Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's blame the British and avoid any responsibility ourselves

A US Congressmen is demanding the BP apologize to every American. Yep maybe after the president of Union Carbide has apologized to every Indian and Exxon to every Alaskan. American politicians are being hypocritical in their comments about British Petroleum, more correctly now called BP. What's happened in the Gulf is a disaster but it's the arrogance and greed of the oil industry, and the greed of consumers that is cultivated by the oil companies, not just the arrogance of BP, that's the cause. The focus on BP is a useful way to avoid dealing with the problems of the oil industry, the most profitable industry in history.

The rig is owned by an American company Transocean, which has applied to have its potential damages limited to the value of the rig. Transocean relocated to Switzerland and the rig itself is registered under a flag of convenience in the Marshall Islands. The repair work was done by another American company Halliburton, which is associated with an ex-American vice-president, Dick Cheney. Andarko Petroleum, another American company, which owns 25% of the leaking Macondo well, is paying out a dividend. Mistui also owns 10% of Macondo. BP was the operator though. BP has agreed to well more than the $75 million is required to under the US legislation that established the oil reserve.

BP has been British enough to stand up and put its hand in its pocket. Transocean aren't; Halliburton aren't. And let's go back to Union Carbide. The accident happened in December 1984 and the site is still leaking chemicals. Some 2000 to 13,000 people were killed in the disaster. UC offered the Indian government the value of the insurance claim. Warren Anderson the UC fled to the US while under arrest in India, and has not been returned to India by the US government. The US is using one standard for itself and another for others.

It's being widely stated on the internet that Canadian law requires that a relief well be drilled at the same time as the main well. A quick survey of the internet sees the statement widely quoted but no reliable source so it may be something of an urban myth but though it not sure that it's that neat. The Canadians do demand oil companies have much better developed plans for relief wells than US legislation and in some circumstances require relief wells to be drilled. BP was certainly kicking against the cost of drilling prophylactic relief wells in the Canadian Arctic earlier this year.

And there has been remarkably little discussion in Congress about the Ixtec-1 leak on June 3 1979. The blowout preventer was powerful enough to shear through the drilling pipe. It is estimated to have leaked 3.3 million barrels of oil (524.6 million litres). The biggest marine oil leak in history.

And there hasn't been much talk about the leaks in Nigeria.

Nobody at this stage knows why the blowout preventer failed. The American obsession with dumping all the blame on BP is a political convenience that distracts attention away from the real issues and real solutions.

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