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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: What worries you most about the BP oil spill?

Sure, it’s a nightmare that keeps getting worse. It has ruined, perhaps irreversibly, environments that cannot be replaced. It has revealed the extent of how transnational corporations rule us: after arranging for legislation that practically guaranteed such a disaster was inevitable, BP is now in charge of the situation, down to dictating orders to the U.S. Coast Guard and refusing to allow photographers and journalists into all affected areas.

Oh, and after being cheap bastards who put money over safety, the catastrophe is barely making a dent in BP’s profits.

I don’t know how BP execs sleep at night. I hope they don’t.
I feel like I’m watching the first act of a disaster movie, the bits when Tommy Lee Jones or John Cusack is running around sceaming that things are much worse than they seem, dammit and no one will listen. Except in a bunker somewhere in rural Virginia, where government scientists know it’s actually even worse than that, and are building a space ark to make their escape. And Tommy Lee Jones or John Cusack won’t make it to the ark this time.

I keep thinking about the scene in Soylent Green where Edward G. Robinson is looking through the oceanographic reports that say the oceans are dead…

It was rather refreshing yesterday to see journalists asking actually tough, hard questions of a BP exec at a press conference, even to the point of flat out saying that we cannot trust a damn thing BP says. Still, the horse has already escaped, and the barn is on fire: why didn’t anyone give a shit while the door could have been closed?

And just for fun, here comes an extreme hurricane season. Storm surge with oil? Yum.

What worries you most about the BP oil spill?

Some good, if very technical stuff, about the “Top Kill” and “Junk Shot” at The Oil Drum (here and here). For environmental impact, see NOAA’s site on the disaster.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Alli

    What scares me? That this can’t be stopped. That the damage is only just beginning. I think about all the people in the gulf who are still trying to put there lives back together from Hurricane Katrina. I think about how it will affect their health, their livelihood. I think more and more how I want to say f’ck the oil and coal industries (F*ck Massey Energy and Don Blankenship too), and live off of solar power.

    This also solidifies my decision not to drive to class once my Graduate program begins. First, it’s healthier for me. Second, I’ll feel better knowing all my money isn’t going to BP.

  • Keith

    Just be aware that EVERYTHING in your home made of plastic or rubber comes from the oil industry. Also, as a portable fuel source, nothing comes close to gasoline. Much as we wish it otherwise, these are the facts.

    Actually I understand that a hurricane would help disperse the oil. Certainly an environmentally safer dispersant than some of the chemicals they are using. There are reports of cleanup workers getting sick from being exposed to that stuff, and questions about how well they have been trained.

    People should be going to jail over all this. It’s not like they didn’t have the proper equipment for the job. The equipment was clearly broken (damaged annular seal, leaky BOP hydraulics, malfunctioning electronics), but BP decided to go ahead anyway because they were so far behind schedule.

    I don’t have anything that particularly scares me about the oil spill over anything else. That they would be unable to stop it would be pretty scary, but they’re not out of options yet. One extreme one would be a tactical nuke. Getting freaked out about the situation isn’t going to help anything one bit.

  • There’s a lot of things that worry me about this oil spill.

    What if this gets into the underground water here in Florida?

    What if a storm or hurricane blows in, and rather than disperse the oil in such a way as to make it harmless, takes it all up and dumps an inch of oil coating all over everything?

    What if the BP and Transocean executives responsible for this deregulatory, cut all corners, screw America bullshit never see the inside of a jail cell like they so richly deserve?

  • I_Sell_Books

    What worries me most?

    That nothing will change because of it.

    Full disclosure: my spouse has written software for that rig and is quite frankly full of disgust for not only the shoddy operation of Hear No Evil, See No Evil, and Evil, but for the Gub’m’nt as well. The blame lies with them for not enforcing stricter regulation from the get-go. I blame BP as well, for having such an insanely crap corporate culture.

  • Yes, that was my first thought, too. That we are so addicted to oil that this is just another spill we won’t learn anything from and the companies won’t be seriously punished for.

    When people talk about solving problems in this country, they don’t realize that the big problems are built into our way of life.

  • MaryAnn

    When people talk about solving problems in this country, they don’t realize that the big problems are built into our way of life.

    I think some people, at least, do realize. It’s just that oil is *so* entrenched into our lifestyles that it’s almost impossible to avoid it even if you want to, even if you’re aware of it’s ubiquitousness. It’s very frustrating.

  • Mimi

    I find it incredibly depressing to think about all the fascinating, unique ecosystems going about their business wayyyyy down deep in the ocean, and how every day, a massive oil plume creeps over more of them. We humans have a hard time reacting to things we can’t see.* Dead dolphins piss us off (as they should), but massive dead coral reefs and strange deep-water creatures are down there too, and we barely even know about them yet. Too late. I just find that particular aspect so sad.

    * kind of like how we can all jump up and donate money when there’s a big, sudden disaster (9/11, Katrina), but we can’t muster up the collective will to do much about global warming or the oil consumption that requires filthy oil drilling. Also, terribly sad, and frustrating, and makes me wonder if that flaw will be the end of us.

  • Max

    I’m worried there is no ‘Manhattan project’, Apollo program, or polio vaccine equivalent, because the government no longer regulates the private sector, and is not even a partner of the private sector, but is a puppet on the strings of the private sector.

    Grover Nordquist’s wish has been granted, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

    Who will save us now?

  • Ogami Itto

    don’t know how BP execs sleep at night. I hope they don’t.

    They don’t — everybody knows that blood-sucking vampires don’t sleep at night.

