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The real cost of cheap oil

Posted by Admin on January 17, 2011

BP OIL SPILL Disaster

See how destructive we can be!

http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article440692.ece

JOHN VIDAL – May 29, 2010 [REPOST]

Big Oil is holding its breath. BP’s shares are in steep decline after the debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. Barack Obama, the American people and the global environmental community are outraged, and now the company stands to lose the rights to drill for oil in the Arctic and other ecologically sensitive places.

The gulf disaster may cost it a few billion dollars, but so what? When annual profits for a company often run to tens of billions, the cost of laying 5,000 miles of booms, or spraying millions of gallons of dispersants and settling 100,000 court cases is not much more than missing a few months’ production. It’s awkward, but it can easily be passed on.

The oil industry‘s image is seriously damaged, but it can pay handsomely to greenwash itself, just as it managed after Exxon Valdez, Brent Spar and the Ken Saro-Wiwa public relations disasters. In a few years’ time, this episode will probably be forgotten — just another blip in the fortunes of the industry that fuels the world. But the oil companies are nervous now because the spotlight has been turned on their cavalier attitude to pollution and on the sheer incompetence of an industry that is used to calling the shots.

Big Oil’s real horror was not the spillage, which was common enough, but because it happened so close to the US. Millions of barrels of oil are spilled, jettisoned or wasted every year without much attention being paid.

If this accident had occurred in a developing country, say off the west coast of Africa or Indonesia, BP could probably have avoided all publicity and escaped starting a clean-up for many months. It would not have had to employ booms or dispersants, and it could have ignored the health effects on people and the damage done to fishing. It might have eventually been taken to court and could have been fined a few million dollars, but it would probably have appealed and delayed a court decision for a decade or more.

Big Oil is usually a poor country’s most powerful industry, and is generally allowed to act like a parallel government. In many countries it simply pays off the judges, the community leaders, the lawmakers and the ministers, and it expects environmentalists and local people to be powerless. Mostly it gets away with it.

What the industry dreads more than anything else is being made fully accountable to developing countries for the mess it has made and the oil it has spilt in the forests, creeks, seas and deserts of the world.

There are more than 2,000 major spillage sites in the Niger delta that have never been cleaned up; there are vast areas of the Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon that have been devastated by spillages, the dumping of toxic materials and blowouts. Rivers and wells in Venezuela, Angola, Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and Sudan have been badly polluted. Occidental, BP, Chevron, Shell and most other oil companies together face hundreds of outstanding lawsuits. Ecuador alone is seeking $30bn from Texaco. The only reason oil costs $70-$100 a barrel today, and not $200, is because the industry has managed to pass on the real costs of extracting the oil. If the developing world applied the same pressure on the companies as Obama and the U.S. senators are now doing, and if the industry were forced to really clean up the myriad messes it causes, the price would jump and the switch to clean energy would be swift.

If the billions of dollars of annual subsidies and the many tax breaks the industry gets were withdrawn, and the cost of protecting oil companies in developing countries were added, then most of the world’s oil would almost certainly be left in the ground. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

(John Vidal is the Guardian’s environment correspondent.)

 

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US briefs allies about next WikiLeaks release

Posted by Admin on November 27, 2010

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, at New Media Days 09

Julian Assange Founder - WikiLeaks

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press – 2 hrs 46 mins ago

LONDON – U.S. allies around the world have been briefed by American diplomats about an expected release of classified U.S. files by the WikiLeaks website that is likely to cause international embarrassment and could damage some nations’ relations with the United States.

The release of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables is expected this weekend, although WikiLeaks has not been specific about the timing. The cables are thought to include private, candid assessments of foreign leaders and governments and could erode trust in the U.S. as a diplomatic partner.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron‘s spokesman, Steve Field, said Friday that the government had been told of “the likely content of these leaks” by U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman. Field declined to say what Britain had been warned to expect.

“I don’t want to speculate about precisely what is going to be leaked before it is leaked,” Field said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. diplomats were continuing the process of warning governments around the world about what might be in the documents. Many fear the cables will embarrass the United States and its allies, and reveal sensitive details of how the U.S. conducts relations with other countries.

“We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn WikiLeaks for the release of classified material,” he said. “It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible.”

The Obama administration on Friday warned that the WikiLeaksrelease would endanger “lives and interests.”

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said he spoke Friday with the U.S. State Department, which told him that there would be documents regarding Italy in the leak, “but the content can’t be anticipated.”

“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of classified documents that the U.S. will not comment on, as is their custom,” Frattini said.

The governments of Canada and Norway also said they had been briefed by U.S. officials. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on a report that it, too, had been informed.

In Iraq, U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey told reporters that the leaks represent a serious obstacle to international diplomacy.

“We are worried about additional documents coming out,” he said. “WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people. I do not understand the motivation for releasing these documents. They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here.”

In Norway, U.S. officials released a statement from the ambassador to the newspaper Dagbladet with the understanding that it would not be published until after the WikiLeaks material came out, but the newspaper published the material ahead of time.

It quoted U.S. Ambassador to Norway Barry White saying that, while he could not vouch for the authenticity of the documents, he expected them to contain U.S. officials’ candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries. He said diplomats had to be able to have private, honest discussions to do their jobs.

The Obama administration said earlier this week that it had alerted Congress and begun notifying foreign governments that the whistle-blowing website is preparing to release a huge cache of diplomatic cables whose publication could give a behind-the-scenes look at American diplomacy around the world.

