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 other day, I was discussing the “branding” of the BP disaster with a friend. Calling this catastrophe a “spill” seems like a laughable understatement, and my phrasing (the “oil geyser”) wasn’t really catchy. A few weeks ago, the term “oil volcano” emerged, I think because it was first used by Rachel Maddow, and I believe it captures the severity of the situation.
So this thing, the oil volcano, has been pumping thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean every single day. That much is undeniable. BP can’t approach the media and say, “Epic disaster is all over, folks!” because there are cameras (now HD video) down there, filming the whole thing.
The company attempted to use dispersants (hundreds of thousands of gallons of the toxic stuff) in order to coagulate the oil and sink it to the bottom, conveniently hiding the true toll of the oil volcano from the world. Except, that didn’t work entirely, and some endangered birds got snagged in the sludge.
Literally, there is nothing BP can now do in order to mend its public image except lie. And lie they have. Tony Hayward blamed workers’ illnesses on food poisoning instead of acknowledging exposure to oil fumes and dispersants tend to make individuals sick. BP denied the existence of those massive underwater oil plumes. You know, the ones NOAA just confirmed exist.
The MMS granted a drilling permit yesterday to Bandon Oil and Gas that will allow the company to drill 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in a water depth of 115 feet. Reports of MMS banning drilling for six months apply only to depths greater than 500 feet. Nonetheless, the fact that MMS is still issuing any permits has angered some people.
“I’m outraged,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Center for Biological Diversity, after a reporter told him of the new permit. “How is it that shallow water drilling suddenly became safe again?”
Suckling said the administration was misleading the public by quietly resuming work in shallow waters while acting as if it was taking a tough look at deepwater work.
Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff assures everyone that anyone drilling in shallow-water operations will have to meet certain specified standards.
“All operators who are drilling or intend to drill in shallow water must first meet applicable interim safety standards announced last week by the president,” Barkoff said. “Those operators who are already drilling must stop at a safe place and implement the safety requirements before continuing.”
It’s difficult to take any assurances coming from ID or MMS seriously, since the startling mismanagement and deregulation trends began under their watch. It’s a bit like if a surgeon severs a patient’s pulmonary vein, and as blood shoots up like a mini-geyser, asks the entire OR to “just trust” them.
It’s easier to trust people who haven’t massively fucked up everything.
“When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at,” said a BP contract worker who took the Daily News on a surreptitious tour of the wildlife disaster unfolding in Louisiana.
His motive: simple outrage.
“There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here,” the contractor said.
For good reason, there has been a lot of public outrage over BP’s “iron fist” handling of the spill zone. MoJo’s Mac McClelland has been reporting on the media blackout.
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.