TBD on Ning

Stupidity, addiction and the polluted nest

I've been avoiding the gulf oil spill. This is no easy task.

Coverage is everywhere and growing more shrill and panicked by the day. Ed Shultz is shouting at the top of his lungs, Tamron Hall is running her coffee fueled mouth at 1500 words a minute, and poor little Bobby Jindal is talking with increased frustration about the lack of Coast Guard and federal response, looking like he might burst into tears at any moment. I feel his pain.

CNN, C-span, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and PBS are all whooping, hollering, and stamping their feet helplessly. Yep. Senate hearings on capitol hill feature photos of oiled pelicans and movies about copepods, diatoms, terns, whales and dolphins, while scientists give grim testimony to the far reaching effects of BP's tragedy on oxygen production, the loss of vital coastal ecosystems, and even land mass. Yep, a real tragedy.

Well, what did you expect? You remember those silly kids in the bright colors with the dreads and granola? They warned you.

You remember those geeky-looking scientists the oil companies used to make fun of, trying to marginalize their research as the worst possible scenario, and themselves as gloom and doom naysayers? They warned you too.

You remember those people who were here long before you came on the scene, and who had a history of living with, not just on, the Earth? Do you remember what they told you about treating our mother? Do you remember how you discounted their knowledge as inferior and the superstitions of a marginalized and defeated people? They warned you as well.

Do you remember the former president the press and pundits liked (and still like) to vilify? You know, the peanut farmer from Georgia who tried to move the country toward a better energy policy? Few people would listen to him. He tried to warn you as well. The solar panels he had installed on the White House were removed by his successor who spoke of "Morning in America." Well, it's morning in America, alright.

Now here you sit—here we all sit. Wringing your hands because the industry that assured you they had everything well in hand, and needed no regulation or oversight, has been revealed to know absolutely nothing about solving the problem their own shortcutting and fraudulent practices has created. Suddenly everyone wants the federal government to "get involved." And do what? With what?

We were all so enamored of our own technological prowess, that we convinced ourselves that there was no problem we couldn't solve. BP bought ads featuring flowers and happy smiling faces, while assuring less and less regulation, oversight, and environmental consideration was the price of doing business. All the while having no clue, and no equipment to handle anything close to this scenario, which I might add is a man-made event. The earth has not shaken, sheared or stirred. Hurricanes did not induce this fouling of our coastline. Well, duh!

(Yelling now) Did you think the oil industry was looking out anything beyond their bottom line and production schedules? We were warned repeatedly from multiple sources and in multiple ways about the dangers of offshore drilling. We are currently drilling wells at greater depths than the site of this current disaster. Have the we done due diligence on any other well? Has the company bother to "change the batteries" on those devices? Was an inspector present (and not bribed to look the other way) on these other drilling sites? Let's just trust oil companies to do what they say they are going to do. That works, doesn't it?

As awful and hideous and sick as the fouling of our coastal areas is, with all the chances to safeguard our environment we passed up, don't we now deserve exactly what we are getting? We gambled and lost. We are, of course making the fishermen, the pelicans, the sea turtles, the crabs, and the ocean pay for our mistake. Don't we always? We rolled the dice and up popped snake eyes!

I was trained as an ecologist. I know all too well what some of the ramifications of a large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will be. That's why I have to look away. I can't bear it. My heart can't bear it. If I had some way to take positive action, it might help. But to remain a helpless witness to the results of other peoples greed, negligence, and stupidity is simply too much. I can't do it.

Will the lesson of our arrogance be learned and carried to other risky endeavors—particularly nuclear power and nuclear waste? When will we hear and heed the voices of indigenous people throughout the world? What kind of maladies or tragedies must befall us before we can shed this albatross of arrogance we voluntarily donned about our neck? How many more times must we say to the universe, "Please kick me in the head," before we get it, and start caring for this earth the way we know damn well we should?

I wonder.

Views: 14

Tags: America, Gulf, hubris, oil, politics, spill, stupidity


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Comment by Vernon Windsor on June 10, 2010 at 11:47am
Partial transcript from the Rachel Maddow show...

