The Latest On The Gulf Oil Spill (4th Thread)
6-14-10, 4:30 p.m. – If you thought our 3:00 update was unnerving, we can top it. Because according to the Wall Street Journal, the president isn’t running the oil spill response.
Neither is BP.
From the sound of things, it’s George Soros.
If you want to see where President Barack Obama’s response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster is heading, try following the urgings of the Center for American Progress.
The liberal think tank with close White House ties appears to have more influence on spill policy than the president’s in-house advisers. On May 4, for instance, the CAP’s energy and environment expert, Daniel Weiss, called on the president to name an independent commission to look at the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. On May 22, he did just that.
On May 21, CAP president, John Podesta, privately implored White House officials to name someone to be the public point person for the spill response. A week later, the White House announced that Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen would hold daily briefings on the spill, wherever he would be on any given day.
On May 26, Weiss said the White House needed to demand that BP immediately set up an escrow account with billions of dollars from which claims for Gulf state residents would be paid out.
Monday’s headlines proclaimed the president’s latest get-tough stand: BP needs to set up a billion-dollar escrow account.
What’s next, Mr. Podesta?
In case you’re not up on who’s who among lefty think tanks, the Center For American Progress is a George Soros concoction; it was one of a number of ventures the billionaire Nazi collaborator and currency destroyer – currently engaged with the rock star Sting in an effort at full legalization of recreational drugs – began in an effort to take over the Democrat Party in the early part of the previous decade. CAP is headed by John Podesta, whose brother Tony is BP’s chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill.
Robert Dreyfuss reports in the March 1, 2004 edition of The Nation: “The idea for the Center began with discussions in 2002 between [Morton] Halperin and George Soros, the billionaire investor. … Halperin, who heads the office of Soros’ Open Society Institute, brought [former Clinton chief of staff John] Podesta into the discussion, and beginning in late 2002 Halperin and Podesta circulated a series of papers to funders.”
Soros and Halperin recruited Harold Ickes — chief fundraiser and former deputy chief of staff for the Clinton White House — to help organize the Center. It was launched on July 7, 2003 as the American Majority Institute. The name was changed to Center for American Progress (CAP) on September 1, 2003. The official purpose of the Center was to provide the left with something it supposedly lacked — a think tank of its own.
Soros, of course, is one of, if not the, largest individual shareholders in Petrobras – the Brazilian state oil company. Petrobras is involved in a large-scale development – to the tune of $220 billion over 10 years – of the Tupi field offshore to the southeast of Rio de Janiero; and Tupi is a deepwater field. In fact, they expect to drill in as much as 7,000 feet of water in some places. The Brazilians expect to be able to get some 120,000 barrels a day from some of their production platforms, which would make the Macondo well a mere piker by comparison.
The Tupi field is considered to be an even more productive prospect than the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. It’s poised to make Brazil a leading exporter of oil; a dangerous prospect considering the Brazilians’ new coziness with Venezuela and Iran. One issue which has cropped up with respect to development of Tupi has been capital – a problem partially remedied by a loan guarantee from the Obama administration last year. Another has been the shortage of available rigs to drill, a problem which has disappeared thanks to there being 33 new Gulf of Mexico deepwater rigs looking for employment. Among the players in the Tupi field? Anadarko, which declared force majeure on three deepwater Gulf wells it had in operation, and Transocean – who rumor has it is de-listing from the SEC and will instead be traded on the Swiss exchange from now on and plans to divest itself of American operations altogether.
The Brazilians aren’t even shutting up about their good fortune.
“What is bad for some may be good for others,” said Fernando Martins, Latin America Vice President for GE Oil and Gas, which provides services to drillers in Brazil. “Since operators are shutting down at least temporarily in the U.S. Gulf, some companies are planning to move their rigs to Brazil now,” he said, without offering details.
Petrobras declined to comment on the issue.
But Mauricio Tolmasquim, a top Brazilian government energy advisor, said this week that he expected the Gulf spill to benefit Petrobras by making more deep water rigs available — adding that cost savings could be offset by higher insurance premiums for drilling operations.
Brazilian officials, including government leaders and Petrobras executives, have said Brazil has no intention of slowing its offshore development as a result of the spill.
Are we going too far on the conspiracy theories here? Maybe. But the Soros influence in this White House is unmistakable, and the man owns nearly a billion dollars in Petrobras stock. Since Obama became president, virtually everything which could go right for the value of that Petrobras stock has gone right – and as a result, while most oil stocks have plummeted, Petrobras has largely held its own and is even on the verge of putting out a $25 billion stock offering to help finance the Tupi development. Between these developments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s batting her eyes at the Brazilians (Clinton is a Center For American Progress insider as well) and the assault on hydraulic fracturing by Soros’ congressional clients Ed Markey and Henry Waxman, it’s not hard to see an agenda at work. After all – “never let a good crisis go to waste,” particularly when you can help one of your major benefactors corner the world oil market.
6-14-10, 3:00 P.M. – We’ll admit that we’re a little slow in coming around to this POLITICO interview President Obama did over the weekend; we wanted to put something together on college athletic conference realignments as a change of pace and as such we didn’t pick up on the story until after lunch.
But now that we’re into it, we’ve got to laugh to avoid crying. Because if what’s in this piece isn’t taken out of context and if Obama means what he says, things are as bad as you can imagine.
Right out of the gate we have an admission of shameless opportunism eschewing governance for radical ideological political action, and a grandiose comparison of the oil spill with 9/11…
Obama — facing mounting criticism of his handling of the BP gusher, even from longtime allies — vowed to make a “bold” push for a new energy law even as the calamity continues to unfold. And he said he will use the rest of his presidency to try to put the United States on a course toward a “new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”
“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11,” the president said in an Oval Office interview on Friday, “I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.”
In other words, rather than making a bold push to remediate the spill, Obama signals that he’s digging in his heels on the Obamoratorium. And just kick our ass all the way. And he thinks that a War On Oil, like his predecessor’s War On Terror, is the answer. As if, as Mike Youngblood noted here on the Hayride over the weekend, there was any way to divorce oil from modern life. If you powered cars with natural gas or coal, which we’re perfectly happy with the idea of doing, or if you tried to do it by burning our food to make ethanol, you still need lots and lots of oil to make plastics and all the other products all of us need.
Let’s not even get into the colossal differences between this oil spill, an accident which was a product of incompetence at both the regulatory level and on the part of BP – an internal report obtained by UpstreamOnline.com (link requires registration) called it a “challenging well to drill” and yet cut corners on its processes anyway – and an intentional terrorist jihad attack which was the culmination of over a decade of unaddressed terrorist activity. The fact that Obama thinks a quixotic campaign to fundamentally change America’s economy is a good response with 9/11 as the basis for such a move, in light of what the War On Terror ultimately did to his predecessor’s presidency, is enough of a reason to doubt his grasp of reality.
Hardening one of his persistent complaints throughout his presidency, Obama expressed frustration with press coverage of his administration’s response, declaring that “the media specifically is demanding things that the public aren’t demanding.” He contended that “the overwhelming majority of the American people” have reasonable expectations.
“What they hope and expect is for the president to do everything that’s within his power,” he said. “They don’t expect us to be magicians.”
Right. The media is kicking his ass. It’s terrible how they’re treating him. And the public doesn’t expect him to be a magician, so certainly they’ll be OK with him betting our economy on finding a way to run it on windmills and pixie dust.
When Simon asked about appealing to public emotion, Obama replied that “part of leadership always involves being able to capture people’s imaginations, their sense of hope, their sense of possibility, being able to move people to do things they didn’t think they could do.”
“The irony of course is, is that the rap on me before I got to office was that that’s all I could do — right?” he said with a chuckle. “[Y]ou know, ‘The guy gives a great speech, he inspires people, gets them all excited but we don’t know if he can manage and govern.’ So it’s not that I don’t think these issues are important. It’s that there’s a time and a place for these issues. …
“What the public wants to see is us solving this problem. And that may not make for good TV. Me sitting in a meeting with [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu and [Gulf national incident commander] Thad Allen and looking over maps and figuring out how boom gets someplace, that’s not something that is high theater. But ultimately that’s going to make the biggest difference in terms of whether or not the Gulf recovers.”
Wait. Stop. Obama isn’t plotting out where boom goes on a map, is he? Is he micromanaging this spill? Really? If so, then we know two things. First, he really is out to get Louisiana. And second, we only THOUGHT this man was incompetent. After all, that would indicate it’s Obama who ignored miles and miles of boom sitting in a warehouse in Maine while oil washed into Louisiana’s marshlands.
And finally, we get the plan of attack in the War On Oil.
Obama said he couldn’t predict whether the nation would transition completely from an oil-based economy within his lifetime but added that “now is the time for us to start making that transition and investing in a new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”
“I have no idea what new energy sources are going to be available, what technologies might drive down the price of renewable energies,” he said. “What we can predict is that the availability of fossil fuel is going to be diminishing; that it’s going to get more expensive to recover; that there are going to be environmental costs that our children, … our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren are going to have to bear.”
He says he wants to transition away from oil. And he admits he doesn’t have a clue what to transition to. Why would anybody follow this man?
If the people in Louisiana who are most affected by the oil spill are overwhelmingly still in favor of drilling for oil, drilling offshore for oil and drilling in deep water offshore for oil, then what on earth makes this man think it’s a good idea to put a stop to that activity when he offers no alternative?
Maybe Obama was misquoted. Maybe he just made a gaffe. Or maybe he really is this dangerously stupid. Either way, it doesn’t sound like the president is backing away from the Obamoratorium any time soon.
He’s still committed to kicking our ass.
6-14-10, 1:00 p.m. – The international implications of the spill are beginning to deepen despite a weekend of dialogue between President Obama and UK PM David Cameron in which the President said he’s got nothing against the British.
Influential Tory commentators have also joined in with calls for Cameron to defend BP. “I hope David Cameron has the balls to ring Obama today for ‘a full and frank discussion’ — diplomatic language for a blazing row,” writes Iain Dale, a leading Conservative columnist. Tim Montgomerie, a prominent activist who runs the site ConservativeHome, says he hopes that “behind-the-scenes channels are being used” to convey the British government’s displeasure. The Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner ripped Obama for “crass populism which shows very poor statesmanship.”
Cameron is scheduled to speak by phone with Obama over the weekend, and the former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, has been on the BBC’s The World At One program arguing it is time for the new prime minister to take up BP’s cause with the U.S. president. “The survival and ultimate prosperity of BP is a vital British interest, and I think the time has come to point it out, at a senior level, to the U.S. administration,” he said. …
But the debate that has erupted in Britain is motivated by more than hurt national pride. The value of BP shares has plummeted 47 percent since April, when the rig exploded, and this is hitting British pocketbooks. Last year, around 14 percent of all dividends in the country’s leading share index, the FTSE 100, were paid by BP, and it is estimated that one pound in every six in pension funds comes from BP. So it’s not just CEO Tony Hayward whose livelihood is being threatened — it’s those of thousands of ordinary Britons, too.
They say the heat’s being turned down. Hooray for that; British bookies have dropped the odds of a BP bankruptcy from 10-1 to 4-1, and if that company goes bust we’re in a lot of trouble in Louisiana. Meanwhile, despite a plethora of ships being brought to the spill site in an attempt to process what looks like a record output for a Gulf oil well – the 15,000 barrels a day the current containment cap system can process isn’t enough, and in response to Coast Guard Admiral James Watson’s demand for more containment they sent a letter today saying they’re going to bump up that capacity to 40,000-53,000 bpd by the end of the month. That might be overkill, but the record output for an offshore Gulf well is 40,000 bpd. Macondo apparently beats that.
6-11-10, 8:30 a.m. – As inveterate entrepreneurs, we’ve had an outbreak of mental poison ivy from the start of this oil spill business about the idea of getting in a boat with siphon hoses and a centrifuge and going out on the water to gather up oil from the slick with an idea toward trying to sell it. As a commercial venture we’re thinking it might not be a terrible idea, but not coming from an engineering or maritime background we’re thinking we might not be very successful in executing it.
The state of Louisiana, on the other hand, is coming from a different perspective. Louisiana doesn’t need to turn a profit, and its costs are covered by BP. So going out and suctioning oil, particularly where it’s intruding into the marshes, makes good sense. And as a result, with a little jury-rigging and a lot of determination the state is off to the races with some boats and some siphons.
The Coast Guard has approved 10 more vacuum barges to be used along Louisiana’s coast. That will bring the total to 13.
Gov. Bobby Jindal asked earlier this week for more oil suction equipment to be put on barges that can bring the pumps into marshes to remove oil.
The National Guard says two are currently operating – one made from military float bridges and the other on a civilian barge. It says they’re each recovering about 1,000 gallons of oil per day, and have collected more than 6,400 gallons so far.
The barges will go to Plaquemines, Jefferson, Lafourche, St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes, with exact locations to be decided by the National Guard, parish officials and the Coast Guard.
Jindal had called for a vacuum barge expansion on Wednesday after seeing what the first group deployed was capable of. In two days of operations at Grand Isle, Grand Terre and Elmer’s Island, a couple of vacuum barges reeled in 4,500 gallons of oil in two days. Now with 13 of these bad boys and some full-bore operations, the state could rack up some real numbers.
“Just like we did when we made our own booming plans and moved forward to do the work ourselves on sand booming segments, we took matters into our own hands again and recently asked that the Coast Guard approve a prototype of what we have called a Vacuum Barge to begin to suck up this oil ourselves,” the governor said.
