BP BS on Stilts

The Washington Post dutifully stenographs a sterling example of political three-card monte in the service of the Plutonomy:

Money concerns didn’t drive Deepwater Horizon decisions, panel counsel says
The chief counsel for the president’s oil spill commission said Monday that concerns about money didn’t drive key decisions made on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before the April 20 blowout that caused a massive oil spill and killed 11 people.
The conclusion is good news for BP, which has been widely criticized for letting concerns about the roughly $1.5 million a day cost of the drilling rig affect choices that might have prevented the blowout.
“To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” said Fred Bartlit, general counsel for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
He added that he didn’t believe that rig workers “want to risk their lives or the lives of their buddies.” He said: “I’ve been on a lot of rigs, and I don’t believe people sit there and say, ‘This is really dangerous, but the guys in London will make more money.’ We don’t see a concrete situation where people made a trade-off of safety for dollars.”
BP made the operation riskier with a number of decisions, said Sean Grimsley, one of the commission investigators…
“We think they introduced a certain amount of risk into the situation that may not have been necessary,” Grimsley said…
“The question is, why these experienced men out on that rig talked themselves into believing that this was a good test that established well integrity,” he said. “None of these men out of that rig wanted to die.”

Notice the deft and expert misdirection! The story is no longer: BP corporate policy was to cut corners wherever possible in order to improve the profits available to the executives in the corner office, a policy that eventually led to the deaths of 19 workers and an enormous environmental disaster.

The new, improved, plutonomy-friendly story is: It would be cruel and unproductive to blame well-intentioned middle managers and hard-working rig employees of deliberately making decisions that would kill their fellows and negatively affect the company’s bottom line.

This is why the ‘Kaplan Daily‘ is still publishing. In the days of a dying empire, the strategic skills — and strong stomach — required to re-write current events to better serve the Narrative preferred by the ruling class are a very, very valuable asset.

42 replies
  1. 1
    Mike Kay (Team America) says:

    The Kaplan Post, brought to you by BP.

  2. 2

    Of course it is the fault of the workers. Just as poor people getting mortgages crashed the world’s economy. And plane crashes are always the fault of the pilot or some low-level maintenance worker instead of being the fault of corporate cost-cutting measures.

  3. 3
    Bob Loblaw says:

    I’m not sure why you would even feign surprise. Even the “integrity rich” Obama administration flat out lied for five weeks about the extent of the spill despite all third party estimates (correctly) suggesting they were off by an order of magnitude.

    Forget it, Jack, it’s Big Oil.

  4. 4
    Dennis SGMM says:

    In the days of a dying empire…

    Don’t worry, be happy. Just enter promocode “FUCKMEHARD” for a special discount on a 60″ flatscreen television and a free year of premium cable.

  5. 5
    El Cid says:

    I think what this is suggesting is that there weren’t clear moments at which BP officials or related project company officials sat down and said things like “WE WILL DO THINGS CHEAPER INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON SAFETY,” preferably doing so while speaking clearly into a color HD video camera and signing their name to an incriminating statement.

  6. 6
    trollhattan says:

    So, continuing to develop the Macondo well after repeated warnings that was badly problematic and dangerous isn’t technically cost-cutting, it’s protecting their investment? Do I have that right?

    Maybe BP wasn’t specifically engaged in cost-cutting in Texas City when failing to follow their own procedures killed 15. If your relative is dead, do you really care whether they’re dead because the company is cheap or because they operate in an unsafe manner?

  7. 7
    Sue says:

    “To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,”
    Well of course not. Favoring dollars over safety is now so ingrained that YOU DON’T NEED TO BE CONSCIOUS OF IT.

  8. 8
    MikeJ says:

    “I’ve been on a lot of rigs, and I don’t believe people sit there and say, ‘This is really dangerous, but the guys in London will make more money.’ We don’t see a concrete situation where people made a trade-off of safety for dollars.”

    I’ve seen plenty of non-oil rig situations where people do things in a less safe or less honest manner because their bosses will make more money. Not because they love the boss, but because the boss will fire them. It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t happen in the oil industry.

    I also like how all the decisions are pushed down to the guys on the rig.

  9. 9
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @El Cid:

    I’m guessing that the lack of public statements referring to their workers as “dogs” or to the people of the Gulf coast as “stupid fucking rubes” helped out BP as well.

  10. 10
    Silver says:

    It’s the same principle as racism in America. You can casually refer to black people as niggers, discriminate daily in multiple ways, but unless you actually hook James Byrd to the back of that pickup truck and hop in the cab, you’re not actually a racist.

    Homophobia works the same way. Unless you personally pistol-whipped Matthew Shepard, you’re not a a bigot…even if you really hate faggot kids and want them to kill themselves.