That‘s all to come.
But, first, everything you thought you knew about the BP oil disaster is wrong. All of the damage to the Gulf Coast you think you‘re seeing on your TV screen, you‘re not actually seeing that. You‘re not seeing it because it‘s not possible.
I know this sounds kind of trippy, but follow me here for a second. When BP applied for its permit to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, to drill the Deepwater Horizon oil well, they had to make some promises to the federal government, so the government would provide them with that drilling permit. BP, for example, assured the government that the Gulf Coast beaches would never see oil, even if there were a spill at Deepwater Horizon.
Here‘s what BP told the government, quote, “Due to the distance to shore, 48 miles, and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts to the beaches are expected.”
So all that oil on the beaches down there? Stop being so hysterical. That is so unlikely. BP‘s response capabilities and the fact that the rig was so far out to shore, so far offshore, would prevent the oil from ever getting to those beaches.
And the wetlands that have been hit by oil, the wetlands that we need to protect the Gulf and for so many other things that have been hit by oil and we don‘t know how to clean them up, here‘s what BP told the federal government about the wetlands, quote, “Due to the distance to shore, 48 miles, and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts on the wetlands are expected.”
So, again, all good. Nothing to see here.
BP told the government the same thing about potential impacts on coastal wildlife refuges and bird nesting areas. Nothing to worry about, we got this. That‘s what BP said. And the government took their word for it and gave them the permit to drill.
That‘s how easy it is to get a drilling permit. You say it, the government believes it, no questions asked. Welcome to America.
You remember BP‘s regional oil spill response plan for the Gulf of Mexico, this is the document we‘ve been talking about, the one that lists walruses among the marine life to look out for in the Gulf of Mexico in the event of a spill, even though walruses really only live in the Arctic and in places where it‘s really cold. That they just cut and pasted their Gulf of Mexico plan from the one they had written from the Arctic apparently.
It turns out there are some other genius suggestions in this disaster response plan that maybe should have tipped off the government that BP put together their supposed disaster response plan drunk and in the dark. Toward the end of that document, BP provides a list of people to get in contact with in the event of a spill at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Among them is Dr. Peter Lutz from the University of Miami-School of Marine Sciences.
As the “Associated Press” pointed out today, Dr. Peter Lutz died in 2005, four years before this disaster response plan was submitted and rubber-stamped. The “A.P.” also points out today that the names and phone numbers of several Texas A&M University marine life specialists are wrong, so are the numbers for marine mammal stranding networking offices in Louisiana and Florida—offices which are no longer in service.
We have learned a lot about BP in the nearly two months since their well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. But perhaps the most significant revelation is the fact that they did not take seriously safety, or the possibility of having them mount a cleanup effort ever. And because the government regulation of the oil industry has been so lax for so many years, BP never had to take that seriously.
Listed dead guy on your oil spill response plan as the guy who should be called in the event of a spill? Who cares? The regulators will never check that out.
Talk about walruses in the Gulf of Mexico? Sure, the regulators won‘t even notice.
Promise that beaches and wetlands will never be significantly harmed. Yes, yes, that sounds good. They‘ll love that. Write that down. They‘ll never check it out.
BP could have told the federal government anything and they still would have been approved to drill that well. That‘s how seriously they took this drilling application process. That‘s how seriously they took the possibility of a spill.
This is not about the overall safety of drilling, this is not about caps and blowout preventers and all that. This is very specifically about what happens if there‘s a spill. If there‘s a spill, how BP, are you planning to clean it up?
And it turns out BP had no idea how to clean it up. Nor did they care.
I know this isn‘t necessarily the main focus of how the BP oil disaster is being covered right now. Everybody‘s still quite intently focused on physically capping that well that continues to gush at the bottom of the ocean.
But, in Congress today, things finally took a turn toward this side of this disaster: the oil industry‘s complete lack of interest or investment in how to clean stuff up when it goes wrong. The fact that the technology for cleanup of oil spills was mostly developed before we even required seat belts in cars in this country, and it hasn‘t been improved since because nobody‘s made them improve it—finally, that got put in the spotlight today in Congress.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA), ENERGY & COMMERCE CMTE.: This past week, we watched BP roll out the latest version of the top hat, which they claim is now capturing about 15,000 barrels of oil per day. Three decades ago, during the Ixtoc spill off the coast of Mexico, they tried a similar approach, Operation Sombrero. A lot like top hat.
If we stay on the current trajectory, if a similar spill occurs in 20 years by a French company in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil industry‘s response is likely to be talking about launching operation chapot (ph). That is unacceptable.
For the oil company‘s drilling ultra-safe is not as high a priority as drilling ultra-deep. The confession of BP‘s CEO, Tony Hayward, that the company did not have the tools in its tool kit to handle a blowout was old news the moment it left his mouth.
After six weeks of failed containment domes, junk shots and top kills, we all know the truth. There was no response plan, because BP did not invest the time. The response technologies are the same as they were three decades ago, because BP, a company that has made record profits, did not invest the money.
MADDOW: That was Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts during a house energy and environment subcommittee briefing today, calling out BP and calling out the oil industry in general for having no idea what to do in the event of a spill, having no response plan for a worst-case scenario, for spending all of their money on technology to drill deeper, rather than technology to prevent a spill or, God forbid, to clean it up afterwards.
That briefing today featured a number of witnesses, including the man who wrote the government incident report on the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.
He offered this assessment of the oil industry‘s recent spending on safety
recent spending on safety, research and development, R&D, since then.