Jindal is a public-sector guy. A very intelligent public-sector guy, for sure, but still a public-sector guy. He’s to be commended for leading the way on the vacuum barge thing, and he’s similarly to be commended for pushing the sand-berm plan until it finally got approval from the red-tape artists in the federal government. But as a public-sector guy, Jindal might be open to a little bit of criticism for not doing his own thing a little faster. An entrepreneurial mindset would indicate that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, so perhaps a state program of vacuum barges should have been put to use a while ago – or even a program where Louisiana would buy oil collected by private citizens at so much per barrel, thus letting the state’s fishing fleet go on attack against the spill.
There are surely some downsides to such an idea, but since the feds have done virtually nothing right since this thing got started, and since nobody trusts BP’s agenda (they’re using dispersant on that oil rather than collecting it so the amount of the fine the government hits them with can’t be easily quantified) or logistical acumen in running a 20,000-man cleanup effort the state and its local partners might as well go its own way.
After all, it’s clear we’re on our own just as we’ve always been. The Obama administration declared war on Louisiana’s economy with that offshore moratorium, and Hornbeck Offshore’s suit against the Interior Department has now been joined by Bollinger Shipyards and Edison Chouest owner (and New Orleans Hornets majority partner) Gary Chouest, whose firm reportedly is going to be laying off 3,500 workers at Port Fourchon if this ban holds up. BP, as we noted yesterday, sucks. Neither can be trusted to look after our interests. We have to do that ourselves. So from now on, we’re hoping to see more ideas like sand berms and vacuum barges – and we’re also hoping to see those ideas deployed regardless of the opinions of people like Thad Allen or Tony Hayward.
6-10-10, 3:30 p.m. – We’re going to go through this again, because some of the e-mail we’ve been receiving indicates to us that we’re not being clear enough on our position as regards BP.
It’s a very rich company which has proven itself quite good at turning a profit, and quite awful at safety. In fact, the previous administration – the one our current president has been attempting to paint as asleep at the switch where regulation of the oil patch is concerned – cited the Deepwater Horizon, the rig BP leased for the Macondo well which now lays on the sea floor next to the blown-out well, at least five times for safety violations from 2002-08 before the current administration decided to bestow an award on the rig. While Deepwater Horizon is a Transocean rig, it worked under BP’s direction. And it’s quite clear that direction, at least when it came to the Macondo well, was suspect at best.
Moreover, BP spent $70,000 trying to get Barack Obama elected two years ago, which is to our minds a truly reprehensible fact that we have not to date made much of. As a British company, it’s unseemly for them to meddle in American elections even if they did so under the rubric of their American operations. And for them to have meddled in assisting to saddle America with the worst president in our history means we have no reason whatsoever to cut them slack. Further, the reason BP helped to bankroll Obama’s campaign is they’re pushing for the disgusting Cap-and-Trade legislation to become a reality – which is a glaring example of the kind of corporate rent-seeking which gives capitalism a bad name.
So as far as we’re concerned, if BP disappears we won’t shed a tear. We think it’s a damn shame they bought Amoco a few years back.
But we want BP to stick around long enough to pay for the damage they’ve caused. And since the other major player in this nightmare is the federal government, a thoroughly dysfunctional actor which has caused far more damage than good since the crisis began, we are stuck rooting for a company we have little use for.
If there are any good guys in this scenario, strangely enough, among the significant players in the spill the only likely candidates appear to be the local politicians. Gov. Bobby Jindal seems to be doing a nice job, and the parish presidents of the affected area like Craig Taffero in St. Bernard and Billy Nungesser in Plaquemines have as well. But while those guys have less use for BP than even we do, from our perspective BP appears to be the only one with any upside. The federal government offers only red tape and demogoguery.
So if we’re going to beat up on somebody, we’re going to beat up on Obama and his flunkies like All Hat Salazar. After all, BP’s sloppiness might have caused the death (or extreme sickness) of the Gulf Coast fishing and tourism businesses – and for that we as Louisianians want as much of their money as we can get our hands on. But it’s the federal government’s considered action which is going to kill the offshore oil business and put tens of thousands of our fellow citizens out of work. And for Obama to then point the finger at BP and claim they’re responsible for the damage his actions have caused, when the result of that is likely to be a total breakdown in cooperation between BP and the feds with Louisiana and other Gulf states to suffer, is inexcusable. We won’t even go into the federal government’s total failure to get off its collective rear end on Jindal’s sand berm plan; we’ve said plenty already.
BP isn’t doing enough, but they’re doing something. They’re cutting checks to people and though their efforts to stop the spill have been comic if not tragic, at least they’re trying. What is Obama doing other than running his mouth and making things worse?
6-10-10, 11:30 a.m. – And then there’s this business of the Dutch.
It appears that the Netherlands has lots of equipment and expertise for both oil skimming and building sand dikes to ward off the effects of an oil spill. And it also appears that the Dutch made an offer to put those assets to use in assisting BP and the federal government in dealing with the spill. In all, 17 countries offered assistance.
Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help. It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.
The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.
Now, almost seven weeks later, as the oil spewing from the battered well spreads across the Gulf and soils pristine beaches and coastline, BP and our government have reconsidered. U.S. ships are being outfitted this week with four pairs of the skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days. Each pair can process 5 million gallons of water a day, removing 20,000 tons of oil and sludge.
At that rate, how much more oil could have been removed from the Gulf during the past month?
The uncoordinated response to an offer of assistance has become characteristic of this disaster’s response. Too often, BP and the government don’t seem to know what the other is doing, and the response has seemed too slow and too confused.
Federal law has also hampered the assistance. The Jones Act, the maritime law that requires all goods be carried in U.S. waters by U.S.-flagged ships, has prevented Dutch ships with spill-fighting equipment from entering U.S. coastal areas.
“What’s wrong with accepting outside help?” Visser asked. “If there’s a country that’s experienced with building dikes and managing water, it’s the Netherlands.”
Even if, three days after the rig exploded, it seemed as if the Dutch equipment and expertise wasn’t needed, wouldn’t it have been better to accept it, to err on the side of having too many resources available rather than not enough?
BP has been inundated with well-intentioned cleanup suggestions, but the Dutch offer was different. It came through official channels, from a government offering to share its demonstrated expertise.
Our readers will recall that former Shell CEO John Hofmeister (Shell, by the way, is a Dutch company) has been making the rounds flogging the idea of using large tankers to siphon oil in copious amounts. That now, seven weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, this idea is finally given a proper evaluation is a pretty serious indictment of both BP and the government.
BP, for whatever reason, chose dispersant as their favored method of dealing with the oil, and has since disputed the concept that there is oil below the surface of the Gulf despite first-hand evidence to the contrary. Dispersant does allow oil to be more easily broken down naturally, so that’s not a completely wrong-headed notion. Some have argued that by attempting to “sink” as much oil as possible and therefore make it impossible for anyone to measure how much oil has come out of the Macondo well, BP is attempting to skirt federal fines for spills which are imposed based on how many barrels the spill might be. We’re not sure we’re persuaded by that argument, though if federal law imposes fines for oil spills on a per-barrel basis and those fines are more per barrel than the oil is worth it should be no surprise that BP would rather disperse the oil than collect it. late-night rant early this morning, not only did the president ignore the advice of his expert panel in imposing a deepwater offshore drilling ban but the people in charge of the federal government actually believe that they can force BP to cover the cost of that ban by saying the the Macondo spill was its cause.
In any event, maybe that’s why it’s only now that we’re beginning to see the siphoning idea being brought to bear. BP has conducted a fairly large-scale skimming operation, reporting that they’ve recovered some 16 million gallons of oily water to date. They’ve also done 145 controlled burns and eliminated 3.6 million gallons of oil, by their count. But we’re talking about 40 million gallons of oil, minimum, by now. A good 30 million gallons or more is still out there.
BP’s noon release today has some interesting information in it…
In the first 12 hours of June 9 (midnight to noon), approximately 7,920 barrels of oil were collected and 15.7 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared. On June 8, a total of approximately 15,000 barrels of oil were collected and 29.4 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.
Lightering – the transfer of crude oil from one vessel to another – from storage on the Discoverer Enterprise to the barge Massachussetts began on the morning of June 9 and continues. When the process is complete, the barge will transport the oil for discharge at an onshore terminal.
In the meantime, work on the first relief well, which started May 2, continues and has currently reached a depth of 13,978 feet. The second relief well, which started May 16, is at 8,576 feet, and preparing to drill ahead. Both wells are still estimated to take approximately three months to complete from commencement of drilling.
The total length of containment boom deployed as part of efforts to prevent oil from reaching the coast is now over 2.3 million feet, and almost 2.7 million feet of sorbent boom also has been deployed.
To date, almost 42,000 claims have been submitted and more than 20,000 payments already have been made, totalling over $53 million. BP has received more than 173,000 calls into its help lines.
The cost of the response to date is approximately $1.43 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid, and federal costs. This also includes the first $60 million in funds for the Louisiana barrier islands construction project. It is too early to quantify other potential costs and liabilities associated with the incident.
There we go again. Undoubtedly, we’ll be accused of shilling for BP by the lefty bloggers in New Orleans for reporting something the company has said. Hey, BP is Satan. Is that good enough for you guys?
6-10-10, 9:30 a.m. – As we noted in our
It’s a head-scratcher, but it’s true. Ken “All Hat” Salazar said so yesterday…
Notably, Salazar, pressed by Landrieu on the issue, said BP is financially responsible for paying the salaries of workers whose jobs are going to be lost because of the administration’s decision to ban drilling.
“If this long list of companies that are not oil companies, but oil service companies, have to either go out of business or take bankruptcy or layoff thousands of workers are you going to ask BP to pick up their salaries and to make them whole?” Landrieu asked.
“The answer to that is yes,” Salazar said, “BP is responsible for all the damages that flow from the BP oil spill and these are some of the consequences from that oil spill.”
It’s unclear whether BP faces any legal responsibility to pay the salaries of workers laid off directly because of a regulatory decision by the federal government. BP did not immediately return a request for comment.
There’s video of the exchange. Salazar’s statement that BP is going to be asked to pay the freight for those salaries and other costs comes at the very end…
Here’s our concern: BP has a staggering number of claims to pay, and that has become a rather slow process. BP isn’t in the business of paying claims, so they’ve had to hire contractors to do that work. Standing up an operation of that size is going to be a messy and slow process, and as such BP owes a lot more money than they’ve paid so far.
As of right now, BP has more than enough capital and cash flow that even a $20-30 billion bill for cleanup costs and making folks whole probably doesn’t put the company in jeopardy. But largely based on inflammatory and stupid statements coming out of the White House and idiots like Salazar, BP’s stock has dropped more than 40 percent. It dropped 15 percent yesterday alone at one point before recovering to close down five percent. If this kind of thing continues and BP’s market capitalization dries up, they’re going to take a much different view toward paying claims either out of necessity or fiscal caution. And the victims of that will be the same middle-class Louisianians along the coast who have already taken it in the shorts.
Or worse, there are now rumors that PetroChina is going to make a takeover bid on BP. Anybody who thinks this situation will be improved by the Chinese getting control of that country needs his head soaked.
The point of this is there’s a productive way to approach a crisis like this, and then there’s the irresponsible, emotionalist stupid way. It’s obvious the Obama administration has chosen the latter path – and if you pay attention to the people who are out in front talking, you’ll see why. This was chief White House flack Robert Gibbs on why Obama hasn’t talked to Tony Hayward…
Gibbs said Obama hasn’t called CEO Tony Hayward because — according to what Gibbs called the “executive structure of corporate governance” — the CEO alone isn’t the final word on company decisions, which are made by the board of directors.
“Look, the CEO is elected by the board. Anything that the CEO wants to do has to be approved by the board,” Gibbs said.
Later, he added: “I’m telling you, based on the corporate governance structure, in order to implement what — whatever you get from BP the CEO has to get clearance from the board to do. That’s — that’s the corporate governance structure is — is laid out.”
So did that mean that Obama had picked up the phone to talk to some of these powerful board members?
Gibbs said repeatedly that the government is in contact with officials at the company. And he pointed several times to a meeting demanded by Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen Wednesday to discuss the claims payment procedures with BP officials.
But pressed on the question of direct contact between Obama and Hayward, Gibbs repeatedly returned to the idea that it was the board — not the CEO — that would be calling the shots.
“Again, again, the CEO plays a role, but the way their board is devised, the chairman of the board and the board OK what happens,” Gibbs said.
There are eight non-executive members of the BP board (not counting Hayward and the five other company executives who sit on the board.) Asked whether Obama had made efforts to talk to them, Gibbs said he had not. He said the government is “in constant communication with and pushing BP to do what is necessary.”
Obama has met with CEOs from a wide range of companies repeatedly during his year-and-a-half in office. In fact, when the president became angry about banks giving big bonuses to their executives after taking bailout funds, he scolded them in person during a meeting at the White House.
And just last month, it was the West Wing which was bragging that Obama had bluntly chided Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson at a May 3 dinner, telling him that he expected the entire petroleum industry to dedicate its resources to the spill cleanup.
In his comments Wednesday, Gibbs declined to say whether Obama is planning to meet with Hayward when the CEO testifies before Congress next week, saying that “if I’ve got any scheduling updates, I’ll let you know.”
He also indicated that he didn’t see much value in such a face-to-face meeting.
“Well, again, we are — we’re in — we’re in contact with BP about what they need to do,” Gibbs said.
