Beyond Petroleum and Beyond Power

What a difference eighteen months can make. In July 2010 the United States was gunning for BP; President Obama had decided to call it, with a sneer in his voice, British Petroleum (nothing to do with me, Governor) and claiming billions of dollars as compensation for the oil spill in the Gulf of México known as Deepwater Horizon. Today BP, having paid much of the damages (although I am not terribly confident that the money has cascaded down to those who really suffered) BP declares profits for the last quarter of 2011 of $7.6 billion. The profits for the like period in 2010 were $4,6 billion. Continue reading

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water…

A year ago most of us were concerned by the 4.9 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) of oil spillage in the Gulf of México. Today there is little news on the spillage. The Gulf has absorbed much of the oil, much of it has been dispersed by chemicals and much cleaned up from the sea shore. It seems some of the marine life is safe and prospering; although in certain cases there has been irremediable damage to the environment. Continue reading

BP – an unethical investment

Thursday’s Annual General Meeting of BP in London was a lively affair. It seems that some shareholders, who have travelled a great distance to attend the meeting, were not allowed in; that is a disgrace and contrary to the rules governing AGMs. Directors of huge multinationals like BP insulate themselves from the shareholders they serve. The only opportunity that an ordinary shareholder has to see a director and ask questions is the AGM. Large funds get whatever access they need to directors of BP. A shrimp fisherman who has bought a few shares to attend the AGM and travelled from the Gulf of México is ignored, rather like the former Chief Executive of BP who said that he would quite like to get his life back, to which someone responded they would like to get the life of a brother back. Continue reading

The Gulf of Mexico is becoming a sea desert

We do not know the full effects of the Deepwater  Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of México. Most of the surface oil deposits have been cleaned up and many of the coats have been cleaned up, but we cannot clean up the deep part of the ocean and indeed we are only just beginning to see how the oil spillage has affected the life that lives in this part of the ocean, known as the benthos.

Sea cucumbers, worms corals and sea fans all live on the ocean floor, but living on the ocean floor eating detritus is hard to do if the ocean floor is covered with a layer of oil, some of which is 10 cm (two and a half inches) thick in places. The benthos plants and animals die.

Having died those forms of life that eat the benthos life cannot find food and they themselves die. When Professor Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia had a look at the sea floor at depth using the Alvin submersible instead of seeing the usual life forms that live at depths they saw…no sign of life.

Once a link of the food chain is removed the remaining links higher in the chain have to find alternative food or die; there is usually no alternative food and this means over the next few years the Gulf Of México, described by BP as a big body of water which will recover from the oil spill by the end of next year, could be a sea desert.


The benefits of the Deepwater Horizon leaks

In the United States a report blames BP, Transocean and Haliburton for the great environmental disaster that started in the Gulf of México in April 2010. Locally in Louisiana the people also blame the federal Government, whose duty was to regulate the activities of those who drill for oil, and whose regulation clearly failed. Regardless of where the blame lies, the environmental consequences that are specific to this Deepwater Horizon oil leak may not be known for many years. Continue reading

Deepwater – someone blundered

The failures at the Macondo Well and its rig the Deepwater Horizon will fill tens of thousands of pages of evidence, reports and newsprint. The first in what will, no doubt, be a long line of reports has been BP’s own investigation. I have read the executive summary and watched BP’s video which is at BP has identified a number of failures and is seeking to allocate blame between itself and its partners in the venture, Halliburton and Transocean. About half of the failures that BP claims are errors by the rig operator’s personnel – human error. The remaining failures relate to design or specification of equipment. Continue reading

The Principle of Making Pollutors Pay

Principles are important and it is an important principle that the polluter should pay for the cost of cleaning up its pollution. Mr Obama rightly insisted that BP was the polluter, and using the power of the United States required BP to pay for the cost of the Deepwater oil spill. The United States could not use its moral authority – it has none when it comes to pollution because it recklessly pollutes the world with excessive emissions of carbon dioxide. It has strength from economic success and used that to bring BP into line. Continue reading

The world’s worst environmental vandalism

For the first time in three months it seems that the Deepwater oil rig is no longer leaking crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This episode has had all the features of a melodrama with a tragic ending. There have been cover ups, lies, incompetence, political grandstanding, recriminations and generally a simplistic view of the financial and environmental damage done and the sufferings caused with an even more simplistic misunderstanding of the responsibilities. Continue reading

BP faces another summons to the Senate

I am intrigued to learn that the United States Senate will hold a hearing to ascertain whether there is any substance in the allegation that BP lobbied for the release of Mr al Megrahi who was convicted of blowing up the airline which crashed at Lockerbie. I watched part of one Congressional hearing hearing on television when the BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward was brought to explain the Deepwater oil leak. I was not impressed. Continue reading

Will BP go the way of Arthur Anderson?

If you hurt America someone, without doubt, will suffer for it. It may not be the guilty party, but someone will pay. Iraq paid the price for the crime committed in New York at the Twin Towers, even though it had no or little connection with the crime. Arthur Anderson, then the largest audit and accountancy firm, paid the price for Enron, although its culpability is not in doubt, it paid a price that was based on a thirst for revenge, rather than justice. Continue reading