DR. THOMAS LESCHINE, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON: The Exxon Valdez spill happened in 1989, and a big infusion of cash went into R&D afterwards. But it didn‘t last. Zero was the amount allocated to R&D in many years.
MADDOW: Zero. That would be zero dollars. Zippo, zilch, nada. Nothing spent in some years on developing technology to prevent a spill from happening or to clean it up after it does. Why bother, right? Why bother spending money on something as useless as that when you can get a government permit to drill without it?
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
He chaired that subcommittee briefing today on the BP oil disaster.
Chairman Markey, thank you very much for coming back on the show.
MARKEY: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: I sort of feel like the rest of the country hasn‘t quite caught up to this part of the story yet, that the industry has never cared about being able to respond to a spill. Is that—is that what you found today in this briefing? Is that a fair assessment of your view?
MARKEY: I think it‘s—I think it‘s the only conclusion which you can reach. In the hearing today, we learned from the witnesses that a probabilistic risk assessment had to be made of what the risks were of a catastrophic accident occurring in deep-water drilling. A probabilistic risk assessment is another way of saying, what are the chances that there could be an accident? And it turns out that they determined that there was a zero percent chance that a catastrophic accident could occur.
So, if you believe no accident can occur, then why invest in safety technologies? Why invest in modern response capabilities, since not only the oil company, but the government agency accepted the probabilistic risk assessment that the chances of an accident was zero. And so, what we‘re seeing now, the logical consequences of that kind of assumption being allowed to be accepted, and the investment in the technologies that would be needed to shut down the leak, to respond to the spill, never having been made.
MADDOW: Since the government approves permits to drill in these waters—I mean, this is—this is drilling in the United States of America. Is it possible that the American government could compel these companies to invest in sustained research and development projects? Not just immediately after a spill like this happens, when they have to admit that none of the stuff has ever been tested, they don‘t know how any of these response technologies will work, but is there a way to make them invest long-term as a condition for getting permits?
MARKEY: I think that we have to pass legislation, and I‘m going to introduce this legislation that will create a fund—a fund for research into modern safety technologies. Not technologies that are 30 years old, but 21st century technologies that match up with 21st century risks that are assumed when you go out 50 miles deep in the ocean and drill down five miles.
So, you need new safety technologies. You need new response technologies. That will make it possible for us to be successful.
In that first couple of weeks, BP was actually talking about nylons and hair that we could put out into the ocean. People thought that we would, at this point, be talking about the Apollo Project and not “Project Runway” as a way of responding.
And so, we need to fund it with oil company money, and then have independent researchers be able to develop the technology, the 21st century technologies, that we will need to make sure that this does not happen again.
MADDOW: One of the response technologies that has been so controversial for this disaster, Congressman, is the issue of dispersants. And one of the complications in—around dispersants is the fact that dispersants are seen as proprietary technology, that the companies who them don‘t disclose what‘s in them, they don‘t see a public responsibility in letting people know what the risks are of those technologies because they‘re marketing them as a for-profit product.
Is that the sort of thing—because dispersants are a big part of the way the industry imagines responding to spills—is that something in which those patents should be busted or is that something where those industries should in part be nationalized so that we can benefit from those industries having to worry about the profit mode of getting in the way?
MARKEY: There is a—an historic science project going on under the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico. We have tens of millions of gallons of oil. We have natural gas. We are shooting it with hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals. It is creating underwater plumes. It is going to ultimately affect the fish, the fauna, everything that is inside that Gulf of Mexico which is so important to the livelihoods of people in that region and to our country.
We cannot allow for these companies to be using dispersants, chemicals in ways that could ultimately have profound impacts on not only the food that is provided from that region, from the fishing, but also the impact that it could ultimately have upon human beings. Because we are ultimately part of that food chain as we consume what is produced from that region.
And so, no longer can we allow for the oil industry to be using proprietary technology chemicals without a full disclosure of what it is and what the potential impact could be on the Gulf and on human beings, because, ultimately, that is the chain that finally reaches us.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, I think making some news tonight here with us both in that brief hearing today and in your comments right now on those proprietary dispersant formulas. Thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. We always appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thank you so much for having me on.
Comment by Vernon Windsor on June 1, 2010 at 12:03pm
10 Things You Need (But Don't Want) To Know About the BP Oil Spill
How the owner of the exploded oil rig has made $270 million off the disaster, and nine other shocking, depressing facts about the oil spill.
May 27, 2010