Now, ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports it’s likely Obama and Hayward will meet in person next week when Hayward is set to testify in front of Congress.
Unless the members of this administration shut up, that meeting won’t be the only testy one Obama has with the Brits. The BP situation is now becoming a rather sizable diplomatic row, as London mayor Boris Johnson, probably the most pro-American politician in all of Britain other than Daniel Hannan, has now blasted Obama for all the name-calling and “anti-British rhetoric” coming from this side of the pond. The British business community is now lining up behind BP, noting that the collapse of the company’s share prices will have a significant effect on the performance of pension funds and individual savings alike in that country. New UK prime minister David Cameron is attempting to smooth things over by giving Obama the “I feel your pain” treatment, but that’s unlikely to hold up if the beatings from the White House continue.
The environmental catastrophe of the Macondo leak is unmistakable. We have attempted to highlight aspects of this story which have escaped the legacy media and we have attempted to avoid the kind of unhinged emotionalist blogging on the spill some other sources make a practice of indulging in, at the risk of being painted as shills for BP by some of those same sources. Our interest, as we hope our readers have recognized, is in seeing this disaster mitigated – not made worse – by our government. This is a situation where leadership is required. And we are getting asshattery instead. The consequences of this are potentially quite dire – and not just for Louisiana and our ruined economy.
6-9-10, 4:15 p.m. – BP is bringing in another ship to float alongside the Transocean Drillship Enterprise at the spill site; this one’s known as the Toisa Pisces, and it’s primarily a well testing vessel. But the Toisa Pisces can process up to 20,000 barrels of oil a day, and that will greatly supplement the capacity of the Enterprise to handle all the oil coming out of the well. Toisa Pisces was in the Gulf already, working the Mexico side, and BP was able to contract it. Seems like it’s going to be one of the few vessels moving into the northern Gulf, while all the rest are going to be moving out.
BP also expects to finish retrofitting the Q4000, the vessel from which the “top kill” procedure was initiated last week, to bring oil to the surface sometime next week. But the Q4000 only has a 5,000 bpd capacity at present; they’re installing equipment which will increase that capacity to 10,000 bpd by flaring both oil and gas rather than storing it for offloading onto tankers.
All told, they’re hoping to have the capacity to handle 28,000 barrels a day between the three ships. That brings to mind two thoughts – first, Lord help us if they actually need that much. And second, Macondo sure is one hell of a well. Damn shame all that production will go to waste after so much of it is now coating our shoreline. All because some bean counter from BP decided to try to cut corners to save a few million bucks.
In the meantime, we’re beginning to see some financial impact studies of the effect of President Obama’s offshore drilling ban – which at the end of the day is starting to look like a lot bigger disaster than even the Macondo spill is. Morgan Stanley has put one out in which it sees a base-case scenario of a 12-18 month shutdown, it offers a 95 percent chance the ban will last longer than six months. Morgan Stanley’s prespective is in evaluating stocks rather than a local economic impact, and its expectation is that the ban will create a major imbalance between supply and demand on oil rigs, meaning offshore drilling companies like Transocean are going to get crushed as a result of a lot of expensive equipment they can’t find jobs for – and of course when they can find jobs, the day rate on those rigs is going to drop through the floor.
That realization, plus some revelations coming out of the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent Transocean’s stock through the floor today. The company is trading at an 18-month low, and it might get worse if allegations at Natural Resources that the Deepwater Horizon was short-staffed, overworked and manned with flunkies at the time of the explosion, however unlikely those allegations might seem, pan out:
Rig operator Transocean’s shares also tumbled in New York, trading to their lowest in 18 months, as the market worried about the company’s liability for the oil disaster after a congressional committee investigating the spill sent a letter that questioned whether the company had enough people working on Deepwater Horizon at the time of the explosion.
“There appear to have been fewer people at work on the rig the night of the explosion than at any time in the preceding two weeks,” Representative Nick Rahall, chairman of the US House Committee on Natural Resources, said in his letter which cited reports obtained by his committee’s investigators.
Transocean’s drilling crew payroll data, obtained by the committee, showed only 18 employees listed on the noon to midnight shift on 20 April, the night of the explosion, down from 28 employees on 1 April and 25 on 14 April.
The documents also suggested that there were no engineers, electricians, mechanics or subsea supervisors on duty during the latter half of 20 April.
Rahall said an internal BP investigation has pointed to inattentiveness as a possible contributing factor in the explosion that sparked the spill.
“I have serious questions about whether enough people were working…, or if crew fatigue caused by extended shifts may have played a role,” he said.
Transocean said the numbers gathered by Rahall’s committee did not reflect the actual staffing levels on the rig.
The drilling major said the “vessel was properly and professionally manned; there was no shortage of technical expertise, nor did any crew member work a 24-hour shift.”
Rahall acknowledged the payroll data could not give a full picture of exactly who was working, and some rig workers have testified to having been on duty at the time of the explosion despite not being on the payroll data.
Of course, James Carville is angry at Transocean. At least, we think he is. We know he’s flat-out pissed at the Obama administration, and he’s telling everybody he runs into at the airport. Whether Carville’s anger is genuine or whether it’s designed to pave the ground for a Hillary Clinton 2012 primary challenge to Obama is a decent question, but in either event he’s got a good-sized shoe and he’s kicking Obama’s ass with it:
The White House, he said, still has “no idea of the magnitude” of the oil gusher’s impact on Carville’s native region, and isn’t doing enough to get a handle on it. The “Ragin’ Cajun” assailed administration estimates of the daily flow from the well as too low, citing video of oil spewing from the wellhead despite BP’s capture of some 15,000 barrels a day.
Carville also questioned why, given government scientists’ weeks-long delay in acknowledging vast undersea oil plumes of oil, he’d recently seen a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel “sitting for two days in the French Quarter.”
Carville, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a special-entry wristband from last night’s Nationals baseball game, was headed home to talk with New Orleans city officials about plans to observe the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which he referred to as “the great engineering failure.”
With oil still spewing into the Gulf, plans to tout the region’s rebirth are being scrapped in favor of a theme observing “solidarity in southern Louisiana…but still with paradin’…something like that,” Carville said in his thick drawl.
Last month, Carville appeared frequently on TV, urging the administration to speed up help to Louisianans who are “dyin’ down here.” He said White House officials–he wouldn’t say who–took him to the woodshed over his criticism, telling him that “I didn’t know the facts.”
Well, Carville countered this morning, that was more than two weeks ago, and still “nobody knows the facts…the White House just wants this to go away.”
It’s not going away. In fact, it’s going to court. A Covington-based oilfield services company, Hornbeck Offshore Services, has now filed suit challenging Obama’s offshore ban. The suit calls the ban “arbitrary and capricious” and contends that the Interior Department’s May 27 memorandum on safety measures in the Gulf, which was put forth as the justification for the ban, contained no such justification. In fact, Hornbeck alleges, when Interior surveyed 29 of the 33 rigs in question it turned up no more than minor regulatory violations.
“The report contains no finding or evidence of a systemic failure by rig operators, drillers or other participants in offshore drilling operations to comply with current regulations or existing permits,” the suit said.
Hornbeck also said the moratorium, which it calls arbitrary and capricious, runs afoul of federal law governing offshore lease development requiring the government “to balance orderly resource development with the protection of human, marine and coastal environments.”
That’s not all. Hornbeck has 1,300 employees, most of whom will be out of a job as a result of the ban, alleges irreparable harm…
“Hornbeck is suffering immediate irreparable harm and will continue to suffer immediate harm to its business, including the irretrievable loss of its vessel fleet’s useful life, loss of its crews that have long been associated with their particular vessels, loss of Hornbeck’s shore-side teams and disruption of Hornbeck’s long-standing contractual relationships,” the suit said.
If the president and his people thought this thing was going to present them with an opportunity to push a political agenda and have lollipops and sunny days as a result, they were deeply mistaken. They’ve messed with the wrong people, and there will be hell to pay. Hornbeck is just the beginning.
6-9-10, 9:15 a.m. – Word hit yesterday that BP CEO Tony Hayward will be making an appearance in front of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, which is Bart Stupak’s committee (and a well-known buzzsaw for oil and gas company executives) on the 17th. With the membership of that subcommittee including left-wing mouth-breathers like Ed Markey, Diana DeGette and Jan Schakowsky, Hayward might need some lube.
Hayward is the sole invited witness to date for a confab entitled “The Role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill.” A letter was sent to Hayward yesterday summoning him, which read:
Mr. Tony Hayward
Chief Executive Officer
1 St. James’s Square
London SWI Y 4PD
Dear Mr. Hayward:
The Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations are investigating the causes of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the oil spill now spreading across the Gulf of Mexico. The Subcommittee will hold a hearing on these issues on Thursday, June 17,2010, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2123 ofthe Rayburn House Office Building. We request your testimony at this hearing.
The Subcommittee anticipates that its members may have questions requiring technical knowledge of the Deepwater Horizon rig operations, well design, and safety measures and, accordingly, we ask that you be accompanied by a BP employee or official with sufficient knowledge to answer these questions under oath.
We appreciate BP’s ongoing assistance with the Committee’s investigation. An enclosure provides information for witnesses appearing before the Committee.
If you’ve still got stock in BP, it might not be a bad idea to short it somewhere around the 17th – because it’s a virtual certainty that Hayward is going to say something that will be interpreted in a controversial and/or damaging fashion and the stock is likely to nose-dive as a result.
You might even be too late to do it. BP has opened sharply down, and it’s been dropping since the news Hayward was called to testify yesterday. So far today the stock is off more than three percent amid news of Hayward’s testimony and analyst reports of a 50-50 chance they’ll have to cut their dividend.
If Louisiana’s economy was a stock, you might want to short it as well thanks to the Obama drilling ban. We’ll let that bastion of far-right conservatism, the Times-Picayune editorial board, take it from here:
Louisiana’s economic pain from President Obama’s moratorium on oil drilling becomes more acute with each passing day.
The six-month suspension of deepwater exploratory drilling is shutting down 25 active rigs and five others that were scheduled to launch operations before the end of the year, according to federal regulators. Those rigs, almost all of which are located off Louisiana’s coast, normally employ between 24,000 and 42,000 workers. Thousands of other Louisianians work for boat operators, contractors, caterers and other firms that service those platforms.
At least one rig operator, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., said it’s moving rigs off our coast to other parts of the world, raising fears that the effects of the moratorium would last much longer because rigs would be tied up elsewhere. Officials at Port Fourchon warned Monday that some port tenants are already considering layoffs.
At the same time, the Obama administration has said that there’s no moratorium on new exploration at depths of less than 500 feet. But the Minerals Management Service has had a de-facto moratorium, canceling some permits last week while others have been on hold for almost a month. On Tuesday, the administration announced new safety requirements that reportedly will allow shallow water exploration to resume. Regulators should work with the industry to implement those steps diligently and quickly.
Louisianians understand the urgent need for improving safety on drilling rigs. The disregard for safety from both the industry and from government regulators that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster should never be inflicted on anyone else.
But the government can take measures to speed up the review and end the deepwater moratorium earlier, at least for some rigs.
Until then, thousands of people employed by the oil industry in our region will be hurting. Yet the administration still has not filled in details on how it plans to prevent irreparable damage to our economy.
The White House on Monday said it expects “BP and other responsible parties” to reimburse rig workers for wages lost during the drilling moratorium. Those losses could range from $150 million to $300 million a month, according to the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
The White House did not say how it was going to get the company to pay these claims or whether it expects BP to also compensate employers for their losses .
The administration’s other proposed solutions, unemployment benefits for workers and Small Business Administration loans for companies, are a start but grossly insufficient. Unemployment benefits would not fully compensate the high wages oil workers earn. As for businesses, Louisiana officials point out that many companies took on heavy debts after Hurricane Katrina and may not able to take on additional loans.
It’s a nightmare. Like the spill, it’s a man-made nightmare. And like the spill, it’s a nightmare caused by carelessness. But unlike the spill, where BP’s company man on board the Deepwater Horizon would clearly have not made the decision to override Transocean’s procedure to shut in the well if he had the slightest idea what would follow, it’s hard to imagine that the Obama administration was completely in the dark about the economic effects of a deepwater drilling ban. What especially bothers us is the idea that because Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, the four states most directly affected by a deepwater drilling ban, are red states which didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, won’t vote Democrat this fall and aren’t likely to vote for Obama in 2012 the administration has no reason to hesitate before trashing the economy here.
If you’ve read the great Atlas Shrugged, you’ll remember the scene in which federal regulations essentially shut down Colorado’s booming economy based on the development of shale oil. The prescience of Ayn Rand’s knowledge of the potential of that energy source back in 1957 aside, that scene comes to mind because strangling Colorado’s economy was easy – the movers and shakers there weren’t part of the Washington “in crowd.” Clearly the offshore oil crowd lacks the kind of pull in D.C. they’re accused of having; the irony of Obama shutting down Anadarko, Shell, Chevron and the others is that while they can pick up their rigs and go somewhere else to find oil, it’s the middle- and upper-middle class employees living in Louisiana who will bear the brunt of the ban.
And if BP is accused of not caring about the people of Louisiana, perhaps rightly so, who’s pointing the finger at Obama? When is he going to get hauled in front of a committee to answer for the damage he’s doing?
6-8-10, 11:45 p.m. – It seems that the oil spill now has a blog. It’s pretty entertaining stuff for a collection of brownish sludge.
