I’ve been wondering when someone was going to ask this extremely obvious question. Regular readers of my blogs (particularly at my old T/S one) know that I’ve been following this story with much enthusiasm.
..Okay, some might say “psychotic devotion.”
But Anderson Cooper, bless his little, silver Vanderbilt-spawned head, finally interviewed someone capable of putting two and two together: Fred McCallister, an investment banker with Allegiance Capital Corporation, who is going to be testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today.
ANDERSON COOPER: Fred McCallister joins us now.
Fred, why do you think that BP would prefer to use dispersants over skimmers?
FRED MCCALLISTER, VICE PRESIDENT, ALLEGIANCE CAPITAL CORPORATION: Anderson, thank you for having me on tonight.
The issue that BP is facing right now is whether to use what’s practices that are normal around the world, which is to try to cause the oil to come to the surface, and then deploy the right amount of equipment and the right type of equipment to gather that oil up and get it out of the Gulf.
Using the dispersants allows the oil to stay under the surface, and this accomplishes several purposes. It allows the — it makes it a lot more difficult to quantify the amount of oil that’s coming out, which has a direct impact on damages and royalties that have to be paid.
Exxon researchers have already admitted that its dispersant products, Corexit 9527A and Corexit 9500A, are significantly toxic for aquatic life. But no one knew how toxic the chemicals are for humans. John Sheffield, president of Alabaster Corporation, which makes Sea Brat 4, a safer, less toxic alternative to Corexit, contacted me with accusations that he believes Exxon has known for quite a while that the primary ingredient in Corexit is very toxic.
He included the material safety data sheets for various Corexit products and documents issued from the companies involved to support his claims, which I have pasted below (pdf). In some cases, I have included screen shots from outside sources (CITGO, for example) to bolster Sheffield’s claims.
This gets a little dense, but the key word to look out for is”Norpar,” Exxon’s line of solvants.
This product (Norpar) is basically kerosene. Although kerosene and napthalene (cigarette lighter fluid) are typically the main ingredients.
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:
John Wutsell Jr., a fisherman who was hospitalized after becoming ill while cleaning up oil in the Gulf, has filed a temporary restraining order in federal court against BP.
Apparently, Wutsell missed the update issued by BP CEO Tony Hayward that he wasn’t made sick by oil fumes, or exposure to Corexit, but by food poisoning.
Wutsell (who experienced severe headaches, nosebleeds, and stomach pains) humbly disagrees, and he wants BP to give the clean-up workers masks, and — get this insane demand — not harass workers who publicly voice their health concerns.
On Friday, Wutstell was airlifted to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, Louisiana, where he remained hospitalized Sunday.
“At West Jefferson, there were tents set up outside the hospital, where I was stripped of my clothing, washed with water and several showers, before I was allowed into the hospital,” Wutstell sais. “When I asked for my clothing, I was told that BP had confiscated all of my clothing and it would not be returned.”
Hm, now why would BP want to confiscate all of Wutsell’s clothing? One possibility is that they want to destroy any evidence that they’ve been exposing workers to unsafe conditions so as to avoid future criminal liability charges.
The President and the media can’t help BP rush through the unpleasantness of poisoning the ocean quickly enough. First, the government (starting with Bush, but extending through Obama’s reign) staffed the MMS with incompetents, who apparently alternated between allowing oil and gas company workers to fill out their own inspection forms, accepting Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets from offshore drilling companies, and smoking crystal meth.
What I’m trying to say is, the MMS was extremely busy, which is probably why they didn’t notice BP’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil in the event of a fiery explosion, which by the way, totally happened. But who has time to check superfluous stuff like a blowout preventer? I mean, that meth isn’t going to smoke itself.
BP has shown a desire to cover its own ass by allegedly forbidding clean-up crews to wear respirators so as to avoid future negligence lawsuits even as it continues to dump toxic dispersants, which have been banned in the UK, ignoring the EPA’s pleas to find a less toxic (and extremely available) version.
Though President Obama has asked the media to place the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, it’s clear BP was woefully unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude (even though they told the government they could handle a spill 60 times larger than Deepwater Horizon). The truth is the company really didn’t have a contingency plan for something of this scale.
A blowout like this one apparently wasn’t expected, although it should have been. One of the most stunning examples of BP’s lack of preparation is evidenced in the emergency-response strategy report it prepared in accordance with federal law. The report runs 583 pages, but is alarmingly short on how to stop a deep-sea spill.
Perhaps BP’s disaster management was a bit light on the details because the government wasn’t asking tough questions. The MMS, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling, is disastrously managed. A report issued recently by the IG outlines the same familiar type of cronyism and corruption that has become a systemic rot in Washington.
Scientists have discovered a massive new oil plume stretching 22 miles toward Mobile Bay, Alabama. This is the second major plume to be discovered (the first was found underwater). Ironically, dispersants, the stuff that is supposed to coagulate the oil and sink it beneath the surface of the water, may be the culprits responsible for the plumes.
The researchers say they are worried these undersea plumes may be the result of the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil a mile undersea at the site of the leak.
[David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science,] said the oil they detected has dissolved into the water, and is no longer visible, leading to fears from researchers that the toxicity from the oil and dispersants could pose a big danger to fish larvae and creatures that filter the waters for food.
This was to be expected.
Last week, the wives of some of the fishermen spoke out publicly about the symptoms their husbands were experiencing. This week, some fishermen are starting to come forward. In this WDSU TV interview, one of the fishermen reports feeling drugged, disoriented, tingling, fatigued, and also reporting shortness of breath and cough. These are symptoms that are consistent with what one might expect from exposure to hydrocarbons in oil.
Maybe. But these are also some of the symptoms reported by individuals who were exposed to Corexit.
One of the two Corexit products that BP is suing [sic] in the Gulf also contains a compound that is associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems
Corexit is also linked with respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.
Obviously, there’s no way to tell what is causing these symptoms, and BP has no interest in allowing the media to find out. Many of the fishermen working for BP signed contracts that forbid them to talk to the press, and BP is ruling the Gulf area with an iron fist. Even CEO Tony Hayward has joined the fun, and is shouting at random cameramen.
This afternoon I spoke with John Sheffield, president of Alabaster Corporation, which makes Sea Brat 4, a safer, less toxic alternative to Corexit, the chemical dispersant BP is currently using in the Gulf.
Sheffield voiced his frustration that — despite the fact that Sea Brat is safer than Corexit, ready to be shipped, EPA-approved, and his company is capable of producing enough product to cope with the spill — BP has decided to instead go with Corexit.
He blames the Corexit monopoly on the fact that one of the board members of Nalco (the company that makes Corexit) is Rodney F. Chase, a former BP board member. This cozy relationship with BP provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup, Sheffield says.
Additionally, switching to Sea Brat would basically entail BP acknowledging that they’ve known about a safer dispersant alternative for decades, and despite the UK banning Corexit, and now the EPA requesting BP find a safer dispersant, BP decided to press forth with a chemical that bears a “striking molecular resemblance to anti-freeze.”