It's been 37 days since BP's offshore oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, crude oil has been hemorrhaging into ocean waters and wreaking unknown havoc on our ecosystem -- unknown because there is no accurate estimate of how many barrels of oil are contaminating the Gulf.
Though BP officially admits to only a few thousand barrels spilled each day, expert estimates peg the damage at 60,000 barrels or over 2.5 million gallons daily. (Perhaps we'd know more if BP hadn't barred independent engineers from inspecting the breach.) Measures to quell the gusher have proved lackluster at best, and unlike the country's last big oil spill -- Exxon-Valdez in 1989 -- the oil is coming from the ground, not a tanker, so we have no idea how much more oil could continue to pollute the Gulf's waters.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster reminds us what can happen -- and will continue to happen -- when corporate malfeasance and neglect meet governmental regulatory failure.
The corporate media is tracking the disaster with front-page articles and nightly news headlines every day (if it bleeds, or spills, it leads!), but the under-reported aspects to this nightmarish tale paint the most chilling picture of the actors and actions behind the catastrophe. In no particular order, here are 10 things about the BP spill you may not know and may not want to know -- but you should.

1. Oil rig owner has made $270 million off the oil leak
Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP, has been flying under the radar in the mainstream blame game. The world's largest offshore drilling contractor, the company is conveniently headquartered in corporate-friendly Switzerland, and it's no stranger to oil disasters. In 1979, an oil well it was drilling in the very same Gulf of Mexico ignited, sending the drill platform into the sea and causing one of the largest oil spills by the time it was capped... nine months later.
This experience undoubtedly influenced Transocean's decision to insure the Deepwater Horizon rig for about twice what it was worth. In a conference call to analysts earlier this month, Transocean reported making a $270 million profit from insurance payouts after the disaster. It's not hard to bet on failure when you know it's somewhat assured.