  11. 11
    gypsy howell says:

    I see we’ve entered the “A Few Bad Apples” stage of the spin cycle.

  12. 12
    jl says:

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I did read the story because curious about one thing I heard on the radio news early this morning. I remember the radio report saying that this commission, or some body related to the investigation, did five tests of the procedure used to plug the well that lead to the disaster, and the procedure failed five times.

    That suggests an objectively bad design, right?

    That wasn’t mentioned in this article. Anyone heard or know more about these five tests?

    As for the quote about the dead workers, it is so silly I do not see how anyone can take it seriously, even as an attempt at deflection.

    How many workers knew about the tests and details of the design, given that we have evidence BP suits ordered changes at the last minute? And of those who did know, how many were pressured by the brass, to go against their professional judgment and went along, hoping for the best?

    But maybe somebody has an incentive to try something so crude and silly to try to pretty up the picture.

  13. 13
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Did the panel counsel mention the obvious advantages of blaming the dead?

  14. 14
    MikeJ says:

    In our capitalist society, why weren’t decisions made based on money? Shouldn’t BP’s shareholders sue them for neglecting their fiduciary duty?

  15. 15
    Delia says:

    good news for BP

    Hey, that has the ring of a new BJ category.

  16. 16
    mcd410x says:

    I realize it’s de rigueur to knock the Kaplan Test — but this isn’t some investigative piece. It’s a story on the commission’s report that came out today, isn’t it?

    Should the story say the report said something it did not? Seems the anger should be directed at the “president’s oil spill commission” which is actually committing the whitewash.

  17. 17
    BR says:

    I have to say I’ve had a heavy heart for the last few months. I worked my heart out for the Obama campaign, and started donating in March 2007. In all I ended up contributing thousands, which I really couldn’t afford, looking back on it. Two years of my life went into that, and now I find myself just disillusioned about it all. I’ve reached a point where I’m just going to focus on local issue and ignore things at the national level.

    I have no respect for the firebaggers who have been attacking Obama since day two. But the BP saga, along with Wall Street nonsense, failure to do anything significant on energy, failure on campaign finance, etc. just make me sad. (Sorry for being emo.) Was I just deluded in 2007/2008? After listening to Bill Moyers yesterday about the state things are in – do I really think the Obama administration has even put a small dent in those issues? No, I don’t.

  18. 18
    Bob L says:

    Of course they didn’t find. BP made that decision to plan for the best possible cause decades ago. You don’t have meetings about what is part of the corporate culture.

  19. 19
    balconesfault says:

    This is a reason why we need OSHA codes that can often best be described as “protecting workers from themselves”.

    Guys would walk around a site without a helmet if it was allowed, because they don’t like the way a helmet fits. Guys will skip over lockdown/tagdown procedures that are critical to keeping all their limbs intact unless they’re threatened with fines or firing. It takes the same kind of rules to make sure every time a guy climbs something he’s harnessed and tethered – because HE know’s he’s never going to fall.

    In short, it’s in guys nature to take risks, sometimes just so they can finish some job a few minutes quicker and sit down for awhile.

    That’s why companies need STRICT health and safety oversight to make sure guys are doing what they should be doing … and why our government needs strong enforcement to make sure companies have more incentive to keep that strict H&S oversight.

    Guys are idiots. Trust me on that one.

  20. 20
    Paris says:

    I thought everyone was offered a bonus for getting that baby done pronto – including the workers. There were other motivating factors besides safety.

    “We offered them a bonus if they got done early. We didn’t tell them to cut corners.” is sort of bullshit.

  21. 21
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @MikeJ: Win

    @BR: Aaah… the audicity of hope… truth is, Obama is a decent president, but I don’t think he has made a single decision that actually required bravery: not on Wall Street, not on the gulf spill, not on DADT.

  22. 22
    trollhattan says:


    Yep! Groupthink and testosterone can overwhelm a workplace, regardless of what H&S plans and procedures are in place. Safe jobsites are generally ones where the H&S folks have actual power to stop work and communication lines to the very top of the corporation. They have daily “tailgate” meetings and get direct input from the line staff, including the subs. Otherwise, “issues” tend to disappear in the realm of middle management.

    I’m sure BP will be able to point to an org chart saying this is what they have, by Gawd, but since the Gulf it’s been well documented BP also has an industrywide reputation for being fast and low-cost. And you know who else was fast and….

  23. 23
    WereBear says:

    @Paris: “We offered them a bonus if they got done early. We didn’t tell them to cut corners.” is sort of bullshit.

    It’s flat out bullshit, because that’s how it’s done. The carrot of the bonus, and the stick of getting fired; it doesn’t take any kind of genius, moral or otherwise, to talk themselves into doing what the bosses want done.

