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bobrien On June - 4 - 2010

When British Petroleum (BP) applied for a permit to build the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and begin drilling, it claimed to have the technology and know-how to handle any oil spill.

But in the face of an actual spill, BP is much less confident. “This scares everybody: the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far,” BP CEO Doug Suttles said. “Many of the things we’re ­trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 ft.”

They’ve never been tried at 5,000 feet. Drilling for oil this deeply under the ocean is a relatively new enterprise for our species. Oil has been drilled offshore in shallow water for more than a century. But deepwater drilling is much more expensive than shallow-water drilling. For a long time drilling in deep water wasn’t tried, because it would have cost more to extract a barrel of oil than a barrel of oil was worth on world markets. It took the spikes in oil prices in recent years to make deepwater drilling profitable.

Politicians and oil executives assured us that offshore oil drilling was safe. Those tree huggers who worry about environmental disasters are nuts, they said. Yes, there have been oil rig disasters in the past, but (big wink) we know what we’re doing now. Trust us.

The laws of physics work differently nearly a mile underwater than they do on land, or shallow water, however. By now, it is obvious BP is still trying to invent a procedure that might stop the oil leak, maybe, if we’re lucky. No one appears to have been ready for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Really, this “trust us” business is getting old. How many times have we been told to “trust” some new thing, and then when the dangers surface we find out the “trusted” ones hadn’t told us the whole truth?

In the mid-20th century we humans went into overdrive digging asbestos out of the earth to use in countless structures and products. There is asbestos in navy ships, asbestos in our homes and schools, asbestos in old car parts, asbestos in landfills. And eventually, years after medical science had determined asbestos exposure causes terrible disease, industry executives and politicians reluctantly agreed to shut down asbestos production, or at least most of it. And now the cost of asbestos abatement and mesothelioma treatment is an ongoing problem for individuals, taxpayers, and businesses.

And do we want to talk about Vioxx? Tanning beds? And now there are questions being asked about Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in just about every plastic bottle you’ve ever touched. It may be dangerous, it may not. Opinions vary. Just note that the same political and business leaders who deny BPA could be dangerous are the same ones who like to yell “drill, baby, drill.”

Barbara O’ Brien

June 2, 2010

20 Responses so far.

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  1. AdLib says:

    T he
    R epublicans
    U ndermining
    S ociety
    T hroughout

    U nited
    S tates

  2. PatsyT says:

    Thank You Barbara,
    That’s the GOP mantra -Trust Us-
    Trust Us to put the Corporations in charge of everything while we look the other way.
    The scary part is …. How many other industries have been getting away with lax oversight.
    Nuke Plants ?
    Small Government leads us straight to Disaster
    where we need a massive mega Government to fix things up.
    How about just Medium Government that can be flexible sometimes large or sometimes small as needed?

  3. AdLib says:

    Barbara, a warm welcome to The Planet!

    Keeping in mind that corporations were essentially handed control over regulatory agencies, especially in a blatant way in the Bush Admin, it is not surprising that we find ourselves in this position.

    Corporations and corporate-controlled regulators traded winks and nods in their assurances. Neither side cared about the truthfulness of their assurances, they were done for appearances. The only concern for both parties was to dismantle and evade regulations and responsibility in order to maximize profits.

    It would be common sense to require that a corporation had the technology and planning to resolve a disaster that their ventures might cause. Instead, BP virtually guaranteed there wouldn’t be a disaster and regulators simply accepted that total fabrication as fact…to best serve the corporations over the public.

    Imagine if those building nuclear reactors did the same, gave absolute assurances accidents weren’t possible and even if one occurred, it would be minimal. Then one day, a severe incident happens and they have no plan or technology to stop that plant from exploding like Chernobyl.

    The corporate domination of our nation and much of the planet is destroying our society economically and environmentally. If we don’t find a way to loosen their hold, their mindset of short term profits over long term sustainability will likely continue to undermine the future for all of us.

    • PepeLepew says:

      Actually, it went on before Bush. Think Reagan. I used to be involved in the world of forest and riparian management, and Reagan and Bush Sr. and their cronies appointed a hell of lot of former timber industry execs and managers in charge at the U.S. Forest Service forest management divisions. All they cared about was “getting out the cut” without any regard to the damage being done to the Pacific Northwest. The revolving door was sickening. Same thing going on at MMS, obviously.

      • AdLib says:

        Absolutely right. Reagan was the first true corporate-owned candidate and his Treasury Sec’y and later CoS was the Merill Lynch Chairman and CEO, Don Regan…who was seen as a stealth president during his time in the White House. Here’s some info from Wikipedia on Donald Regan:

        ABOUT DON REGAN:
        After the War, he joined Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. in 1946, as an account executive trainee, working up through the ranks, eventually taking over as Merrill Lynch’s chairman and CEO in 1971, the year the company went public. He held those positions until 1980.

        Regan was one of the original directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation and was vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange from 1973 to 1975. Regan was a major proponent of brokerage firms going public, which he viewed as an important step in the modernization of Wall Street; under his supervision, Merrill Lynch had its IPO on June 23, 1971, becoming only the second Wall Street firm to go public, after Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.

        During his tenure in these two positions, Regan also pushed hard for an end to minimum fixed commissions for brokers, which were fees that brokerage companies had to charge clients for every transaction they made on the clients’ behalf; Regan saw them as a cartel-like restriction. In large part thanks to his lobbying, fixed commissions were abolished in 1975.