“These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world.”

Diplomatic cables are internal documents that would include a range of secret communications between U.S. diplomatic outposts and State Department headquarters in Washington.

WikiLeaks has said the release will be seven times the size of its October leak of 400,000 Iraq war documents, already the biggest leak in U.S. intelligence history.

The U.S. says it has known for some time that WikiLeaks held the diplomatic cables. No one has been charged with passing them to the website, but suspicion focuses on U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak.

Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said Friday that he had been “told that the person responsible for this leak has been arrested.” The Italian Foreign Ministry later said Frattini was talking about Manning.

WikiLeaks, which also has released secret U.S. documents about the war in Afghanistan, was founded byJulian Assange.

The Australian former computer hacker is currently wanted by Sweden for questioning in a drawn-out rape probe. Assange, 39, is suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. He has denied the allegations, which stem from his encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden.

___

AP writers Rebecca Santana in Baghdad, Matthew Lee in Washington, and Bjoern H. Amland in Oslo contributed to this report.

 

 

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Afghan War Leaks Expose Costly, Deceitful March of Folly

Posted by Admin on July 28, 2010

by: Ray McGovern, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

The brutality and fecklessness of the US-led war in Afghanistan have been laid bare in an indisputable way just days before the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether to throw $33.5 billion more into the Afghan quagmire, when that money is badly needed at home.

On Sunday, the web site WikiLeaks posted 75,000 reports written mostly by US forces in Afghanistan during a six-year period from January 2004 to December 2009. The authenticity of the material – published under the title “Afghan War Diary”  – is not in doubt.

The New York Times, which received an embargoed version of the documents from WikiLeaks , devoted six pages of its Monday editions to several articles on the disclosures, which reveal how the Afghan War slid into its current morass while the Bush administration concentrated US military efforts on Iraq.

WikiLeaks also gave advanced copies to the British newspaper The Guardian and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, thus, guaranteeing that the US Fawning Corporate Media could not ignore these classified cables the way it did five years ago with the “Downing Street Memo,” a leaked British document which described how intelligence was “fixed” around President George W. Bush’s determination to invade Iraq.

The Washington Post also led its Monday editions with a lengthy article about the WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the Afghan war reports.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the new evidence of a foundering war in Afghanistan will lead to a public groundswell of opposition to expending more billions of dollars there when the money is so critically needed to help people to keep their jobs, their homes and their personal dignity in the United States.

But there may be new hope that the House of Representatives will find the collective courage to deny further funding for feckless bloodshed in Afghanistan that seems more designed to protect political flanks in Washington than the military perimeters of US bases over there.

Assange on Pentagon Papers

WikiLeaks’ leader Julian Assange compared the release of the “Afghan War Diary” to Daniel Ellsberg’s release in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers. Those classified documents revealed the duplicitous arguments used to justify the Vietnam War and played an important role in eventually getting Congress to cut off funding.

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Ellsberg’s courageous act was the subject of a recent Oscar-nominated documentary, entitled “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” named after one of the less profane sobriquets thrown Ellsberg’s way by then-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.

I imagine Dan is happy at this point to cede that particular honorific to the WikiLeaks’ leaker, who is suspected of being Pfc. Bradley Manning, a young intelligence specialist in Iraq who was recently detained and charged with leaking classified material to WikiLeaks.

An earlier WikiLeaks’ disclosure – also reportedly from Manning – revealed video of a US helicopter crew cavalierly gunning down about a dozen Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists, as they walked along a Baghdad street.

WikiLeaks declined to say whether Manning was the source of the material. However, possibly to counter accusations that the leaker (allegedly Manning) acted recklessly in releasing thousands of secret military records, WikiLeaks said it was still withholding 15,000 reports “as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source.”

After Ellsberg was identified as the Pentagon Papers leaker in 1971, he was indicted and faced a long prison sentence if convicted. However, a federal judge threw out the charges following disclosures of the Nixon administration’s own abuses, such as a break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.

In public speeches over the past several years, Ellsberg has been vigorously pressing for someone to do what he did, this time on the misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ellsberg also has praised Assange for providing a means for the documents to reach the public.

Ellsberg and other members of The Truth-Telling Coalition established on September 9, 2004, have been appealing to government officials who encounter “deception and cover-up” on vital issues to opt for “unauthorized truth telling.” (At the end of this story, see full text of the group’s letter, which I signed.)

Emphasizing that “citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts,” the Truth-Telling Coalition challenged officials to give primary allegiance to the Constitution and noted the readiness of groups like the ACLU and The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to offer advice and support.

What’s New?

In a taped interview, Assange noted in his understated way that, with the Internet, the “situation is markedly different” from Pentagon Papers’ days. “More material can be pushed to bigger audiences and much sooner.”

Also, the flow of information can evade the obstructions of traditional news gatekeepers who failed so miserably to inform the American people about the Bush administration’s deceptions before the Iraq war.

People all over the world can get “the whole wad at once” and put the various reports into context, which “is not something that has previously occurred; that is something that can only be brought about as a result of the Internet,” Assange said.

However, Assange also recognized the value of involving the traditional news media to ensure that the reports got maximum attention. So, he took a page from Ellsberg’s experience by creating some competitive pressure among major news outlets, giving the 75,000 reports to the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. Beginning Sunday afternoon, all three posted articles about the huge dump of information.