    Especially if they have a sick family member; that’s a bone-chilling choice they throw in front of parents all the time.

  24. 24
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    A couple of positive feedback loops:

    Concentration of money in a few hands causes concentration of money in a few hands

    Concentration of political power causes concentration of political power

    Ownership of money and power causes ownership of the media, which causes money and power

    How is this plausibly turned around?

    I’m done harboring hopes about the future of the US, or of humanity in general… at this point I just hope me and mine have decent lives before everything goes down in flames…

  25. 25
    MikeJ says:


    And you know who else was fast and….

    Monopolistic trash companies?

  26. 26
    lamh32 says:

    OT, but nothing to see here folks. It’ sooo surprising in the MSM world of polls meaning everything, that this means nothing.


    Gallup reports that President Obama’s approval rating has risen by 4 points since last week’s elections, when his party lost its House majority. The polling group says that between Friday and Sunday, he earned the approval of 47 percent of Americans, whereas that figure was at 43 percent just before the election.

    “While the increase in Obama’s job approval rating since the election is small in absolute terms, the fact that it is up at all after his party’s major congressional and gubernatorial losses is notable,” writes Gallup’s Lydia Saad.

    I actually do think this is a blip, but still isn’t it fun picking and choosing which polls the MSM will cover!

  27. 27
    Tulip says:

    It’s weird but I think this could have been posted in either the trash collections threads or this one.

    Anyway, this is pretty cool:


    (don’t think it’s a fake)

    btw does anybody know when the site rebuild is due? Every afternoon I lose my margin on the right and the text just goes on off the page. I’m forced to use IE at work, it may just be an incompatibility thing b/w IE and the site. But it’s so weird that it works in the am.

  28. 28
    Cat Lady says:

    Asshat Joe “apologize to BP” Barton will most likely be the next chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, so you can expect for him to call hearings on the shakedown of BP by Obama. There have probably already been rules written by BP to tack on to any legislation passed in the House to get their money back from the claimants. Mark my words.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    debbie says:

    That commission’s totally bogus. I watched a 60 Minutes interview with a guy who survived the rig explosion, and he clearly was not a liar. He witnessed any number of vigorous arguments between BP and Transocean. Why would any company argue so heatedly over whether or not to do something if it wasn’t at heart about the money?

    What’s next? BP’s lack of maintenance on Alaska pipelines wasn’t because they were cutting corners?

  31. 31
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @debbie: They were merely FREEDOM maximizing revenue streams FREEDOM in accordance with their sacred FREEDOM duty to shareholders….

  32. 32
    BethanyAnne says:

    If loving the rich is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!

  33. 33
    Felonious Wench says:

    It is always, always, always about money. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know the basics of project or product management. Time is a constraint you work under. Quality is a constraint you work under. Scope is a constraint you work under. And it’s all bound by MONEY. You adjust time, scope, or quality based on the budget. BP wasn’t going to extend the time, and it wasn’t going to decrease scope, so there you go, quality suffers.

    This is Project Management 101. This was a very large project, but it still follows the same rules as every other project. In favor of the schedule and fulfilling the scope they defined, they sacrificed quality. Period.

  34. 34
    Nellcote says:

    Since the committee didn’t have supoena power, I don’t see how they can be the definitive word on any of it.

  35. 35
    Cat Lady says:


    Asshat really isn’t the right word, is it. I don’t think there really is a right word that captures the essence of clueless smug stupidity wrapped in a good ol boy pasty face that just begs to be hit with a brick. Also.

  36. 36
    HyperIon says:

    @debbie wrote:

    That commission’s totally bogus.

    I spent a couple of hours this am watching the CSPAN live coverage of the report. It was extremely interesting. When I got to work and read the WaPo and NYTimes headlines, I was really annoyed. The cost/safety is NOT the most important aspect of this report. Yeah, it’s the reddest meat but really there are many things going on here that deserve careful consideration.

    I urge everyone to check out the CSPAN coverage. You will learn many things about drilling for oil. Fortunately I just read Hubbert’s Peak so I recognized some of the terms.

    Needless to say it’s REALLY complicated. From what I know now, it seems reasonable that cost savings were not explicitly chosen over safety. It looks like it was more a case of: there were lots of places to screw up and this time nature was not fooled. So I’m getting Challenger disaster flashes of this.

    I’m wondering why more drilling disasters don’t happen. For example, nobody involved has an objective definition for a failed negative pressure test. So the numbers looked bad but they just continued forward. And the guy who is responsible for deploying the blowout preventer has to stare into a computer screen with graphics displayed in a confusing manner. There was evidence that burps were occurring (not the corrrect term but…) maybe 40 minutes before the explosion but nobody noticed. I can’t believe that some automated interpretation of the data couldn’t be used to generate some kind of alarm.

