreign aid to China each year, including educational exchanges and health programs.
  • Israel, which receives roughly $3 billion in U.S. military aid and other assistance, also said it would send containment boom, if the U.S. paid for it.
  • France offered to send chemical dispersants and equipment to clean oil off birds but only for a price.
  • Kenya, which received more than $24 million in U.S. aid last year and $11 million in 2008 for humanitarian aid, offered to send fire boom but only if the Obama administration paid.
  • Vietnam offered a ship with oil-collecting sweep arms if the U.S. paid for it. The U.S. spent $102 million in all types of aid to Vietnam in 2008. When Typhoon Ketsana hit that country last fall, affecting 3 million people, the U.S. spent $100,000 on relief operations.
  • Romania made a "general offer of support" but asked the U.S. government for payment. After heavy rains sent in July 2008 sent four major rivers over their banks and killed five people, the U.S. gave $50,000 for emergency supplies.
  • Croatia offered to send technical experts and plans, for a price. The U.S. gave Croatia $50,000 to buy local firefighting equipment in 2007 when more than 800 wildfires broke out during an unusually hot and dry summer.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: BP increases capacity to capture oil spill

  1. Transcript of: BP increases capacity to capture oil spill

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: The news is better tonight about those efforts to slow the flow of oil into the gulf. And while big progress is being made both in capturing it and on a project designed to cap the well itself, the oil is presenting yet another danger. Our chief environmental correspondent, Anne Thompson , is in Venice , Louisiana , tonight with the latest. Anne :

    ANN THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Lester . One of the co-owners of that well, Anadarko Petroleum , tonight accuses BP of gross negligence and willful misconduct in the construction of that well. Now, that statement follows a suggestion by one congressman that Anadarko should contribute to the claims fund that for many here will be an economic lifeline. On the 60th day of this crisis, finally some good news from the bottom of the gulf. Two containment systems collected almost 25,000 barrels of oil Thursday, the most so far.

    Admiral THAD ALLEN (United States Coast Guard): This is a significant improvement moving forward; however, we know because of the new flow rate numbers that we need to increase capacity.

    THOMPSON: Scientists say the well is spewing up to 60,000 barrels a day. The best way to stop the ever-growing spill is a relief well. Two are under way, and the first one is ahead of schedule. It stared a half-mile from the spill source. The relief well is drilled vertically, then diagonally. Today, it is within 200 feet of the leaking well if you measure laterally. But BP says it must dig another 2,000 feet down before intersecting with the problem well and inserting a cement plug, an incredibly difficult job more than three miles below the water's surface.

    Mr. BOB CAVNAR (Oil Industry Expert): It's a little bit like driving a car from the backseat. You can reach the steering wheel but it's a little hard to control.

    THOMPSON: In the water more signs of serious trouble. Oceanographer John Kessler tells NBC 's Robert Bazell the oil contains high levels of methane, a gas that can deplete oxygen and create dead zones.

    Mr. JOHN KESSLER (Texas A&M University): The bottom waters are way more concentrated with their natural gas than we could have imagined. Six orders of magnitude -- a million times more -- is a tremendous amount more methane and natural gas .

    THOMPSON: Today, west of the Mississippi , Louisiana 's vacuum barges were hard at work. These barges are lining up to protect Barataria Bay . Its waters are vital to Louisiana 's seafood industry. In sets of three the barges will form a barrier to collect any incoming oil.

    Captain GARY KESSELL (United States Coast Guard): As you can see some of the sheen started to collect alongside of the barge, and we're going to put some boom out on the other side over here to make some natural collection zones as the tide comes in and out. And the vacuum trucks will take it out of the collection points.

    THOMPSON: Now, tonight, to make sure that oil companies think about the worst before it happens, the Department of Interior issued a new directive saying that any company filing a new drilling permit will also have to file a blowout

    prevention plan. Lester: Anne Thompson in Venice tonight,



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