6-8-10, 2:30 p.m. – It looks like the containment cap is working, and because it is we’re going to get the best idea yet about exactly how much oil has been coming out of the Macondo well.
According to incident commander Thad Allen, the cap is on track to pull some 15,000 barrels a day of oil from the wellhead. That’s the maximum amount that the Transocean Drillship Enterprise is capable of processing. The fact that BP is bringing in another vessel to offload oil to indicates that the flow is more than 15,000 barrels a day.
Above all else, this thing proves what a terrible Charlie Foxtrot BP’s management of the Macondo well has been. A really good offshore well in Saudi Arabia will put out 20,000-30,000 barrels a day. It’s estimated that once the crimped riser pipe was cut away from the Macondo BOP, the flow has been some 25,000 barrels a day. And yet once the relief well is finished, Macondo is going to be killed. At the current price of $76.09 for Louisiana Sweet Crude, a 25,000 bpd well is putting out better than $1.9 million per day. Which is a lot of money. And it’s all going for naught, because BP is never going to be able to put that well into operation. It’s doubtful they’ll be able to put Mississippi Canyon Block 252 into production ever again, despite the fact that there’s an enormous strike down there.
All because they had to cut corners on a well with $25 million in cost overruns. Macondo would have covered those added costs in a month. Two at the most.
Of course, the money lost to the industry as a whole as a result of the Macondo spill is a gargantuan sum, even though the Obama administration bragged today that they’re going to move quickly to get new safety regulations in place so shallow-water drilling can resume. As though that’s going to make anybody feel better about his deepwater ban.
Obama caught an earful when in Louisiana on Friday from local officials who are dealing with direct effects of the spill – about the deepwater ban…
But during a trip to the Gulf on Friday, Mr. Obama also heard widespread complaints about the deepwater moratorium.
At a meeting at the New Orleans airport, Charlotte Randolph, president of Lafourche Parish, said she implored Mr. Obama for the second time in eight days to immediately lift the deepwater drilling moratorium. Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, suggested to the president he should deploy a federal official on every rig with the authority to shut it down at the first sign of trouble. Then he could lift the moratorium.
When neither of those ideas gained traction, Steve Theriot, president of Jefferson Parish, said he asked the president to lift the moratorium on every oil company but BP. Finally, Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) said the administration needed to immediately issue the new safety regulations that were holding up drilling permits. Mr. Vitter said he made the same appeal to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar three hours after the Obama meeting broke up.
On Monday, the widows of two Deepwater Horizon crewmembers called at a congressional hearing for stepped up safety enforcement in the offshore drilling industry, and voiced their support for continuing to drill offshore. “I fully support offshore drilling and I always will,” said Natalie Roshto, of Liberty, Miss., whose husband, Shane, was among 11 people killed in the blast.
Mr. Obama defended the deep-water moratorium on Friday, and administration officials said Monday that it wasn’t being reconsidered. “A repeat of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill would have grave economic consequences for regional commerce and do further damage to the environment,” the White House said Monday
You get the impression this guy is a blockhead. He hasn’t talked to Tony Hayward, he’s not listening to the people of Louisiana who are most affected by the promulgations he makes, he’s busy trying to move the needle on his poll numbers and he’s talking about kicking ass. And he’s trying to take credit for lifting a shallow-water ban when it’s meaningless; he’s banned shallow-water drilling in places where there are oil deposits, like off Virginia and in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska, and in the Gulf the real paydays and the good jobs are in deep water. Macondo proved that, as do all those other rigs out there which never had an accident.
6-8-10, Noon – Remember when the Democrats in the House voted to increase the tax on offshore oil production from eight cents a barrel to 32 cents? The proceeds were supposed to go into the federal oil spill fund – which apparently isn’t being used in the current spill, since BP is paying the costs (they’ve already spent some $1.25 billion on the spill, and that doesn’t count the $360 million they’ve committed to building sand berms in and around Louisiana’s barrier islands).
We don’t know what that money is going to be used for (we can offer some guesses, though), but if the Democrats in the Senate get their way there will be a lot more of it…
Senate Democrats are moving to quintuple the tax that oil companies pay into an oil spill liability fund.
The move would raise $15 billion over the coming decade as Congress seeks to shore up the fund in the wake of the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But it’s also being used to ease a tax hike passed by the House on investment fund managers.
The new legislation would raise the tax on oil produced offshore from 8 cents to 41 cents per barrel. That’s nine cents higher than legislation that passed the House last month.
The tax changes are being made as the Senate again takes up grab-bag legislation extending unemployment benefits and a variety of expired tax breaks enjoyed by both individuals and businesses.
Meanwhile, the oil spill isn’t so bad.
No, really, it’s not. How do we know? Well, not from BP’s Bob Dudley, who has been put in charge of the cleanup operation. He said yesterday after being taken out into the marshlands at Barataria Bay that it was “painful, it was emotional and shocking.”
No, the BP suit said it’s awful. But the Democrat state legislator doesn’t see what the fuss is about.
But a state legislator, who toured the area Saturday, dismissed the need for the berms and downplayed the impact of the oil.
“I can tell you, from what we saw today, it didn’t look like berms were necessary, because it wasn’t a whole lot of oil out there that we saw and they were taking the necessary measures to clean it up,” State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, told a New Orleans television station Saturday. He made the remarks after he spent about five hours with nearly a dozen state legislators, BP officials and members of the Louisiana National Guard on a helicopter tour.
It was unclear what area of the Gulf the group toured.
Abramson did not return phone messages Monday afternoon.
But Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser shot back at the legislator Monday with an angry response in a e-mail the parish president sent to the media.
“Maybe Neil Abramson should go to work with Tony Hayward of BP with stupid comments like that,” Nungesser said.
He called Abramson’s remarks “irresponsible,” and said the legislator was an “embarrassment” to the state.
“If Representative Abramson would like to come down to Plaquemines Parish and hold one of the dead pelicans, suffering turtles, or dead dolphins that we have on our shoreline maybe he’d have a different opinion,” Nungesser said.
While Jindal said he didn’t hear Abramson’s remarks, he still had a message for the representative.
“I dare anyone to come down here to one of these town meetings and tell these fishermen they’re making this up,” Jindal said.
6-8-10, 8:30 a.m. – Bet you didn’t know it, but we have a “kick-ass” president…
President Obama spends a lot of time talking about kicking people’s asses. Bankers, oil men, health insurers, hedge fund managers, doctors, and so on.
Know what they’ve all got in common?
We’re not interested in having our president kick our ass. The British kicked our ass, and we kicked their ass out.
Right now, Obama appears to be kicking Louisianians’ asses right out of a job with his deepwater drilling ban. At Port Fourchon, the layoffs have already begun, and the word is that Edison Chouest is going to lay off as many as 3,000 employees. Anadarko has pulled up stakes and will move three of its Gulf rigs to West Africa. And this is just the beginning, as the state’s economy starts to resemble the Titanic with its port-side rising up into the air.
In other words, our ass is exposed. Easy for Obama to kick.
6-7-10, 2:30 p.m. – There’s a new poll out which finds that the American people seem to think the Obama administration’s handling of the Macondo spill is worse than the Bush administration’s handing of Katrina:
A new ABC/Washington Post poll released this afternoon shows wide margins of disapproval for both BP and the federal government in their response to a leaking pipeline that has spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf for more than a month.
69 percent of adults said the government’s reaction has been “not so good” or “poor,” according to the poll. 62 percent rated the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina similarly in the storm’s immediate aftermath.
28 percent said they thought the government was doing an “excellent” or “good” job in response to the oil spill, compared to 38 percent who thought the government handled Katrina well.
To be sure, BP’s approval where the oil spill is concerned is even worse than Obama’s – by an 81-16 margin the oil company is rated unfavorably by the poll. Things have become so dicey that the British Foreign Office now openly worries that the spill might contaminate US-UK trade relations. Demogogues like New York Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner are now reflexively casitgating all British-accented BP spokesmen as liars. And several on the Hard Left are now openly discussing a government seizure of the company, however legally or logistically problematic it might be to seize a foreign company, in order to keep it from spending money on public relations or paying a dividend to its shareholders. This despite financial analysts’ consensus to the effect that BP has ample resources to meet its obligations to claimants and shareholders alike.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the acrimony, Obama still has not spoken a word to BP CEO Tony Hayward, which seems like incredibly bad management of the spill if for no other reason than that whether the president recognizes it or not the perception of his handling of the event is inevitably tied to how well he works with BP. And so when Hayward claims that the collection cap is capturing the vast majority of the oil from the well, it’s little surprise that few believe him; the federal government has treated BP like a criminal enterprise rather than a necessary participant in the resolution of this mess, and while BP probably deserves such treatment it’s proven to be counterproductive.
But our readers have seen countless references from us to the failure of governance from this administration as evidenced by the spill response. It’s not necessary to elaborate further on that subject.
6-7-10, 10:00 a.m. – It appears that BP has finally found something which works – sort of. The company says that the containment cap brought in a total of 11,100 barrels of oil to the drillship Enterprise at the surface yesterday, and 22 million cubic feet of natural gas was flared at the surface.
That’s a good bit of oil. It would appear, particularly looking at the live feeds from the spill site, that they’re finally collecting most of it. Of course,you’ve still got a great deal of oil escaping, since BP has left four vents open on this cap so as to keep oil rushing through them rather than seawater getting in (with seawater and natural gas comes methane hydrate, and that’s how the two previous collection domes failed),
Supposedly, BP will be gradually closing those vents and stopping the leak almost completely in the process. They’ll also be pulling oil through the choke and kill vales in the blowout preventer through the lines they set up for the top kill operation, and that will enhance their ability to collect oil from the well.
Now that something akin to progress is being made at the spill site, the attention is going to shift to the operation onshore. And, while it’s the fault of more than just BP, that’s nothing short of a Charlie Foxtrot – it’s what’s made Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser a star, for certain. And at present, Bart Stupak’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is in Chalmette today doing a dog-and-pony show hearing on the economic and environmental impact of the BP spill, which is bound to be supremely productive. Or something.
6-7-10, 9:00 a.m. – Our buddy Steve Maley, posting as Vladimir on Redstate.com, does a nice job of exploding the Obama administration’s myth about a dysfunctional and over-cozy Bush-era Minerals Management Service by looking at the MMS’ record on safety over the course of the time that administration was in office.
The numbers tell a different story than the one The One would have you believe.
Maley goes through these “shocking” releases about MMS tomfoolery in the Denver and Lake Charles offices and notes that in both cases the abuses which took place during the Bush administration were smoked out and dealt with by the Bush administration. Chris Oynes, for example, who was dumped overboard from his post as associate director of Offshore Energy and Minerals Management a couple of weeks ago, was the guy who blew the whistle on the Lake Charles abuses during the Bush administration.
Maley contends that the MMS Obama inherited from Bush was doing a good job with managing safety in an industry which was making a lot of progress in that arena prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. That contention was borne out by Obama himself, when he called offshore drilling “safe” upon announcing an opening of new areas for drilling three weeks prior to the accident.
And the fact is that throughout the industry safety performance is in fact at acceptable levels. It’s one company out of dozens who brought this current disaster upon us. Sticking BP for a gargantuan bill for the Macondo blowout is justified and supportable; sticking an entire industry which on the whole has done its job is not.
6-4-10, Noon – President Obama will be here shortly, but in the meantime we’re getting hopeful statements from Adm. Thad Allen from the Coast Guard, the federal incident commander working on the spill, about the riser cap.
Allen says he thinks there is progress being made as that cap is being installed.
BP put out a release a little while ago claiming to be receiving oil at the surface through the conduit attached to the riser pipe. But the live feeds from the wellhead still look like hell; oil is tumbling out of the well and the cap doesn’t look like it’s catching much of the spill.
For updates from last week (May 26 to the morning of June 1), click here. For updates dated from May 16 to the early morning hours of May 26, click here. And for older updates prior to May 16, click here.
Meanwhile, The Shaw Group just got one of the barrier island contracts, which is no particular surprise; Shaw seems to land work like that every time there’s an emergency. Louisiana’s Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration let the contract, working off a $360 million escrow account BP set up yesterday.
And there are tarballs coming ashore in Gulf Shores and near Pensacola. That’s bad, of course, but cleaning oil off a beach is a relatively easy thing to do if you’ve got the money and the manpower. The folks along the Florida and Alabama shores are going bananas over the precise thing that Louisiana has been fighting to make happen for a month – to have beaches for the oil to wash up on.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Back to Obama, who will be down here to get another briefing from Allen, traveling on jet fuel that soon will probably come from Hugo Chavez or Hosni Mubarak (and possibly drilled by a rig that currently sits in American Gulf waters). The President said he’s furious about the spill, but his media flack Robert Gibbs said he won’t show it while he’s down here.
“If the president thought getting mad and yelling would plug the hole, he’d do it on top of the White House,” he said. “He understands we’ll all be judged by our response and our recovery efforts, not on whether he’s been a good method actor.”
Apparently the president thinks putting 20,000 of his countrymen in Louisiana out of work will plug the hole. We’re not interested in how furious he is – maybe he can go vent to Tony Hayward about that, if he would ever stoop to having a conversation with the man.
6-4-10, 8:15 a.m. – BP has now begun a charm offensive, complete with a 60-second spot now running on cable news channels featuring Tony Hayward. It’s a mea culpa and a “look at us” all rolled into one, and while it’s basically a de rigeur action under the circumstances, you’d almost have to think it will do more harm than good.