    IMO The whole thing is more of a tribute to the stubbornness of humans (dammit we CAN get oil that is buried thousands of feet below the ocean floor) than a story about greed.

  37. 37
    HyperIon says:

    @jl wrote:

    That wasn’t mentioned in this article. Anyone heard or know more about these five tests?

    Watch CSPAN. They have the video on their site. And it really drills down. (sorry)

    I watched an hour where they talked about the cement tests. But many, many tests were mentioned so I have no clue about “these five tests”.

  38. 38
    HyperIon says:

    A couple of final comments about what I saw on CSPAN today:

    1. when the negative pressure test did not go as planned, nobody phoned “home” to get guidance. they just went ahead with the “wrap up”.

    2. evidently BP did some unusual things or normal things in an unusual order during the “wrap up”.

    3. halliburton did not tell BP that the cement foam tests (done in the lab, maybe to determine the right recipe?) had bad results.

    4. the whole scenario is so fucking complicated that every person on that rig would have to be a genius to know it all and reason correctly in all of the steps where things were not done properly or results not interpreted properly.

    So scream about how horrible BP was, what money grubbers they are, etc but that doesn’t change the complexity of their task. i ended up thinking: space exploration is a peace of cake compared to this.

  39. 39
    jl says:

    @HyperIon: I will check out the C-span archives on this. Thanks very much.

    I am skeptical of your apparent conclusion that the culprit was complexity. One of the reasons things seemed so complicated and confused may be that BP changed the plans at the last minute. (Edit: against considerable opposition from engineers on site who had worked on the well and knew something about its unpredictable behavior)

    I read the Oil Drum blog in the weeks after the spill, and followed links from there to technical oil industry blogs. Seems to me from the posts by drillers and engineers, that there is one constant in the complexity: BP always chose the cheapest and quickest approach, with the least margin for error.

    But, I will keep an open mind. And in any case, strong regulation may be justified in an environment where there is great room for judgment in making engineering decisions, and the consequences of a series of individual mistakes and misjudgments may sum to an unexpected and sudden large scale disaster (which looks like may have happened here).

  40. 40
    Anne Laurie says:


    IMO The whole thing is more of a tribute to the stubbornness of humans (dammit we CAN get oil that is buried thousands of feet below the ocean floor) than a story about greed

    There’s this rule that economists refer to as the “Golden Triangle”, which to put it in its simplest form says:

    Fast, cheap, safe — choose any two!

    The concept is that when you exert pressure on any corner of the metaphorical triangle, you’re going to change the angle of the other two corners. Extracting oil from a mile below the ocean is inherently risky. Making it safer (less risky) would involve taking more time or spending more money… and the BP corporate office wanted the rig opened as soon as possible and with as little expense as possible. In a million big and small ways, BP officials made it clear to their managers, who made it clear to the subcontractors, who made it clear to the rig workers, that “safe” was less important to them than “fast” and “cheap”. A cascading series of individually-insignificant decisions favoring fast/cheap over safe (cheaper materials, fudged testing, assigning too few workers to do longer shifts) led to the biggest global oil spill ever.

    This is exactly what happened in the Challenger tragedy — nobody intended to kill seven astronauts on national television, but a cascading series of individually-insignificant decisions favoring fast/cheap over safe meant that some budget-priced O-rings in a less-than-optimum design cracked when exposed to temperatures outside the test parameters (the launch almost got scrubbed because it was too cold, but the safety engineers’ qualms were overriden because the marketing team wanted a happy-face patriotic media background for a Reagan campaign speech).

    Speed, price, quality — keeping all three equally aligned is not within the skill set of our Galtian overlords.

  41. 41
    david1234 says:

    “The question is, why these experienced men out on that rig talked themselves into believing that this was a good test that established well integrity,”

    Now that we have eliminated the possibility that to do otherwise would have cost BP time and money, that question has become much harder to answer.

  42. 42
    Tim I says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    I think your comment is far more apt than your original post. I watched a couple of hours of the C-Span coverage and this is no whitewash of BP. Batlit was brilliant in grilling the BP representatives.

    This drilling operation is enormously complicated, but the engineers from outside BP were quite direct in pointing out the mistakes made in the process.

    Unfortunately, the rig operators mistakenly assumed that a critical test was successful when it was not. This is one of many mistakes that were made, including the use of defective cement, but it was the critical factor that made this an enormous disaster.

    A lot of time is going into trying to reconstruct the chain of events that precipitated the explosion. This process is complicated by the fact that none of the rig operators making the critical decisions survived.

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