Well, Of Course They Did

This should surprise no one:

The effort to stanch the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was mired by setbacks on Monday as state and federal officials feuded with BP over its failure to meet deadlines and its refusal to stop spraying a toxic dispersant.

The oil company had indicated that it could stem the flow of oil on Tuesday by trying a procedure known as a top kill, in which heavy fluid would be pumped into the well. But on Monday morning the company’s chief operating officer said the procedure would be delayed until Wednesday. At the same time, BP was locked in a tense standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency, which had ordered the company to stop using a toxic chemical dispersant called Corexit by Sunday.

But BP continued spraying the chemical on Monday, despite the E.P.A.’s demand that it use a less toxic dispersant to break up the oil. The company told the agency that no better alternative was available.

At a news conference Monday in Louisiana, state and federal officials continued to hammer BP over its response to the spill.

“BP in my mind no longer stands for British Petroleum — it stands for Beyond Patience,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “People have been waiting 34 days for British Petroleum to cap this well and stop the damage that’s happening across the Gulf of Mexico.”

“What we need to tell BP,” he added, “is excuses don’t count anymore. You caused this mess, now stop the damage and clean up the mess. It’s your responsibility.”

It’s a really tense stand-off. The EPA told them to stop, and BP told them to go piss up a rope. Sternly worded letters will follow.

BP is just acting rationally, if you ask me. They’ve looked at the landscape, realize that even if they get sued for a shitload, the courts will strike it down as unfair, and they know they have nothing to fear from the government because both parties are littered with politicians they’ve completely paid off, and they know damned well that one major party wants to get rid of the EPA and the blue dogs in the Democratic caucus would join them, so they have no reason whatsoever to listen to that agency. Basically, the rational decision for any corporation in this country is to do whatever the fuck you want, because there simply won’t be any consequences. They have a lot of shareholders who will look the other way, a country desperate for oil, politicians completely in their pocket, and they can afford better attorneys than the poor bastards who used to catch shrimp in the Gulf.

That is just how it is in an oligarchy. And I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.

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131 replies
  1. 1
    Gregory says:

    BP is just acting rationally, if you ask me.

    Especially as, if memory serves me right, the dispersants keep the oil from looking like such a big problem on TV.

  2. 2
    Sue says:

    I think a tax break should do the trick.

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    after the way the govt came down on the financial firms, i’m shocked to see BP taking such a stance. shocked.

    shocked like a monkey.

  4. 4
    Rick Taylor says:

    I am kind of stunned to see to what degree we’ve become a corporate run society.

  5. 5
    Butch says:

    I heard Salazar on the news a while ago talking – and I’m paraphrasing – about we’ll eventually reach a point where the government needs to take over from BP. At what point and on what evidence do we ever get there? It should have happened 33 days ago.

  6. 6
    licensed to kill time says:

    Protecting profits and shareholders is Job One(tm)! This is your Free Market operating, talk to the Invisible Hand – maybe it can plug the leak with an invisible finger.

  7. 7
    Emma says:

    Simple answers to simple questions: Change election finance laws. Change election finance laws. Change election finance laws.

    And if you think that will be simple, have I got a bridge for you!

  8. 8
    The Moar You Know says:

    The leak will get plugged when BP feels like it, fuckers. Not one second sooner.

    Shut up, that’s why.

  9. 9
    Ash Can says:

    Didn’t I see someone around here saying earlier that the problem with the government’s relative inaction wasn’t that they didn’t want to do more, but that they didn’t actually have the authority to do more given the lack of regulations in place?

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that what we’re seeing is an instance of Reaganomics coming to its ultimate fruition. Randian utopia indeed.

  10. 10
    Punchy says:

    I have no idea exactly what that dispersant is, but as a chemist, I can tell you that it’s almost certainly an emulsifier, which is ONLY being added (IMO) to keep the oil below the surface, where no one can see it. IOW, it doesn’t remove/break down the oil, it hides it for longer times.

    Of course, there is some truth to the tried-and-true axiom of every chemist — the solution to pollution is dilution. And nothing quite dilutes like the friggin ocean.

  11. 11
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    I think the political situation is not quite as hopeless as that. Love Canal really did change things; I think this will be a similar watershed.

    The environmental situation, on the other hand, is completely fucked.

  12. 12
    Rosalita says:

    This is all nauseating… and will continue unfortunately.

    We can do something, head over to Athenae’s place and help some birdiez

  13. 13
    Joseph Nobles says:

    And then there’s the continually unfolding clown show over at MMS:

    The federal agency responsible for regulating offshore oil drilling repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews.
    __
    Minerals Management Service officials, who receive cash bonuses for meeting federal deadlines on leasing offshore oil and gas exploration, frequently altered their own documents and bypassed legal requirements aimed at ensuring drilling does not imperil the marine environment, the documents show.
    __
    This has dramatically weakened the scientific checks on offshore drilling that were established under landmark laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, according to those who have worked with MMS, which is part of the Interior Department.
    __
    “It’s a war between the biologists and the engineers,” said Thomas A. Campbell, who served as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s general counsel under George H.W. Bush. “They just have a very different worldview, and sometimes the engineers simply don’t listen to the biologists.”

  14. 14
    Keith G says:

    @Rick Taylor:

    Right.

    When I start getting pissed off about how we ignore the perils of the changing climate, I just take a deep breath and consider that our corporate overlords will sink this society way before the worst of climate change kicks in.

  15. 15
    Face says:

    about we’ll eventually reach a point where the government needs to take over from BP. At what point and on what evidence do we ever get there? It should have happened 33 days ago.

    IMO, worst idea ever. Evah. 1) only the oil company really knows WTF to do with a well a mile deep, 2) politically, then the mess becomes Obama’s, and every day its ZOMG OBAMAH JUS KILT MORE PELLYKINZ WIF OYL!

    The nanosecond the gov’t steps in, suddenly this is the worstest debacle Obama has ever caused and managed from day one. Yes, they’ll say that.

  16. 16
    Lee from NC says:

    Hell, at this point BP pretty much is the government. Can’t they just have the Coast Guard deployed to the EPA offices? A few salty seamen breaking the legs of the effete treehuggers ought to get the EPA in line soon enough.

  17. 17
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    That is just how it is in an oligarchy oilgarchy.

    Fixed your spelling.

  18. 18
    Maude says:

    @Rick Taylor:
    It is scary. It’s like one of those old science fiction movies where They takeover.
    I place my money on Obama. I don’t see him saying, gee, okay, we’ll just back down.
    Other countries are watching to see what happens.
    BP is used to the Bush and before types who would let them get away with this.
    Even the bought congress critters can’t go out and defend this one, except for the now very quiet Rand Paul.
    I want to see how Obama handles this one.

  19. 19
    Alan says:

    It’s really too bad for the Gulf oyster and shrimp fisheries. There’s no way I’ll ever eat an oyster or shrimp from the gulf again. The BP execs running this show ought to dismembered for the shit they’re pulling.