Why? You know why.
First, at this point at doesn’t matter what Hayward says anymore. He’s poison. He could be walking around Grand Isle in a hair shirt or flagellating himself like a Shiite Muslim during Ashura and nobody would care. And second, no amount of touchy-feely PR crap is going to make up for the fact that BP can’t stop this spill. Once oil stops billowing uncontrollably from that well, then a charm offensive might have some effect. Until then? Just shut up and write checks. Lots of them.
But second, Hayward now has a piece out on the Dow Jones Newswire entitled “What BP Is Doing About the Gulf Gusher.” An excerpt:
We remain in uncharted territory — none of these approaches has ever been attempted in water a mile deep, where the extreme cold and the intense pressures require experts to carefully adapt proven techniques.
Specialized equipment must be designed, built and tested, compressing operations that normally last weeks or months into days or even hours. Remotely operated vehicle pilots must devise painstaking, step-by-step procedures to deploy the equipment. Like the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 who had to build a CO2 filter from whatever was available in their capsule under the direction of engineers back on Earth, we are forced to innovate in real time. The devices developed in recent weeks, such as the RITT and the LMRP cap, are cases in point.
Here are a few of the lessons as I see them.
First, we need better safety technology. We in the industry have long had great confidence in the blow-out preventer as the ultimate failsafe piece of safety equipment. Yet on this occasion it failed, with disastrous consequences.
Since the April 20 explosions and fire, BP is carefully evaluating the subsea blow-out preventers used in all our drilling operations world-wide, including the testing and maintenance procedures of our drilling contractors using the devices. We will participate in industry-wide efforts to improve the safety and reliability of subsea blow-out preventers and deep water drilling practices.
Second, we need to be better prepared for a subsea disaster. It is clear that our industry should be better prepared to address deep sea accidents of this type and magnitude.
With each major spill, we as an industry learn more. Following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the industry recognized the need to enhance its capacity to address oil spills. The result was the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC), an independent, nonprofit company.
MSRC’s capabilities include a significant inventory of vessels, equipment and trained personnel, complemented by a large contractor work force. Thanks to MSRC and other contractors, the impact of the current spill on the Gulf is considerably less than it might otherwise have been.
We now need to develop a similar capability for dealing with large undersea spills. BP intends to have a key role in creating this capability, and we believe that our competitors and counterparts in the industry will join us.
Third, the industry should carefully evaluate its business model. For decades, exploration and production companies have relied on outsourcing work to specialized contractors. There’s much that makes sense about this kind of structure, and lots of talented people and well-run companies are a part of it. But the question after the Deepwater Horizon accident is how all involved parties — including exploration and production companies and drilling contractors — can work even more closely together to better understand and significantly reduce the various risks associated with drilling operations.
Over the more than 100 years of its history, BP has taken pride in operating at the frontiers of the energy industry, and we are committed to defining the new path forward.
Of course, actions speak louder than words, so we are fully prepared to be judged by the quality and effectiveness of our future conduct. I am confident we will learn from these terrible events and the industry will emerge stronger, smarter and safer than before.
Hayward and BP board chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg also put out a release to shareholders this morning indicating that they’re going to clean everything up in the Gulf, they’ve got the money to do it, they’re creating a stand-alone outfit to manage the mitigation effort and that they still think they can issue a dividend to stockholders. This is likely going to drive lefty hotheads through the roof, though while we’re increasingly out of patience with BP we recognize that it is nobody’s business but BP’s and their shareholders’ whether they issue a dividend this quarter. So long as BP’s checks don’t bounce and they can meet their responsibilities to the people of the Gulf, what they do with the money they make is up to them.
The release also said:
- BP has already spent over $1 billion in gross direct costs for the response, clean up and relief wells.
- Spending at this rate is expected to continue for some time beyond successful completion of work to stop the flow of oil from the damaged well. Any fines and penalties would present additional costs.
- The costs of containment, removal and clean up are likely to be largely complete in 2010.
- The longer-term costs of environmental remediation, claims and litigation are not predictable at this stage, but they will be sizeable and are likely to be spread over many years.
Today, the company is supposed to install one of these riser caps atop the gushing pipe emanating from the wellhead. BP operations chief Doug Suttles says this should work, and even though they didn’t get a clean cut over the riser pipe they still think they can collect some 90 percent of the oil coming out of the well with this contraption. Adm. Thad Allen, who’s in charge of the inept federal response to the spill, had said the shears cutting through the drill pipe had chopped it off at a 10-degree angle, but Hayward came back and said they’ve got a “relatively clean wellhead” to work with. Believe either one of these guys at your discretion.
The live feeds from their robot submarines don’t show a cap in place; what they show is a volcano of oil coming out of that pipe with nothing stopping it but one ROV holding a wand squirting a little bit of dispersant into the stream. BP supposedly lowered a cap down to the sea floor last night, and assumedly we’ll see an installation soon. But since very little of what they said they’d do has happened when they said they’d be doing it, our readers will forgive us if we’re no longer persuaded by their statements.
The timing of all this verbiage is probably more interesting than its appearance. The fact that Hayward is all of a sudden ubiquitous could either mean that the corporate communications gang at BP have decided he’s got to present a sympathetic face now or he’s going to drag the company down with him, or it could mean that they think they’re finally about to get a handle on the spill with this riser cap and a big PR push in advance will turn this whole thing around for them.
Or maybe it’s both; certainly with Rep. Charlie Melancon using a “fire Tony Hayward” gambit to build his Senate campaign e-mail list this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal calling Hayward’s statements “idiotic” and Billy Nungesser suggesting that Hayward be taken offshore and dunked into the water to see what the black stuff that covers his face might be, not to mention Frank Luntz calling him “pathetic” on Fox News last night, Hayward is becoming a public-relations liability in a way that would make the Taliban look like Beyonce.
But like they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn. If this riser cap thing works, which the company expects we’ll know by the end of the weekend, maybe Hayward will get one of those “maybe he’s not so bad” shifts in narrative by the media. And a charm offensive such as the one BP is putting on now might get that ball rolling.
Of course, if that riser cap doesn’t work, Hayward might have to resign – because nobody is interested in anything he says while his oil keeps shooting out of that well and destroying the Gulf ecology.
6-3-10, 6:30 p.m. – The confusion earlier today about whether the Obama administration was trying to ban all offshore drilling in the Gulf or not (Interior Secretary Ken “All Hat” Salazar swears the answer is “not,” and since he always tells the truth we should certainly believe him) didn’t just brew up out of nowhere. And though the media is perfectly capable of getting a story wrong, in this case it wasn’t bad reporting which caused a collective heart attack in Texas and Louisiana.
This was an unforced error on the part of our dysfunctional administration in Washington.
You see, the reason the Minerals Management Service caused the stink was by telling an applicant for a shallow-water drilling permit that no new permits were going to be issued until new safety standards were announced. That is tantamount to a moratorium. Sen. David Vitter addressed this in a release late this afternoon:
U.S. Sen. David Vitter today called for the federal government to publish its new regulations for offshore shallow-water drilling. Earlier today, conflicting reports were made about the Minerals Management Service placing a moratorium on all drilling for six months, including shallow-water drilling.
“The administration says there is no moratorium in shallow-water, but applicants will have to meet new requirements. The problem is that they haven’t defined what those new requirements are. What that means is, until they do, there is an effective moratorium in shallow-water too.
“We need the administration to end this by defining new, reasonable shallow-water rules immediately. Otherwise, they’re shutting down huge parts of our economy. That costs us jobs on top of the recession and on top of job losses from the spill itself,” said Vitter.
Vitter plans to discuss the delayed regulations and the de facto moratorium when he meets with President Obama in New Orleans tomorrow. This morning, Vitter wrote the president asking him to push for safety inspections instead of the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
This is the kind of incompetent, chaotic government which introduces the concept of “political risk” into capital investment decisions about getting involved in American markets that has never been at issue before. America was always preferable to some Third World sinkhole like Ecuador or Angola, simply because it was known that the rule of law would apply here, making decisions simpler and productive endeavors easier. But when nobody knows what the rules of the game are, which is how the Third World works, profit-seekers usually figure the only way to insure they won’t end up getting killed on their investment ventures is to bribe government officials.
And without a firm understanding of what they’re going to do, the Obama administration is creating a climate where that will become prevalent in America. It’s already happening in a number of industries, and it appear that we’re doomed to have it happen in the oil industry on a wide scale before this is over. And not just on Peach Bowl trips and drinking binges.
6-3-10, 3:30 p.m. – President Obama finally had a meeting with Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor he’s been dragging through the mud on the immigration issue for two months, to talk about Arizona’s immigration law. Not much got accomplished, mind you, but it’s the first time Obama has even given the governor the time of day to discuss a position which isn’t his.
What does this have to do with the Gulf oil spill? Well, according to a POLITICO piece by Keith Koffler posted this afternoon, as of last week Obama had yet to talk about the spill with BP CEO Tony Hayward.
For updates from last week (May 26 to the morning of June 1), click here. For updates dated from May 16 to the early morning hours of May 26, click here. And for older updates prior to May 16, click here.
It’s a good piece. A highlight our readers might recognize:
Instead of an uplifting message of unity rallying the country to confront the horror and assuring all Americans that we will deal successfully, one way or another, with its disastrous effects, the nation is treated to petty lecturing of BP — even a refusal to let BP evildoers sully the stage the administration uses to discuss the latest failures.
The very company the administration needs to work with to stop the bleeding is vilified and threatened with criminal prosecution.
This separates Obama from the “bad guys.” But it also likely harms the stoppage effort by creating a climate of suspicion and forcing BP to focus on PR and legal CYA operations while trying to plug the well.
Obama’s non-communication has filtered down to his underlings. Earlier today, an e-mail from MMS’ Gulf Coast operations division which said all offshore drilling in the Gulf was off limits went off like a bomb throughout the oil patch, and just a couple of hours later comes a piece of crawfishing by Secretary of the Interior Ken “All Hat” Salazar:
The Interior Department denied that it has extended a drilling freeze to shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, contradicting an e-mail written earlier Thursday by the Minerals Management Service’s supervisor of field operations for the Gulf of Mexico.
An Interior Department spokesman said “shallow water drilling may continue as long as oil and gas operations satisfy the environmental and safety requirements Secretary [Ken] Salazar outlined in his report to the President and have exploration plans that meet those requirements. There is no moratorium on shallow water drilling.”
Earlier, Michael J. Saucier, regional supervisor of field operations for the MMS Gulf of Mexico region, said in an e-mail to one company seeking a permit that “until further notice we have been informed not to approve or allow any drilling no matter the water depth.” Only three days earlier he had told the same company that drilling in water up to 500 feet deep would not be affected by the Obama moratorium.
Obama announced last week that he would suspend drilling in deep water in the gulf for six months, effectively delaying plans for at least 30 rigs. Lawmakers from Gulf Coast states had urged him to allow continued drilling in shallow waters to protect jobs in the region.
The deepwater ban alone is enough to draw the disgust of the Louisiana legislature. This afternoon the state House voted 92-0 to urge Salazar to rescind the deepwater ban, and before the vote there were some impassioned speeches blasting the President and his underlings, particularly the Minerals Management Service. The latter were a special target of Rep. Ernest Wooton (R-Chalmette):
“It’s hard to behave when we’re being punished with the dumbasses in Washington,” Wooton said, arguing that proper federal oil rig inspections and regulations could have prevented the disaster.
“Don’t take it (oil production) away from us because you messed up and you fear it’s going to happen again,” he said.
He said he hopes President Barack Obama skips future visits to Louisiana’s coastlines. “I hope he stays in Washington and gets the work done.”
Obama’s performance, bad as it might be, wouldn’t likely improve much from a pow-wow with Hayward though – as the latter seems to be digging a larger and larger hole with every interview he gives. The latest was a doozy:
The Financial Times on Thursday quoted BP CEO Tony Hayward as saying it was “entirely fair” to criticize the company’s preparations.
The newspaper quotes Hayward as saying: “What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit.”
However, Hayward said BP had been successful so far in keeping most of the oil away from the southeastern U.S. coast.
“Considering how big this has been, very little has got away from us,” Hayward was quoted as saying.
Hayward did promise the company would clean up every drop of oil, and “restore the shoreline to its original state.”
“We will be here for a very long time. We realize this is just the beginning.”
Hayward’s statements give rise to a couple of questions. First, why isn’t BP using microbes to accelerate the breakdown of that oil? Microbes are proven to work in cleaning up marshland, and yet they’re not being used in a widespread manner.
And second, why isn’t BP acting on the idea put forth by former Shell CEO John Hofmeister and others to use supertankers and siphons to collect oil on the surface? That idea was effective in cleaning up spills in Saudi Arabia 20 years ago, and yet the proponents of it have been pushing it on BP to little avail. But BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, speaking on CBS News’ Face The Nation, had this to say about it:
We have looked at that. It’s a — we have looked at that. It’s an interesting, interesting idea. Those have you — been used in the — in the Arabian Sea in the Gulf over there for spills. What we’re finding with this oil, it’s — it’s light, it’s relatively volatile. And with the use of dispersants, it tends to string out a number of miles long but very narrow. And so, as we look at this, it’s — it’s not the same concept to be able to work. And — and our spill responses at the surface now are being very, very effective.
Dudley’s gobbledygook aside, essentially the gist is that because they’re using dispersant they don’t think the tanker/siphon method would be economical. And maybe they’re right – but maybe that’s a reason why using dispersant isn’t such a great idea when you could catch the oil at the surface and actually do something productive with it.