2. BP has a terrible safety record
BP has a long record of oil-related disasters in the United States. In 2005, BP's Texas City refinery exploded, killing 15 workers and injuring another 170. The next year, one of its Alaska pipelines leaked 200,000 gallons of crude oil. According to Public Citizen, BP has paid $550 million in fines. BP seems to particularly enjoy violating the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and has paid the two largest fines in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's history. (Is it any surprise that BP played a central, though greatly under-reported, role in the failure to contain the Exxon-Valdez spill years earlier?)
With Deepwater Horizon, BP didn't break its dismal trend. In addition to choosing a cheaper -- and less safe -- casing to outfit the well that eventually burst, the company chose not to equip Deepwater Horizon with an acoustic trigger, a last-resort option that could have shut down the well even if it was damaged badly, and which is required in most developed countries that allow offshore drilling. In fact, BP employs these devices in its rigs located near England, but because the United States recommends rather than requires them, BP had no incentive to buy one -- even though they only cost $500,000.
SeizeBP.org estimates that BP makes $500,000 in under eight minutes.

3. Oil spills are just a cost of doing business for BP
According to the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, approximately $1.6 billion in annual economic activity and services are at risk as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Compare this number -- which doesn't include the immeasurable environmental damages -- to the current cap on BP's liability for economic damages like lost wages and tourist dollars, which is $75 million. And compare that further to the first-quarter profits BP posted just one week after the explosion: $6 billion.
BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, has solemnly promised that the company will cover more than the required $75 million. On May 10, BP announced it had already spent $350 million. How fantastically generous of a company valued at $152.6 billion, and which makes $93 million each day.
The reality of the matter is that BP will not be deterred by the liability cap and pity payments doled out to a handful of victims of this disaster because they pale in comparison to its ghastly profits. Indeed, oil spills are just a cost of doing business for BP.
This is especially evident in a recent Citigroup analyst report prepared for BP investors: "Reaction to the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is a buying opportunity."

4. The Interior Department was at best, neglectful, and at worst, complicit
It's no surprise BP is always looking out for its bottom line -- but it's at least slightly more surprising that the Interior Department, the executive department charged with regulating the oil industry, has done such a shoddy job of preventing this from happening.
Ten years ago, there were already warnings that the backup systems on oil rigs that failed on Deepwater Horizon would be a problem. The Interior Department issued a "safety alert" but then left it up to oil companies to decide what kind of backup system to use. And in 2007, a government regulator from the same department downplayed the chances and impact of a spill like the one that occurred last month: "[B]lowouts are rare events and of short duration, potential impact to marine water quality are not expected to be significant."
The Interior Department's Louisiana branch may have been particularly confused because it appears it was closely fraternizing with the oil industry. The Minerals Management Service, the agency within the department that oversees offshore drilling, routinely accepted gifts from oil companies and even considered itself a part of the oil industry, rather than part of a governmental regulatory agency. Flying on oil executives' private planes was not rare for MMS inspectors in Louisiana, a federal report released Tuesday says. "Skeet-shooting contests, hunting and fishing trips, golf tournaments, crawfish boils, and Christmas parties" were also common. Is it any wonder that Deepwater Horizon was given a regulatory exclusion by MMS?
It gets worse. Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the Interior Department has approved 27 new permits for offshore drilling sites. Here's the kicker: Two of these permits are for BP.
But it gets better still: 26 of the 27 new drilling sites have been granted regulatory exemptions, including those issued to BP.

5. Clean-up prospects are dismal
The media makes a lot of noise about all the different methods BP is using to clean up the oil spill. Massive steel containment domes were popular a few weeks ago. Now everyone is touting the "top kill" method, which involves injecting heavy drilling fluids into the damaged well.
But here's the reality. Even if BP eventually finds a method that works, experts say the best cleanup scenario is to recover 20 percent of the spilled oil. And let's be realistic: only 8 percent of the crude oil deposited in the ocean and coastlines off Alaska was recovered in the Exxon-Valdez cleanup.
Millions of gallons of oil will remain in the ocean, ravaging the underwater ecosystem, and 100 miles of Louisiana coastline will never be the same.