  20. 20
    Brent says:

    Oligarchical plutocratic corporatism. Everything we learned in grade school was a lie. All the constitutional and founding father ball sucking being done by the tea baggers and Beck is ludicrous on it’s face, or testicles on their face, since nothing has changed since that aristocratic slave owning genesis. It’s always been what’s good for GM is good for the country and vice versa. Government of, by and for corporations (or BBB, Big Business and Billionaires). It is miracle that we have brief illusory periods of democracy for the common good, such as when Clinton triangulated us all farther to the right and now with Obama serving weak tea reforms. Hey, it’s better than the actual literal facism of the Cheney/Bush years or what would have transpired under McCain/Palin. But it’s still an oligarchy. It has never been about left against right, but up against down.

  21. 21

    @Emma: Pass a law saying that corporations are not people. That simple. Then, corporations don’t have the same rights as people.

  22. 22
    Chyron HR says:

    Does BP have any wells off the coast of China? Obama could send his eco-commandos to blow one of them up, and heads would roll at BP.

    Literally.

  23. 23
    Lee from NC says:

    @Maude:

    Uh, yeah, ’cause AIG and the banks are still smarting from the whooping they got from Obama and Congress. Or not.

  24. 24
    BombIranForChrist says:

    This will be fixed when Obama starts to think it’s politically damaging to him, and not a moment sooner.

  25. 25
    Waldo says:

    This is more of a feel-good measure than a realistic solution but …

    Instead of toxic dispersants, how about we have some of those aircraft they use to fight forest fires swoop down and scoop up the oily seawater and dump it on BP headquarters.

    Couldn’t hurt.

  26. 26
    licensed to kill time says:

    __

    It is scary. It’s like one of those old science fiction movies where They takeover.

    It is kinda like The Blob.

  27. 27
    jayjaybear says:

    Word is that there are conflicts of interest in BP’s choice (and strangely tenacious defense) of Corexit. There are BP and Exxon execs on the Nalco (the manufacturer of Corexit) BoD.

  28. 28

    That is just how it is in an oligarchy. And I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.

    Publicly financed elections.

    Which we won’t get, because Obama raised $150MM in September 2008, and every last one of these clowns thinks s/he can beat that when they run for POTUS.

  29. 29

    And I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.

    Step 1 – Gather a bunch of people who make their living fishing/working in the Gulf.
    Step 2 – Round up a bunch of BP execs.
    Step 3 – Lock them all in a room for an hour.
    Step 4 – Hose out the room.
    Step 5 – Repeat as needed.

  30. 30

    That is just how it is in an oligarchy. And I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.

    I do. But that would require us acting like the 18th Century French. Or Italy at the end of WWII. And I’d like to believe we handle our problems in a more mature fashion.

  31. 31
    russell says:

    The BP execs running this show ought to dismembered for the shit they’re pulling.

    I’d settle for making them pull daily 12 hour shifts raking up oily beach sand until the well is plugged.

    Oh yeah, and then picking up the tab.

  32. 32
    Tomlinson says:

    Of course they are not going to stop using Corexit. If, as increasingly seems likely, this spill is ten times larger than they are admitting – but most of it is deepwater – they want that deepwater spill dispersed as quickly as possible before anyone notices.

    So, in that context, the EPA can go fuvk itself. Who the hell cares what they say when the alternative is the end of the company?

  33. 33
    Pococurante says:

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

    A) “An important feature of corporation is limited liability.”

    In this case Limited <= 75 million.

    B) "As Adam Smith pointed out in the Wealth of Nations, when ownership is separated from management (i.e. the actual production process required to obtain the capital), the latter will inevitably begin to neglect the interests of the former, creating dysfunction within the company."

    Given A plus B how could regulation ever be seen as friend of the citizenry.

    /snarky New Math

  34. 34
    Gregory says:

    @licensed to kill time:

    Protecting profits and shareholders bonuses is Job One™!

    Fixed.

  35. 35
    flukebucket says:

    @Maude:

    I want to see how Obama handles this one.

    You already are.

  36. 36
    Keith G says:

    Is there anyway we can get the CEO of BP classified as a terrorist who has not only caused American deaths but is currently intent on harming more Americans?

    He will never see it coming.

  37. 37

    @jayjaybear: Which hopefully Interior knows about. If they know how to use “Teh Google.”

  38. 38
    john b says:

    i honestly don’t see why the admin doesn’t shut down all future off-shore business for BP for this. and say the same will follow for all companies that screw up this royally in the future.

    of course this won’t happen for some reason. it’s not like our gov’t has the power to stop businesses that are ruining our environment from doing much of anything.

  39. 39
    Jay B. says:

    @BombIranForChrist:

    What does that even mean? He’s going to go in a submersible and personally plug the hole? He’s waiting for the right optics because he’s had a super-secret plan all along? How does this work?

    I’ve been very critical of Obama — and his recent re-commitment to fucking drilling is tone-deaf, insane and horrifying to the point of Bush flashbacks — but to think that he’s holding cards close to his chest waiting for the right moment is just babbling lunacy.

    In a just world, however, he would be leading a more passionate fight for a non-oil-based energy policy while placing BP’s leadership under arrest.

  40. 40
    Pococurante says:

    @john b: Because:

    Minerals Management Service officials, who receive cash bonuses for meeting federal deadlines on leasing offshore oil and gas exploration, frequently altered their own documents and bypassed legal requirements aimed at ensuring drilling does not imperil the marine environment, the documents show. (..) This has dramatically weakened the scientific checks on offshore drilling that were established under landmark laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, according to those who have worked with MMS, which is part of the Interior Department.

    Sort of like our drug war – all the incentive is confiscating citizens’ taxes and property to pay for, well, confiscating more taxes and property.

  41. 41
    Citizen Alan says:

    I am now totally convinced that BP blew the well deliberately. I think the practical effect of the leak plus 33+ days of deliberate foot-dragging will be to totally destroy the ecology of the Louisiana Gulf Coast, and once that ecology is permanently gone, there’s simply no need to close off that area to future drilling. At a certain point, you just have to consider whether gross incompetence might actually be deliberate malfeasance once you realize that there’s a pecuniary interest in the outcome of a major screwup. That do you think the term “disaster capitalism” means.

  42. 42
    LittlePig says:

    @john b: See Revolution, Reagan

    Seeing has how the United States of America became null and void in early 2000, I wished they’d put a name on our new country, just so we’d know what to call it.

  43. 43
    jl says:

    I simply cannot believe people are still defending BP in any way. The new version is that ‘only the oil company” knows how to stop the spill.

    I assume that means ‘only BP’.

    Then why doesn’t BP send all the dozens of other big oil company, private consultants, academic petroleum engineers and government scientists who are working on the problem home?

    After the recent 60 minutes episode it should be clear that BP was guilty of gross negligence, and that they do not know any more about what to do than anyone else.

    I can only assume there are legal obstacles to the government taking over the whole operation. The objections to that course seem silly to me, since the actual BP engineers and scientists who know what they are doing would stay. It would be the corrupt and negligent BP suits that would go.

    I recall from the 60 minutes episode that a corporate guy was flown in and started a pushy fight in the middle of staff meeting to get the contractor to make a last minute change in how to seal the well, hours before the well was going to be sealed. Anyone with common sense should see that BP corporate suits are a big part of the problem, and no part of the solution.

    Why the government did not take control of the cleanup operation from day one is is total mystery to me.