Assange noted that the classified material includes many heart-rending incidents that fit into the mosaic of a larger human catastrophe. These include one depicted in Der Spiegel’s reportage of accidental killings on June 17, 2007, when US Special Forces fired five rockets at a Koran school in which a prominent al-Qaeda functionary was believed to be hiding. When the smoke cleared, the Special Forces found no terrorist, but rather six dead children in the rubble of the school and another who died shortly after.

Role of Pakistan

Perhaps the most explosive revelations disclose the double game being played by the Pakistani directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Der Spiegel reported: “The documents clearly show that this Pakistani intelligence agency is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan.”

The documents also show ISI envoys not only are present when insurgent commanders hold war councils, but also give specific orders to carry out assassinations – including, according to one report, an attempt on the life of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in August 2008.

Former Pakistani intelligence chief, Gen. Hamid Gul, is depicted as an important source of aid to the Taliban and even, in another report, as a “leader” of the insurgents. The reports show Gul ordering suicide attacks and describe him as one of the most important suppliers of weaponry to the Taliban.

Though the Pakistani government has angrily denied US government complaints about Gul and the ISI regarding secret ties to the Taliban and even to al-Qaeda, the new evidence must raise questions about what the Pakistanis have been doing with the billions of dollars that Washington has given them.

Two Ex-Generals Got It Right

We have another patriotic truth-teller to thank for leaking the texts of cables that Ambassador (and former Lt. Gen.) Karl Eikenberry sent to Washington on November 6 and 9, 2009, several weeks before President Barack Obama made his fateful decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

In a somewhat condescending tone, Eikenberry described the request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, for more troops as “logical and compelling within his narrow mandate to define the needs” of the military campaign.

But then Eikenberry warned repeatedly about “unaddressed variables” like militants’ “sanctuaries” in Pakistan. For example, the ambassador wrote:

“More troops won’t end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain … and Pakistan views its strategic interests as best served by a weak neighbor.”

In Eikenberry’s final try at informing the White House discussion (in his cable of November 9), the ambassador warned pointedly of the risk that “we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves.”

At the time, it seemed that Eikenberry’s message was getting through to the White House. On November 7, Der Spiegel published an interview with National Security Adviser (former Marine Gen.) James Jones, who was asked whether he agreed with General McChrystal that a substantial troop increase was needed. Jones replied:

“Generals always ask for more troops; I believe we will not solve the problem with more troops alone. You can keep on putting troops in and you could have 200,000 troops there and Afghanistan will swallow them up as it has done in the past.”

However, McChrystal and his boss, then-Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus, pressed the case for more troops, a position that had strong support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Vice President Dick Cheney, key hawks in Congress and Washington’s neoconservative-dominated opinion circles.

After months of internal debate, President Obama finally caved in and gave McChrystal nearly all the troops that he had requested. (McChrystal has since been replaced by Petraeus as commander of forces in Afghanistan.)

Despite the fact that the WikiLeaks disclosures offer fresh support for the doubters on the Afghan war escalation, Jones acted as the good soldier on Sunday, decrying the unauthorized release of classified information, calling WikiLeaks “irresponsible.”

Jones also lectured the Pakistanis:

“Pakistan’s military and intelligence services must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups. The balance must shift decisively against al-Qaeda and its extremist allies. US support for Pakistan will continue to be focused on building Pakistani capacity to root out violent extremist groups.”

(Note: O.K. he’s a general. But the grammatical mood is just a shade short of imperative. And the tone is imperial/colonial through and through. I’ll bet the Pakistanis are as much swayed by that approach as they have been by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s admonitions not to be concerned about India – just terrorists.)

And regarding “progress” in Afghanistan? Jones added, “the US and its allies have scored several significant blows against the insurgency.”

However, that’s not the positive spin that Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was offering just four weeks ago. On his way to Kabul, again, Mullen spoke of “recent setbacks in the Afghan campaign.”

“We underestimated some of the challenges” in Marja, the rural area of Helmand province that was cleared in March by US Marines, only to have Taliban fighters return. “They’re coming back at night; the intimidation is still there,” Mullen said.

Of the much more ambitious (and repeatedly delayed) campaign to stabilize the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Mullen said: “It’s going to take until the end of the year to know where we are there.”

Would you say yes to an additional $33.5 billion for this fool’s errand?

***

Text of 2004 Appeal from The Truth-Telling Coalition follows:

September 9, 2004

APPEAL TO: Current Government Officials
FROM: The Truth-Telling Coalition

It is time for unauthorized truth telling.

Citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts – for example, the facts that have been wrongly concealed about the ongoing war in Iraq: the real reasons behind it, the prospective costs in blood and treasure and the setback it has dealt to efforts to stem terrorism. Administration deception and cover-up on these vital matters has so far been all too successful in misleading the public.

Many Americans are too young to remember Vietnam. Then, as now, senior government officials did not tell the American people the truth. Now, as then, insiders who know better have kept their silence, as the country was misled into the most serious foreign policy disaster since Vietnam.

Some of you have documentation of wrongly concealed facts and analyses that – if brought to light – would impact heavily on public debate regarding crucial matters of national security, both foreign and domestic. We urge you to provide that information now, both to Congress and, through the media, to the public.

Thanks to our First Amendment, there is in America no broad Officials Secrets Act, nor even a statutory basis for the classification system. Only very rarely would it be appropriate to reveal information of the three types whose disclosure has been expressly criminalized by Congress: communications intelligence, nuclear data and the identity of US intelligence operatives. However, this administration has stretched existing criminal laws to cover other disclosures in ways never contemplated by Congress.

