Thursday, June 03, 2010

How long before the free market plugs the Gulf oil gusher?

Bob Cesca -- author of One Nation Under Fear -- with the coffin nails and the hammer.

As I watch these robots slice the riser from the blowout preventer and read the news about lakes of oil moving towards the coasts of Florida, I'm wondering who to blame for this. The list is long, but, in part, I blame anyone who bought into the lines: "government is the problem" and "the era of big government is over." It's been systematic deregulation and the elevation of free market libertarian laissez-faire capitalism that have wrought this damage and allowed potentially destructive corporations to write their own rules and do as they please.

Like Bob, I'm not against capitalism. I AM against unbridled, greedy, shameless corporate executives who whine about wanting their lives back as thousands of lives along the Gulf coast are destroyed financially (not to mention the thousands of aquatic lives actually lost, drowned in goo).

After all, the nature of any corporation is to mitigate losses and increase revenues. Keep the shareholders as happy as possible, spend the least amount of money necessary, hire the best lawyers to avoid paying punitive fines and get back to drilling and selling oil for profit. This is what corporations do.

So it comes as no surprise that the only achievements since the rig explosion have involved releasing a syllabus of weasely remarks designed to ameliorate any damage to the BP brand, and literally harvesting oil from the riser.

At the peak of the riser insertion tube's efficacy, BP was successfully harvesting around 200,000 gallons of oil per day with a total capacity to process around 15,000 barrels per day. That's a lot of milkshake drinking in the middle of an unprecedented oil spill. And so BP will probably do what they always do. Refine and sell those barrels for a profit. And once the relief wells are completed, they'll do the same.

Mitigate. Ameliorate. Mediate. And then back to business.

Regardless of Justice Department investigations or lawsuits or cleanup costs, BP will emerge from this disaster and continue to profit from the drilling and selling of petroleum, including the oil from Macondo prospect.

Exxon, as precedent, is now Exxon-Mobil and is doing just fine. It endlessly appealed the fines imposed as the result of Valdez oil spill and whittled the down the cost of the disaster to corporate pocket change, and whatever money they paid out was covered by insurance policies.

Read that again. Exxon almost entirely escaped financial damages from the Valdez. In fact, it spent most of the last 21 years appealing its financial liability related to the Prince William Sound disaster. Why? Mitigating losses, and increasing revenues. There's no reason or evidence to believe that BP will be any different, lest anyone think they're in this to take full responsibility and do whatever it takes to repair the Gulf waters and its coastline.

Don't forget to lie your ass off while you're doing all that mitigating, either.

Before a drop of oil was spilled, they deliberately refused to invest in crucial failsafe mechanisms to prevent this sort of tragedy in the first place.

Following the rig explosion, they detained workers who witnessed the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

They attempted to distribute ridiculously small settlement offers.

They consistently low-balled the estimated volume of oil leaking from the riser and blowout preventer, arguably to avoid harsher liability.

They brazenly refused to stop using Corexit despite evidence that it was more toxic than other chemical dispersants.

BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, tried to tell us that the environmental damage will be "very, very modest."
They ordered federal Coast Guard officers to shoo the press away from tar-balled beaches.

They're preventing other reporters from photographing dead animals.

This week, they not only denied the existence of massive underwater plumes of dispersed oil, but, on top of it all, they've hired Dick Cheney's former press secretary to run their PR efforts. Any minute now, I'm half expecting to hear that the oil spill is in its "last throes."

Yet what you will read today, especially in the newspaper of record in the nation's oil capital from the Chronically conservative commenters is how horrible that socialist Obama is for halting offshore drilling, how terrible this news is for jobs in the Southeast Texas oilpatch, and yaddayaddayadda.

Forty years of corporate deregulation by conservative Republican Ayn Rand fetishists (and their Democratic enablers) have successfully poisoned the Gulf of Mexico. Ironically, the most liberal pro-regulation president in this same span of time -- the president who has announced on several occasions a significant break from Reagan's "government is the problem" mantra -- appears to be the only politician being blamed for this so far. One of many reasons why I fear it'll be another 40 years before we roll back this free market monster.

And, as I watch this video, the solution occurs to me: they should just plug the oil leak with every single existing copy of Atlas Shrugged.

Nationalize BP's American operations -- in the form of Robert Reich's suggestion regarding temporary receivership, arrest and charge Tony Hayward, and send a little message to all the other petroleum corporate thugs that "bidness as use-you-all" is. over.

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