Friday, April 23, 2021
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Look On The Bright Side Of Oil Disasters!


Hey, maybe we just haven't been looking on the bright side of oil disasters. The ocean gains new traits ... like being able to light it on fire! And maybe new species will evolve, like birds that ... uh ... enjoy being sticky!

From IFC's The Whitest Kids U' Know (featuring Trevor Moore, who grew up in Charlottesville, and Arlington native Zach Cregger):

Why Tony Hayward’s Step Down Doesn’t Matter

Brown Pelicans Wait for Cleaning at Ft. JacksonTony Hayward is stepping down as BP's CEO to move to another role within the company, getting an $18 million golden parachute as he goes. BP is hoping Gulf Coast residents will view his replacement, Bob Dudley, more favorably in part because he's an American who lived in Mississippi for a time.

Yet the very next day, BP is continuing to use Hayward's rhetoric. A researcher on BP's payroll predicts the BP oil disaster's impact will be "quite small." Hayward himself once infamously predicted the impact would be "relatively tiny."

Last night I was at happy hour with friends talking about the disaster. "This is what BP doesn't get: We don't hate Tony Hayward because he's British," one of my friends said. "We hate him because he [screwed] the Gulf Coast."

BP dumping its CEO but continuing its lies changes nothing.

Tarring the BP Moment

With the prospect of the BP crisis drawing to a diminished level of angst, there's no reason to relax. There are Nigerian oil spills, 62 underground coal fires in China, Haitian deforestation, the shrinking Aral Sea, and the Eastern Garbage Patch. All decades of cumulative environmental destruction.

These are the big, sexy ones, but there are thousands of others. Just one example: we have managed to contaminate the entire world with polychlorinated biphenyls aka PCBs. The whole world. We are redefining survival of the fittest (or so we think) through genetic engineering. This is a new twist on "fittest." Want an uplifting documentary? Try The World According to Monsanto and then feel guiltless about serving your child that next glass of milk.

Jefferson believed in a natural aristocracy. Nature has time and takes its time in allowing success to percolate. We are not the final arbiter. But we affect the outcome, despite the denial.

Corporate Values, Ethics, and Consequences

The overly optimistic oil spill recovery projections made by BP are part of a routine charade corporations use to shift real production costs from the books and immediate consumers to a vague future debtor. It ignores risk, assigning low cost to potential consequences on a wager with others' futures.

The failure to capture the costs of this particular unassigned risk are dramatic and, in this case, quantifiable. Further, the casual dismissal of potential responsibility and the attempt to fix it on others is transparent. Both Marine Spill Response Corporation and National Response Corporation were set up to be the fall guys in the event of a less tragic event where BP would be positioned to claim it had been misled about the capabilities, dust itself off, and carry on.

It is much more difficult to fix costs when, for instance, mountaintop removal is used to mine coal that will produce poisonous pollutants as an end product. With this oil spill, the damage is impossible to disguise and easier to assess. Other industries that create waste that will either one day have to be cleaned up or will create permanent wastelands while reaping exorbitant margins by shifting real cost are harder to indict. Consumers who enjoy the benefit of such arrangements through lower prices at the counter are just as irresponsible as the corporations. But theirs are often acts of omission while the corporations' are acts of commission.

The BP obfuscation continues in the stories of skimming efforts. While it reports that more than 671,428 barrels of oil-water mixture have been captured, they are remiss in failing to mention that 90% of the mixture is water. In the end, $20 billion may not cover making the Gulf region whole. And equally as dangerous is the prospect that BP may be the victim of a corporate raid by our close ally, Libya. Imagine if the long term cost of this spill had been included in the price of a gallon of gasoline in anticipation of risk.

Bottom line: if the true cost of oil production or coal production, or battery production, or whatever, were captured by the producers and passed to the consumers, the free market could function more closely to the ideal manner described by the Chicago acolytes. The actual cost of energy would make the green alternative dynamic and profitable in a world where truth has value.  

An Important Correction of Ten BP Myths

The BP massive assault upon our country has taken an added casualty: The truth.  Huffington Post has dispelled ten myths about the disaster.  I won't repeat the fallacies.  Instead, here are the facts:

1.  President Obama did not ban all drilling or even all deep water drilling.  Those who claim he shut down some existing rigs are wrong.  He placed a hold on new deep water permits. (I believe even Rachel was wrong when she said he only shut down 33 existing wells in the gulf.  The wells in question didn't' exist yet and weren't permitted yet.  Rachel did correctly distinguish between drilling and production phases, however.)

2.  BP does not own all the BP gas stations many are boycotting.  They are independently owned.  They pay BP a licensing fee and may, or may not, actually sell BP oil.  BP dis-invested in its retail operations in 2007.

