Sen. Kerry Praises Oil Industry for Their Support

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is worse than anyone thought, and the crisis will likely go on for months. British Petroleum (BP) is tripping over itself to say it’ll cover the costs of the clean-up, yet before the spill, the company spent its time and money pushing back against government regulation and safety measures.

Care2 reports, “A piece of machinery costing .004 percent of BP’s 2009 profits might have prevented the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that is currently threatening the U.S. gulf coast. An acoustic valve designed as a final failsafe to prevent oil spills costs $500,000; the Wall Street Journal writes that the valve, while not proven effective, is required on oil rigs in Norway and Brazil, but not in the U.S.”

Oil is drifting towards the southeastern coastline as clean-up crews and politicians scramble to respond. BP has not staunched the leaks that are pouring more than 200,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

Beach communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are bracing for the oil’s arrival and waiting to see what the damage to their businesses and their natural resources will be. And in Washington, members of Congress, who just a couple of weeks ago were willing to compromise on off-shore drilling expansion are rallying against the practice.

As Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said this week, “accidents happen,” but in this case, it’s becoming clear that the oil industry and government regulators did not do all they could to minimize the risks of a spill.

The slick

Over the past week, reporters trying to describe the size of the spill have compared it to Jamaica or Puerto Rico. Public News Service talked to Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times, who saw the slick in flight.

“It’s really a horrifying thing to see because of the magnitude of it,” Bousquet said. “They use these chemicals to break up the oil and it takes on a kind of rust-colored look to it. And we saw these long streaks, miles and miles long of oil, and just oil as far as the eye can see.”

The visual stretch of the spill hardly represents the scope of its impact, either. As Dr. Riki Ott, a Chelsea Green author, explained to CNN:

“This is Louisiana sweet crude, and it’s got a lot of what’s called “light ends,” which evaporate very quickly into the air and also dissolve very readily into the water column. So what you see on the surface is like the tip of the iceberg…Imagine a big cumulus cloud of dissolved and dispersed oil under the slick, wherever it is. And that cloud is extremely toxic to everything in the water column — shellfish, eggs and embryos — so shrimp eggs and young life forms that are in the water column, young fish.”

According to Dr. Ott, the extent of the damage won’t be clear for a few years. Oyster fisherman, for instance, would usually be seeding oysters now, as the crops take two years to mature. That work needs to be done within the next few months to avoid economic losses two years in the future, but the precautionary measures shutting off access to waters east of the Mississippi are keeping that from happening.

Oiling the machine

It’s no accident that oil interests work under looser rules. As Lindsay Beyerstein reported last week for Working In These Times, BP wrote to the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) saying that tighter regulation of the oil industry was unnecessary. MMS doesn’t have a stellar history of oversight, and if you’re not familiar with its sordid past, TPM’s Justin Elliott put together a tour through the agency’s history with sex and drugs.

The industry hasn’t just been selling snake oil to MMS, though. Oil companies have been greasing the palms of politicians with campaign donations for years. Democracy Now! spoke to Antonia Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil, about the oil industry’s influence.

“The entire oil industry, will continue to use its vast wealth – unequaled by any global industry – to escape regulation, restriction, oversight and enforcement,” Juhasz says. “BP, now the source of the last two great deadly US oil industry explosions, has shown us that this simply cannot be permitted.”

The new politics of climate

To see the oil industry’s influence in action, look no further than the ongoing work on the Senate’s climate legislation. Two weeks ago, before the spill, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) announced that the oil industry would back the tri-partisan legislation that he was working on with Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Since then, Graham has stepped away from the bill, and off-shore drilling, a keystone of the negotiations over the legislation, has become much less politically palatable.

But this Wednesday, Kerry had nothing but nice things to say about the oil industry, as Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones.

“While he acknowledged that “we can’t drill and burn our way out of danger,” Kerry also spoke highly of the oil companies backing the draft legislation, which was supposed to be released last week,” Sheppard writes. “BP, operator of the rig currently spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was expected to be among the supporters.”

