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.
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.