6. BP has no real cleanup plan
Perhaps because it knows the possibility of remedying the situation is practically impossible, BP has made publicly available its laughable "Oil Spill Response Plan" which is, in fact, no plan at all.
Most emblematic of this farcical plan, BP mentions protecting Arctic wildlife like sea lions, otters and walruses (perhaps executives simply lifted the language from Exxon's plan for its oil spill off the coast of Alaska?). The plan does not include any disease-preventing measures, oceanic or meteorological data, and is comprised mostly of phone numbers and blank forms. Most importantly, it includes no directions for how to deal with a deep-water explosion such as the one that took place last month.
The whole thing totals 600 pages -- a waste of paper that only adds insult to the environmental injury BP is inflicting upon the world with Deepwater Horizon.

7. Both Transocean and BP are trying to take away survivors' right to sue
With each hour, the economic damage caused by Deepwater Horizon continues to grow. And BP knows this.
So while it outwardly is putting on a nice face, even pledging $500 million to assess the impacts of the spill, it has all the while been trying to ensure that it won't be held liable for those same impacts.
Just after the Deepwater explosion, surviving employees were held in solitary confinement, while Transocean flacks made them waive their rights to sue. BP then did the same with fishermen it contracted to help clean up the spill though the company now says that was nothing more than a legal mix-up.
If there's anything to learn from this disaster, it's that companies like BP don't make mistakes at the expense of others. They are exceedingly deliberate.

8. BP bets on risk to employees to save money -- and doesn't care if they get sick
When BP unleashed its "Beyond Petroleum" re-branding/greenwashing campaign, the snazzy ads featured smiley oil rig workers. But the truth of the matter is that BP consistently and knowingly puts its employees at risk.
An internal BP document shows that just before the prior fatal disaster -- the 2005 Texas City explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 -- when BP had to choose between cost-savings and greater safety, it went with its bottom line.
A BP Risk Management memo showed that although steel trailers would be safer in the case of an explosion, the company went with less expensive options that offered protection but were not "blast resistant." In the Texas City blast, all of the fatalities and most of the injuries occurred in or around these trailers.
Although BP has responded to this memo by saying the company culture has changed since Texas City, 11 people died on the Deepwater Horizon when it blew up. Perhaps a similar memo went out regarding safety and cost-cutting measures?
Reports this week stated that fishermen hired by BP for oil cleanup weren't provided protective equipment and have now fallen ill. Hopefully they didn't sign waivers.

9. Environmental damage could even include a climatological catastrophe
It's hard to know where to start discussing the environmental damage caused by Deepwater Horizon. Each day will give us a clearer picture of the short-term ecological destruction, but environmental experts believe the damage to the Gulf of Mexico will be long-term.
In the short-term, environmentalists are up in arms about the dispersants being used to clean up the oil slick in the Gulf. Apparently, the types BP is using aren't all that effective in dispersing oil, and are pretty high in toxicity to marine fauna such as fish and shrimp. The fear is that what BP may be using to clean up the mess could, in the long-term, make it worse.
On the longer-term side of things, there are signs that this largest oil drilling catastrophe could also become the worst natural gas and climate disaster. The explosion has released tremendous amounts of methane from deep in the ocean, and research shows that methane, when mixed with air, is the most powerful (read: terrible) greenhouse gas -- 26 times worse than carbon-dioxide.
Our warming planet just got a lot hotter.

10. No one knows what to do and it will happen again
The very worst part about the Deepwater Horizon calamity is that nobody knows what to do. We don't know how bad it really is because we can't measure what's going on. We don't know how to stop it -- and once we do, we won't know how to clean it up.
BP is at the helm of the recovery process, but given its corporate track record, its efforts will only go so far -- it has a board of directors and shareholders to answer to, after all. The U.S. government, the only other entity that could take over is currently content to let BP hack away at the problem. Why? Because it probably has no idea what to do either. Here's the reality of the matter -- for as long as offshore drilling is legal, oil spills will happen. Coastlines will be decimated, oceans destroyed, economies ruined, lives lost. Oil companies have little to no incentive to prevent such disasters from happening, and they use their money to buy government regulators' integrity.

