Oil Spill: BP’s Crimes And Obama’s Lack Of Leadership

One month after the deadly disaster aboard the Deepwater Horizon, taking the lives of 11 men and creating the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history, public frustration mounts at the lack of leadership, and adequate response, to the ever increasing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

As beaches close, and tar balls, accompanying the vast oil sheen, representing only a hint of the horror below, begin washing up on shore and into wetlands, the idea of the disaster that loomed out at sea becomes all too real for Gulf coast communities facing the decimation of their environment, as well as their livelihoods.

After their reported malpractice, and malfeasance, leading to the oil leak, British Petroleum has demonstrated incompetence and irresponsibility in its utter lack of planning and preparedness for the obvious potentiality of an oil leak such as this. The two main dangers an oil rig faces are explosion and leak. And, for a deep-water rig such as the Deepwater Horizon, that potential leak should be anticipated to be in very deep water. This was not an unforeseeable accident with previously unknown factors.

British Petroleum’s actions have been akin to purposely driving a truck on the highway knowing that the truck has no brakes. They were not only so irresponsible as to have no seat-belts or airbags, endangering the driver and occupants, but no brakes, endangering everyone else on the highway as well.

The first signs of active and organized public protest have come in the form of a candlelight vigil in New Orleans, marking the 30th day of the oil leak. Much like the leak stoppage and oil recovery efforts, as well as the wildlife protection and general disaster management efforts, the federal government was notable uninvolved.

After four weeks of misinformation and lack of cooperation, the Obama Administration has finally demanded daily reports of all efforts to deal with the disaster, as well as all information related to the disaster, from British Petroleum. A live streaming video of the volcanic plumes of crude oil was finally released by BP on Tuesday. BP’s earlier reports of 5000 barrels leaking per day were immediately called into question.

Steve Wereley, an Associate Professor of Engineering at Purdue University, testified to congress this past Wednesday that, based on the video of the oil leak, he estimated the well was spewing crude oil at 95,000 barrels, 4 million gallons, per day, into the Gulf of Mexico. After 31 days, this puts the current total of this leak in the neighborhood of 124 million gallons, 10 times the reported amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

British Petroleum’s reluctance to attempt, or share, any sort of accurate measurement was explained in a McClatchy News article by Marisa Taylor, Renee Schoof and Erika Bolstad.

BP, and the Obama administration, have said they don’t want to take the measurements for fear of interfering with efforts to stop the leaks. That decision, however, runs counter to BP’s own regional plan for dealing with offshore leaks. “In the event of a significant release of oil,” the 583-page plan says on Page 2, “an accurate estimation of the spill’s total volume . . . is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations.”

Legal experts said that not having a credible official estimate of the leak’s size provides another benefit for BP: The amount of oil spilled is certain to be key evidence in the court battles that are likely to result from the disaster. The size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, for example, was a significant factor that the jury considered when it assessed damages against Exxon.

“If they put off measuring, then it’s going to be a battle of dueling experts after the fact trying to extrapolate how much spilled after it has all sunk or has been carried away,” said Lloyd Benton Miller, one of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Exxon Valdez spill litigation. “The ability to measure how much oil was released will be impossible.”

“It’s always a bottom-line issue,” said Marilyn Heiman, a former Clinton administration Interior Department official who now heads the Arctic Program for the Pew Environment Group. “Any company wouldn’t have an interest in having this kind of measurement if they can help it.” read more here

If safety violations are proven to have played a role in causing, or failing to prevent the disaster, any liability caps will be moot.

Scientists have intensified warnings that the oil slick could merge with the Gulf’s loop current putting sections of the Florida coastline, including the Keys, at risk. Federal officials have drawn attention to the damage that has already been done to turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.

Due to increased concerns for the impact on undersea species, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), on Tuesday, expanded the no-fishing zone. More than 47,000 square miles is now off-limits for fishing.

Contrary to BP’s claims that the effects of the oil leak will be “very, very modest” , Rowan Gould, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says “Make no mistake, this spill is sufficient to affect wildlife in the Gulf, and across the region, for years and perhaps decades.”

British Petroleum pledged, in congressional testimony, that they would keep the government and the public fully informed. In a letter to Tony Hayworth, Chief Executive officer at BP, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, said; “Those efforts, to date, have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness.”