    If BP screws up, the federal government will take the blame anyway. Witness the GOP and Louisiana oil-Dems running around now blaming Obama.

  44. 44
    Michael says:

    @Ash Can:

    No authority. Also, no equipment and no real trained experts on the government payroll, because that might cost money, which would make Texas gazillionaires unhappy.

  45. 45
    Pococurante says:

    @Citizen Alan: That is essentially the argument the GOP has used for global warming. See, it opens up new shipping lanes and polar drill pads…

  46. 46
    cleek says:

    @Pococurante:
    well, strictly speaking, “limited liability” protects owners and investors from being liable for debts of the company beyond their own investments.

  47. 47
    jl says:

    The only thing I can find less convincing than apologetics for BP, is a conspiracy theory that BP did it on purpose to kill the Gulf of Mexico.

    Edit: wrt to limited liability, seems to me that the 75 million cap is an added protection, above and beyond the limited liability of oil company shareholders. So, not the same thing, but in principle, Adam Smith had it correct.

  48. 48
    South of I-10 says:

    The coast looks great. Thanks BP!

  49. 49
    Richard says:

    Something I was unaware of in that Wiki link was that the loan Exxon had to take out made it possible for JPM to make the first modern credit default swap. I’m really trying hard to find something snarky to say, but the utter absurdity of it all is almost too much to bear…

  50. 50
    Citizen Alan says:

    @john b:

    Contra Rand Paul, that would be “un-American.” If it were sufficiently profitable to rape babies, corporate America would be out there tomorrow raping babies with abandon, the Republicans and Blue Dogs would pass a Baby Raping Affordability Act with a veto-proof majority (assuming Obama could even be roused to threaten a veto — Bush would have been whole-heartedly in favor), and the constitutionality of legalized baby-raping would be affirmed by a 5-4 majority of Supreme Court justices. Oh, and 28% of the American people would fully support the constitutional right of corporations to rape babies because “if we don’t, the terrorists will win” or some damn thing.

    I swear to God, I am here till my parents pass away and then I will be out of this doomed Titanic of a nation so fast I’ll leave burning track marks at the border.

  51. 51
    SixStringSlingr says:

    What Face said.
    And BP is negligent as shit for everything that happened up to the blowout but how insane do you have to be to really believe that they don’t WANT to stop that leak? They don’t know what the fuck to do; nobody does. This isn’t 47,000 gallons spilled in Alaska (which most people couldn’t be bothered to care about before) and it sure isn’t widespread environmental damage in Nigeria (which almost nobody seriously cared about), it’s the Gulf of Mexico, America’s south coast playground and fishery. Even short-sighted greedy fucksticks like BP know that this is a giant shit-stew for them. They don’t know what the fuck to do to stop it. In the meantime, they’re doing their best to cover up just how bad the problem is. Typical human nature, there.
    I try not to be a pessimist (it makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning) but, in this case, I think whatever could have been done about this is all on the “before” side of the equation. I think we were fucked the moment the rig blew up.
    Right now, it’s all hands on deck to solve the immediate problem. Afterwards, yep, BP should fucking burn for this, but right now, ineffective, cover-up-distracted help is still better than 100% obstructionism and “It’s in the gubmint’s hands now!” cowardice we would get if we chased BP off of the case.

  52. 52
    LittlePig says:

    @jl: Why the government did not take control of the cleanup operation from day one is is total mystery to me.

    I expect the government is no closer to any kind of implementable-short-term solution than BP is.

    If BP screws up, the federal government will take the blame anyway. Witness the GOP and Louisiana oil-Dems running around now blaming Obama.

    Then why should the government get involved? Seems like you answered your own question.

  53. 53
    Pococurante says:

    BTW, Kate Sheppard (using Ezra Klein’s WP soapbox) has been ragging on Obama non-stop about this.

    I’d point out to a lot of the BOF (Blame Obama First, a multipartisan demographic) crowd that his approach will again be what it always is when dealing with a situation he doesn’t control : force all involved to deal with consequences and implications.

    In this case it’s forcing all citizens to realize the problem with “drill baby drill” when it’s combined with “government is the problem not the answer”. Let the TEA partiers and GOP twist themselves in knots over it. Sad but true there really is little the fed can do right now short of nuking the wellhead.

    Maybe regulation and distance between regulators / corporations is a good thing after all.

  54. 54
    ruemara says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    that’s rather cynical. I think I started to believe that last week.

  55. 55

    […] in Business, Congress, Environment, Government, Law at 1:32 pm by LeisureGuy John Cole at Balloon Juice: This should surprise no one: The effort to stanch the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was […]

  56. 56
    Pococurante says:

    @cleek: My nuance-fu tends to fritz when I’m snarking ;-)

  57. 57
    Citizen Alan says:

    @jl:

    According to AP, the oil has now penetrated at least 12 miles into the Louisiana marshland. That land has significant quantities of oil under it. The only reason that oil has not been the subject of exploration is because the marshlands are protected wildlife habitats. Those habitats were now likely to be utterly destroyed. If you refuse to consider the possibility of a conspiracy to destroy those habitats in order to open them up to drilling, then you are blind to the reality of corporate America.

    The Pelican Brief was a shitty book and a shittier movie, but it was perfectly accurate as to the financial interests at play in southern Louisiana.

  58. 58
    Alex S. says:

    Sometimes, I’d like China to take over right now.

  59. 59
    Elie says:

    I have no evidence besides my opinion, but I believe that the nature of this disaster, and what will be discovered and reinforced about the culture of BP in the aftermath, will be a complete and huge game changer in our political and social environment. The corporate sector is committing suicide — not being killed by outside fources, but killing itself, its credibility — its sense of capability, competence and accountability.

    I have had several impromptu conversations going cross country on business travel with just average Americans and business types (less than ten and not scientific). Uniformly, people seem distressed, if not completely insulted by BP’s attitude. That attitude, in my opinion, the contempt for accountability and responsibility, even compliance with their own procedures — the contempt for documentation and consistent obedience to rules and expectations, has characterized this organization for a long long time and resulted in deaths of many employees. The government is not going to have a real hard time ripping stuff away from them… they are showing their own incapability to deserved anything else. Still, this must be handled carefully… we cannot have these people just walking away. We have to keep them pressed into this and hold them responsible so that we do not have complete abdication. That is how little I trust or believe that they have any honor left…

    As this technical disaster continues without resolution, BP is setting its own fate and it is setting the frame (along with the Financial sector corporations, ) for a meme that has not been strongly in place for a long time — you cannot trust the corporate sector. They will take your money, destroy anything they touch from your retirement, the home you purchased, all the way to the environment that you live in, food that you eat and water and air you need to live.

    I was thinking last night of what it would be like to be the engineer who allowed the damaged BOP to stay in place — who allowed the modification of its design specs, for whatever reason… thinking of the eleven men and their families…of the brown, oil covered pelicans and their newly laid eggs…

    This is not over yet —

    BP is going to never recover from this.

  60. 60
    kay says:

    @Ash Can:

    I just listened to the Coast Guard commander’s press conference (long and detailed, about time, Gibbs) and it really isn’t accurate that there’s been inaction by the government.

