Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Saga of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (Better known as BP)

BP - Big Problem

That’s right – BP was originally called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. It adopted the name British Petroleum in 1954. The story of BP is really the story of British aggression and imperialism. As in India, Hong Kong, Ireland, Singapore, and America the British had their imperialistic eyes on the Middle East. In fact, it was a British civil servant that drew the borders of Iraq and Kuwait and other countries in the region with no regard to tribal history but with all regards to exploiting oil. As in India, Ireland, and elsewhere the rule was always “divide and conquer”. Religion was a very useful tool for the British. More often than not the peoples of whatever country being economically devoured would fall prey to this tactic.
But religion never mattered to the British. All they were after was the loot. And this is exactly why BP is responsible for the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. But before I explain how and why, let us take a brief look at some oil history.

My grandfather was a New York state oil producer in the early 1900’s. My Grandpa was able to remain a proud and independent oil producer despite Rockefeller buying up the railroads and cornering the means of getting the oil to the refineries in Erie and Cleveland. My grandfather pumped oil wells in 10 degree below zero weather while suffering from the flu. He had at least one man working for him during the great depression who was paid with a bag of groceries every week. As a result of this hard work, my Grandpa invested in two great American energy companies – Amoco and Atlantic Richfield (ARCO).

Fast forward to 1998 and we see that President Clinton and the U.S. government allowed BP to purchase Amoco. That worked so well, BP was then allowed to swallow up Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) in 2000. At the time I was amazed the U.S. government would allow a foreign company (especially the British) to takeover two strategic domestic energy companies. BP quickly became the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the United States.

The “special relationship” was certainly alive and well. I guess Clinton must have been well-schooled during his time at Oxford University in England. I’ve always wondered why Americans consider the relationship with England “special” in a good way. As an Irish American, perhaps I am more in tune with Britain’s history of rape, pillage, and plunder. I would encourage anyone wishing to learn more (i.e. a non-western account) of England’s imperialism to read Nehru’s Glimpses of World History. This book is a collection of letters Nehru wrote his daughter from jail – imprisoned by the British for having the unmitigated audacity to fight against British oppression for his country’s freedom. Only by knowing the history of British corporations can one fully understand the Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams would have a much different view of America’s “special relationship” with the British.
After BP’s purchases of ARCO and Amoco my family’s stock in American energy companies became BP stock. As an Irish-American, this greatly concerned me. However, the dividends came, and the stock went up, and all was seemingly right with the world. But I was always nervous about BP. As the years went by I became complacent. I even bought BP for the dividend. I bought into the lie myself. With that as background, now let’s look at Horizon.

A friend of mine works for a major oil services company in Houston. I called and asked him what the skinny was on Horizon. He told me it was a disaster waiting to happen and everyone in the business knew it. The oil well was hitting pockets of natural gas and kicking hard almost from day one. Apparently BP employees, especially the British ones, have a well established reputation in the Gulf region of unearned arrogance. In fact, I was told that Schlumberger (SLB) workers advised BP to kill Horizon because it was too dangerous. BP responded by saying they were not going to kill the well and that they should get back to work. The SLB guys said we’re getting off the rig. BP responded by saying, no you’re not, there’s not another chopper scheduled to come to this rig for 5 days. The SLB guys phoned headquarters in Houston and told their management to chopper them out immediately because the rig was dangerous. They wanted off. The next day the chopper arrived and the 5 SLB employees got off the rig. The next day, Horizon exploded and sunk.

What struck me was my friend’s obvious disregard for BP. All this talk about BP’s technology is incorrect, he said. BP hires technology. From drilling, to submersibles, to energy services – everything is contracted out. All BP has is the money and since they are the largest oil lease holder in the Gulf of Mexico, no American company speaks their mind publicly about BP’s lack of management skill or their focus on profits at all costs. It is common knowledge heir regard for human life and the environment is certainly below profits. Several recent incidences before Horizon proved this to be true.

Tony Hayward is right when he says the Horizon disaster never should have happened. I doubt it would have happened if any American company had been drilling that well. Here are some questions for Tony:

1) Why was only a single pipe used? Standard operating procedure for these deepwater wells in the Gulf is to use two pipes. BP cut corners by sinking a telescopic pipe near the ocean floor which then tapered down to a final single pipe which went all the way to the reservoir. Why? Cheaper.

2) Why BP more responsive to the obvious warning signals wasn’t this well was sending? Kicks, loss of control, problems all around from day one. The workers on the rig certainly knew it. There was an ominous feeling on that rig. BP obviously was aware of this. Why didn’t they take steps to beef up safety procedures? Why? Money.

3) Considering the single pipe decision and the warning signals the well displayed, why didn’t BP pay more attention than usual to the operation of the blowout preventer and perhaps even a redundant safety system? Why not? Money.

4) Why did BP not follow the advice one of the most respected energy services companies (SLB) and take appropriate actions? Why? Again, money.

5) Once the disaster happened, why did BP lie about the leak rate? Money.

6) Once the disaster happened, why did BP not deploy serious oil spill technology to mitigate the damage? There are supertankers with powerful suction pumps that have been used by Royal Dutch Shell to surround oil spills and suck up the oil as soon as it hit the surface. Why not? Money.