Thus far in this fiasco, British Petroleum stands apparently culpable of, at least, the following;

1. Purposely violating reasonable safety standards.
2. Not having an effective containment or recovery plan in place.
3. Grossly misrepresenting the magnitude and scale of the Leak.
4. Using contractors as well as American Coast Guard to bar public media access, under threat of arrest.
5. Keeping pertinent information from the public and their Congressional Representatives.
6. Using hundreds of thousands of gallons of their old stock of highly toxic dispersant, known to be deadly to marine life, when they had a far less toxic brand available, until forced to switch by the EPA.

While the full disclosure of all information will come following in-depth investigation, if at all, it is apparent that BP has been completely irresponsible, if not inept, at its drilling operations, emergency preparedness, safety standards, disaster management, environmental protections, and public responsibility. They have committed a crime against the planet and all its inhabitants. The oil leak now threatens to affect the Arctic and Europe as well.

British Petroleum’s ability to continue in their role of managing this disaster must be called into question. The conflict of interest for them, of being in control of all data, and disaster management, while also being the liable party in any future actions, is like asking a felon to collect all their own forensic evidence and turn it into the court, to be used in order to convict them.

Adding to the frustration with BP has been the lack of clear leadership from the Obama administration. Although he inherited a reportedly corrupt Minerals Management Service, the emergency is now and the leadership must rise above past bureaucratic failings.

As invested Oilmen, and previous occupants of the White House, Bush and Cheney, who owns Halliburton, slashed regulations for oil companies, including environmental testing standards which experts argue contributed to this disaster. Although the stage for this debacle may have been set in the past, it was not done entirely in secret and its need for correction should not have come as a surprise. The fact that permits may have been improperly issued under the current administration, also calls for a more active and responsible role in the management of this current catastrophe, and prevention of any future events.

The clean energy initiatives, and plans to reduce dependence on oil, are positive directions implemented by the current administration, but they are only a portion of what is required. They are also irrelevant to our current dilemma. Unable to even find out who is making, or accepting responsibility for, the decisions made by BP, Halliburton, or Transocean, we need a leader that will take control of the situation on behalf of the people until it is resolved.

Independent scientists, engineers, geologists, and any other academics or experts required, should be contracted by the American Government, at the expense of British Petroleum, to direct, supervise and manage all efforts made by BP, and record and catalog all data.

Where the Obama Administration is falling short is;
1. Taking a role of passive supervisor.
2. Allowing BP to control all access to the location and data including the use of U.S. coast guard to restrict media access.
3. Allowing perceived legal barriers to intimidate the White House from directly managing the actions of the criminally negligent.

The results of corporate self-governance have been painfully clear to Americans. From Wall Street sub-prime derivatives, and overextended debt-burdened Banks, to unsafe mining operators, and Health Insurance companies that hold medical treatment hostage; Americans have had their share of corporate responsibility. Politicians are not taking the action they were elected to take. They are not providing the leadership necessary to stop these atrocities in their tracks. Gradual, circular, processes of political compromise are not going to correct these problems in time to protect the American people.

The Tea Party is right in that it has taken to the streets and energized a base in protest. The problem is that it has taken to the wrong streets, to defend the corporations that have all but ruined our economy, and our environment, and to protest high taxes at a time when we enjoy the lowest taxes in sixty years. Rand Paul, Tea Party favorite and Kentucky Senatorial candidate, says that government is being too hard on BP, and that their calls for firm oversight sound “unAmerican” because “Sometimes accidents happen.” Although there is certainly government waste that needs to be eliminated, the demonstrated enemies of the American people are Big Finance, Big Business, and Big Oil, not Big Government.

What Americans need is smaller government waste, not necessarily smaller government. Americans need to strengthen social security, education, and health care, and stop the billions of dollars spent on corporate welfare. Americans need more government working for the people, protecting them from big business, big finance, and big oil, and less government working on behalf of corporate interests.

American politics have degenerated over the past 30+ years to a point where what exists is a system dominated by corporations with two parties beholden to the interests of their corporate donors. One party is centrist, somewhat responsive to the people, but heavily influenced by the corporations, and the other one is moving ever farther to the right, and seems to operate as the direct political arm of the corporations. To quote Michael Moore on this subject, “the lesser of two evils is still an evil,” and the American people deserve better.

Last year alone, BP spent 15.9 million dollars lobbying our politicians and was a substantial contributor to Obama’s campaign, as well as McCain’s. The reason for the American people’s lack of confidence is clear and warranted.