        President Ronald Reagan selected Regan in 1981 to serve as Treasury Secretary, marking him as a spokesman for his economic policies, dubbed “Reaganomics.” He helped engineer tax reform, reduce income tax rates and ease tax burdens on corporations. Regan unexpectedly swapped jobs with then White House Chief of Staff James Baker in 1985. As Chief of Staff, Regan was closely involved in the day to day management of White House policy, which led Howard Baker, Regan’s successor as Chief of Staff, to give a rebuke that Regan was becoming a “Prime Minister” inside an increasingly complex Imperial Presidency. Regan resigned from his post in 1987 due to his involvement with the Iran-Contra Affair, and frequent clashes with the President’s wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Regan

      • choicelady says:

        Thank you, Bobrien! VERY well said! Pepe -- I’d begin with Carter and the Trilateral Commission’s study on all the things that have to happen to “free up” the global marketplace work by gigantic corporations. In the 1970s there were Senate investigations into corporate power led by SD Senator James Abourezk that occurred precisely as the notion of “deregulation” became the mantra for “freeing” small competitive business. Well deregulation is simply the first step toward monopoly or oligopoly. Once the “too big to fail” companies got their hands on more and more smaller businesses through mergers and acquisitions, they more the big players could dominate legislation giving them MORE, not less, control. The person who ushered that in was Carter, not even Reagan. Carter drank the deregulation Kool Aid, and the world began to crumble from there.

        “Trust us” became the mantra for -- stay out of our way and don’t bother us with your piffling regulations. We are Godzilla, and you’re nothing under our feet.

        So we now reap what got sown. The handful of us hollering against the global market and its destruction of people, environment, small business, and democracy were told we were Luddites. Well to me that’s not an insult -- the Luddites were right!

        So whatever we have now, thank Carter, and whatever he is today, he wasn’t that back in his presidency. He made this all possible, including Three Mile Island, so why the HELL should we trust any of them now? Been there, done that. Never again!

  4. Mightywoof says:

    I think Trust Us are words that should be viewed with suspicion! Excellent article Barbara. I’ve always been confused by folks who view governments with suspicion but seem comforted by big businesses and blindly allow them to carry on business as usual!

    I wish asbestos mining was dead as a Dodo -- to my eternal shame, it is still being mined up here. We export 95% of our asbestos from 3 mines remaining in Quebec. It’s a vile product but the Canadian government continually vetoes international efforts to label it as dangerous!

    http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/features/asbestos/index.html

    • choicelady says:

      Mighty- I am so sorry! I always expect more from your smart and reasonable nation. I guess some things are too rich and important for even good governments to handle well. I AM sorry about their recalcitrance since the science is in, and we all know the truth.

      • Mightywoof says:

        I always expect more as well CLady and I can’t even blame the Conservatives for this. We’ve been riding the tail of the free-market dragon for the last 20 years since the days of Mulroney and Nafta through the Liberals under Chretien/Martin and now Harper’s lot! All in the name of reducing debt and reducing taxes to stay competitive with the States -- but this asbestos business (coupled with our dragging our feet on environmental reform because heaven forbid we actually did anything before the Americans) is criminal behaviour on the part of our government.

        • choicelady says:

          Makes me long for the days of Trudeau! I saw him once in Ottawa, crossing the street all alone. It was 11 years after Kennedy’s assassination, and it made me SO admiring of Canada that the PM could wander around Capitol hill and be not afraid. Wow.

          I know everyone hopped on the free market bandwagon; I taught in Cape Breton in 1990 and even then the folks I was with were afraid of the government’s press to close Sidney Steel, to shut the mines, and limit the fishing determining that “tourism” would make up the difference. What a joke! I’ve not been back but do know they succeeded. The mill is gone and with it all those jobs. Most of the mines are idle. Don’t know about the fishing. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Reagan, Thatcher, and all the supply side fanatics have SO much to answer for! “Trust us” -- HAH.

          • Mightywoof says:

            I admired Trudeau as much for his quirky nature as for his keen intelligence. I had such hopes for Michael Ignatieff when he became the Liberal leader seeing qualities in him of the keen intelligence but he has become a dud. The Liberals have become so frightened of causing another general election that the Tories are creating omnibus budget bills and daring the Liberals to do anything about it *sigh* -- where’s a Trudeau when you need one!

          • Khirad says:

            That’s one of the top places I would like to go in Canada.

            • Mightywoof says:

              Me too, Khirad! I’ve been to PEI many times and fell in love with it -- that’s where hubby and I plan to retire. When we finally get to live on the Island I plan to explore Cape Breton at my leisure.

            • Mightywoof says:

              It was built in 1997, Pepe. My neighbours son in law worked on that bridge -- on the PEI side there is a memorial, for want of a better word, and there is a brick for every person who worked on that bridge with that person’s name on it -- kinda kewl!

              If there was a controversy it has been long forgotten -- the bridge has been a boon to the economy bringing tourists (especially golfers). It’s the sweetest sight in the world to me -- when I drive that bridge I can feel myself relaxing; it’s a whole ‘nother world.

              When you’re in the mood to watch paint dry -- this is the bridge webcam

              http://tinyurl.com/qgn348

            • PepeLepew says:

              Holy cow, look at that brute.

              I’m fascinated by the engineering that goes into monster bridges. I assume there must have been some controversy over it, however. If I lived on PEI, I would’ve been saying, “Oh, great, more tourists.” (Though I can imagine people saying, oh, GREAT, more tourists!) It was built about 10 years ago, right?

            • Mightywoof says:

              Yup, Pepe -- 8 miles long and takes about 13 minutes to cross


            • PepeLepew says:

              Now I hear they built a giant bridge to PEI?


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