    The media are having some difficulty with terms.

    “Responsible party” means one thing in the context of the pollution control act and another thing entirely to the Coast Guard commander. BP is the “responsible party”. He’s command and control of the “responsible party”. He did a great job explaining, but judging from the follow-up questions, I don’t think they get it.

    Speaking for me, I think I’d like to keep that legal term, “responsible party”, in place, and firmly attached to BP. I worry a little about throwing around the term “federalizing” to satisfy media when there’s this much money at stake.

  61. 61
    Mark S. says:

    “BP in my mind no longer stands for British Petroleum — it stands for Beyond Patience,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “People have been waiting 34 days for British Petroleum to cap this well and stop the damage that’s happening across the Gulf of Mexico.” “What we need to tell BP,” he added, “is excuses don’t count anymore. You caused this mess, now stop the damage and clean up the mess. It’s your responsibility.”

    Jesus, I hate to go all libertarian, but if BP could have stopped the fucking spill, they would have done it. If Durban thinks that just telling them to do it will make it happen, he’s an idiot.

    I think the best analogy is a fire that has gotten out of hand. Obama needs to be calling the shots now. BP has shown they can’t stop it.

  62. 62
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @jl:

    I simply cannot believe people are still defending BP in any way. The new version is that ‘only the oil company” knows how to stop the spill.

    People are “defending” BP because they have the engineers that have any sort of clue in hell how to fix the leak, and the federal government doesn’t. Why the hell should the government take over the efforts in this case? It wouldn’t make fixing the problem any easier.

    Nobody but Rand Paul and the like are saying that BP was beyond negligent here and they they’ve got all kinds of hell to pay. But there’s also a damn well that needs to be plugged up. And if you want to plug that damn well, you give the responsibility to the people who best know how (even if “the best” is an incredibly low bar here).

  63. 63
    Alex S. says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    Hmm, I’d say that makes sense, it happened right after the Obama administration allowed more offshore-drilling.

  64. 64
    jl says:

    I will not judge or condemn the WH for what it has or has not done, because I do not know what constraints they face in taking action.

    However, if I were Obama, as soon as BP’s sloppiness and negligence became clear, I would have aggressively tried to take control of every aspect of the operation possible.

    BP faces limited liability, they may have made a business decision that they are maxed out on that liability and have placed more emphasis on protecting themselves from further damage. Maximum effort at containing the damage might just not be the best strategy for them.

    It is clear that they have been uncooperative, were negligent in their operation of the project. The corporate brass clearly has a bad attitude, displayed at the Congressional hearing when they tried the blame game, and when one of their suits said that the spill was small and the ocean was big.

    Try this though experiment.
    BP corporation equals a local mechanic working on your car.
    The spill mess equals a botched job fixing your car.

    Do you trust the mechanic?

    BP corporate flunkes and brass are not the vitally needed expertise. I would have tried to be rid of them asap after their screw up became apparent.

    But maybe I think funny, I don’t know.

  65. 65
    Lee from NC says:

    @South of I-10:

    Those photos really bring it home for me. Catastrophe is an understatement.

  66. 66
    jl says:

    @Sentient Puddle:

    “People are “defending” BP because they have the engineers that have any sort of clue in hell how to fix the leak, and the federal government doesn’t.”

    Please provide some justification for that statement. BP screwed it up, if you will recall.

  67. 67
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @jl: Because the government is not in the business of setting up offshore drilling operations.

  68. 68
    Citizen Alan says:

    @SixStringSlingr:

    Even short-sighted greedy fucksticks like BP know that this is a giant shit-stew for them.

    It is a short-term PR problem and that is all. Give me your best estimate about what it will cost to repair the harm to the Gulf Coast. Now divide that by 30. That’s probably the upper limit if what BP will end up paying. Big Oil’s lackeys in Congress and the press are already coming to BP’s defense to ensure that the company will never pay anything close to the true cost of this spill, and if that fails, thirty years of Republican rule have packed the federal courts with judges who consider the due process rights of corporations to be more important than any rights possessed by human beings. The damages inflicted on the citizens of the Gulf Coast will be “too speculative,” “not supported by the evidence,” “not proximately related to BP’s actions,” or “the result of an intervening cause.”

    It took almost 30 years for the Exxon-Valdez case to get the Supreme Court and it was a near-total victory for the company. Why on earth would anyone think that things will go any differently this time?

  69. 69
    James Hare says:

    I dunno. I gotta love my fellow Americans who lined up at the BP near the apartment I was emptying to save 4 cents a gallon on gas. As long as Americans don’t see a connection between cheap gas and the Gulf disaster, the situation doesn’t change.

    I went to Canada two weeks ago. Coming back to the United States was like going 10 years into the past. Any belief in American exceptionalism should be viewed as delusional thinking.

    I drive to work on roads that barely seem paved, and I can see the Capitol from my apartment balcony. Last week a water main that was over 100 years old broke and caused massive traffic hangups. Driving in my area is a nightmare because they’re adding 4 lanes of private road to 495 in one of the stupidest boondoggles in the history of public-private partnerships.

    The oil spill is a symptom, not the disease. No idea what the disease is.

  70. 70
    Martin says:

    @Punchy: I chatted with one of our chemical engineering folks who is paying a bit of attention to this on the side.

    The explanation that I got was that you are exactly right – hold the oil under the surface so:

    1) It doesn’t get sucked into the loop current (which is strongest at the surface)
    2) It doesn’t get drawn toward shore due to wind effects
    3) It’s less likely to become part of a hurricane tidal surge (hurricane season, bitches!)
    4) It’s less likely to foul the wildlife which is more common near the surface
    5) It can hang out down where the bacteria that like to eat oil can still reach it. It’s the bacteria that actually break it up and make it go away.

    The reason for sticking with this particular dispersant was that while it’s relatively toxic, it biodegrades in a reasonable period of time (around a month) and isn’t suspected of any long-term harm to humans unless you ingest a bunch of it (and the oil you’re also ingesting will probably kill you first).

    Of the others on the EPA list, some aren’t available in bulk and are generally used for smaller spills on rivers and lakes and such. Getting hundreds of thousands of gallons of the stuff simply isn’t possible. Some are hard to disperse, particularly at depth, which is where most of it is going. And some of them are less toxic in the short term but don’t biodegrade or biodegrade extremely slowly and are suspected carcinogens in humans which could prove more damaging in the long run.

    It’s not only that BP is giving the middle finger to the EPA, but that some of the options are simply not feasible, and others might make the recovery workers less temporarily sick in the near term they might make the general public more permanently sick in the long term. BP wouldn’t be wrong to want to avoid class action cancer lawsuits over a bunch of workplace suits that can’t show permanent injury, nor would they be wrong for actually wanting to avoid that – even if the stuff they’re using resulted in a greater wildlife kill rate. Granted, BP should be handing out respirators or whatnot which they certainly aren’t doing either, but I’m becoming more convinced that BP isn’t entirely wrong by their actions. I’m also more convinced that the ‘toxicity’ argument is a lot more complicated than people make it out to be.

