The Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows that the United States should follow the example of South American socialists in nationalizing its energy industry, filmmaker Oliver Stone said Tuesday.
The Academy Award-winning director of “Born on the Fourth of July” and “JFK” said that America’s country’s natural wealth was too important to be left in private hands, telling journalists in central London that oil and other natural resources “belong to the people.”
“This BP oil spill is typical” of what happens when private industry is allowed to draw revenue on what should be a public good, Stone said.
“We shouldn’t make this kind of profit on oil or on health or on war or on prisons. All these industries should be public industries.”
The news caused Halliburton shares to soar 5 percent to $28.89 in Wall Street pre-opening trade on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Halliburton announced that the boom is the result of a hike in natural gas drilling activities in the United States.
The oil giant’s net income for the April-June period was $480 million up from $262 million one year ago.
This is while the oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico still hangs over the company. Before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, Halliburton was hired by BP to seal the Macondo well before it blew up.
I don’t know about you, but when I see a headline like this one (from the July 11th Washington Post), “White House Confident Latest BP Effort Will Work,” my heart immediately sinks. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, but amid the ever worsening news from the Gulf of Mexico’s waters about astonishingly high methane concentrations, dangerous levels of arsenic, the lack of testing of seafood for absorption of toxic compounds from the dispersant BP has been massively pumping out, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s “hoarding” of raw scientific data about the disaster, and both BP’s and the government’s “stranglehold on media access” in the Gulf, that oily undercurrent of a positive narrative has been relentless (even as press coverage slowly begins to drop off). At the end of the storm lies hope and a rainbow. Or at least a permanently sealed well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.
Of course, three days after that confident headline, the same government showed something less than confidence in BP. It suddenly moved to freeze that company’s work on closing the new version of “top hat,” the massive “3 ram capping stack” meant to seal off the well, until further testing could be done. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu and his experts feared that closing the cap’s valves might actually cause even more harm to a possibly already damaged well bore. In the meantime, the oil, essentially cap-less, continued to gush forth, as it had for days, even as work on the first relief well, the supposed permanent solution to the problem, was halted for fear of further problems while the testing went on.
Late Wednesday, the test of the cap finally began, only to be briefly interrupted by the discovery of a leak on a line attached to one of its valves. Everything was again halted briefly before those valves were finally closed and the oil did stop for the first time in 87 days; and yes, in the next few days, for all we know, that seal may hold, or maybe this nightmare won’t really end until the dog days of late July or mid-August, all dates repeatedly promised for the completion of the relief well. Or maybe not then either. The positive story line has been offered up and deep-sixed so many times already that, as with warnings on a cigarette pack, even with good news coming in, caution is still advised. Worse yet, if the happy ending does come, we already have a reasonable hint about how this story works out. As with the Exxon Valdez spill, big oil may prefer to learn remarkably few lessons from this disaster, as it prepares to head into far rougher waters in search of ever tougher oil to extract. After all, the big oil companies have preferred to learn next to nothing, as Ellen Cantarow makes clear, from a 50-year history of disastrous spills in Nigeria and a decades-long version of the same in the Amazon.
And of course, in these last weeks when the Northeast has been sizzling under record temperatures (with more to come), and researchers at the University of Alabama’s Earth System Science Center have concluded that the first five months of 2010 were the second hottest in human history (runner-up only to 1998) — and this decade the warmest on record for the planet — the worst disaster may prove to be not the gusher in the Gulf, but the gas in our tanks. (To catch Ellen Cantarow discussing what led her to this piece, listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview by clicking here, or to download it to your iPod, here.) Tom
Big Oil Makes War on the Earth
The Gulf Coast Joins an Oil-Soiled Planet
By Ellen Cantarow
If you live on the Gulf Coast, welcome to the real world of oil — and just know that you’re not alone. In the Niger Delta and the Ecuadorian Amazon, among other places, your emerging hell has been the living hell of local populations for decades.
Even as I was visiting those distant and exotic spill locales via book, article, and YouTube, you were going through your very public nightmare. Three federal appeals court judges with financial and other ties to big oil were rejecting the Obama administration’s proposed drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico. Pollution from the BP spill there was seeping into Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans. Clean-up crews were discovering that a once-over of beaches isn’t nearly enough: somehow, the oil just keeps reappearing. Endangered sea turtles and other creatures were being burnt alive in swaths of ocean (“burn fields”) ignited by BP to “contain” its catastrophe. The lives and livelihoods of fishermen and oyster-shuckers were being destroyed. Disease warnings were being issued to Gulf residents and alarming toxin levels were beginning to be found in clean-up workers.