7) Why is BP not “making right” the claims of those Gulf Americans who have been put out of work or suffered financial hardships as a result of BP’s negligence?

Following the history of British imperialism, BP’s management of the Horizon well was all about the money. Their concern was not, and is not now, for the American people or for the environment. The almighty pound rules the roost.
America is not without fault. Despite thinking President Obama is somehow different than Bush, those of us who know energy policy know there is absolutely no difference whatsoever – the same people are still turning the power knobs in Washington: oil, coal, the military, and the AIPAC. Bush lowered the royalty rates on deep water drilling – pushing operators into deep water because the profit margins would be higher. This royalty give away specifically benefited BP since the company is the biggest lease holder in the Gulf. Not surprising since Bush is a direct descendent of King Henry “Longshanks” of the movie Braveheart fame. Making matters worse, the Obama administration appointed a former BP exec in charge at MMS. So, BP was given a free hand to drill in deeper water for higher profits and without adequate environmental safety oversight. The government allowed BP to exploit our country’s oil wealth for maximum profit. After all, the British are “special”.

So here we sit with my former home state’s coastline destroyed, its seafood industry in tatters; workers and businesses in distress and very little relief coming from BP. Congress and Obama are once again exposed as being incompetent and impotent. Despite the two biggest environmental disasters in U.S. history during Obama’s reign (the TVA coal fly-ash disaster at Kingston, TN and the Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf), Obama, Energy Secretary Chu, and Congress keep their oil and coal centric energy policy firmly in place. The environmental purists in America assist them by buying into Obama’s oxymoronic “clean-coal”/electric car architecture as though that somehow has a chance in hell of reducing foreign oil imports and toxic coal consumption. Meanwhile, the only domestic energy resource capable of significantly reducing foreign oil imports (natural gas) is completely ignored. Natural gas is abundant, clean, and cheap! I guess it is easier to put natural gas into the “bad fossil fuel” category rather than to actually THINK. Reason? It would reduce profits at companies like BP and reduce the need for the U.S. to put military troops in the Middle East to both acquire oil and presumably to protect Israel. These ridiculous energy and foreign policies are as much to blame for the spill as BP itself. American energy policy actually instigated and enabled this disaster. Perhaps the natural gas eruption on the Horizon well was the fuel’s way of responding at being neglected by American energy policy “experts”. Meanwhile, we witness every day how American foreign policy is failing in the Middle East and how Israel’s security (let alone standing in world opinion) is slipping day-by-day. I am baffled by how driving up oil prices and enriching Israel’s Arab enemies and by weakening their sole protector (the U.S.) by forcing it to print money out of thin air to pay for foreign oil and its imperialistic military policy can possibly be good for the long-term survival of Israel. It certainly is a world of oxymoronic “logic”. WIth this as background, can one doubt that U.S. and British "strategy" will next include an attack on Iran? If so, how ironic that British Petroleum would no doubt be a big winner and go back to its roots by exploiting oil resources in Iran.

But I am straying. Back to BP.

This disaster hurts me in my bones on so many levels. It hurts me to have to deal with owning the stock of a British company responsible for such a mess and that was not originally invested in by my family. It hurts to see my former home state in such turmoil. And it hurts to see my country’s government so totally taken over by industrial power. After all, is this not the definition of fascism? My Grandp and John Adams must be rolling over in their graves. It pains me greatly to see yet another American water resource destroyed as the Tennessee River system was by the TVA's coal fly-ash spill. Both disasters will take at least a generation to recover. Both will never be the same. Both will greatly impact American's health in a negative way.

I really wonder if there is not a serious effort by the U.S. government and its many agencies (primarily the EPA and energy agencies) to completely destroy and pollute every single body of water so that no American family can safely fish, or shrimp, or crab and or any of nature’s bounty without grave risk to their health. It appears to me this must be their ultimate goal – make the American people totally dependent on buying unhealthy food in stores in the pure hope and blind faith that it may be better than the polluted food from our waters. No wonder the U.S. has the highest cancer rates in the world.

There are many conspiracy discussions taking place. Some say the rig’s leak was intentionally allowed in order to push forward the power elite’s new “environmental policy”. As I have already explained, this is not as much about the environment (obviously) as it is about controlling the American people and exploiting profits for the coal and oil industries. Some say BP’s lack of environmental response is a conspiracy to weaken U.S. food supply as we head into an era of competition for food resources and thereby, again, allowing more control over the American people. Some say it was intentionally allowed in order to devastate the strong group of people in Louisiana that own boats, and industry, and technology along the coast. That is, to weaken the power of the people by economic destroying their lively hoods and forcing them to relocate. Again, U.S. policy always seems to be to weaken the middle class of American as opposed to strengthening it. Who knows if there is any truth to these theories? I can say this much – the oil experts in Houston were, and are still, completely baffled by BP’s management of this well - but pre and post spill.
One thing is for sure – Congress must insure that Americans are fully reimbursed for their losses as a result of BP’s negligence. My friend in Houston said if the truth is allowed to come out in a criminal probe, there will be BP employees behind bars. This is fine with me.

The U.S. government’s refusal to adopt a strategic long-term and comprehensive energy policy like this one:

can only mean continued reliance on foreign oil, higher oil prices, and much more coal consumption. These are sad but undeniable facts.