  71. 71
    kay says:

    @Sentient Puddle:

    They aren’t just relying on BP. They’ve done some due diligence to check BP’s claims, according to the CG Commander. To do that, they had to contact other oil companies. The question was is there anything available that BP isn’t doing that another giant oil company does or might try, and the answer is “no”.
    It was in response to a (good) question from a reporter who asked if the feds could hire another oil company to cap the leak, so I feel as if the other oil companies would have some incentive to answer that question.

  72. 72
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @Rick Taylor:

    I am kind of stunned to see to what degree we’ve become a corporate run society.

    Time to partay like’s it’s 1899! The modern Republican Party’s 30 Years War on the New Deal is complete!

  73. 73

    We could arrest the BP executives, etc., but since we still live in the oligarchy, and money talks, the government could offer a $1 billion prize to the person or entity that can stop the spill.

  74. 74
    wrb says:

    BP’s response with regard to the dispersants was a little less in-your-face than the press simplification suggests.

    The EPA set a two part requirement:

    The dispersant be less toxic

    The dispersant be as effective.

    BP replied that this was unmeetable. Only 4 dispersants met both requirements and none of them were available in quantity.

    So it wasn’t exactly “fuck you we could but we won’t.”

    Since then the manufacturer of one of the 4 has claimed he can provide it in quantity.

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6499

  75. 75
    Martin says:

    @kay: I understand that they’ve pressed in quite a few petroleum engineers from academia as well on this, and I read yesterday that the Feds have insisted that engineers from other countries be brought in and they’ve been expediting their visas, etc. These have been going on for a number of weeks already.

  76. 76
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle:

    I do. But that would require us acting like the 18th Century French. Or Italy at the end of WWII. And I’d like to believe we handle our problems in a more mature fashion.

    I’d settle for effective over mature at this point for problem solving.

  77. 77
    flukebucket says:

    @SixStringSlingr:

    They don’t know what the fuck to do; nobody does.

    And that is a very sobering thing to ponder.

    @South of I-10:

    The coast looks great. Thanks BP!

    Somebody needs to send that link to Brit Hume. He was wondering not long ago where the oil was.

  78. 78
    Redshift says:

    @Punchy:

    I have no idea exactly what that dispersant is, but as a chemist, I can tell you that it’s almost certainly an emulsifier, which is ONLY being added (IMO) to keep the oil below the surface, where no one can see it. IOW, it doesn’t remove/break down the oil, it hides it for longer times.

    The explanation I heard in a fairly early story about this (from memory, so I can’t cite a source, though I think it was NPR) was that the intent of injecting the dispersant into the flow from the well, which unlike surface spraying has never (or rarely) been tried before, was actually to try to get the oil to sink to the sea floor. The idea being that the seabed a mile down is relatively barren, and it will do much less damage there than in more ecologically active places closer to the surface.

    Take that as you will, but it’s at least a plausible-sounding explanation for why keeping it out of sight isn’t just a PR move (though obviously PR figured into it as well.)

  79. 79
    Joseph Nobles says:

    Brit Hume: Let them eat shrimp!

  80. 80
    El Cid says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage: I had that phrase in my mind just yesterday (“party like it’s 1899”). Hmmm. The times inspire us.

  81. 81
    jl says:

    @Sentient Puddle: You seem to think that BP is the only oil company in the world that does deep sea drilling operations. You also seem to think that there are no petroleum engineering departments full of engineers who work in industry all the time.

    You also seem to confuse the corporate technical staff with the corparate brass.

    In any case, the important thing is not for the US government to seize all operations in the sense of throwing BP person off the site, taking the keys and sending every BP employee to Gitmo. But I think it is wise governmetn policy to exercise due diligence in making sure the BP is making full faith best efforts to fix the leak and provide the public with information and resources to contain the spill.

    I am trusting that the government did that. But I would like to verify at some point.

    Was that done? We don’t know. I am just saying I would have explored every avenue of ensuring BP was at least monitored in everything it did.

    There are corporate legal and financial reasons why BP may not have the proper incentives to do what is good for the public. There needs to be check on them.

  82. 82
    Martin says:

    @wrb: Thanks for the link. The little bit I’ve read so far sounds a fair bit like what I’ve been told by a ChemE over the weekend.

  83. 83
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @kay and @Martin: Pretty much, and this is why I think the whole “get the government to take over cleanup!” is an order of bullshit and chips: what the hell more can they do? This isn’t a problem because the wrong people are managing the cleanup operation. This is a problem because trying to plug a hole in water that deep is a fucking hard engineering problem that nobody really has a solid idea how to fix.

    That and yeah, the government really is doing about all they can anyway.

  84. 84
    jl says:

    @kay: thanks for that information. It makes me feel more confident that the feds have done all they could in making sure all that can be done is being done in terms of fixing the spill.

    I hope the same is true of the containment and clean up effort.

  85. 85
    Elie says:

    @Martin:

    Thank you for a coherent set of facts, clearly presented.
    Always welcome. Per usual, the facts are always more complicated as are the costs and benefits

  86. 86
    JGabriel says:

    @Face:

    1) only the oil company really knows WTF to do with a well a mile deep …

    Yes, their solutions so far have been brilliant.

    2) politically, then the mess becomes Obama’s, and every day its ZOMG OBAMAH JUS KILT MORE PELLYKINZ WIF OYL!

    This has already happened. He may as well start exerting some control over stopping the geyser and cleaning it up, because he’s getting the blame for the continued failure anyway.

    .

  87. 87
    kay says:

    @Martin:

    I don’t know, Martin. I just listen to what people say. The CG Commander has 30 years experience dealing with oil spills, and he’s completely confident in BP’s response. He’s not confident just because he likes them. He’s confident because they asked everyone who knows anything, and did due diligence. That’s the actual term he used.
    I think the confusion for media comes in because he has a structure in place (it’s in the federal code) and they kept insisting that he was somehow ceding authority to BP. He wants to continue to use the term “responsible party” ( and, quite frankly, as a taxpayer, I want him to) but they had real problems understanding the various roles, under the code, or existing law. The law that designates BP as the “responsible party” doesn’t mean that the CG (or the EPA) is second to BP’s control. He has control of operations. They plan and initiate how to stop the leak, but he approves every plan, and has been since the first day.
    The CG have and had defined responsibility to command the “responsible party” since 1990. That’s how the law was written.
    He just slots the various actors into his scheme. He’s not making this up as he goes along.
    I don’t know that they get it, though. You know how they seize on words that they like? They like “federalize”.

  88. 88
    Fwiffo says:

    I’m in favor of Salazar being shit-canned and replaced by a complete ball-buster. Where’s Elliot Spitzer when you need ‘im?

  89. 89
    wrb says:

    This article has the kind of inside detail that has been largely missing. I don’t see what they would gain by kicking the BP folks out of the room. It sounds like they’ve already pulled in about everyone likely to help.

  90. 90
    Maude says:

    @kay:
    One of the problems in the perception of this is the media, for the most part, doesn’t understand the complexity of this. The aftermath of the blowout is hellish.

