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article imageOp-Ed: New book confirms greed, power and cover-up are BP trademarks

By Lynn Herrmann     Oct 29, 2010 in Politics
The Deepwater Horizon debacle of 2010 will no doubt lead to a plethora of books being published, each hoping to captivate readers. One of the first on the scene has set a high bar, a hard-hitting behind-the-scenes look written by an industry insider.
Disaster on the Horizon, by Bob Cavnar, shows no partial treatments to either the industry he loves and works in nor to an American political system overflowing with oil industry lobbyists, campaign contributions and the ever-present failed leadership.
While it may be difficult for some on the extreme left to believe anything an oil person writes or says, Cavnar does an excellent job at taking the oil industry to task, taking aim at both sides of America’s corrupt government policy, and sending the country an alarming wake-up call (just in case BP’s Macondo well did not).
In the book, Cavnar repeatedly refers to failed leadership as a major component to where America currently stands in regards to its need for more oil. As a result, greed and profit have become the norm. Safety, health and the environment aren’t even on the radar screen.
Lost in the circus of ineptitude following the disaster is the fact that 11 workers died in the explosion, ultimately leaving behind families that include wives, a fiancée, and just as sadly, 21 children now without fathers. Being the survivor of a gas well explosion in 1981, Cavnar hits hard at an industry intent on forsaking safety in the workplace for ever-expanding profits.
Disaster on the Horizon offers some surprises, even for those who have followed the disaster closely. For example, many have asked why a Norwegian firm, Det Norske Varitas, was chosen to lead the investigation into the failed blowout preventer. Cavnar fills us in:
In 2009, a risk management organization, Det Norske Varitas (DNV) was commissioned to do a confidential study for Transocean on subsea BOP reliability, using a database of 15,000 wells drilled in North American waters and in the North Sea from 1980 to 2006.
Did someone mention conflict of interest? As the book repeatedly shows, the corrupt oil and gas industry has a stranglehold on the even more corrupt American political system.
An astounding number of failures led up to the Deepwater disaster and Cavnar fills us in on the details including complete and absolute failure of the rig’s safety system, poor rig design and blatant disregard for equipment maintenance.
However, these acts and events seem to be overshadowed by the painfully obvious ones that occurred during the first few hours after the explosions on the night of April 20. Cavnar tells us that:
BP, Transocean, the oil and gas industry, the Coast Guard, and the US government were all woefully unequipped to deal with not only the blowout and burning rig, but also the environmental catastrophe that followed. The lack of preparation was as eye opening as it was shocking.
This, of course, was so apparent to any who closely followed events after the disaster began. What might not be obvious is the history of BP, a history that began as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That history includes human rights violations right from the start, the Iranian conquest of the early 1900’s, and Winston Churchill’s “fairyland” mentality.
Readers, and much later a dumbed-down American public, will soon familiarize themselves with terms such as Keathley Canyon, Tiber and trophic cascade.
For brevity’s sake, the majority of deepwater references in the book include an offshore area from Texas to Alabama, a region highly productive for the oil and gas industry.
The Deepwater Horizon had previously drilled in the Gulf of Mexico in waters over 9,000 feet in depth. The Tiber well, situated about 250 miles southeast of Houston in over 4,000 feet of water and drilled to over 35,000 feet will attest. To obtain a finite source of energy.
Cavnar explains the reality of the American government’s dependence on oil revenues as a source of funding the country’s insatiable need for war.
He writes:
As generations of elected leaders failed in their responsibilities to plan for our energy needs, private industry has stepped into the breach for profit.
And a mighty big step it has been. Never has failed leadership of government officials been so apparent as in the last 40 years of America’s history, particularly in the last ten. Never has the breach for profit been as gargantuan as in the last decade. An accelerated pace of greed has blinded all who possess it.
A government-mandated hands-off approach effectively disabled the Coast Guard from taking a leadership role the night the debacle began in earnest. That’s it. The US Coast Guard, now a part of the Department of Homeland Security, has seen its traditional and historical role of marine safety and search-and-rescue diminished because of dastardly acts committed on 9/11.