In addition to decreasing their dependence on petroleum, the American people need to demand the attention of their politicians, and the media, and insist that their voice be heard. The misspelled, incoherent, misplaced rage of the Tea Party signs needs to be replaced with clear messages against the current exploitation by Big Finance, Big Business, and Big Oil. While lighting a figurative fire under our politicians, those signs need to be mobilized on New York’s Wall Street, D.C.’s K street, and the BP offices in Houston, as well as on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Any products of British Petroleum, and all of their subsidiaries, must be boycotted in order for the American people to exert their control over BP, rather than allow BP to maintain their’s over this situation and all the associated data. In addition to BP gas stations, British Petroleum also owns Castrol, Arco, Aral, am/pm, Amoco, and wild bean coffee. A Facebook page has been established to support, and hopefully coordinate, this effort.

British Petroleum has committed a crime of monstrous proportions against this planet, our ecosystem, our seabirds, our marine life, our wildlife, and humankind. They must be made to pay, both through our politicians and through our direct action.

Organize; Boycott British Petroleum, and all of its subsidiaries and products, and take a stand against any further exploitation by Big Oil, Big Finance, Big Business and the politicians that profit from them and enable them.

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11 Responses to Oil Spill: BP’s Crimes And Obama’s Lack Of Leadership

  1. Stephen Dufrechou May 22, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Brilliant report and analysis, here, Liam–on multiple levels. Great work!

    • Liam Fox May 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you very much. From you, that’s quite a compliment. Thanks again.

    • Alexander Higgins May 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

      Totally Agreed. Awesome analysis.

      You may want to add an update, BP is told the Feds it is not changing Dispersants.

    • Alexander Higgins May 22, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      Also, the link for the CNN Page about the threat to the Artic and Europe is likely to change.

      Is there a permalink you can add there?

  2. Alexander Higgins May 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    You can change bullet point 6 about BP being forced to change dispersants. because….

    BP Gives Feds Middle Finger and Says They Will Continue Toxic Dispersants In Gulf Oil Spill Despite EPA Orders To Switch Chemicals.

    http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2010/05/22/bp-feds-middle-finger-continue-toxic-dispersants/

    • Liam Fox May 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm

      Thank you. I’ve been trying to research a non-toxic dispersant that apparently exists through a British company as well. Thanks for the info.

  3. Gilbert Mercier
    Gilbert Mercier May 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Alexander,
    Thanks for the feed back, and the very useful update on BP’s refusal to stop using toxic chemical to “disperse” the oil spill.

  4. Alexander Higgins May 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Also….

    I want BP to pay to… But is that really the solution?

    If BP goes bankrupt then who picks up the tab for the cleanup bill?

    Remember Enron? The fallout of this would be worse.

    People lose their jobs, nest eggs, etc…

    It can also be a triple whammy.

    If BP does go bankrupt, We’ll get stuck bailing them out because they are “Too Big To Fail”.

    Or is that a triple whammy?

    That Is my opinion… but if you are set on boycotting BP then here is a list other their products, etc…

    http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2010/05/22/boycott-bp-list-bp-products-boycott-bp/

  5. unenergy May 22, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Great article Liam.
    An almost identical ‘accident’ occurred in Australia in August 2009 with a leak which lasted for almost 3 months. It was called the Montara oil field, the rig, West Atlas. At the inquiry it was found many corners had been intentionally cut to speed up the development of the well. Our governments actions were somewhat similar, having to sit around until the leak was finally stopped.

    The Tea Party is a strange phenomenon in the US and from an outsiders POV, it is clear that it is a construct of Fox News, who for anyone who cares, is part of an international conglomerate of media – 40% of the British media, well over 50% of Australian media, and significant Saudi media interests. Fox two largest shareholders are NOT American born.
    One is a Saudi Arabian Prince, the other an Australian until age 53.

    That is whose interests the Tea Party are working for and they work for the corporations whose reason for being is greed and greed alone.

  6. J Michael May 23, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Yes, indeed, BP Must Pay.

    Learn ways to respond to BP at:

    http://bp-oil-must-pay.blogspot.com/

  7. mel May 26, 2010 at 3:37 am

    Dude! Your sentences are run-on, making your article difficult to read. This sentence had 52 words alone! “The conflict of interest for them, of being in control of all data, and disaster management, while also being the liable party in any future actions, is like asking a felon to collect all their own forensic evidence and turn it into the court, to be used in order to convict them”

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