Deepwater Horizon is not an anomaly -- it's the norm.

Comment by Dallas on May 27, 2010 at 5:17pm
Yes, it is a certainty that a string of failures led to the loss of eleven lives and the pollution of an entire system. There was no single cause.

BP is strictly liable for the damage as a matter of law, but it is a matter of fact that Trans-Ocean was on the floor. They pencil-whipped the logs.

If the whistle-blowers were telling the truth, where are the felony convictions?

Relentless lobbying is a huge problem. I trust Earth First anf Greenpeace, along with Exxon and BP, will cease it tomorrow. Possibilty 5) is: BP did not want CNN and their noted panel of combination drilling engineers/Lumineered reporters to blow up a number that would stick in the public's mind long after CNN retracted it.

Sex with petro-geeks is not my idea of an incentive, but I would like more information about the drugs.

There is undeniably "a level" of corruption at BP and MMS. There is a level of corruption in any large institution. We could both name twenty such institutions in thirty seconds, so what? The question is what kind and how much.

I am heartened by your desire to avoid rabble-rousing generalities about BP: thanks. You are right not to care about my friendships (although I am puzzled that you have not made me the center of your universe): they have no bearing on the nature of the errors BP made. However, I stand by my criticism of any broad characterization of BP staffers are being involved in bribery.

To me, your strongest point is that precious little has changed in fifty years about how we deal with spills. You're right, but not for the reasons you suspect. The depth of the drilling is a HUGE change in how everything about drilling must be done. It ain't like adding another inch of water to the bathtub. There are no new solutions because there have been very few deep-water blowouts to learn from. There's no such thing as a deep-water blowout field testing lab. The oil industry warned Congress about this lack of knowledge for years. While it's true they turned right around and asked to drill wherever they could get a permit, the ultimate authority for that is the American People, through their democratically elected officials.
Comment by Vernon Windsor on May 27, 2010 at 1:04pm
Dallas, the investigation (if one could possibly call it) that is ongoing. If it is of sufficient quality, the litany of failures, shortcuts, poor decisions, and collusion already uncovered will be undoubtedly be be added to with new information.

From the lack of options to deal with this crisis, to the fact that BP tried, for a time, to black out any independent verification of the rate of spillage can only lead any objective observer to believe that 1) the company was ill prepared to deal with this phenomenon, 2) shortcut or faked inspection tests to the blowout preventer, 3) is using a chemical to dispurse the oil on the surface that has been banned in Europe and remains untested with respect to environmental damage, especially in large quantities, and 4) has consistently and relentlessly lobbied congress for less regulation and oversight, when according to industry whistle-blowers, the company routinely faked tests when there was no inspector present, filled out its own rig inspection reports in pencil, which the "inspectors" then traced in ink and filled. This is not even mentioning the whole sex and drugs scandal with the MMS staffers.

I don't care whether or not these people are your friends, or are good people to "have a beer with." Nor do I want to damn everyone in BP or the industry as evil or corrupt individuals. There is no denying there is a level of corruption, a periodic if not chronic disregarding of inspection and safety protocols, and a culture of "get it done fast," rather than "get it done safely." There's no "mindless personal bashing" going on here.

Further, what (other than the depth of drilling) has changed from the response to this spill to any others occurring in American waters? Any technological advances in oil spill cleanup? Any new techniques for stopping, sealing or killing an oil leak on the ocean floor? Any lessons learned from past spills that were evident is BP's response to this spill?

The fact that you bristle at my post, doesn't change the facts that keep spilling out (much like the oil) as time passes, nor does it change BP's responsibility for this ecological crisis or the fact that they owe the American public a detailed explanation of the cause or causes of this disaster. The US government too, bears responsibility for their share in this quid pro quo arrangement as the two parties were figuratively (and literally) in bed with one another.

The difference between indigenous cultures and the one we find ourselves in can be summarized, in respect to how they deal respectfully with the Earth, as one of arrogance. Some might say that's a cultural difference. I might characterize it as a spiritual difference. One born of a long and close association built on respect and another born of of a doctrine of domination and subjugation. At least that how I view it today from my point of view.