  91. 91
    kay says:

    @jl:

    The CG described it as a “three front war” and I think that’s a good way to break it down. Capping the leak is BP’s main area, but they’re not doing anything without the CG signing off.
    Controlling the spill in deep water is feds plus BP, but moving to total fed. That’s where they’re using the DOD, in the deep water.
    Controlling the spill on beaches and marsh’s is EPA, CG, state and local, with private contractors hired who specialize in that area. That is not an area where BP have any expertise or equipment.
    And Jindal’s sand barriers sound unrealistic, but are a trade off. It will take 6 to 9 months to build them, so the question there is should they use resources that could be used to clean up the mess in deep water, or build Jindal’s sand barriers. The objective there is to keep it out of wetlands. It’s just two different approaches.

  92. 92
    Martin says:

    @jl:

    I am trusting that the government did that. But I would like to verify at some point.
    Was that done? We don’t know. I am just saying I would have explored every avenue of ensuring BP was at least monitored in everything it did.

    With respect to the capping effort, that is being done. I understand that it’s now a soup of BP engineers, other oil company engineers, academicians, and government folks all working this out. It’s probably fair to say in a setting like that (which I’ve seen before) that there are no ‘BP ideas’ or really even ‘BP decisions’ any more – they’re collective ideas and collective decisions. BP is still handling all the PR, but they aren’t entirely running the show on the capping effort.

    It’s a bit of a different animal with the containment and recovery effort. That’s much more in BPs control simply due to the scale of it and the fact that it’s not a brainstorming effort but an organizational one. From the sounds of it BP is overwhelmed on the organizational side, which I suppose isn’t surprising, but organizational situations can be a lot harder to ramp up because it requires coordination and training which there isn’t time to provide. The capping team is trying to solve one known problem with an unknown solution. The recovery team is trying to solve thousands of relatively easy problems but that require dealing with tens of thousands of people – having the government involved in the sheer number of decisions that need to be made there would really slow things down. Sometimes a few mistakes (a boom not placed because someone screwed up) is better than a general slowdown (a lot of booms not placed because the approval was slowed down).

    So, it’s complicated.

  93. 93
    SixStringSlingr says:

    @Citizen Alan: Because the Exxon Valdez happened in Alaska, which is sparsely populated and way-the-fuck away from most Americans. The sad fact is, once the images of oily wildlife stopped showing up on tv, most people stopped caring. This is the ENTIRE southern coast of the US. A rocky, cold-ass beach in Alaska is one hell of a lot easier for John Q Public to ignore than the white sand beaches of sunny, tourist-overrun Florida.
    I’m really not defending BP here, just asking for a little sanity. Ah, shit, I forgot I was on teh internets. Never mind.

  94. 94
    Elie says:

    @Maude:

    The media almost never seems to “understand” the complexity… I think its more likely that individuals in the media do understand, but they use the fear (uncertainty — “nobody knows how to fix this!” or someone – fill in the blank – is screwing this thing up!) — to sell papers to their dwindling following or jack up rating on their cable shows. I think that is the problem.

    (PS — I have to say, people are also lazy. The information is out here if you dig a little and read critically. Why is it the folks are always waiting to be spoon fed information along with the critical intelligence to sort its accuracy or relevance?)

  95. 95
    Erik Vanderhoff says:

    Even short-sighted greedy fucksticks like BP know that this is a giant shit-stew for them.

    Nonsense. BP, and every other oil company, knows they have a stranglehold on the practical functioning of the modern economy. Everyone needs fossil fuels. And when you have the singular power to provide them, and people will pay whatever exorbitant price you decide, then the public’s perception means precisely fuck-all.

  96. 96
    D-Chance. says:

    Cole, you’re not qualified to discuss this, so you should have never started this thread (or so we were told by “serious” libertarian watchers last night).

    Now, what does Rand Paul think…

  97. 97
    russell says:

    This is a problem because trying to plug a hole in water that deep is a fucking hard engineering problem that nobody really has a solid idea how to fix.

    Then nobody should be digging holes in deep water.

    If the well had been a resounding success, BP and presumably Transocean would have made a lot of money.

    Since it isn’t, they should lose a lot of money. They should pay.

    If that means they go out of business, so be it. That’s how a capitalist economy is supposed to work. If you want the upside, you gotta sign up for the downside.

    And “limited liability” means the capital investors can’t lose more than they put in. Creditors can’t go after their other personal assets.

    So, if you own BP stock, you’ll only lose the value of that stock. We won’t also come after your house.

    Other than that, there’s no freaking reason on earth that BP should not pay the tab for this.

  98. 98
    kay says:

    @Maude:

    I don’t pretend to understand the complexity of this. I can understand the term “responsible party” in terms of strict legal “responsibility” (damages) and operational “responsibility”, like a chain of command, but I’m almost sure the media never did get that. They were bound and determined to make him use “federalize” but he wouldn’t. I think there’s a reason for that.
    Good try, though. He tried like hell. Not quite getting it. They tripped up on “responsibility” early on and never recovered.

  99. 99
    Nick says:

    @Butch: Since legally the government couldn’t take over 33 days ago and legally still can’t, that would be a reason.

  100. 100
    kay says:

    @Elie:

    It IS difficult, though. That’s an ordinary area of confusion, a word like “responsible party” in this case is a term of art, and has a specific meaning in that law. The Obama Team have repeated it like a mantra, and there’s a political reason for that, but there’s also a practical reason. It’s specific.

    Media were getting all cranky because they were sort of insisting he wasn’t “taking responsibility”, because he won’t “federalize” and, well, he’s in charge and it’s already “federalized”. They just don’t understand what he’s talking about.

  101. 101
    Martin says:

    @Sentient Puddle: On the cleanup problem, I think the government is better equipped to do something than on the capping problem. If you have a large organizational problem where you need to move 10s of thousands of assets, NOBODY is better at that than the military.

    If they had early on split this effort into two pieces and said that BP would take the lead on capping the leak with the gov providing support, and the Coast Guard would take the lead on the cleanup with BP providing the blank check, I would think that the perfect breakdown. But the government unfortunately isn’t fully empowered to do that.

    @kay:

    I saw the interview with Allen. It’s was a bullshit oversimplified question and he didn’t call it out as such, but you could tell he was struggling with how to properly answer it. I think Allen trusts BP on the leak. I think he trusts BP to make assets available when the CG asks for them. I don’t think he trusts BP to make decisions in the best interests of the public, I don’t think he trusts BP to pay – but that’s not his job. I think for the stuff that he’s responsible for, he trusts the people at BP he’s working with, but then he’s not dealing with the lawyers, mostly the engineers. I can’t name a company out there where I wouldn’t by default trust the engineers and by default distrust the lawyers. But the public mostly thinks of BP in terms of their lawyers (or the press statements that need to be approved by the lawyers) so it’s not surprising that there might be a difference of viewpoints there.

  102. 102
    Martin says:

    @russell:

    Then nobody should be digging holes in deep water.

    That’s really the lesson here. Don’t do any voluntary activity you can’t fix.

  103. 103
    Emma says:

    Calvin: Same problem as my chosen solution. The Freaking Supreme Court.

  104. 104
    Karmakin says:

    How to fix it?

    Take a bunch of bulldozers. Go to some nice lily-white suburbs of some major city. Bulldoze it to the ground.

    Build small pedestrian focused small-living quarter energy efficient projects on the near (meaning pretty much extending into the city) border of the economic center. One driveway per 10 houses. Put mass transit terminals all around it. Rinse and repeat.