There are conspiracy theories and spook stories galore surrounding BP; some would have you believe they’re polluting the Gulf on purpose. That’s stupid. But we’re coming to the conclusion that BP is pretty dumb themselves. The decision-making process which would close off some proven methods of spill containment and remediation in a giant mess like this is simply hard to justify.
6-3-10, 2:00 p.m. – BP did manage to extract that saw from the riser pipe after it got stuck yesterday, and they also managed to cut through that pipe. But in typical fashion of the other efforts to contain the Macondo spill at the source, the cut on the pipe turned out to be a lousy job, and instead of a clean surface upon which to attach a collection device to the well structure they’ve got a jagged edge to work with which will prevent a good seal from forming.
As a result, the two caps BP has already sent down to the sea floor probably aren’t usable and BP had to ship another one to the well site yesterday.
The company is going to pick one of these devices from their inventory and try to attach it to the top of the BOP in the next day or so. Whether this is going to actually work or be another half-baked solution like the riser insertion tube was, we’ll see. But BP has given up on the idea of killing the Macondo well until the relief well is finished; no more trying to stab another BOP on top of the one they’ve got, no more top kills or junk shots, nothing. This is about trying to mitigate the spill until the relief well can do its job in August.
Meanwhile, Plaquemines Parish DA Charles Ballay has rolled into court to sue BP under a state statute governing the killing of wildlife, ostensibly by hunters and fishermen. It’s the latest of thousands of lawsuits filed against the company, turning Louisiana into Tort Central for probably the next decade. And though we can’t stand ambulance chasers, we can’t complain too much about the suits here – there is a real tort, and real harm done. This is what courts are for.
And the Obama administration, apparently not satisfied with the extreme damage they’ve done to the oil business in Louisiana with their deepwater drilling moratorium, has now upped the ante and banned all offshore drilling. This comes just a day after issuing a shallow-water permit to Bandon Oil & Gas, LP for a well off Louisiana’s southwest coast. This new ban comes after Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu told WWL she agrees Obama should lift the deepwater ban.
The President is scheduled to take a trip back down to Louisiana tomorrow. Given his performance on the spill and his policy decisions in the aftermath of it, it’s probably not wise for him to be here.
6-3-10, 9:00 a.m. – Now that the federal government has come in behind the sand berm plan at long last, BP has put out a release confirming they’ll pay for the six dredging projects the feds gave the green light to.
As if they had a choice.
BP announced that it supports the U.S. government’s decision to proceed with the construction of six sections of the Louisiana barrier islands proposal. The company will fund the estimated $360 million it will cost to construct the six sections.
BP will not manage or contract directly for the construction of the island sections, nor will the company assume any liability for unintended consequences of the project. The company plans to make payments in stages based on the project’s milestones.
“BP is committed to implementing the most effective measures to protect the coastline of Louisiana and reduce the impact of the oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal government and the state of Louisiana have agreed that the barrier islands construction is an effective response to the spill, and we look forward to working with them on this project,” said Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive officer.
BP already has provided $170 million to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to help with their response costs and help promote their tourism industries. The company also has paid approximately $42 million in compensation to people and companies affected by the spill.
The release is a bit more informative than you’d expect, though, as it confirms the reason why the company seems more like a follower than a leader in this spill. Namely, they’re a whipped dog. All you need to know is right here:
BP will not manage or contract directly for the construction of the island sections, nor will the company assume any liability for unintended consequences of the project. The company plans to make payments in stages based on the project’s milestones.
The federal government, and probably the state government as well, have so demonized that corporation that BP is now risk-averse to a fault. Criminal investigations of BP while they’re needed to stop this spill, seen in this light, look like a really premature and unwise idea.
When this disaster first got going, we heard promises from all the top brass at BP that they would stop at nothing to stop the spill, remediate the damage and make everybody whole. Now, they’ll cut a check so long as they’re not going to get sued some more.
It’s not surprising, but it points out where we are as a society. The response to this spill needs dynamic and effective leadership. Folks like Bobby Jindal, Craig Taffaro and Billy Nungesser are trying to give it, but they lack the power and resources to make decisive action count. And the folks with the resources, unfortunately, are timid government bureaucrats whose timetables feel more like they come from Jamaica than Manhattan – or browbeaten corporate suits driven by what the lawyers are screaming in their ears.
This isn’t the America that built the transcontinental railroad, kicked the ass of Germany and Japan at the same time or put a man on the moon. We want that America back.
6-2-10, 9:00 p.m. – Gov. Bobby Jindal just fired off a letter to President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggesting the duo re-think their ban on offshore oil exploration – a policy which has the potential to wreak havoc on Louisiana’s fragile economy.
June 2, 2010
Dear President Obama and Secretary Salazar:
For updates from last week (May 26 to the morning of June 1), click here. For updates dated from May 16 to the early morning hours of May 26, click here. And for older updates prior to May 16, click here.
I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding the severe economic impact of a six-month (or longer) suspension of activity at 33 previously permitted deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, including and in particular the 22 deepwater drilling rigs currently in operation off the Louisiana coast.
Already, Louisiana has suffered severe negative economic and ecological impacts from the BP oil spill. Our seafood industry is experiencing huge economic losses that have only been partially mitigated by a frustratingly slow and inadequate BP claims process. Moreover, our precious wetlands are suffering incalculable, permanent damages, while our tourism industry faces escalating losses.
During one of the most challenging economic periods in decades, the last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more.
The Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimates that the active drilling suspension alone will result in a loss of 3,000 to 6,000 Louisiana jobs in the next 2-3 weeks and potentially over 10,000 Louisiana jobs within a few months. If the suspension of active drilling activity continues for an extended period, LED estimates that our state risks losing more than 20,000 existing and potential new Louisiana jobs in the next 12-18 months.
Obviously these losses would come on top of those already generated by the spill and its related effects. Moreover, the announced moratorium of deepwater drilling activity creates a significant risk that many of these drilling platforms would be relocated to other countries — along with the hundreds of high paying jobs that they each create.
Additionally, I fully understand the need for strict oversight of deepwater drilling. However, I would ask that the federal government move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely so that energy production and more importantly, thousands of jobs, are not in limbo.
Thank you in advance for your swift consideration of this request.
Governor Bobby Jindal
6-2-10 7:45 p.m. – Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s embattled Incident Commander working the spill, put out the following statement this evening on the sand berm plan:
“Consistent with all the work undertaken in recent weeks to assess Louisiana’s barrier island proposal and gather input from local officials, environmental experts, and top scientists and engineers, I have directed BP to pay for five additional barrier island projects in addition to the one I approved last week as part of our continuing commitment to do everything possible to protect our vital coastal communities from BP’s leaking oil. Based on a thorough expert analysis, we believe that these six total projects, which will be constructed expeditiously in the areas most at risk for long-term impact by oil, will effectively stem potential damage to these fragile shorelines.
“After committing to providing Governor Jindal our determination within 24 hours of our meeting with local officials and environmental experts to discuss these projects yesterday, I notified him this afternoon. I reiterated to him that this administration will hold BP responsible for providing full payment for any strategy that will protect our valuable coastal communities from the impacts of their catastrophe.”
Allen’s statement isn’t going to get Gov. Bobby Jindal off his back, though.
“When we met with Admiral Allen yesterday, I said that the meeting was pass or fail – either the Coast Guard and the federal government needed to force BP to fund all six sand boom segments already authorized by the Corps or they would not. We are very glad that today they have decided to step up and force BP to fund this important coastal protection effort – especially as oil continues to hit our coast day after day with no end currently in sight.
“Now, we must make sure there is follow-through on this commitment. It has been nearly a week since the Coast Guard approved the first segment of our sand boom dredge plan and we still haven’t received the funds needed from BP for the state to begin dredging on Pelican Island – or had BP begin the work there themselves. We know BP has a lot of money to pay for a lot of lawyers for a long time. We don’t want to drown in a pool of lawyers and red tape. We need the federal government to hold BP accountable and ensure that doesn’t happen. We are asking the Coast Guard and the federal government today to force BP to either advance the state the funds we need to begin work on these sand boom segments or force BP to begin the work on their own. This work cannot wait.
“From the beginning of this oil spill BP has told us to wait. They told us to wait while they fixed the BOP…wait while they developed parish specific response plans…wait while they tried to get us more boom…wait while they tried the top kill…and now they are forcing us to wait to get the funds we need to begin work on even this first segment in our 24-segment plan. There is no time for waiting. We are asking the Coast Guard and the federal government to force BP to act responsibly and immediately get to work on all the six segments that have now been approved as part of our oil spill fighting efforts. We need them to either force BP to immediately give the state the funds for these projects so we can get to work or sign the contract themselves to get the work started on the first two-mile segment and then the other around 40 miles of the five other approved segments. BP is the responsible party, but the federal government must hold them responsible. Every day they make us wait for this work to begin we are set further back in our battle to protect our coast.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated the costs of the first segment at Pelican Island would range from $51 million to $155 million. We have requested $44 million from BP to begin work on the first segment and we still don’t have the funds we need to begin this work or a commitment from BP to start it themselves. Now, we need funding for the other five segments the White House has agreed to force BP to fund. We know this will be a marathon for Louisiana and we cannot allow the federal government to make excuses for BP. BP is the responsible party but we need the federal government to ensure they are in fact held responsible.
“We are also continuing to ask the Coast Guard to approve our entire 24-segment sand boom plan. Our entire coast is important. Estimates show that about 100 miles of barrier islands will help protect about 4,000 miles of our shoreline. We could have already constructed around 10 miles of this sand boom if our plan had been approved 22 days ago when we first submitted it on May 11th. According to NOAA, about 140 miles of our coastline has now been impacted by oil. Again, this is why we need to be fighting this oil 15 to 20 miles off of our coast and not up in the fragile marshland.”
6-2-10, 5:00 p.m. – Looks like the feds have finally come around on the sand berms. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser posted on his Facebook page a few minutes ago that…
Great news! The President has approved the barrier islands for 6 reaches. BP will pay for them.
There is an element of “too little, too late” to all this, but we’re so starved for good news that we’ll take it.
The san berm plan had to go through a public comment phase, the institution of which drew a fire-and-brimstone response from Americans for Limited Government president Bill Wilson:
“Crisis management by Internet comments is no way to operate, and goes to the heart of the question whether this Administration is simply grossly incompetent or willfully negligent. Every ounce of oil that hits the beaches and marshlands is on Obama’s hands.”
While the President and his men were quite cautious and circumspect about dredging sand from waterbottoms, he certainly wasn’t squeamish about rearranging the entire American economy today. Obama declared in a speech that he wants America off fossil fuels, and he’s willing to force us if that’s what it takes:
Seizing on a disastrous oil spill to advance a cause, President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and pass a clean-energy bill that he says would help the nation end its dependence on fossil fuels.
Obama predicted that he would find the political support for legislation that would dramatically alter the way Americans fuel their homes and cars, including placing a price on carbon pollution, even though such legislation is politically divisive and remains bogged in the Senate.
“The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,” Obama told an audience at Carnegie Mellon University. “I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone to get this done. And we will get it done.”
Obama said the country’s continuing dependence on fossil fuels “will jeopardize our national security, it will smother our planet and will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.”
Oil, coal and natural gas put our economy at risk, but wind and solar energy, which give us blackouts when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun doesn’t shine, are safe.
We hammer this home ad nauseam, but this is about politics and governance. The President spends lots of time and effort on the former and can’t be bothered on the latter. No wonder poor Billy Nungesser can feel his blood pressure rising every time he deals with the feds.
6-2-10, 3:00 p.m. – More and more, the guy who is coming out of this oil spill looking like a hero is Gov. Bobby Jindal.
That’s a good thing, and a bad thing.
It’s good, because unlike his predecessor, who almost literally couldn’t show less leadership than she did following Hurricane Katrina and who let the entire response and recovery from the storm and the flood devolve into a political dirty bomb both for her and for the White House, Jindal has actually shown some capacity to make a plan and at least attempt to act on it. Jindal will always have his detractors and he’ll always draw criticism – we’re on his case ourselves because we’d like to see him pull a few levers and cause some pain for the White House in an effort to force the feds to get out of the way – but he’s neither paralyzed nor hysterical. He’s in a tough spot but he at least appears up to it so far.
But it’s also a bad thing. It’s bad, because Jindal is starting to draw national attention as (1) a 2012 presidential candidate, which is bad for a number of reasons we’ll have to discuss in a later update, and (2) worst of all, a guy who is showing up the president for his fecklessness and weak leadership.
And while Jindal’s profile is probably higher now than it’s been in the past – which will make him a few bucks when the gulf oil spill crisis is finally under control and his book is released – what that’s going to do is make him a target of this White House. The last time a Republican politician was out there showing up the Obama administration that politician’s name was Sarah Palin, and look how deep into the sewer they dipped in an effort to destroy her. Is there really any doubt that Jindal will get a similar treatment?
While a fresh round of examinations of Jindal’s conversion to Catholicism and his having attended an exorcism are excruciating enough, what concerns us isn’t that the Governor is going to get a media gang-rape. That would come as part and parcel of his testing the 2012 waters anyway. What concerns us is that Jindal’s plan to build sand berms around Louisiana’s coastline won’t ever get federal approval – because it wasn’t Obama’s idea and because a Republican he might be running against in 2012 came up with it. That’s a situation tailor-made for stonewalling, and it seems pretty clear that stonewalling is exactly what we’ve seen so far.
