Thursday, June 17, 2010

The problems of Big Oil

I am ambivalent about the operations of the oil companies.  Because finding and refining oil is insanely difficult, the oil industry probably has a higher percentage of educated staff than perhaps the medical industry.  From state of the art computer mapping to the furthest-flung reaches of organic chemistry, the oil industry is just crawling with Ph.D.s who can absolutely astonish you with their feats of industrial genius.

On the other hand, the oil business is also crawling with predator crooks who will stop at nothing to feed their unbridled greed.  Think Dick Cheney.

And while you read these essays remember that as a country, USA consumes a tanker-truck full of liquid fuels every SECOND.  So while few of us are responsible for the Dick Cheneys of the world and would like the oil business run by more ethical people, there is still the matter of 3600 tanker trucks of oil products being burned every hour.  And that folks is the reason why the Dick Cheneys are allowed to live.
Big Oil’s Predations are not Your Fault
Posted on June 15, 2010 by Juan Cole
No, the BP oil volcano in the Gulf of Mexico is not your fault, despite what many pundits will tell you. Back in the 1960s when the environmental movement got going, major US corporations responsible for much of the nation’s pollution decided to fight it by paying for television advertising that urged individuals not to litter, thus implying that pollution is produced by anarchic individuals rather than by organized businesses. It was a crock then and it is a crock now.
You did not demand that BP consistently cut safety corners more than any other petroleum company, thus resulting in the Deepwater Horizon calamity, which could end up costing the economy of the Gulf of Mexico literally hundreds of billions of dollars this year.
How much the Gulf oil catastrophe is not your fault can more clearly be seen if we consider the ways in which a BP refinery in Indiana is threatening the Great Lakes with excess pollution.
The BP refinery received permission from the Indiana legislature to increase its ammonia and silt (infested with toxic heavy metals) output into the Lakes. The increased pollution was part of an expansion of the refinery to allow it to process Canadian tar sands. In addition, BP has illegally spewed extra benzene into the lakes (benzene is a known cause of leukemia) and has also repeatedly broken the law with regard to air pollution standards. more

Now you don't trust BP, but it's too late
Every time a BP executive appears on television, I think of the garage scene from the movie Animal House.
An expensive car belonging to Flounder's brother has just been trashed on a drunken road trip, and the smooth-talking Otter comforts the distraught Delta pledge with these cheery words:
"You f----- up! You trusted us! Hey, make the best of it.''
If only the BP guys were half as honest.
Incredibly, almost eight weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, the company that caused the disaster remains the primary source of information about it.
Predictably, much of that information has been stupendously, tragically wrong, starting with the low-ball estimates of how much crude was leaking into the sea.
BP didn't know the answer when the rig went down, and it doesn't know the answer now. Nobody does.
Every day we see streaming underwater video of that mile-deep gout of oil, billowing and unstaunched. The image is only slightly less sickening than the pictures of dead sea turtles and gagging pelicans.
Some people I know can't bear to watch anymore, so painful are the feelings of helplessness and frustration. What's happening before our eyes is the slow murder of one of the world's most bountiful bodies of water, a crime precipitated by reckless corporate decisions and abetted by our own government.
Imagine a so-called regulatory process that allows oil companies to sink a drill 5,000 feet or even 10,000 feet through a living ocean without any reliable backup for when a blowout preventer fails to prevent a blowout.
Duh, let's build us a big ol' steel dome and drop it on the leak.
If that don't work, we'll blast us some golf balls and shredded tires into the hole.
Or maybe a giant sody straw might do the trick!
Obviously these boneheads didn't have a workable Plan B. Worse, nobody in government figured that out until it was too late. more

The Spill, The Scandal and the President
The inside story of how Obama failed to crack down on the corruption of the Bush years – and let the world's most dangerous oil company get away with murder
By Tim Dickinson
Jun 08, 2010 4:30 PM EDT
This article originally appeared in RS 1107 from June 24, 2010.
On May 27th, more than a month into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Barack Obama strode to the podium in the East Room of the White House. For weeks, the administration had been insisting that BP alone was to blame for the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf – and the ongoing failure to stop the massive leak. "They have the technical expertise to plug the hole," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said only six days earlier. "It is their responsibility." The president, Gibbs added, lacked the authority to play anything more than a supervisory role – a curious line of argument from an administration that has reserved the right to assassinate American citizens abroad and has nationalized much of the auto industry. "If BP is not accomplishing the task, can you just federalize it?" a reporter asked. "No," Gibbs replied.
Now, however, the president was suddenly standing up to take command of the cleanup effort. "In case you were wondering who's responsible," Obama told the nation, "I take responsibility." Sounding chastened, he acknowledged that his administration had failed to adequately reform the Minerals Management Service, the scandal-ridden federal agency that for years had essentially allowed the oil industry to self-regulate. "There wasn't sufficient urgency," the president said. "Absolutely I take responsibility for that." He also admitted that he had been too credulous of the oil giants: "I was wrong in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios." He unveiled a presidential commission to investigate the disaster, discussed the resignation of the head of MMS, and extended a moratorium on new deepwater drilling. "The buck," he reiterated the next day on the sullied Louisiana coastline, "stops with me."
Meet Obama's sheriff, Ken Salazar.
What didn't stop was the gusher. Hours before the president's press conference, an ominous plume of oil six miles wide and 22 miles long was discovered snaking its way toward Mobile Bay from BP's wellhead next to the wreckage of its Deepwater Horizon rig. Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. commander overseeing the cleanup, framed the spill explicitly as an invasion: "The enemy is coming ashore," he said. Louisiana beaches were assaulted by blobs of oil that began to seep beneath the sand; acres of marshland at the "Bird's Foot," where the Mississippi meets the Gulf, were befouled by shit-brown crude – a death sentence for wetlands that serve as the cradle for much of the region's vital marine life. By the time Obama spoke, it was increasingly evident that this was not merely an ecological disaster. It was the most devastating assault on American soil since 9/11. more

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