    The only way to create a society that can ween itself from oil is to create the structure of a society that can do so. Without forcibly (one way or another) getting people to compact themselves, this is going to be impossible.

  105. 105
    Maude says:

    @Elie:
    People have become infantile. The clap louder crowd is out in full force. They are refuting reality.
    Rather than try to learn about the enormous difficulty involved in killing this well, they are blaming Obama. After BP, of course.
    This does show how ignorant the media, not all, but a lot, have become.
    All that playing celebrity is catching up to them.
    BP keeps digging its own grave.
    Had the press been reporting on what the different agencies of the government have been doing, it would have taken away the drama.

    @kay:
    It’s the same crowd that was calling for the Obama to produce a miracle with the financial crisis.
    It’s the belief that some form of Daddy will come and make it all better.
    Also, a lot don’t want to understand. That’s not fun.

  106. 106
    Emma says:

    Maude: This. Also.

  107. 107
    Glen Tomkins says:

    Topkill

    “That is just how it is in an oligarchy. I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.”

    Sure, there’s nothing to be done, by us, anyway, as long as it’s an oligarchy. Maybe other members of the oligarchy will get the idea that BP endangers their interests, and there will be a civil war within the oligarchy. But that’s hardly our business. Let one reptile devour another.

    Well, there is one thing we could do. We could end the oligarchy. Take down even one of the big corporations, and the rest would get the message.

    It’s not as if the topkill would have to be literal, with a guillotine set up on the Mall, and so forth. All it would take would be for the industry’s hirelings in Congress to not stay bought. That’s the way that all of our previous ventures into crony capitalism (And we have had many. We’re drawn that way.) have ended. Eventually some politicians, often as not the very ones who fed most eagerly at the industry trough, get religion and decide to sell out their former paymasters in a wave of reform. It’s not as if there has ever been any lack of other industries waiting in the wings for their turn to be the new paymasters. Rinse, recycle, repeat.

    That this cycle seems stuck in the phase of exploitation, already tells us several things.

    For one thing, it pretty clearly establishes that the problem is not dishonest politicians. Dishonest politicians don’t stay bought, and dishonest politicians would have realized by now that the smart thing in the present circumstances would be to get religion and offer up BP as a human sacrifice, thus pushing the cycle intothe next, reform, phase.

    This time, our politicians, sadly, are themselves true believers in the religion of Big Business. This seems to be the decisive difference between the present crisis of the real-world failure of Big Business made sloppy and incompetent by their coddling at the hands of their hireling politicians, and all previous such crises in our history. PT Barnum knew he was a con artist. Everyone knew. It was the same with all previous waves of Malefactors of Great Wealth that this country has bred. Everyone knew they were crooks and con artists. If they suspended disbelief for a while, it was largely for the entertainment value they provided.

    Lately, the American character seems to have put disbelief into permanent suspension. It seems that there’s nothing these con artists can do, however extreme, that will shake the widespread faith that the ability to make large gobs of money is both sufficient and necessary proof of competence. The current crop of politicians can’t and won’t turn on them, not because of the campaign contributions received, but because they really don’t think that there is anyone more competent to deal with the crisis than these Malefactors of Great Wealth.

    The irony is that whatever truth there is to the idea that success in business is a credential for competence, is quickly destroyed once that idea becomes an article of faith. Successful business people become unquestioned oracles, they are therefore given free rein by the govt, and thereby establish business conditions under which the favorable regulatory climate to be gained by flim-flamming Congress becomes the shortest and surest path to the greatest profitability. Of course the actual competence at managing actual real-world processes, like extracting oil at great depth, is lost, because it is unimportant compared to really profitable skills, like lobbying finesse. Why bother learning how to extract oil at depth with security, when you can rewrite the rules so as to escape the consequences of failure to extract the oil safely?

    How does this end? What can be done about it?

    Well, short of the more literal interpretations of the topkill idea (which, to be clear, I don’t recommend), nothing. What goes up must come down, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall, etc., etc. Sooner or later, even this latest foray into crony capitalism will play out, and after they overreach too far, the wheel of fate, the Rota Fortunis, will start to spin again, and crush them all.

    And nothing isn’t really all that is to be done. At this point, nothing but jeering and japing at the folly of all concerned will do much good, but even that is something. Laughter is not only salutary in itself, but it is the only way we are going to debunk this religion. Yes, we are going to probably need more help from reality, and the consequences it imposes on incompetent overreach, for our japes and jibes to have the desired effect of re-awakening America’s capacity for skepticism. And reality, of course, does not give her lessons gratis. The only way it gets people’s attention is by causing suffering. For now, we can hope that a lesser degree of instruction by reality than the consequences of setting up a guillotine on the Mall will do the trick, so let’s stick with jeering and japing.

  108. 108
    Karmakin says:

    @Maude: I think some people think that they could just blow it up to collapse it, and we don’t because BP doesn’t want to lose the oil.

    Sometimes I wonder that too. Of course, that probably could (would?) make the problem worse.

  109. 109
    Ana Gama says:

    BP = Big Pollutor

  110. 110
    Maude says:

    @Karmakin:
    They watch too many special effects movies. Blow it up, baby.
    From what I’ve read, explosives are used on land to stop fire. It removes the O2.
    Some idiot said online that the Russians stopped an oil spil with a nuke.
    No, they did not, but that doesn’t matter.
    Once a well has a blowout, it is gone. Can’t be used.
    I’m amazed I don’t go around just slapping people.

  111. 111
    kdaug says:

    @Face: Ding ding.

  112. 112
    kay says:

    @Martin:

    I can’t name a company out there where I wouldn’t by default trust the engineers and by default distrust the lawyers

    I agree with that. I will say, though, that media would have an easier time of this had they prepared by reading at least a summary of the oil pollution act. They need the language.

    I haven’t read much of anything about the spill, but I did read a summary, because I knew that was going to be the language of the disaster.

    It’s really really difficult to impart information to people who have no grounding at all in what structure the CG are working within. I’m not saying they need a seminar. An hour. Read a summary of the law. Get an idea what these words mean.

    That’s the objective standard they’re looking for, and really require, to cover this properly. They won’t know if the Obama Admin. response is “appropriate” unless they know who does what, and who’s in charge of whom.

    That way they won’t have to rely on political actors, like Obama or Jindal, for he said/but he said. They’ll have an objective standard to measure the response.

  113. 113
    Steeplejack says:

    More and more I am becoming convinced that the whole debate over whether the government should “take over from BP,” or at what point it should do so, is moot.

    What if the whole situation is so catastrophic that in the end nothing can be done? Not that a solution doesn’t exist–obviously, capping the well and/or plugging the leaks is the “solution”–but what if the catastrophe has so far outstripped our abilities to implement the solution that there is in effect nothing that we can do?

    I keep getting the image of a city that has been carpet-bombed, and in the aftermath people are shocked because the fire department can’t put out all the fires. I mean, c’mon, it’s the fire department–that’s what they do. But they can’t do it on that scale.

    This is depressing terrifying as hell.

  114. 114
    DJMurphy says:

    Where’s Dexter?

  115. 115

    That is just how it is in an oligarchy. And I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.