3. Gulf oil won't make our country independent of foreign oil.  (Pssst BP is a foreign oil company.)

Pied Piper of Petroleum Punts

Republican Senator Frank Wagner (VA-7th) announced the obvious last evening: we have an environmental disaster. Virginia offshore drilling's strongest advocate averred that for now "...quite frankly I do not want to come in front of you here and promote it." At least until the ink on investigation is dry.
"I will tell you that when this investigation is complete you are going to find out that equipment wasn't maintained properly, warning signs were ignored...and it was a corporate attitude of profits over safety...and you're also going to find lax government oversight over the inspections..."
Wagner called for three things that must happen: 1) they have to get it plugged, 2) capture as much oil as they can, and 3) clean up. He called for a thorough investigation and speculated that as with most JAG investigations he has been involved with (and he elicited Ben Loyola's concurrence), inevitably there is not one mistake, but a series of mistakes that reflects an attitude within the command that allowed the accident to happen.
"People are saying, can't you just plug this?...I don't think you have any idea what it is like working 500 feet under the water, much less 5000...I can assure you that BP, and not just BP but every other major oil company who has equipment...has offered it to bring every resource to bear because all of them have as much to lose as BP..."

My Two Cents: It is Not a “Spill,” But Rather a...

Please, let us stop using the word "spill," a PR term.  It's not a spill. Ironically, we continue to fund wars of choice propping up big oil, such as BP, in far away lands (and maybe, almost incidentally, round up a few terrorists here and there), when big oil has committed what could be called a terrorist-like assault on our country.  

I do not suggest that BP did this on purpose, though its behavior was purposeful negligence.  Apparently, BP also allegedly engaged in purposeful lying to regulators.  And BP was purposefully reckless and cavalier in the aftermath. Where the administration is concerned, I do not suggest that extensive person hours haven't been spent by this administration.  They have, from the beginning.  Nor do I suggest that the administration doesn't care about what is happening.  I think the president has gotten a bad (and very unfair) rap on that.  However, the president has more on his plate than finding the right "ass to kick."  (I must confess, I hope he does that, through the DoJ.)  

What is needed is a massive re-organization of our national priorities. Given the extensiveness and seriousness of what we face in the Gulf, and potentially up the Atlantic Coast, we must consider some outside-the-box thoughts:

BP Has New Plan To Distract Us From How Screwed We...

As I reluctantly predicted last week, BP's "top kill" effort to stop the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico didn't work. The inescapable conclusion is that offshore oil drilling technology is far more advanced than offshore oil spill stopping technology.

But wait! BP has a new plan to keep us from seeing this spill as an inevitable overdose of our ongoing addiction to oil! Put down that clean energy & climate bill and check this out:

[BP Managing Director] Bob Dudley said there was a greater chance of success with this operation  than with the "top kill" procedure that was tried last week.

"This is a better chance, definitely better. We're not working with  those high pressures and pumping that we weren't sure we were able to  even connect up. The guys that are running the robots, this is something  that they know how to do. The cutting is probably the critical piece.  We may have to try a couple of blades to do it. But from an engineering  sense, this is much more straightforward. 

If this plan was really so much better than the "top kill" scheme, wouldn't BP have done this a lot sooner? Of course. Because this plan has one major drawback -- it inherently has to make the gusher a lot worse before it has any chance at all of making it better:

Chilling Interview with Deepwater Survivor

UPDATE Got the embedding, sorry for the confusion. Go below the fold for access.

Here are two videos of the 60-Minutes' interview with the electronics engineer who survived the blow-up of Deepwater Horizon, coupled with an interview with Dr. Bea, who has been asked by the White House to look into the infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (he also investigated the loss of the Columbia space craft and the flood from Katrina in New Orleans). You will be alternately chilled and boiling mad. I was unable to get the URL for the two videos to embed them in this diary, so here are the two links. If you have not seen this, it is well worth the time---- one of the most compelling things I have ever heard.

The Culpability Trail: Investigating the BP Horizon Spill

What went wrong at BP Deepwater Horizon? President Obama has said repeatedly that whoever is responsible for the spill will pay to clean it up, and the evidence points so far to BP (formerly British Petroleum)---- but the mantra in the media is: wait for the final report. One investigative reporter has already published his own findings. Greg Palast, writing here on 7 May says that the primary culprit in the recent Gulf oil spill is BP, the same outfit which was ultimately responsible for the Exxon Valdez Prince William Sound spill cleanup back in 1989---- and both times were botched jobs because "BP is cheap. Deadly cheap."