There is a growing network of support for whistleblowers. In particular, for anyone who wishes to know the legal implications of disclosures they may be contemplating, the ACLU stands ready to provide pro bono legal counsel, with lawyer-client privilege. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) will offer advice on whistle blowing, dissemination and relations with the media.

Needless to say, any unauthorized disclosure that exposes your superiors to embarrassment entails personal risk. Should you be identified as the source, the price could be considerable, including loss of career and possibly even prosecution. Some of us know from experience how difficult it is to countenance such costs. But continued silence brings an even more terrible cost, as our leaders persist in a disastrous course and young Americans come home in coffins or with missing limbs.

This is precisely what happened at this comparable stage in the Vietnam War. Some of us live with profound regret that we did not at that point expose the administration’s dishonesty and perhaps prevent the needless slaughter of 50,000 more American troops and some 2 to 3 million Vietnamese over the next ten years. We know how misplaced loyalty to bosses, agencies and careers can obscure the higher allegiance all government officials owe the Constitution, the sovereign public and the young men and women put in harm’s way. We urge you to act on those higher loyalties.

A hundred forty thousand young Americans are risking their lives every day in Iraq for dubious purpose. Our country has urgent need of comparable moral courage from its public officials. Truth telling is a patriotic and effective way to serve the nation. The time for speaking out is now.

SIGNATORIES

Appeal from the Truth-Telling Coalition

Edward Costello, Former Special Agent (Counterintelligence), Federal Bureau of Investigation

Sibel Edmonds, Former Language Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Daniel Ellsberg, Former official, US Departments of Defense and State

John D. Heinberg, Former Economist, Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor

Larry C. Johnson, Former Deputy Director for Anti-Terrorism Assistance, Transportation Security and Special Operations, Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counter Terrorism

Lt. Col Karen Kwiatowski, USAF (ret.), who served in the Pentagon’s Office of Near East Planning

John Brady Kiesling, Former Political Counselor, US Embassy, Athens, Department of State

David MacMichael, Former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council, Central Intelligence Agency

Ray McGovern, Former Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency

Philip G. Vargas, Ph.D., J.D., Dir. Privacy & Confidentiality Study, Commission on Federal Paperwork (Author/Director: “The Vargas Report on Government Secrecy” — CENSORED)

Ann Wright, Retired US Army Reserve Colonel and US Foreign Service Officer

This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com.

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Official: BP CEO Hayward being replaced over spill

Posted by Admin on July 25, 2010

NEW ORLEANS – A senior U.S. government official says BP ChiefExecutive Tony Hayward, under fire for his handling of the Gulf oil spill, is being replaced.

An official announcement could come as early as Monday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because that announcement had not been made, was briefed on the decision by a senior BP official late last week.

The official did not know who would replace Hayward or when it would happen. One of the most likely successors is BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, who is currently overseeing the British company’s spill response.

BP’s board would have to approve a change in company leadership.

Hayward has made several gaffes, most notably wishing to have his “life back” and going to a yacht race while oil washed up on Gulf shores.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The effort to plug BP’s leaky oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was back on track Sunday as the skies cleared and crews raced to stop the gusher for good before another storm halts the operation again.

drill rig is expected to reconnect at around midnight to the relief tunnel that will be used to pump in mud and cement to seal the well, and drilling could resume in the next few days.

A temporary plug already has held in the oil for nine days, and BP was able to leave it in place even after the government’s point man on the spill ordered ships working in the Gulf to evacuate ahead of Tropical StormBonnie late last week.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said officials will spend the next day determining how the small storm affected the area.

Oil may have migrated north to Mississippi Sound, he said, and officials are checking to see if boom that was protecting sensitive marshlands was pushed ashore.

As work on the well resumed, British media reported that BP chief executive Tony Hayward is negotiating the terms of his departure ahead of the company’s half-year results announcement Tuesday.

Citing unidentified sources, the BBC and Sunday Telegraph reported that detailed talks regarding Hayward’s future took place over the weekend. A formal announcement is expected in the next 24 hours, the BBC reported.

BP spokesman Toby Odone said Sunday that Hayward “remains BP’s chief executive, and he has the confidence of the board and senior management.”

Allen said he hadn’t heard of any management changes.

“I’ve got no knowledge of the inner workings of BP,” he said.

Hayward, who angered Americans by minimizing the spill’s environmental impact and expressing his exasperation by saying “I’d like my life back,” has been under heavy criticism over his gaffe-prone leadership during the spill.

Before the cap was attached and closed a week ago, the broken well had spewed 94 million to 184 million gallons into the Gulf since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.

Completion of the relief well that is the best chance to permanently stop the oil now looks possible by mid-August, but Allen said he wouldn’t hesitate to order another evacuation based on forecasts similar to the ones for Bonnie.

“We have no choice but to start well ahead of time if we think the storm track is going to bring gale force winds, which are 39 mph or above, anywhere close to well site,” Allen said.

In the oil-affected hamlet of Grand Isle, La., thousands of people spent a gray Saturday at the beach, listening to music. The Island Aid concert, which included LeAnn Rimes and Three Dog Night, raised money for civic projects on the island.

For the afternoon at least, things were almost back to normal. Young women in bathing suits rode around on golf carts while young men in pickup trucks tooted their horns and shouted.