April 22 was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Ironically, it was also the day President Obama gave yet another of his perfectly timed speechifications, all while the Deepwater Horizon rig was sinking to the very bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, unleashing the country’s greatest environmental catastrophe to date.
As Cavnar points out, Obama tried valiantly to rally the masses in saying: “With your help, we’ve made a historic investment in clean energy that will not only create the jobs of tomorrow, but will also lay the foundation for long-term economic growth. We’ve continued to invest in innovators and entrepreneurs who want to unleash the next wave of clean energy. We’ve strengthened our investment in our most precious resources -- the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the parks and public spaces we enjoy.”
And that is yet another example of why America’s first black president will last for only one term. To confirm this point, Obama’s Earth Day pontification continued: “I think we all understand that the task ahead is daunting; that the work ahead will not be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take your leadership. It’s going to take all of your ideas. And it will take all of us coming together in the spirit of Earth Day -- not only on Earth Day but every day -- to make the dream of a clean energy and a clean world a reality.”
The rig began its 5,000 foot descent an hour before this speech. This man has, arguably, the most powerful and influential position in the world, yet he’s hallucinating on Earth Day about clean energy, all while the country’s greatest environmental disaster has already begun.
This man has received about $80,000 in campaign contributions from BP over the last five years, more than any other politician in the country. As David Michael Green asks, does it have to be this embarrassing?
So much for the great one-term American hope. Actually, to be honest, the less-than-a- fortnight great American hope. Back then, a tidal wave surge of political vomit featuring an articulate black man against a politically seasoned and crafty white woman - throw in a dinosaur politician and his you betcha-wolf-huntin‘-Russian-watchin’, joe-six-pack, agenda-carrying sidekick for cheap entertainment - had America swooning in hope, change, racism and sexism. All that is left of that historic sparkle is record unemployment, record foreclosures, record bailouts, and a broken record.
In watching the evolution of the American populace over the last decade, one begins to form a general idea of just how passive the American public has become in its desire to be the most consuming, most polluting and most non-thinking country on the planet. Disaster on the Horizon helps validate the point.
The book makes clear the fact this is not all about Obama’s failed leadership, glaring that it now so obviously is. Cavnar reminds us that the previous administration was also a big-time star in that particular arena. While Republican politicians were some of the first to hit the airwaves immediately after the blowout, chiding the Obama administration for horrible mismanagement, Cavnar drives home what some are well aware of, thanks to first-hand experience:
Of course, they also had no tolerance for anyone even mentioning anything that had happened under the past administration and viciously attacked anyone who dared bring it up.
He continues:
To understand the height of hypocrisy in the Republican politicians’ rhetoric, it’s worth doing a little “harping” at the past administration to get a sense of what happened to federal regulation of offshore drilling in recent years.
Since both Bush and Cheney hailed from the oil industry, unleashing it from any regulation that impeded its expansion was a top priority of the new administration, and they began to implement it early in the first term.
Of course, no Republican politician gets into office without a little help from Republican voters. And a bit of influence from, say, maybe, just possibly, perhaps, a conservative-led Supreme Court.
On April 28 the Coast Guard, reluctantly and in pig-headed fashion, increased the release rate of oil from the blown out well to 5,000 barrels per day. Cavnar educates the non-serious among us, of which, obviously, our government is infested with:
No serious person ever believed the fairy tale spun by the government, as BP stood mum, that the well was flowing at only the 1000- and then the 5,000-barrel-per-day rate that they stuck to for over five weeks; reluctantly the government now admits that the flow was as high as 80,000 barrels per day, not counting the natural gas being produced along with the oil.
The connection of BP to the American government, specifically to the Obama administration - he was, after all, the president when this tragedy occurred and he was the president who allowed BP to run roughshod over him and the country - is a stunning and sickening example of too much power and too much greed in the hands of a chosen few.
Cavnar points out the true dynamics of the $20 billion merger agreed upon by BP and the government:
To help cover the costs, BP announced it would pay no dividends for 2010. What was not publicly disclosed was that President Obama and the federal government also agreed to get off BP’s ass, which now seems obvious. The rhetoric immediately cooled, BP faded into the background, and Admiral Allen became the spokesman for everybody involved, save the occasional technical briefing from BP.