This blog post is not a white paper, or an article submitted for scientific peer review, nor did it pretend to be. It is a sharing of my feeling about what has happened and what is happening. As such you can like it, or you can hate it, as you choose. It remains my feeling which I've decided to share in this form. Don't like it? Tough. Write your own.
Comment by Dallas on May 26, 2010 at 10:54pm

I respect you, and I too am heartsick about the spill. I was a consultant to Exxon during the Valdez spill, and I worked for Sohio, a British Petroleum subsidiary which eventually simply became part of BP, at one time.

I know many of the persons interviewed publicly about various technical aspects of this event. Their personal and professional reputations are spotless. They have earned the respect of academicians, industry peers and politicians alike. Each has spent a lifetime balancing economic, scientific and political forces that you are unlikely to have experienced, if your comments about their personal integrity are any indicator.

None of them would even consider being part of any bribery scheme. Now, if you know differently, then produce your evidence and name names. Otherwise, please do not stoop to mindless personal bashing.

Your "(Yelling now)" paragraph may be persuasive to many an uncritical reader. However, its questions crumble when viewed actually, rather than rhetorically.

"(Yelling now) Did you think the oil industry was looking out anything beyond their bottom line and production schedules?"
Yes, I thought just that. The oil industry operates in a highly-regulated environment. Many of the regulations were suggested by them and peer-reviewed by Government scientists. All of them were adopted after public hearings as either law or regulation. None of this happened in secret. The kids in Natty Dread drag could have put down the bowl and joined the discussion.

" We were warned repeatedly from multiple sources and in multiple ways about the dangers of offshore drilling."
You are absolutely correct about that. My colleagues and I, evil oil company minions the lot of us, were the ones sounding the loudest warnings as the Back to the Pleistocene crowd pushed oil exploration out of the relatively safe land and shallow water environs it had so sucessfully plied for almost a hundred years, and into an extremely dangerous and demanding deep-water world whose extreme sensitivity to initial conditions in scores of complex processes made trouble a mathematical certainty.

We are currently drilling wells at greater depths than the site of this current disaster.
Yes, more's the pity.

Have the we done due diligence on any other well? Has the company bother to "change the batteries" on those devices? If there is an activity whose processes are more more diligently inspected by both private and public inspectors, I don't know what is is.

Was an inspector present (and not bribed to look the other way) on these other drilling sites?
This libelous tripe deserves no response.

Let's just trust oil companies to do what they say they are going to do. That works, doesn't it?
It sure does. If you can think of a sane reason an oil company would intentionally ignore the possibility of blowing out a well, I'd like to hear it. I grant you that individuals can make bad calls on the derrick floor, but that is not what your comment addresses: you are implying that oil companies, as a matter of policy, lie about their intentions. C'mon, man.

Because you are a trained ecologist, I was especially surprised at your credulous description of our noble forebears, living in harmony with Mother Earth, fairly sweating perfume from their pores as they played their pan flutes.

"You remember those people who were here long before you came on the scene, and who had a history of living with, not just on, the Earth? Do you remember what they told you about treating our mother? Do you remember how you discounted their knowledge as inferior and the superstitions of a marginalized and defeated people? They warned you as well."

Yeah, too bad they didn't warn the Anasazi, the Maya, the Easter Islanders and scores of Polynesian settlements like Pitcairn. Western Europeans were not the only fools to ever till the soil, chop down a tree or graze cattle. There are plenty of examples of folly, and it does not contribute to the intellectual climate to prop up the tired notion of the Noble Savage as a guidepost to modern life. One might as well point to the outstanding plane-crash record of the Middle Ages
Comment by Snagg on May 26, 2010 at 8:04am
It's a difficult conundrum - Capitalism is a great way to build mighty nations which are in a strong position to use that might to do great good, but capitalist nationalism usually winds up doing pretty bad things to the earth and it's citizenry. I truly don't know the solution to this problem, no matter how much I wish I did.



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