None of this would surprise inhabitants of either the Niger Delta or the Amazon rain forest. Despite the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 and the Exxon Valdez in 1989, Americans are only now starting to wake up to the fate that, for half a century, has befallen the Delta and the Amazon, both ecosystems at least as rich and varied as the Gulf of Mexico.
But is it reality, or is it politics? There is no question that the Gulf Oil disaster is not going to help Democrats retain their hold on Congress come November. Senator David Vitter points out, correctly, that President Obama has a vested political interest in convincing the public that the problem is over, so that it will fade from public memory in the three months from now until the elections.
Yes, British Petroleum and Transocean screwed up, but it was Obama’s administration which failed to get the problematic US Minerals Management Service to properly exercise their job of oversight and safety inspections on the Gulf drilling rigs. MMS had been scandalized going back to 2008 for doing favors for and accepting gifts (including sexual favors) from the oil companies they were supposed to be keeping an eye on. In some cases, MMS let the oil companies fill out their own safety reports! The US Government knew what was going on and even issued a report on the problems with MMS.
Obama had over 400 days in office to do his job os getting the government to do their job, but failed in his primary task of taking care of this country, apparently too distracted with his love of Israel to pay attention to what was going on closer to home.
Obama makes a good show of rushing down to the gulf to “kick ass” and act like he is taking care of the situation, but in truth his job was to prevent such disasters from happening, not pose like a firefighter standing heroically over the wreckage after-the-fact.
Obama needs the Gulf Oil disaster to go away because it will be an election loser for the Democrats if the public is still thinking about it in November. Obama himself may be untouchable in this election because he is not running, but the public thirst for vengeance will find easy targets in Democratic candidates.
The announcement of the attempt to cap the well this last week was greeted with stunned amazement among experts (not on BP’s payroll). After all, BP had admitted back in May that the drill pipe and well casing had at least one leak 1000 feet below the blowout preventer; the reason the Top Kill procedure had failed.
CNN reported on two other potential leaks at 9,000 feet and 17,000 feet.
Back in June, video from the Remotely Operated Vehicles on the ocean floor spotted oil leaking up from fissures in the sea floor near the well.
That the drill pipe itself was destroyed in the initial methane “kick” that ignited the platform fire was underscored by the fact that two sections of the drill pipe had been jammed up inside the blowout preventer.
Common sense (and engineering) will tell you that if you have a pipe with leaks, putting a cap on one leak simply drives the oil out the other leaks. From an environmental perspective this makes no sense, because the oil is still leaking out of the well, just in a different place. Of greater concern is that the oil can flow out into the surrounding rocks the way the mud did during the failed Top Kill procedure, forming what is called a subsurface blowout. This is a huge bubble of oil inside the rock. The danger is if the bubble ruptures and the oil collected over 80 days of leakage rushed to the surface of the gulf all at once. Such a surge of oil could easily engulf and founder the surface ships.
Capping a well with known leaks below the surface really serves only one purpose, and that is to present to the media video images showing the well is capped, so that they can reassure the public the problem is over and please vote Democratic-or-you-are-just-being-a-racist.
But the hard reality being withheld from the public is that the problem is not fixed. The leak has not been stopped, it has just been moved out of sight. The camera feed of the capped well head will be shown constantly to assure Americans that all is well and lull us back to a useful torpor. No other views from around the well will be allowed.
Except that the cat is already out of the bag!
- From 1964 until it pulled out in 1992, Texaco—which merged with Chevron a decade ago—dumped some 17 million gallons of crude oil and 20 billion gallons of drilling waste water into waterways and pits in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The contamination has seeped into water supplies, where it’s killed fish and is blamed for health problems among local residents, who suffer from elevated rates of cancers, reproductive disorders, and respiratory ailments.
At a town hall meeting that took place July 1, in Dulac, La., the delegation discussed a report about their experiences back home. Titled “The Lasting Stain of Oil: Cautionary Tales and Lessons From the Amazon,” it offers advice for holding polluters accountable and planning for long-term recovery after severe environmental contamination.
“Although BP says that it plans to take full responsibility for the damages caused by its spill and restore the Gulf Coast to the way it was before, the experience in Ecuador shows that oil companies do the right thing only when compelled to do so by a combination of political, financial, media, and community pressure,” says the report, which was prepared by the Asamblea de Afectados por Texaco (Assembly of Those Affected by Texaco), along with Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch.
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