The book repeatedly shows us BP’s desire to present its alter ego to the masses, via encouraging sound bites, a cute logo and massive publicity stunts. For example, he explains BP’s practice of booming and skimming the oil as being a Neanderthal approach, an approach involving techniques that have not advanced much in the last 40 years, and certainly not appropriate for deepwater blowouts.
In order for either booming or skimming to work properly, there must be virtually flat water. Instead, BP needed good publicity at the time, since former BP boss Tony Hayward’s failed leadership and efforts in futility were the overriding messages at the time. He writes:
Neither works in surf, nor when the wind is blowing, nor when seas are much more than a light chop. The reason for booming and skimming is mainly for the television cameras to have something to record, and, in this particular case, to give BP a reason to keep out-of-work fishermen employed doing something while the oil fouled their fishing grounds.
He explains in detail why the booming and skimming techniques are futile on the open water, then adds:
The bottom line is that when it comes to removing oil from water, nothing currently available works very well, and millions of research dollars need to be spent to prevent another catastrophe like this one.
Little is written in the book about the unfolding disaster involving the health of humans, or as Cavnar puts it, the human health tragedy, simply because, as he points out, it is unfolding and will likely take years, if not decades, to raise its ugly head. Only then, when it’s far too late and the BP fox has escaped the American henhouse, will the true impact be revealed.
Still, he sheds some light on BP’s unprecedented use of toxic dispersants - or the chemical carpet bombing, as Cavnar calls it - to help keep the magnitude of the disaster below the surface of the sea, far from the eyes of the American viewing audience.
Human guinea pigs, of course, for this toxicology experiment are the hundreds of thousands of residents along the Gulf coast. The other group of guinea pigs live subsurface, far from view of a non-caring public currently wrapped up in a mid-term election campaign and the latest non-consequential “news” story: Dog bites flea, flea snores.
Flaws are few and far between in the book, but several references to SUV drivers makes one wonder if they really are the cause for our current predicament. Of note:
Rather than have rational discussions, proponents of the industry immediately retreat to their list of pro-drilling talking points, with money always being Point Number 1. The rest of the list is as apocalyptic as possible, including oil shortages, $4 gasoline, and the ever-popular “the terrorists win.” The environmentalists then always pull out their list of oiled wildlife, polluted air, and big oil’s pillaging of the economy, which is just as apocalyptic, for good reason, but which leaves out mention of the inconvenient question “How do you get to work every day?” Answer: “Oh, I drive my 2009 Cadillac Escalade.”
Indeed, that is a bit sensational and far-fetched. In most circles of the lower class and lower-to-middle class, people are either a) out of work or b) in the middle of losing their homes to the foreclosure scandal or c) not driving Cadillac Escalades to work. There is, of course, group d: those not needing to work for a living, in denial of global warming, in denial of a tanked American economy, and also in denial of the dire consequences as the American empire free-falls over a cliff. There are bigger and better targets to take aim at.
The math is simple for us. A catch-22 exists for the US government. Subsidies to the industry help keep gasoline prices low, encouraging high consumption habits by the American public. This leads to higher oil revenue royalties for the government which, ironically, keeps America in the above-mentioned business of war. Still, as some of us are already aware, those subsidies will dry up.
That then becomes reality check time. Add to this formula the fact that we are now beyond peak oil. The industry must drill deeper, incurring higher costs. Lost in this magic formula of increased profits for the industry is the fact that the sun still rises in the east each day. This, however, would be considered an energy easily available to everyone. America should have crawled out of its perpetual duh-moment a long time ago, but as that reality check becomes increasingly apparent, it’s too late.
At what point, at what cost, does civilization finally wake up?
Worth the read is merely an understatement, for Disaster on the Horizon is appropriately titled, reminding us that as America’s - and the world’s - need for consumption of all things oil-based increases and the search for that oil expands into deeper and more treacherous environments, this year’s Deepwater Horizon incident is merely an introduction for what is in store.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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