Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Contractors raking in mad cash in wake of BP disaster

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, corporations, deregulation, environment, offshore drilling, regulation by allisonkilkenny on June 12, 2010

A rescue worker captures one oil-covered brown pelican off the coast of Louisiana. AP Photo

God, this is depressing. The industrial sector is just about extinct, corporations are fleeing the country to exploit cheap foreign labor, unions are gasping their last breaths, and 6.8 million Americans have been unemployed 27 weeks, or longer (the numbers are higher in places like Detriot, which has 30 percent unemployment, but the media doesn’t really focus on that reality).

But there is good news! Well, kind of. If your trade is oil spill clean-up, you’re experiencing a bonanza right now.

Hundreds of contractors and subcontractors are doing jobs both complex and mundane, whether it’s building the robots that BP sends 5,000 feet underwater to capture live video of the broken wellhead or providing boats to skim oil from the water’s surface. And then there is the cottage industry that has sprung up overnight to support the 24,600 cleanup workers, catering their meals, hauling away their trash and supplying portable toilets.

“There’s money flowing in the streets,” said Michael E. Hoffman, director of research at Wunderlich Securities, a Memphis-based brokerage firm.

America may be losing the race to evolve technology, and alternative fuels, but at least we still lead the way in creating horrible catastrophes that our unemployed masses can then toil to clean up.

Ever the barometer of compassionate altruism, Wall Street immediately rushed to figure out who would be the winners of the BP disaster. The financial sector doesn’t price superfluous biological waste like sea turtles, or oceans because things like endangered pelicans don’t make the right people money. However, Wall Street does know how to price stuff like hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants.

Within two weeks of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, the stock price of Clean Harbors, a Boston-based hazardous-waste management company, shot up more than 20 percent. During the same period, Nalco Holding Co., which makes the chemical dispersant Corexit, rose to nearly a year high.

Sure, Nalco, made a killing during the disaster. It helps that one of its board members, Rodney F. Chase, is a former BP board member. That cozy relationship provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup. The Wapost article doesn’t mention that stuff (why get messy?) but it does include this nugget:

The cleanup business won’t necessarily see a bonanza, however, because margins can be low in the industry. And stock prices of both Clean Harbors and Nalco have come down since their highs, especially after critics began questioning whether Nalco’s product Corexit was too toxic to be used in the ocean.

Yeah, that whole “poisoning the oceans” thing can be a real downer.

Meanwhile, the EPA has quietly released the full list of ingredients of Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527.

The list includes 1,2-Propanediol ;  2-butoxy-ethanol ; 2-sulfo-Butanedioic acid, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt (1:1); Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate; Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivss.; Sorbitan, tri-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs; 2-Propanol, 1-(2-butoxy-1-methylethoxy)- ;  and Distillates (petroleum), hydrotreated light.

The independent watchdog group OMBWatch cites the New Jersey Department of Health to point out possible dangers of one of the the ingredients.  The document indicates 2-butoxy-ethanol:  “may be absorbed through the skin; should be handled as a CARCINOGEN–WITH EXTREME CAUTION; can irritate the skin and eyes with possible eye damage; can irritate the nose and throat; can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. can cause headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and passing out and may damage the liver and kidneys.”

Of course, Wall Street doesn’t give a shit about kidneys because it’s been illegal to buy or sell them in the U.S. since 1984. Perhaps if a kidney market existed, the giants of Flesh Industry would be crying to protect their fertile organ crops. Alas, the human body can not be bought and sold as commodities, nor can sea turtles. Nor can oceans.

And so we’re witnessing a free-for-all where giant industries get to first poison our environment, and then make a killing as they “clean it up,” using poisons that make workers sick, and will inflict unknown consequences upon our environment.

While there’s plenty of guilt to go around in the private sector, the government’s performance isn’t any better. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to strip the EPA of its power to regulate carbon(!) just barely failed 47-53 in the Senate. I’ll repeat that: Murkowski wanted to strip the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) of their job protecting the environment.

In a sense, even though organs markets have been illegal for over two decades, the US government sold its citizens and the environment to corporations a long time ago. Companies like BP are free to recklessly drill in the ocean, kill 11 rig workers, dump tens of millions of gallons into its fragile ecosystem, kill and maim endangered species, and then poison humans. All that matters is they keep drilling because the only product valued by Wall Street is the oil. Everything else is just stuff in between the Big Players and the Profit.

The worst that happens is BP’s CEO gets pulled into the White House for a firm “talking to” by the president, who really is at the mercy of these titans because they fund the Village’s stupid electoral pageants. It’s the same kabuki theater we witnessed with Goldman Sachs. Executives shuffle into a Senate hearing committee, look sheepish for a few hours, and then exit stage left to continue their pillaging.

Occasionally, when the serfs begin to mutter that something just doesn’t feel right, and the leader looks too passive, the president’s disgusting PR team tells him to say something transparently idiotic like he’s going to “kick some ass.”  I’d be happy with some regulation, but that seems less likely than Obama taking a 2×4 to Hayward’s thick skull.

Actually, now that I’ve typed that out, producing “CEO stress dolls” for unemployed Americans to bash the shit out of is a great idea. You could have a Lloyd Blankfein doll, a Tony Hayward doll, a Don Blankenship doll, etc. I love this idea. They could be made in the USA, for the USA. It’ll create jobs and potentially launch an entire industry. I will send all kinds of digital high-fives to anyone who photoshops a mockup of the CEO Dolls.

One Response

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  1. loohire said, on June 14, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Dolls a great idea – wouldn’t it make more sense if they were made by children in Indonesia though? 🙂 Only kidding, great article.

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