A couple of articles out there in the media have touched on this. First, lefty columnist Ruben Navarrette, writing for CNN.com, calls Jindal “passionate” and “presidential:”
Now, due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Obama’s lackluster response — which has irritated and even enraged some members of the president’s own party — Bobby has Barack on the ropes and he is coming across as more passionate and more presidential.
Jindal is demanding more involvement, more cooperation and more urgency from the federal government. Specifically, he wants Obama to use the power of his office to cut some of the bureaucratic red tape that seems to be tying up Louisiana’s request for permission to build sand barriers that might stop the flow of oil onto shore. It’s a simple request, and failing to honor it makes the White House look as if it is insensitive, incompetent or petty.
Why petty? Because before that one mediocre speech, Jindal — who had been widely talked about as a possible running mate for John McCain in 2008 — was often mentioned by political observers as a possible Republican vice presidential or even presidential nominee in 2012.
Is this White House so plotting and sinister that it would actually let political considerations — in this case, a reluctance to enhance the standing of a potential rival — interfere with its duty to protect and serve the people of this country? When it comes to politicians and the games they play, nothing surprises me. We’ll have to wait and see.
Navarrette goes on to drag out the new goofy accusation of the Left – namely that Jindal says he’s a small-government guy but he’s a hypocrite because he wants a big federal involvement in the oil spill. That’s a stupid argument to make; anyone who understands constitutional conservatism and the concept of limited government realizes that the discussion is about the proper scope of government and what its true role should be. In a situation like Katrina or the oil spill or an earthquake or a war, having a government capable of responding quickly and effectively is a perfectly desirable investment from a conservative point of view. It’s when you’re not in an emergency that you shouldn’t see the government.
Ultimately, the Left understands this philosophy and recognizes the majority of the country subscribes to it even if they do not – which is why with lefties, everything is a “crisis” from which the rationale and justification for government intrusion must come. Like in the case of health care, where the entire system had to be overhauled and the country had to be put on the road to a government-run system despite the fact that some 80 percent of Americans were fine with the access to the health-care system they already had.
This is a digression of sorts, but if Jindal’s profile continues to increase you can bet your last dollar you’ll see this bullet fired at him again and again – he’s a big-government conservative, he’s a hypocrite. Maybe it will stick, maybe it won’t, but there is no law which says a small-government conservative can’t look for a strong emergency response from the public sector.
Conservative talk host Hugh Hewitt, writing in the Washington Examiner yesterday, discusses the opposite side of the equation. Hewitt notes that Mr. Big Government, Barack Obama, can’t lift a finger to get anything accomplished with the sand berms:
Incredibly, the president’s team has cited the fear that too many berms would alter tidal movements, as though that theoretical worry trumps the very real oil headed toward shore. Bureaucrats also mumbled that too many berms might just shift the oil toward Mississippi –without explaining why berms couldn’t be built there, and without making any judgment over which part of the Gulf Coast shoreline is most fragile and thus most deserving of protection.
The story of the berms permit and the president’s ineptitude will be the focus of intense scrutiny for years, and if the 2 percent works, the weeks of delay before that beginning was allowed and the delay before the 98 percent followed will be a stain on the Obama presidency that lasts longer than the oil on the shore.
Which is one very powerful reason why Team Obama may be dragging its collective feet: They aren’t afraid it won’t work. They are scared to death it will, and that their incompetence in authorizing the effort will be as clear as the oceans around the ruptured pipe are dark.
Ultimately, the argument seems to be more about the effectiveness of government rather than the size. This is a problem for Obama, who’s showing that no improvements in effectiveness have been made since Katrina despite new management. But as Navarrette and Hewitt, coming from opposite ideological perspectives, seem to agree, it could also be a problem for us here in Louisiana.
6-2-10, 11:20 a.m. – Rep. Bill Cassidy was on WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge this morning talking about the spill:
6-2-10, 10:00 a.m. – Remember that $15 million BP was doling out to the state of Louisiana to help mitigate the losses to the tourism business? Well, newly-minted Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle has figured out how to spend it.
Angelle said last night that the state will put a three-pronged marketing campaign together which in equal parts directly promotes New Orleans, pushes coastal Louisiana and trumpets the state in general. Angelle says he thinks this approach will “mitigate damages most effectively.”
Sure hope Angelle’s plan works better than what BP is doing at the spill site. Things have gotten so bad for them that they can’t even saw through the riser pipe atop the blowout preventer. The diamond saw BP is using to try to get a clean slice through that pipe – which is crucial to getting a cap installed on top of the BOP – got stuck in the pipe this morning and they’re trying to extract it so they can start again.
But we’ve certainly got some good news on the sand-berm program, right? Well, see for yourself…
We’ve tried to keep our updates on the oil spill as level-headed as possible and to maintain perspective as much as possible. As of right now, however, the level-headed truth is that we’re dependent on BP, which is a company most charitably described as snake-bit and probably more accurately described as hanging on by a thread, to stop the spill – and we’re dependent on a federal government which is unquestionably dysfunctional and led by people who spent their undergraduate years reading Karl Marx and seething about the fact no fraternity or sorority would give them a bid to give us the permission to save our own coastline.
If you want to say we’re screwed, you can say that. That’s what it looks like at this point.
6-1-10, 7:30 p.m. – It’s probably not unreasonable to say that, at this point, Gov. Bobby Jindal is beside himself at the slow movement and even resistance of the Obama administration, Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers to his idea of building sand berms.
The fact that the feds still haven’t funded the first project as they said they would ought to make Jindal lose his cool. And while he might not be at that point quite yet, he’s not far from it.
The following came from a release Jindal’s office put out this afternoon:
Governor Jindal on Dredging Plan: Time for Studies is Over, We Need Action
– Gov. Jindal Says Coast Guard’s Area Contingency Plans Already Included Land Barriers –
NEW ORLEANS – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal attended the National Incident Command Barrier Island Berm Meeting with Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen to discuss the state’s sand-booming/dredging plan to protect Louisiana’s coast from the oil spill. At a press conference following the meeting, Governor Jindal stressed that the time for studies and discussion is over and it’s critical for dredging to begin immediately.
Governor Jindal said, “The time for studies and discussion is over. We need action. Today will only have been productive if we get approval for our plan. Approval of this plan is not a multiple choice test. It’s a pass-fail test and the federal government doesn’t need to be making excuses for BP. BP is the Responsible Party for this spill and we need the federal government to hold them accountable and ensure they are indeed responsible.
“We are in a fight to protect our coasts and our Louisiana way of life. Like any fight, we need to use every tool we can. We have already deployed hard boom, soft boom, Hesco baskets, Tiger Dams, dropped sand bags, filled in gaps with sand, and also proposed a sand-boom/dredging plan to use sand booms to stop oil from getting into our marshes.
“To be clear – these kinds of land barriers – or berms – were already included in the Area Contingency Plans the Coast Guard had on file even before this oil spill occurred. Specifically, the Coast Guard’s contingency plan says: ‘Temporary berms, dikes and dams can also serve as effective barriers against oil contamination of sensitive natural resources and economic amenities.’ The plan goes on to say that ‘The object of berms, dikes and dams is to keep oil outside an inlet because there are often abundant natural resources and economically significant areas that use the sheltered waters of bays and estuaries within.’
“We agree with the effectiveness of these kinds of sand booms and that is why we proposed 24 segments totaling around 100 miles of sand booms weeks ago. Last week, the Coast Guard only approved BP to fund the construction of one of these segments – on Pelican Island, while the Army Corps of Engineers had approved a total of six segments. Today, we pointed out again to the Coast Guard that the effectiveness of sand booms – or berms – is already clearly laid out in the Area Contingency Plans that were on file with the Coast Guard even before this spill.”
Governor Jindal highlighted the effectiveness of sand-booming to protect the coast. The Governor said, “To give you an idea how sand booming will be effective in our fight to protect our coast from this oil, CPRA estimates that about 100 miles of barrier islands will help protect about 4,000 miles of our shoreline. We could have already constructed around 10 miles of this sand boom if our plan had been approved three weeks ago when we first submitted it – on May 11th.
“According to NOAA, about 126 miles of our coastline has now been impacted by oil. Again – this is why we need to be fighting this oil 15 to 20 miles off of our coast and not up in the fragile marshland.
The Governor emphasized that in his meeting with President Obama, the President noted it would take two to three days to make a decision on having BP pay for the other five segments.
Governor Jindal said, “When we met with the President on Friday, we discussed the importance of our sand-boom plan and we shared with him our frustration with waiting for weeks after we first submitted the plan just to get approval to begin construction on one segment while six of the 24 were authorized. The President told us Friday that within two to three days federal officials would make a decision about whether or not they will force BP to pay for the other five segments of the plan that the Army Corps of Engineers already approved.
“We are frustrated that it took two weeks to get any kind of response. We are frustrated that the federal government then only agreed to make BP pay for one segment while the Corps approved six segments for construction. We are frustrated that they said the other five would not be approved because they needed to ensure the ‘effectiveness’ of sand-boom even through the Area Contingency Plan already calls sand-booming an ‘effective’ measure.
The Governor said he was frustrated that BP has yet to provide the funds to start work on the first approved segment. Governor Jindal said, “Even on this one approved segment, we are frustrated that BP has still not given us the funds we need to begin construction – or started work on the segment themselves. We are asking the Coast Guard to step in and force them to immediately give the state the funds we need to begin work or have them begin doing the work directly themselves. We need to get to work. We need to be out there protecting our shores – not holding more meetings to discuss ideas. We are calling on them to get started on this segment today. Let’s get to work today.”
The Governor reiterated his call for the Coast Guard and the federal government to force BP to pay for the remaining five segments that have been approved.
Governor Jindal said, “Today, we are also calling on the Coast Guard and the federal government again to force BP to pay for the remaining 5 segments already approved – and then our entire 24-segment plan from the northern Chandeleurs to the Isle Dernieres chain. Our entire coast is important. The top kill failed. We know this will be a marathon for Louisiana and we cannot allow the federal government to make excuses for BP. BP is the responsible party but we need the federal government to ensure they are responsible.”
SEVEN AREAS FOR STATE PROACTIVE ACTION
The Governor highlighted seven areas where the state continues to move ahead to protect Louisiana’s coast.
1. Protecting Marshes: In Plaquemines, Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes the state is working with parish officials to establish a Marsh Fringe Barrier – a combination of plugs and berms – to keep surface oil from penetrating our interior marshes. In Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, they are identifying east to west canals that could be fortified with boom to serve as a seal to prevent surface oil from further intruding into the marshes there. CPRA is also working with National Guard to look for key points to fill in sand in St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes. Yesterday, the National Guard also conducted a boat reconnaissance mission in Plaquemines Parish to identify approximately 14 miles of gaps in the parish coastline.
2. Trinity Bayou Fill: The National Guard also conducted an aerial reconnaissance mission with state coastal restoration personnel to the Timbalier Islands and Trinity Bayou to develop action plans for gap fill operations there. Based on this mission, the National Guard finished filling a 115-foot gap near Trinity Bayou.
3. Hesco Baskets: The National Guard has deployed two and a half miles of Hesco baskets in the Fourchon area.
4. Landbridges: National Guard engineers continue to conduct maintenance on the land bridges at Elmer’s Island and Thunder Bayou – which have been actively holding oil back from entering interior wetlands. National Guard engineers have filled five gaps in the vicinity of Thunder Bayou in Port Fourchon.
5. Tiger Dams: National Guard engineers have secured over 4 ¾ miles of the 7.1 miles of Tiger Dams needed in Southwest Pass. In support of Jefferson Parish and Grand Isle, National Guard engineers have positioned approximately 2 miles of Tiger Dams out of the 6 miles needed.
6. Sand-Fill Operations: CPRA and the National Guard have leaned forward and identified approximately 40 total locations where gaps in barrier islands could be filled with sandbags or dump trucks of sand. This strategy would complement a more complete and extensive dredging/sand booming plan. On Pelican Island, the National Guard has dropped over 1,720 sandbags to date. Six of the eight gaps on Pelican Island have been completed and they are continuing work on the seventh gap on Pelican Island today. They are also working on the first gap on Scofield Island and have filled in more than 785 sandbags to date. The state also requested that BP augment these efforts with private contractors and the state is still awaiting BP’s response to this request.
7. Freshwater Diversions: The state is currently operating all freshwater diversions they control to flush fresh water down into the Gulf.
Oil Impact Update
Today, DEQ confirmed shoreline impacts at South Pass, Pilot Bayou/Johnson Pass, Pass a Loutre/Redfish Bay, the Chandeleur Islands, Grand Isle/Elmer’s Island, Grand Terre Island, Brush Island, Lake Raccourci, Chenier au Tigre, Trinity Island, Fourchon Beach, Timbalier Bay, Shoreline of Lake Felicity, and Marsh Island.
In the last 24 hours, the state has just received only 10,500 feet of hard boom.
It’s getting to the point where Louisiana is about to start violating federal law and going through with its plan in disregard of federal permission. If the state and the parishes are going to do that, it might make sense to change direction completely on BP’s plans about skimming and dispersants and employ a strategy of dumping oil-eating microbes on the slicks as they approach the coastline.
Maybe Jindal should run his own strategy and just stick BP with the bill. The company does business in Louisiana, they’re terrified of the PR aspects of blocking efforts to contain the damage and the governor has a not-insignificant amount of power to ruin the day of BP and, as it happens, the federal government. A little constitutional crisis can go a long way in getting something done.