“This is the way Grand Isle is supposed to be but hasn’t been this year,” said Anne Leblanc of Metairie, La., who said her family has been visiting the island for years. “This is the first we came this year. With the oil spill there hasn’t been a reason to come, no swimming, no fishing.”

___

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in New Orleans and Mary Foster in Grand Isle, La., contributed to this report.

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BP Paying Off Universities and Gulf Scientists En Masse to Hide Oil Spill Research Data from the Public

Posted by Admin on July 22, 2010

Posted by Alexander Higgins

July 16, 2010

http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2010/07/16/bp-paying-off-universities-and-gulf-scientists-to-hide-oil-spill-research-data-from-the-public/

If the people of the Gulf have had one advocate throughout the BP Gulf Oil Spill it has been the scientific community.

They have not been afraid to step and challenge BP and The Federal Government over the existence of underwater plumes, the dangers of the dispersants BP is using, or the safety of Gulf waters.

The scientific community has sounded the alarm on skyrocketing arsenic levels in the Gulf while the Government has kept quiet and has exposed the improper BP cleanup practices that are contaminating Gulf beaches.

Scientist have come forward to reveal the real location of the oil spill, exposed the lies about oil and methane plumes, and have alerted the public to severely low-balled flow rates.

The list goes on and on.

However those days may soon becoming to an end.

A startling new report from the Alabama Register reveals BP is trying to buy up Gulf scientists and Universities in mass to prevent them from releasing research data to the public.

For the last few weeks, BP has been offering signing bonuses and lucrative pay to prominent scientists from public universities around the Gulf Coast to aid its defense against spill litigation.

BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company’s lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.

The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.

“We told them there was no way we would agree to any kind of restrictions on the data we collect. It was pretty clear we wouldn’t be hearing from them again after that,” said Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama. “We didn’t like the perception of the university representing BP in any fashion.”

BP officials declined to answer the newspaper’s questions about the matter. Among the questions: how many scientists and universities have been approached, how many are under contract, how much will they be paid, and why the company imposed confidentiality restrictions on scientific data gathered on its behalf.

More than one scientist interviewed by the Press-Register described being offered $250 an hour through BP lawyers. At eight hours a week, that amounts to $104,000 a year.

Scientists from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Texas A&M have reportedly accepted, according to academic officials. Scientists who study marine invertebrates, plankton, marsh environments, oceanography, sharks and other topics have been solicited.

The contract makes it clear that BP is seeking to add scientists to the legal team that will fight the Natural Resources Damage Assessment lawsuit that the federal government will bring as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

The government also filed a NRDA suit after the Exxon Valdez spill.

In developing its case, the government will draw on the large amount of scientific research conducted by academic institutions along the Gulf. Many scientists being pursued by BP serve at those institutions.

With its payments, BP buys more than the scientists’ services, according to Wiygul. It also buys silence, he said, thanks to confidentiality clauses in the contracts.

Richard Shaw, associate dean of LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment, said that the BP contracts are already hindering the scientific community’s ability to monitor the affects of the Gulf spill.

“The first order of business at the research meetings is to get all the disclosures out. Who has a personal connection to BP? We have to know how to deal with that person,” Shaw said. “People are signing on with BP because the government funding to the universities has been so limited. It’s a sad state of affairs.”

“This is not an agreement to do research for BP,” Wiygul said. “This is an agreement to join BP’s legal team. You agree to communicate with BP through their attorneys and to take orders from their attorneys.

“The purpose is to maintain any information or data that goes back and forth as privileged.”

The contract requires scientists to agree to withhold data even in the face of a court order if BP decides to fight such an order. It stipulates that scientists will be paid only for research approved in writing by BP.

The contracts have the added impact of limiting the number of scientists who’re able to with federal agencies. “Let’s say BP hired you because of your work with fish. The contract says you can’t do any work for the government or anyone else that involves your work with BP. Now you are a fish scientist who can’t study fish,” Wiygul said.

Perhaps even more startling is the scientists that BP isn’t paying off to keep quiet the Federal Government is.

A scientist who spoke to the Press-Register on condition of anonymity because he feared harming relationships with colleagues and government officials said he rejected a BP contract offer and was subsequently approached by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with a research grant offer.

He said the first question the federal agency asked was, “‘is there a conflict of interest,’ meaning, ‘are you under contract with BP?’”

Other scientists told the newspaper that colleagues who signed on with BP have since been informed by federal officials that they will lose government funding for ongoing research efforts unrelated to the spill.

NOAA officials did not answer requests for comment. The agency also did not respond to a request for the contracts that it offers scientists receiving federal grants. Several scientists said the NOAA contract was nearly as restrictive as the BP version.

The state of Alaska published a 293-page report on the NRDA process after the Exxon Valdez disaster. A section of the report titled “NRDA Secrecy” discusses anger among scientists who received federal grants over “the non-disclosure form each researcher had signed as a prerequisite to funding.”

“It’s a very strange situation. The science is already suffering,” Shaw said. “The government needs to come through with funding for the universities. They are letting go of the most important group of scientists, the ones who study the Gulf.”

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There Was ‘Nobody in Charge’

Posted by Admin on May 29, 2010

[horizon_fire]Associated Press

In this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21.

In the minutes after a cascade of gas explosions crippled the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, confusion reigned on the drilling platform. Flames were spreading rapidly, power was out, and terrified workers were leaping into the dark, oil-coated sea. Capt. Curt Kuchta, the vessel’s commander, huddled on the bridge with about 10 other managers and crew members.

