Tag Archives: bp

Memorial Day Madness

31 May

It may be Memorial Day, but the news never takes the day off. There are three main stories out there today.

Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla filled with civilians that was headed toward the Gaza strip. The flotilla was attempting to bring aid in the Palestinian territory, which has been subject to an Israeli blockade for quite some time.

The commandos boarded the craft while the vessel was still in international waters. In the ensuing clash, around 10 civilians were killed (there are conflicting reports).

The incident has spurred widespread outrage across the world, particularly in Turkey and Europe. Predictably, however, that outrage has not reached the United States. Many governments put out statements condemning Israel for its actions, but not the U.S. The American statement lacks the teeth of some of other nations.

The more I learn about this, the more disturbed I am. I think Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish hits this on the head:

Just imagine if a flotilla of anti-Tehran activists were attacked in international waters by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and that the Guards killed 16 or more of the civilians. What do you think Commentary would be saying then?

It seems to me that we cannot allow Israel to get away with actions that we would condemn others for; they shouldn’t get a free pass.

BP CEO Tony Hayward continues to be amazingly arrogant, suggesting recently that nine clean up workers who recently became very ill and had to be taken away on stretchers became ill from food poisoning, not from the dispersant BP is using. Whether or not he’s right, and I doubt he is, the company appears horrifyingly tone deaf.

But I suppose they have no real reason to be more forthcoming. After all, it’s not as if we’re going to stop using oil anytime soon.

CNN was incredulous.

President Obama’s Memorial Day Speech at an Illinois cemetery never got off the ground after a thunderstorm produced a massive downpour and lightning.

Have a great Memorial Day everyone.

BP Chairman: BP is Big and Important

25 May

The Chairman of BP said today that his company is “big and important.”

No, I’m not making that up.

That’s about as arrogant as it can get, but he’s right. BP is tremendously important to the United States and we are important to them. This is the problem with oil.

The power of the United States (us, the people) is at a certain point compromised by this dependence.

We will get mad, there will be hearings, a few people may be fired. But will anything really change in the end?

Unfortunately, I don’t think so. But perhaps the President and Congress can yet seize this moment to radically alter the way this country thinks about oil, energy, and our relationships with these huge corporations.

We can only hope.

Note: In and earlier version of this post, I accidentally attributed the “big and important” statement to the BP CEO when in fact it is actually the chairman that said it. The picture above is of BP CEO Tony Hayward..

Our Inescapable Relationship with BP

24 May

Now, a week into summer, I’m going to try to start posting more frequently.

As oil continues to gush into the gulf, the primary focus remains (rightly) on stopping the leak and putting an end to the slow motion environmental disaster occurring along the coast. A new approach will be attempted before the end of the week to plug the gusher. Hopefully that will do the job.

But as the disaster continues, I’ve found myself contemplating the deeper issues that the spill exposes, even beyond the environmental dimensions, which are huge.

I’ve been thinking about what this whole situation means for the relationship between government and corporations. The spill is yet another flashpoint in many flashpoints since the financial crisis began in the fall of 2008 that have forced this nation to examine and renegotiate the relationship between the institutions of business and the state.

In the case of BP, the relationship is complex. Here we are, with this huge problem that we are told only BP is capable of solving where BP also caused the problem. Now, I like that the BP has to solve it. And pay for the consequences that the spill will have. That’s only just. And I also really do believe they are trying to stop it as best as they can.

But what is disturbing to me is that we have a situation where the government has allowed a corporation to undertake an activity in which the government has no viable way of stopping. This should be chilling, especially when the activity is oil drilling, where the consequences of something going wrong can and are being shown to be so destructive.

As a country we’ve decided that in other areas of the economy, government should have the expertise and the necessary power to reverse or stop the bad decisions of corporations and the private market. That’s why we have the Federal Reserve, which is capable of taking large scale action to essentially stop bad stuff from happening when corporations mess up. See: bailouts.

I think that’s a reasonable power. The government has a responsibility to the economy as a whole because corporations only have an obligation to themselves. Some entity – in this case the government – needs to oversee the market and correct market failures. That may be liberalism, but it’s certainly not socialism.

But if we have this type of mechanism for financial markets, why don’t we have it for oil drilling? We have regulation, which in this case was horribly ineffective and needs to be improved. But why did we allow a company to take an action, to drill at a depth so deep that our government does not have the ability to stop a spill if it occurs?

We allowed the capability of enterprise to outpace the capability of government. This, I think, was a fatal error.

We are now in the middle of a massive environmental disaster and we are beholden to the very same company who caused the spill to now stop it. We have no recourse. There is no second option.

What if BP suddenly decided to walk away and give up? It’s not an American company, what could we really do? We could sue, and we would win billions, but it probably would only dent the company, as BP is awash in billions more. But beyond that, we probably wouldn’t, because we need their oil.

That’s the system. It is, unfortunately, at this moment inescapable.

It’s seems to me that once the oil stops, once the destruction has been wrought, we as a nation must ensure that a corporation never again has so much power to wreck havoc on the land and water of the United States.

Another note on the oil:

Andrew Revkin, an environmental reporter for The New York Times, wrote today that President Obama now has the power and the obligation to take over the oil response from BP.