One of our most substantial criticisms of Jindal is his unwillingness to use raw political power to achieve his ends when necessary. Jindal likes to practice a soft touch, in an effort to avoid getting his hands dirty – we’ve seen it with the legislative pay raise issue two years ago, we saw it with the Louisiana Purchase controversy last year and we even saw some of it with the Alle Bautsch attack in April, where the governor passed up an opportunity to dramatically step up the state police’s presence in law enforcement in Orleans Parish to the benefit of everyone but Democrat politicians who have utterly failed to provide law and order in New Orleans for decades. But while those situations had at their core issues of politics and policy, this is an emergency. Jindal has for almost a month been entirely reasonable in demanding the feds get on board with the sand berm plan – in absence of any other idea for keeping oil out of the marshlands. Now that it’s obvious nothing is going to happen unless he forces it to, Jindal would do well to start pulling some levers and asserting some control.
Shutting down oil pipelines in Louisiana for “inspection” by state officials would be possibility out of several.
A perfectly good environmental justification could be made for such a move. And while it might seem “unwise” to do a crash “inspection” program on every pipeline in the state, such a program and its attendant effect of disrupting a large portion of the country’s supply of gasoline (remember the disruptions caused by Katrina in 2005?) in the short term might get the attention of the public. Louisiana doesn’t have much to lose; after all, it’s clear the federal government is out to lunch in helping to mitigate the spill, and federal action subsequent to the Deepwater Horizon disaster has all but destroyed the offshore oil industry in the state – which for decades has been our most lucrative industry. What else can Obama do to Louisiana without feeling more pain on his own end?
It might also be time for Louisiana’s Congressional delegation to stand together with any friendly out-of-staters on Capitol Hill and do everything possible to shut the legislative process down completely until the administration gets out of the way on sand berms. Based on statements made by the GOP members, that isn’t a very heavy lift – and certainly a deal could be cut with Mary Landrieu where royalty-sharing, a signature initiative on her part where energy is concerned, is part of the package Louisiana demands.
It’s been obvious to us at the Hayride for weeks that the federal government is a hindrance rather than an asset in fighting this spill. The implications of that failure are becoming more painful with each passing day. And as a result, Jindal is finding himself in a position where he can’t talk about this anymore. He’s right, but the bureaucrats and ideologues aren’t listening. And they won’t listen until he does more than talk. He needs to act. He needs to pick a fight with the federal government and cause some intense pain to some people who are in his way.
That’s power politics. It’s not Jindal’s way of doing things, but it’s what the situation requires.
6-1-10, 5:00 p.m. – We have idiots in charge of our government.
Maybe that’s not the right word. What word did Rahm Emanuel use? Oh, yeah.
For once in his life, Emanuel is right about something.
How do we come to this conclusion? Well, there’s this oil spill, see. And it’s 5,000 feet below sea level. All the best minds in the oil industry are frantically working on a way to stop the spill, and they’ve lined up project after project in an effort to solve the problem. But so far they have been able to make it stop. And as such, the federal government is trying to help. They put a committee of eminent geologists, physicists, engineers and other luminaries together to brainstorm some ideas, and threw one guy off it because he wrote on a blog that gay sex is bad for you.
On that committee? Why, James Cameron, of course.
Cameron is the director of Avatar. He also directed Titanic, which had water in it. And 21 years ago, he directed The Abyss, which had deep water in it.
So obviously, James Cameron knows more about how to stop the oil spill than BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Freeport McMoran, Anadarko and all the rest of the experienced deepwater drilling operators who are currently working on the spill. After all, those guys are probably too busy lawyering up and dumping company stock now that the federal government is opening a criminal probe into the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon to come up with any new ideas on stopping the spill. But if Cameron can make movies with blue people, he’s more than a substitute for that expertise, n’est-ce pas?
Retards. When is the next presidential election, again?
6-1-10, 3:45 p.m. – The thing is, Tony Hayward just doesn’t need to talk anymore.
Hayward is, at this point, so radioactive for some of the statements he’s made – most of which, in his defense, have been blown out of proportion, though that’s hardly unforeseeable given the damage his company has done on his watch – that nothing he says will be taken rationally.
Little surprise, then, when Hayward said Sunday that BP didn’t have any evidence to support the claims of academics from Southern Miss, South Florida and the University of Georgia that there are giant plumes of undersea oil in several places in the Gulf he immediately brought down a storm of excrement on the company’s collective head.
Hayward is probably correct in saying that reports of these plumes are overstated. LSU’s Ed Overton, who knows what he’s talking about, correctly points out that oil is lighter than water and will eventually rise to the surface. But with some 700,000 gallons of dispersant applied to the spill the oil will become less buoyant. That’s a competing fact. And so the idea that the spill is wholly on the surface is probably no more correct than this business of 500-foot high oil plumes 22 miles long and five miles wide. The truth is somewhere in between – there are probably semi-submerged globs of oil out there, and what’s more important than arguing about whether they exist is going out there, finding them and cleaning them up if possible.
But this wasn’t helpful:
“The oil is on the surface,” Hayward said. “There aren’t any plumes.”
When Hayward made that statement, it immediately launched Congressional assclown Ed Markey into full attack-dog mode. Markey offered up his latest stab at an acronym for BP – this time it stands for “Blind to Plumes” (and they say Al Franken is the comedian on Capitol Hill!) – and fired off a letter to BP Americas CEO Lamar McKay:
May 31, 2010
Mr. Lamar McKay
President and CEO
BP America, Inc.
510 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas 70779
Dear Mr. McKay:
I write to request information regarding statements that BP CEO Tony Hayward reportedly made yesterday, in which he asserted that all oil being spewed from the gushing Deepwater Horizon well is on the surface of the ocean, and not dispersed in vast, undersea plumes as some independent scientists have found.
As you know, several scientists have independently found large volumes of oil under the surface of water, and some have speculated that these may have been formed as a result of the use of dispersants sub-surface. For example, the University of South Florida College of Marine Science recently reported that it found a 22 mile long undersea plume of dispersed oil at a location that raised concern about its proximity to the food chain for sea life in the waters of Florida. Other researchers have found similar evidence of such plumes.
However, according to media reports, Mr. Hayward stated yesterday that BP’s samples showed “no evidence” that oil was suspended sub-surface in this manner, going on to state that:
“The oil is on the surface. Oil has a specific gravity that’s about half that of water. It wants to get to the surface because of the difference in specific gravity.”
The confirmation of the presence of large quantities of oil sub-surface could help to inform clean-up and response efforts, and it is vital that there is unfettered access to all relevant data or analysis. Consequently, I ask that you provide me with the following:
1) Copies of all measurements, calculations or other supporting materials on which Mr. Hayward based his statements regarding the existence of sub-surface plumes of oil (including indications of BP’ s methodology or any observational equipment used).
2) Any additional information on which Mr. Hayward based his statements.
Please provide these materials to me no later than close of business on Friday June 4, 2010. If you have any questions or concerns, or to arrange for delivery of the requested materials, please have your staff contact Dr. Michal Freedhoff of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee staff at 202-225-2836.
Edward J. Markey
Subcommittee on Energy and Environment
Cc: Chairman Henry Waxman
Ranking Member Joe Barton
Ranking Member Fred Upton
It wasn’t just Markey who went to town on Hayward’s comments. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser wasn’t overly impressed, either:
“We ought to take him offshore and dunk him 10 feet underwater and pull him up and ask him ‘What’s that all over your face?'” said Nungesser.
BP spokesman Graham MacEwen said the company has taken lots of water samples and they’re analyzing them in advance of offering an official statement on the presence of oil plumes. And they might well dispute them and be right about it – after all, it looks like BP won the argument on Corexit.
But Hayward has done few favors for the company in offering up a denial based on Chemistry 101. Whether he’s right or not doesn’t even seem to matter right now; anything BP says at this point they’re going to have to prove, because their critics on the Left – and increasingly on the Right – aren’t interested in opinions from the company.
Just provable facts. Like for example, when BP can report the fact that they’ve stopped the leak at long last.
BP says the Lower Marine Riser Cap plan, which has begun today with the sawing off of the riser from the blowout preventer in preparation for the installation of the cap, has the same 50 to 70 percent forecast for success that the top kill had, and they believe that the lessons learned with the two failed collection domes and the partially-successful Riser Insertion Tube will give them the ability to effectively collect oil out of the BOP and in doing so stop the spill. While we all hope they’re right, it’s six weeks into this nightmare and nothing has gone according to BP’s plan.
Conspiracy theories are rampant, one more stupid than the next, and the political class has long since lost its nerve. The Obama administration is now reverting to its failsafe of turning all the difficult questions over to Eric Holder, who says he’s going to have the Justice Department prosecute those responsible for the spill, which while it might be a good idea eventually probably isn’t the smartest tactical decision given that the feds don’t have the expertise to stop the leak without BP’s involvement. But that doesn’t matter; this administration is about deflecting political fallout and assignment of blame, not about governing. We knew that before this spill, and we still know it. The old maxim of “you take your victim as you find him” applies to BP; they would have done themselves – and the others in the oil industry who aren’t guilty of killing 11 of their fellow workers and sinking a platform – a lot more good having a spill in a country run by a more mature or reasonable regime.
6-1-10, 9:45 a.m. – Gotta hand it to NPR – there’s nothing like agenda-driven, panic journalism, and the elitist eggheads broadcasting on the public dime have mastered the form where the Gulf oil spill is concerned.
NPR, you’ll remember, broke the story of Purdue professor Steven Wereley, who sallied forth a couple of weeks ago with wildly irresponsible estimates of 70,000 barrels a day of oil coming out of the Macondo well based on video BP released of the spill at the wellhead. Subsequent official studies indicated that the real number was between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day – which was a sizable increase over the 5,000 bpd estimate NOAA and the Coast Guard had officially released based on what they saw at the surface, but nowhere near Wereley’s ridiculous and panic-inducing assertions.
How to top Wereley’s wolf-crying? By all means, with a hurricane. After all, today is the official start of hurricane season, and as such it’s time to play Roland Emmerich and destroy the world. Or the Gulf Coast.
In an article that actually appeared on their site 10 days ago, NPR’s lede says:
If a hurricane encounters the oil slick now covering parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the result could be devastating, scientists say. Not only could any hurricane increase the damage that oil does to coastal wetlands, but the presence of oil could lead to a more powerful hurricane, they say.
Without question it’s a bad thing if a hurricane drives the oil slick ashore, say, into Louisiana’s coastal marshes. Of course, a hurricane which drives a storm surge into those marshes will probably do a terrible amount of damage with or without oil riding along; floods pretty much destroy everything in their path regardless of whether they bring clean water or dirty; you can ask the people of Nashville, who were flooded by virtually pristine river water arising from lots of heavy rains about that (although you can’t ask President Obama, since he never bothered to pay attention to that disaster at all).
The article also makes the case that the oil slick will absorb heat from the sun and make the Gulf even warmer. But that’s a theoretical question, and since the orientation of the oil in the Gulf isn’t as one giant slick but as a bunch of smaller ones, it’s worth questioning whether there is any measurable effect on water temperature at all going on. No one knows in any event, since with the oil on the water accurate temperature readings are impossible.
So maybe the disaster-movie script isn’t quite inevitable.
And in fact, according to LSU professor Irvin Mendelssohn, a good hurricane might actually help disperse and break up that oil.
A hurricane might even be beneficial if it arrives before oil has a chance to damage coastal marshes, says Irving Mendelssohn, who studies coastal plant ecology at Louisiana State University.
“It’s very possible that the hurricane will tend to both dissipate and break up the oil faster,” he says. That could dilute the toxic substances and result in minimal damage to plants, he says.
But Mendelssohn says there could be more damage if the hurricane arrived after oil had reached the coast.
“Then the hurricane results in greater erosion of the wetland,” he says, “because the wetland has already lost its vegetation and is already in a degraded state.”
Marsh plants are hardy, and usually recover from a single encounter with oil, especially the less toxic type involved in this spill, Mendelssohn says. His great fear is that some combination of hurricanes, ocean currents and the ongoing spill will cover the same marsh plants with oil repeatedly.
“That type of re-oiling will completely kill the plant,” he says, destroying the wetland, and leaving the coast without a key defense against hurricanes.
In other words, a hurricane – or better put, a nice little tropical storm – which doesn’t hit the marshlands directly but pops some beach somewhere and agitates a lot of that oil and helps break it up might be just what the doctor ordered. Cleaning oil off a beach is no particular challenge; in Texas they did it several times during the Ixtoc spill in 1979 without any trouble.
Meanwhile, some numbers on the cleanup effort:
Work continues to collect and disperse oil that has reached the surface of the sea, to protect the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, and to collect and clean up any oil that has reached shore.
Over 1,600 vessels are now involved in the response effort, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels. Operations to skim oil from the surface of the water have now recovered, in total, some 321,000 barrels (13.5 million gallons) of oily liquid.
The total length of containment boom deployed as part of efforts to prevent oil reaching the coast is now over 1.9 million feet, and an additional 1.8 million feet of sorbent boom has also been deployed.
So far approximately 30,000 claims have been submitted and more than 15,000 payments already have been made, totaling some $40 million. BP has received more than 110,000 calls into its help lines to date.
BP says the tab for cleaning up the spill has now hit $990 million. Which is a drop in the bucket of what they’re going to ultimately spend on this disaster.