Andrea Fleytas, a 23-year-old worker who helped operate the rig’s sophisticated navigation machinery, suddenly noticed a glaring oversight: No one had issued a distress signal to the outside world, she recalls in an interview. Ms. Fleytas grabbed the radio and began calling over a signal monitored by the Coast Guard and other vessels.

[OilCrisisLogo]

“Mayday, Mayday. This is Deepwater Horizon. We have an uncontrollable fire.”

When Capt. Kuchta realized what she had done, he reprimanded her, she says.

“I didn’t give you authority to do that,” he said, according to Ms. Fleytas, who says she responded: “I’m sorry.”

Part Two of a Journal investigation finds the doomed oil rig was unprepared for disaster, hobbled by a complex chain of command and a balky decision-making structure.

Part One: BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster

An examination by The Wall Street Journal of what happened aboard the Deepwater Horizon just before and after the explosions suggests the rig was unprepared for the kind of disaster that struck and was overwhelmed when it occurred. The events on the bridge raise questions about whether the rig’s leaders were prepared for handling such a fast-moving emergency and for evacuating the rig—and, more broadly, whether the U.S. has sufficient safety rules for such complex drilling operations in very deep water.

The chain of command broke down at times during the crisis, according to many crew members. They report that there was disarray on the bridge and pandemonium in the lifeboat area, where some people jumped overboard and others called for boats to be launched only partially filled.

The vessel’s written safety procedures appear to have made it difficult to respond swiftly to a disaster that escalated at the speed of the events on April 20. For example, the guidelines require that a rig worker attempting to contain a gas emergency had to call two senior rig officials before deciding what to do. One of them was in the shower during the critical minutes, according to several crew members.

Editors’ Deep Dive: Fines, New Rules Loom for Oil Firms

The written procedures required multiple people to jointly make decisions about how to respond to “dangerous” levels of gas—a term that wasn’t precisely defined—and some members of the crew were unclear about who had authority to initiate an emergency shutdown of the well.

This account of what happened aboard the rig at the time of the explosions, which killed 11, is based on interviews with survivors, their written accounts, testimony to the Coast Guard and internal documents of rig operator Transocean Ltd. and well owner BP PLC.

In written responses to the Journal, Transocean said that the time between the first sign of trouble and the catastrophic explosion was too short for the crew to have done anything to effectively prevent or minimize the disaster. The company also said the rig’s chain of command was in place and “did not hinder response time or activity.”

At a Coast Guard hearing on Thursday, Jimmy Wayne Harrell, the top Transocean executive on the rig, acknowledged under questioning that a split chain of command on the platform could lead to “confusion” but it didn’t hinder emergency response. At the same hearing, Capt. Kuchta said that communications had not been a problem.

Under pressure to step up his response to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, President Obama vowed tougher regulations for the oil industry. Joe White, Evan Newmark and Dennis Berman discuss. Also, a discussion on why ‘Bluedog’ Democrats caused a new jobs bill to falter.

BP declined to comment on anything that happened April 20.

In the minutes before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, almost no one on board realized that serious trouble was brewing, other than a few men on the drilling floor—the uppermost of three levels on the massive structure. The sea was as still as glass. A cool wind blew faintly from the north. Capt. Kuchta was hosting two BP executives on board for a ceremony honoring the rig for seven years without a serious accident.

Nearly 20 men, many of them close friends, were operating the drilling apparatus, which already had bored through more than 13,000 feet of rock about 5,000 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico. No alarms had sounded that day signaling gas on the platform.

At about 9:47 p.m., workers all over the rig heard a sudden hiss of methane gas. Methane is often present in the ground in and near reservoirs of crude oil, and managing the threat is a regular part of drilling.

Within two minutes, pressure caused by gas in the well pipe had spiked dramatically, drilling records indicate. A torrent of methane gas struck the rig. Power failed throughout the vessel. “Everything started jumping up and down and rocking us,” said Kevin Senegal, 45, a tank cleaner, in an interview.

The Final Moments

See a 3-D diagram of the rig as the explosion happened. Plus, read more about the Deepwater Horizon Victims .

Out on the water, 40 feet away, a 260-foot supply ship called the Damon B. Bankston was tethered to the rig by a hose. That ship’s captain said in an interview that he saw drilling “mud,” which is used as a counterweight to gas in the well, flying out of the drilling derrick like a “volcano.” He radioed the bridge of the Deepwater Horizon. He was told there was “trouble with the well” and the Bankston should move 150 meters back. Then the channel went silent.

Micah Sandell, a 40-year-old with a wife and three children, watched with alarm from the rig’s gantry crane, a massive device that moved across the main deck on a track. He radioed his crew to move away from the derrick.

Down on the deck, Heber Morales, 33, a former Marine from Texas, turned to the worker beside him. “Oh, man. That’s not good,” he said. The two moved away from the derrick.

Up in the crane, Mr. Sandell saw another worker on the deck, assistant driller Donald Clark, a 48-year-old former soybean farmer from Newellton, La., bolt for a set of stairs leading for the area where workers were fighting to control the well.

