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The Deeper Crisis

June 5, 2010

The Washington Post article cited in the previous post illustrates just how intertwined are the worlds of big energy, big finance, and big politics willing to create a national sacrifice zone in the Gulf to protect their reigns. These power brokers including oil state politicians have even demeaned the fishing and tourist industries (renewable and sustainable) as economically insignificant when to compared to the all important petrochemical economy. Their message: BP disaster a fluke, waiting 6 months or longer will create unemployment in oil and related sectors.

National Sacrifice Zone? Yellow dots = oil platforms Graphic: Free Dominion:

Other coverage points out the devastating effects that a single oil catastrophe can have on financial markets and on the lives of people thousands of miles away. For example, pensioners in the UK are heavily vested in British Petroleum stocks — which have lost a third of their value since the Deepwater Horizon explosion 6 weeks ago.

As in the case of the 2008 financial meltdown, the entire global economy is fragile; policies encourage speculation, too-big-to-fails, and the growing use of fossil fuel — with all of its devastating consequences.

In coming posts we will begin to focus holistically on the structures that create systemic vulnerability. Please join the dialogue.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
    June 6, 2010 1:01 pm

    Yesterday’s NY Times has an interesting article by Ian Urbina about the reign of confusion and lack of solid regulation and enforcement at the Minerals Management Service (Department of Interior) over oil rig safety and response actions. Focus first on the “worst case blowout” of 250,000 barrels for the Deepwater Horizon operation cited in federal records. The rate of the current disaster is about a tenth of this value — plenty bad enough. The key is that blowouts of this dimension will only occur when an oil reservoir is under tremendous pressure, meaning miles into the earth’s crust. The nearly exclusive attention to water depth (in permitting and the moratorium) entirely misses this point.

    Here is an interesting excerpt from the Times article.

    “On the Deepwater Horizon, for example, the minerals agency approved a drilling plan for BP that cited the “worst case” for a blowout as one that might produce 250,000 barrels of oil per day, federal records show. But the agency did not require the rig to create a response plan for such a situation.

    If a blowout were to occur, BP said in its plan, the first choice would be to use a containment dome to capture the leaking oil. But regulators did not require that a containment dome be kept on the rig to speed the response to a spill. After the rig explosion, BP took two weeks to build one on shore and three days to ship it out to sea before it was lowered over the gushing pipe on May 7. It did not work.

    (The rig’s “spill response plan,” provided to The Times, includes a Web link for a contractor that goes to an Asian shopping Web site and also mentions the importance of protecting walruses, seals and sea lions, none of which inhabit the area of drilling. The agency approved the plan.)”

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