Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oil Spill Related Dick Moves That You May Not Have Heard About

This article appears in the July 2010 issue of Bazooka Magazine.

If you think that BP, Haliburton, the MMS, and the other key players in the Deepwater oil spill are content with being everyday evil corporations, you’re not paying attention. These guys are vying for, and in some cases attaining, full-fledged super-villain status, which is normally reserved for people who go up against Batman, or at least James Bond.

• You’ve probably heard about the Inspector General’s report blasting the Mineral Management Service (the government agency in charge of regulating oil drilling) for filing false reports, taking gifts from the industry it was regulating, and (as Dave Barry would say, I Am Not Making This Up) having coke and stripper parties with oil industry bigwigs. This report is usually brought up by conservatives who want to attribute the oil spill to the failures of Obama’s big, scary, socialist government. The minor detail they usually leave out is that the report covers the period from 2005 to 2008, when a couple of oilmen ran the executive branch.

• According the the London Telegraph, BP head Tony Hayward dumped about a third of his company shares back in March (just over a month before the Deepwater explosion). All told, that stock is worth at least $650 million dollars less today than it was when Hayward made the sale. While the Telegraph states that “there is no suggestion that he acted improperly or had prior knowledge that the company was to face the biggest setback in its history,” a couple of other items on this list do make the sale sound a tiny bit suspicious.

• Like, for example, the fact that Goldman-Sachs sold off about half of their BP stock between January and March of this year, according to the New York Post. The liquidation began right after Goldman International Chairman Peter Sutherland stepped down from his chairmanship at (drumroll) British Petroleum.

• On April 12 (8 days before the Deepwater explosion), Haliburton--you know, the guys who built the Deepwater rig--bought a company called Boots & Coots. What is Boots & Coots? It’s an “emergency response oil control company.” They clean up oil spills. Obviously, Haliburton only bought the company because it rhymes with “Brown & Root” and the fact that Deepwater exploded a week later was just a fortunate coincidence. It’s not like they had any indication that the disaster was going to happen.

• Except, of course, that there are a lot of indications that BP and their corporate buddies had plenty of warning that this was coming, or at least very likely. According to Mother Jones, BP engineers noted concern that a metal casing used on the well would not hold up under pressure in June of 2009. BP ignored its own safety standards and used the casing anyway. BP also documented numerous problems with the blow out preventer, which should have shut off the well when the disaster happened. On top of that, BP and their BFFs at the MMS knew about issues with cracks in the rock (which can let in natural gas and cause explosions) since at least February--around the time everybody was unloading BP stock.

• If you’re trying to convince yourself that BP just made a bad business gamble by keeping Deepwater in operation, and all the stock market shadiness is just good business, try this on for size: They’re burning endangered sea turtles. Alive! This is on top of all the dead animal carcasses that according to some sources the company is destroying illegally to keep their fines (which are based in part on documented animal corpses) down.

• Not too long after the sea turtle story came out, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard announced that reporters would not be allowed within 65 feet of any boom, booming operation, or spill response team. Anyone who gets too close could face a $40,000 fine and felony charges. This blatant violation of the First Amendment, which Anderson Cooper has recently been vocal about (at least until somebody reminds him that he’s part of the corporate media) makes it hard for reporters to see and photograph or film the all oil-covered baby seals. And yes, I realize that there aren’t any seals in the Gulf of Mexico, but at this point would it really surprise you to find out that BP had some flown a few in just so they could dip them in oil?

In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that to BP’s credit they did order 32 oil centrifuges from Kevin Costner’s company, Oil Therapy Solutions. These devices, which Costner and his brother have spent 15 years and over $20 million worth of Bull Durham money developing, can separate large quantities of oil and water very quickly. There’s very little about this that isn’t awesome: the douchey new-agey company name, the mad scientist-sounding description of the machine, and of course the multitude of Waterworld jokes just waiting to happen. I’ll give BP 50 Awesome Points for this decision, but that doesn’t come close to comparing with their Evil Points total, which I won’t divulge due to fear of a $40K fine and several years in prison.