  • Tilman Hesse

    When oil drilling started in the last century, such spills were norm, not exception. Of course they didn’t happen deep in the ocean, but on land. After a few months of free flow, pressure was finally low enough to actually capture the oil. Huge areas were poisoned by this…
    I also think its very unfair to blame the company in any way. What BP did, all the time, was to provide the service our society demands: cheap oil. They are in fact one of the more responsible companies. Such an event could have happened to any company. And as I said, oil extraction has always poisoned places. Last year there was a large spill next to Australia – it just didn’t make our headlines.
    A good thing is that the age of oil is coming to an end. World wide production has hit a peak for the last five years and is expected to decline. This will provide reason to change our way of living. Of course, with this looming scarcity there will be more drilling in extreme and dangerous places. That’s why did the “Deepwater Horizon” actually made (or tried) the deepest drill yet, or why the Canadians will destroy landscape the size of a small country for the tar sands.

  • nnvee

    What worries me the most about the BP oil spill?

    People like @Keith @Tilman Hesse whose attitudes toward the spill are: Don’t blame BP. Be grateful for the cheap products oil provides. (respectively)

    Don’t blame BP? Okay then let’s blame Halliburton. They built the platform on the failed oil rig. Name sound familiar? It’s the same company that is associated with Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney is chiefly responsible with deregulation in the oil industry then he turns around and profits from that very deregulation. Dick Cheney also the mastermind that falsely used American Armed forces to attack an oil rich country to which the bill is reaching into the trillions. Dick Cheney is a pimp the American taxpayer are his ‘ho’s. Oil is cheap my ass.

    As more intelligent posters on this board have pointed out it worries me that we will not learn from this. We are running out of time to have a healthy existence or existence at all on this planet.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Yep, I_sell_books stated my worst fear too.

    Accountability is for little people. We won’t hold our politicians accountable for war crimes, we won’t hold our banks responsible for money laundering, we won’t hold coal companies responsible for gross negligence, why on earth would be do anything about BP?

    And yes, everything I’ve heard from BP points to gross negligence. They did not vet their partner companies, they lied on their environmental reports, and they shirked training, they mishandled the cleanup (I highly recommend this diary discussing “booming” and just how badly BP is mishandling it: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/5/11/865387/-Fishgrease:-DKos-Booming-School), ignored government demands, and have been continually low-balling the speed of the gusher to the point where you just have to assume they know better, and are now simply lying. If this is best practices, then the whole fucking industry needs to be shut down NOW, because it means the rest of the industry is being run by chain-smoking spider monkeys on Meth.

    And I have zero faith in this administration to do a god-damned thing about it. They’ve never held anyone accountable yet, I think it’s naive to think they’ll start now.

  • AJP

    You want accountability? For most people, look in the mirror. The public had a fit when gas hit $4 per gallon a while back. We demanded that our government do something about this. We demanded that no drilling be done in the easy places, pushing the rigs to deep water. We insist that we want to limit our imports of foregin oil.

    It isn’t BP that’s pulling the strings of government, it is consumers having a hissy fit and demanding cheap gasoline drilled from areas they can’t see and not so much imported from overseas. We got exactly what we wanted. It just turns out, that we didin’t think about what our various contradictory demands would result in. Well, its time to pay the piper.

    My fear? People won’t realize that they can’t have cheap gas just because we pout and demand it, and the only way to change is to invest in actual alternative fuel sources. I fear that people who bitch about wind farms, and solar farms, and nuclear plants won’t get told to go screw themselves.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    You want accountability? For most people, look in the mirror. The public had a fit when gas hit $4 per gallon a while back. We

    Oh come on.

    Yes, the public is “responsible” for the company drilling for oil in dangerous areas. Why is that being used to deflect criticism of the SPECIFIC things done by the company that made this disaster both more likely, and much worse? Getting off our addiction to oil is the long-term solution to prevent this shit from happening again. Ensuring that existing regulations to make rigs safer is a short-to-mid term solution that contains the seeds of the long-term shift away from oil, by forcing consumers to eat the prices of those environmental regulations instead of externalizing those costs. If the company that created the mess can’t fix it, why have we not declared a state of emergency and brought in people who can? Holding those who flaunt those laws accountable for their actions is the only way those regulations are going to have any teeth.

    This should not be about choosing between short term accountability and harm reduction and long term elimination of the source of the problem.

  • AJP

    Ensuring that existing regulations to make rigs safer is a short-to-mid term solution that contains the seeds of the long-term shift away from oil, by forcing consumers to eat the prices of those environmental regulations instead of externalizing those costs. If the company that created the mess can’t fix it, why have we not declared a state of emergency and brought in people who can?

    This is the first rig spill in American waters in 40 years. How much safer do you think the regulations could have made things? The safety record of U.S. drilling in the last half century is pretty good.

    But to get to your second point: people won’t eat the prices of the environmental regulations. People had a hissy-fit when the price of gas went up. We want heavy environmental regulation, lower foreign imports, and cheap gas at the pump. We can’t have all those without BP drilling in deep water like this. Adding a bunch of safety features, while a good idea, will make gas cost more. We have to be prepared to pay that. I worry that we won’t. The regulations for BP and other oil companies were light because imposing heavier ones would drive up cost, and no Congressman wants to be responsible for that.

    As to why we have not declared a state of emergency and brought in someone else, as Admiral Allen pointed out, if you take BP out of the picture, who exactly do you replace them with?

  • RogerBW

    This is where BP does a better job that Bush’s government: it hires competent PR people. Otherwise this would be a reputation-killer on the level of Katrina.

  • marshall

    What makes me upset is that people aren’t getting more pissed off at this. I feel like there should be yelling, shouting, angry mobs outside of BP gas stations boycotting and protesting. What upsets me is that people in general don’t think this is a big deal, like this only effects the gulf region and no where else.

    But.. this is how the world ends – not with a bang but a whimper.

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