    I do, but it’s not pleasant at all.

  116. 116

    @Alex S.:

    seriously.
    Tony Hayward would have a hole in his skull about as big as his hole in the Gulf, and the execution would be aired on national TV.

  117. 117
    Mothra says:

    I don’t know how we get out of it, either, John.

    I’m a lifelong optimist, but these days have me down. How exactly do we recover from destroying the environment that sustains us?

  118. 118
    Ddeele says:

    Look at the bright side.

    This places us decades closer to the long-held dream of a car that runs on seawater.

  119. 119
    Gus diZerega says:

    There is a way to begin taking down the oligarchy, I think. A way that would be relatively doable, not require guillotines, and would be appealing to the general public, especially after the past year of corporate crime and profit.

    Begin with state initiatives. This frees you from bought and sold politicians.

    Pass a “Three Strikes and you are Out” initiative for corporations. After all, the Supremes say they are people. Three crimes where the law is broken and the company is deemed to have a habitually criminal culture, it is dissolved, its assets seized and sold to any buyer for the maximum amount. The proceeds pay for damages and retraining workers. managers are prohibited from ever working together. The company’s name is retired for a generation. It is executed in the only way these sociopathic monsters an be killed.

    Few corporations would ever have to be executed. With two strikes their stock would plummet. Even one would be a serious threat. Management that is not sociopathic would begin to have a chance to win over management that is sociopathic because they would run the company with a long term view.

    Lots of devils in the details, but they are able to be dealt with.

  120. 120
    Kit says:

    @Emma:
    This this this. Over and over again.

  121. 121
    Elie says:

    In a dark way, maybe this is our “hit bottom”… the hit bottom that forces us — all of us — to face what needs to be done…

    We are unable to accept the truth. WE CAN, but pretend that we can’t change this.. But we can..

    We are facing an abyss of our own making. Even if we did not drill the well, we allowed it, we did not riot and scream, show up at hearings to prevent these permits.

    We were naive about our risk and BP was living in its own reality that we enabled by NEVER confronting them, never making blind support of this kind of oil drilling totally impossible. We always thought it technology would make us unable to fail in this scale..our false confidence. We did not know what we did not know..

    That will not be the case now. Not any more…

    As I commented now three weeks ago, if they don’t cap this thing in the next week, the scale of catastrophe will shock us into facing tructh that we have never had to face .. no more half truths or false inocense.. just pick up the bodies, say the funerals for our beloved Gulf

    Then lets take care of the real business.. starting with our own motivation and willingness to stand up to this thing politically, sociologically, psychologically.

    No more stupid whining about who should be “fixing” this as though it is just a matter of motivation. The administration and I expect BP and the oil industry are becoming quite panicked as time goes on… threatening them even more at this point is just bluster.

    We are watching the surgeons trying to stop the bleeding and we just have to hope they can and that the patient will somehow survive this. We need to pray and hope for mercy from the gods

  122. 122
    RinaX says:

    Martin, Kay, Maude, et al, I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your contributions. I’m no engineer or oil expert, though many seem to have cropped up over the past month, but I’ve been able to figure out that this is a lot more complex than the media and, sadly, too many in the blogosphere seem to think. Reading people seriously advocating for using nuclear weapons to stop the leak sent me to a very strange mental place for a while.

  123. 123
    Elie says:

    @RinaX:

    I agree…thanks to the many knowledgeable and thoughtful commenters here.

  124. 124
    Panurge says:

    A few things:

    1. Please, PLEASE stop calling it the “Reagan Revolution”. It’s the Reagan COUNTER-Revolution, specifically against the actual DFHs and then against the Great Society, New Deal, and Progressive Era.

    2. If BP doesn’t want to lose all that oil (a reasonable assertion, ISTM), why do they seem to be dragging their feet so much? If they’re able to drag their feet so much, does that tell us something about how much oil is really out there? I mean, when I was a kid I thought we’d be running out of oil by now and we’d all be driving electric cars; I’d think it’d be in the oil industry’s long-term interest to make the oil-based economy more efficient so as to draw it out longer. Is there something they’re not telling us?

  125. 125
    Bruckenwolf says:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/wor.....149233.stm

    Last two paragraphs…confuse me.

  126. 126
    Citizen Alan says:

    @SixStringSlingr:

    A rocky, cold-ass beach in Alaska is one hell of a lot easier for John Q Public to ignore than the white sand beaches of sunny, tourist-overrun Florida.

    The problem isn’t location, it’s the passage of time. It will take twenty or so years for the litigation that arises from this disaster to make it to the Supreme Court, and by then, the thousand-mile long dead zone along the Gulf Coast will simply be a historical tragedy, long forgotten in the aftermath of whatever fresh disasters happen between today and the year 2030. And given the progression of global climate change, I imagine there will be quite a few disasters to take everyone’s minds off BP.

  127. 127
    mclaren says:

    Gus di Zerega:

    Pass a “Three Strikes and you are Out” initiative for corporations. After all, the Supremes say they are people. Three crimes where the law is broken and the company is deemed to have a habitually criminal culture, it is dissolved, its assets seized and sold to any buyer for the maximum amount. The proceeds pay for damages and retraining workers. managers are prohibited from ever working together.

    Here’s how that one would work:

    The CEO and board of directors of BP would form a limited liability holding company (call it Massive Shaft LLC). BP is dissolved, so Massive Shaft LLC buys it using puts sold short against its own shares with the help of Goldman Sachs. Once the “three strikes liquidation” gets announced, BP’s stock plummets and the puts skyrocket, providing the cash to pay. Workers are retrained to destroy evidence of liability more thoroughly in the event of future accidents and all employees are forced to sign strict non-disclosure agreements; meanwhile, BP bribes scientists to testify that the total damages to the wetlands don’t exceed $100. The BP managers are prohibited from working together again, so they retire with golden parachutes and continue running the new corporation using proxies elected with their ownership shares of the new corporation. Massive Shaft LLC drills new wells and creates more blowouts, everything continues as before.

  128. 128
    postmodernprimate says:

    This is a problem because trying to plug a hole in water that deep is a fucking hard engineering problem that nobody really has a solid idea how to fix.

    No one at BP or in government is going to say this publicly but at 5000 feet deep the well’s damage and the incredible volume of oil rocketing from it might be impossible to cap. BP has already tried “known” measures. We’re down to experimenting with never attempted measures and hoping something works. If we can’t cap this thing it could continue spewing out over 200,000 gallons of oil daily for up to a year. No wonder Obama’s leaving this in BP’s hands while BP hides the real data, uses dispersant to make the spill appear smaller at the surface and hires the Coast Guard to keep reporters away from the damage. They know this could be an environmental catastrophe on a scale we’ve never seen.

  129. 129
    brantl says:

    @Emma: Amen!

  130. 130
    ksmiami says:

    Obama should nationalize BP’s assets ala Venezuela. I mean the Right has been calling him a socialist-communist-Alinsky dude for 2 years, might as well live up to their expectations if they are going to hate you anyway.

  131. 131
    Derek says:

    @SixStringSlingr:

    Slight factual correction: The Exxon-Valdez spill was 10.8 million gallons, not 47,000 gallons.

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