Daryl Peveto/LUCEO for The Wall Street Journal

Andrea Fleytas

Ms. Fleytas, one of only three female workers in the 126-member crew, was on the bridge monitoring the rig’s exact location and stability. Briefly, all the equipment went black, then a backup battery kicked on. She and her coworkers checked their monitors, which indicated no engines or thrusters were operational. Multiple gas alarms were sounding. One of the six huge engines that kept the floating platform stable was revving wildly.

No methane had been detected on the Deepwater Horizon before the massive gas jolt. So no “Level 1” gas emergency—according to Transocean safety regulations, when “dangerous” levels of gas are detected in the well—had been declared, according to crew members. That meant the crew had gotten no general alert to prepare for trouble and no order to shut down anything that might ignite the gas.

The rig’s regulations state that in the event of such an emergency, the two top managers—on April 20 they were BP’s senior person on the rig, Donald Vidrine, and Transocean’s installation manager, Mr. Harrell—were to go to the drilling floor and evaluate the situation jointly. But once the gas hit, neither was able to get to the area.

Transocean says the rig’s chain of command and safety standards were followed and worked effectively under the circumstances. Mr. Harrell didn’t return phone calls. BP said Mr. Vidine was unavailable to comment.

When the pressure in the well spiked suddenly, the drilling crew had limited options and little time to act. Jason Anderson, a 35-year-old “toolpusher” who was supervising the crew on the oil platform’s drilling floor, tried to divert gas away from the rig by closing the “bag,” a thick membrane that surrounds a key part of the drill mechanism. That didn’t work.

Four emergency calls were made from the rig floor to senior crew members in the moments before the blast, according to a BP document reviewed by the Journal. One went to Mr. Vidrine, according to notes about a statement he gave the Coast Guard that were reviewed by the Journal. The rig worker, who isn’t identified in the notes, told him the drilling crew was “getting mud back,” a sign that gas was flooding into the well. At that point, Mr. Vidrine rushed for the drilling floor, but already “mud was everywhere,” he told the Coast Guard.

At about 9:50 p.m., Stephen Curtis, the 40-year-old assistant driller working with Mr. Anderson, called the rig’s senior toolpusher, Randy Ezell, who was in his sleeping quarters, according to a statement given by Mr. Ezell to the Coast Guard. Mr. Curtis said that methane was surging into the well and workers were on the verge of losing control.

Two rig workers who later discussed the matter with Mr. Ezell said he was told that Mr. Anderson was going to trigger the blowout preventer, a 450-ton device designed to slice the drill pipe at the ocean floor and seal the well in less than a minute. If triggered in time, it might have been enough to prevent the explosions, or at least limit the scale of the disaster, say some drilling experts. Mr. Ezell prepared to go to the drilling floor, according to his statement.

Seconds later, the methane ignited, possibly triggered by the revving engine. That set off an explosion that blew away critical sections of the Deepwater Horizon, sheared off at least one engine, set large parts of the rig on fire and allowed oil to begin spewing into the sea.

Mr. Curtis, an ex-military man who enjoyed turkey hunting, and Mr. Anderson, a father of two who was planning to leave the Deepwater Horizon for good at the end of his 21-day rotation, almost certainly were killed instantly, according to other workers. So was veteran driller Dewey Revette, 48, from State Line, Miss. Six men working nearby also died. They included 22-year-old Shane Roshto and Karl Kleppinger, Jr., 38, from Natchez, Miss., and Mr. Clark, the assistant driller who had rushed to the stairs to help out.

Andre Damon/World Socialist Web Site

Tracy and Aaron Kleppinger, widow and son of worker Karl Kleppinger, at his funeral in Natchez, Miss., May 3.

Dale Burkeen, a 37-year-old Mississippian who operated the rig’s tall starboard crane, had been trying to get out of harm’s way when the blast hit. It blew him off a catwalk, other workers say, and he fell more than 50 feet to the deck, where he died.

A series of detonations followed. The motor room was wrecked. Steel doors were blown off their hinges. The wheel on one door flew off and struck a worker. Crew members were hurled across rooms, leaving many with broken bones, gashes and serious burns.

When he heard the first explosion, toolpusher Wyman Wheeler, who was scheduled to go home the next day, was in his bunk. He got up to investigate. The second blast blew the door off his quarters, breaking his shoulder and right leg in five places, according to family members. Other workers scooped him up and carried him toward the lifeboat deck on a stretcher.

The explosions knocked gantry-crane operator Mr. Sandell out of his seat and across the cab. As he fled down a spiral staircase to the deck, another explosion sent him into the air. He fell more than 10 feet, then got up to run. “Around me all over the deck, I couldn’t see nothing but fire,” he said in an interview. “There was no smoke, only flames.” He ran for the lifeboat deck.

From the bridge, Chief Mate David Young ran outside to investigate and to suit up for firefighting. After he encountered only one other crew member in gear, he returned to the bridge. Crew members say no significant firefighting efforts were undertaken. “We had no fire pumps. There was nothing to do but abandon ship,” said Capt. Kuchta, in testimony at a Coast Guard inquiry on Thursday.

As workers poured out of their quarters, many found their routes to open decks blocked. Ceiling tiles and insulation were blown everywhere. In some areas, fire-suppression systems were discharging carbon dioxide. Stairways were gone.

According to many workers, most crew members didn’t get clear direction from the bridge about what to do for several minutes. Finally, the public-address system began to blare: “Fire. Fire. Fire. Fire on the rig floor. This is not a drill.”

Many crew members couldn’t reach their designated assembly areas. Scores scrambled instead toward the only two accessible lifeboats, which hung by cables 75 feet above the water on one side of the rig. Each enclosed and motorized boat could hold about 75 passengers.

“The scene was very chaotic,” said worker Carlos Ramos in an interview. “People were in a state of panic.” Flames were shooting out of the well hole to a height of 250 feet or more. Debris was falling. One crane boom on the rig melted from the heat and folded over.

Injured workers were scattered around the deck. Others were yelling that the rig was going to blow up. “There was no chain of command. Nobody in charge,” Mr. Ramos said.

“People were just coming out of nowhere and just trying to get on the lifeboats,” said Darin Rupinski, one of the operators of the rig’s positioning system, in an interview. “One guy was actually hanging off the railing…. People were saying that we needed to get out of there.”

At one point, a Transocean executive was standing partly in the lifeboat, helping injured workers off the rig and telling Mr. Rupinski not to lower the boat yet. Rig workers piling in were shouting for him to get the boat down. “There had to be at least 50 people in the boat, yelling, screaming at you to lower the boat,” Mr. Rupinski recalled. “And you have a person outside saying, ‘We have to wait.'”

Terrified workers began jumping directly into the sea—a 75-foot leap into the darkness. Mr. Rupinski radioed the bridge that workers were going overboard.

A Transocean spokesman said the company hasn’t yet been able to determine exactly what happened in the lifeboat loading area.

Capt. Kuchta and about 10 other executives and crew members, including Ms. Fleytas, were gathered on the bridge, which was not yet threatened by fire. When word reached the bridge that workers were jumping, Ms. Fleytas’s supervisor issued a “man overboard” call.

The Bankston, now positioned hundreds of feet from the burning rig, picked up the call. Officers on that vessel had seen what appeared to be shiny objects—the reflective life vests on rig workers—tumbling from the platform into the water. The Bankston put a small boat into the water and began a rescue operation.

Messrs. Vidrine and Harrell, the two highest ranking executives, appeared on the bridge. Mr. Vidrine later told the Coast Guard that a panel on the bridge showed that the drilling crew, all of whom were dead by then, had already closed the “bag,” the thick rubber membrane around a section of the well.

But the emergency disconnect, which would sever the drilling pipe and shut down the well, had not been successfully triggered. Some crew members on the bridge said the disconnect needed to be hit, and a higher-ranking manager said to do so, according to an account given to the Coast Guard. Then another crew member said the cutoff couldn’t be hit without permission from Mr. Harrell, who then gave the OK. At 9:56 p.m., the button finally was pushed, with no apparent effect, according to an internal BP document.

Mr. Young, the chief mate who had left the bridge to survey the fire, told Capt. Kuchta that the fire was “uncontrollable,” and that everyone needed to abandon the rig immediately, according to two workers on the bridge. Under Transocean safety regulations, the decision to evacuate was to be made by Capt. Kuchta and Mr. Harrell.

Capt. Kuchta didn’t immediately issue the order, even though at least one lifeboat had already pushed away, according to several people on the bridge. At the Coast Guard hearing Thursday, several crew members said they weren’t certain who issued the abandon ship order or whether one was ever given. Capt. Kuchta didn’t return calls seeking comment, but in his testimony said it was obvious to all by that time that the crew should evacuate.

Alarmed at the situation, Ms. Fleytas recalled in the interview, she turned on the public-address system and said: “We are abandoning the rig.”

Capt. Kuchta told everyone who remained on the bridge to head for the lifeboats, according one person who was there.

One boat was long gone. When they reached the boarding area, the second was motoring away, according to several witnesses. Ten people were left on the rig, including Mr. Wheeler, the injured toolpusher, who was lying on a gurney.

The deck pulsed with heat. The air was thick with smoke, and the surface of the water beneath the rig—covered with oil and gas—was burning. Crew members attached a 25-foot life raft to a winch, swung it over a railing and inflated it. Mr. Wheeler was lifted in and several others climbed in with him. As the raft began descending, Ms. Fleytas jumped in. The remaining people on the rig, including Capt. Kuchta, leapt into the Gulf.

Once the life raft reached the ocean, it didn’t move, even as fire spread across the water. Some hanging on to its sides thought the heat of the rig was creating a draft sucking the craft back in. Terrified, Ms. Fleytas rolled out of the raft into the oil-drenched water.

“All I saw was smoke and fire,” she recalled. “I swam away from the rig for my life.”

Minutes later, the rescue boat from the Bankston plucked Ms. Fleytas and several others from the water. The crew of the small boat saw that a line attached to the life raft was still connected to the burning rig.

“Cut the line,” yelled one Bankston crew member. Another passed over a knife, the raft was cut free, and the last survivors were towed away from the fire. All told, the Bankston rescued 115, including 16 who were seriously injured. A Transocean spokesman says that the fact that so many survived “is a testament to the leadership, training, and heroic actions” of crew members.

The crew of the Deepwater Horizon watched from the deck of the Bankston as the drilling platform burned through the night. More than 24 hours later, it sank in 5,000 feet of water.

—Jason Womack, Ben Casselman, Russell Gold, Jennifer Levitz, Miguel Bustillo and Jeffrey Ball contributed to this article.

Write to Douglas Blackmon at douglas.blackmon@wsj.com, Vanessa O’Connell atvanessa.o’connell@wsj.com, Alexandra Berzon at alexandra.berzon@wsj.com and Ana Campoy at ana.campoy@dowjones.com

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