“Ironically we’ve been working very closely with some of these oil companies in the last months,” Kerry said. “I took them in good faith. They have worked hard with us to find a solution that meets all of our needs.”

Kerry still seems confident that the climate and energy bill will move forward, but, Steve Benen writes at the Washington Monthly, that things are far from certain.

“The legislation was predicated on something of a grand bargain – the left would get cap-and-trade and investment in renewables; the right would get nuclear plants and offshore drilling,” Benen explains. “But in the wake of the catastrophe in the Gulf, there is no deal. Key Dems now insist drilling be taken off the table, while Republicans and Democratic industry allies (Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, for example) now insist they won’t even consider a bill unless it includes plenty of drilling.”

While the White House is saying that the oil spill may spur interest in and support for clean energy legislation from Congress, that hasn’t happened yet. Congressional leaders might have to wait for the noise from the Hill to die down before they can re-start serious discussions about how to pass a climate bill.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.


Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here. 

photo credit: thanks to IBRRC via flickr for the image
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger


johan l.
paul l7 years ago

Like you say in the article, BP and others grease the palms of the right politicans to the tune of millions of $'s.
Yet they could not buy an acoustic valve that could have minimized the disaster.
$500.000 is probably less than 10% of their whisky bill!
John Kerry, I think it is better that you resign so another Democrat who has the nation's well-being at heart, is chosen in your place! Can you categorically state that your palms were never greased by BP or others?

Dave Tohunga
Dave te tohunga7 years ago

What most people perhaps deliberately blinker from their perceptions is that the nuclear industry cuts corners for profits as much as the oil corp's do! In fact the mentality of industrialists & their employees in general avoids responsibility and accountability and when things go wrong fail to personally & individually take responsibility fot their decisions and actions. But then the 911 first responders are sick and dying and not getting the support they need either. Corporations and the govt's in their pockets are trashing the planet in an accelerating onslaught and while the profits go into the pockets of a very few the rest have to live with the consequences. The sheer arogance and hubris of their spin doctors conning the public with the idea that it is even possible to 'clean up' such a disaster! Talk about cloud cuckoo land and stupid greedy people eating the future of life on earth...
But of course these people and their brainwashed supporters are in total denial just like they pretend foreigners did the 911 WTC attack! Primary school level physics proves 911 was an inside job! Any one who has actually looked at the physical evidence of the crime scene can see it... but americans can't... what does that tell you about americans? At least this oil spill will toxify rich americans seaside palaces instead of some indigenous peoples homes. 'Patriotic my country right or wrong supporters of torture and mass murder' will not like me writing these things but tough t

Avery E.
Avery Ecklein7 years ago

Kerry >:-I

Bill K.
Bill K7 years ago

Both honey and vinegar are biodegradable. Oil isn't. It's time we treated oil companies and their cronies in Washington as the robber barons they are. They have been getting away with far too much for far too long.

We've known about the need to move away from our dependency on oil for decades yet little has been done. Other technologies (ie computers, medicine, etc.) have made dramatic advances in the same time. But clean energy technologies have been held up every step of the way by lack of funding, interest, and government support. If solar had half the backing that our government has given to oil and nuclear there'd already be solar panels on every roof.

Jane H.
Jane H7 years ago

Sometimes you can get further with honey rather than vinegar.

Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson7 years ago

Democracy Now! 5May2010: BP Funnels $Millions into Lobbying to Influence Regulation & Re-Brand Image. Amy Goodman interviews Antonia Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry – & What We Must Do To Stop It. “The entire oil industry, will continue to use its vast wealth – unequaled by any global industry – to escape regulation, restriction, oversight & enforcement,” Juhasz writes. “BP, now the source of the last two great deadly US oil industry explosions, has shown us that this simply cannot be permitted.”

Gwendolyn Krupa
Gwendolyn Krupa7 years ago

noted and signed.

Heidi C.
Heidi L7 years ago

Both petitions signed

Margaret M.

I agree. We would not be in this mess if we had voted Raph Nader into office years ago.

Connie C.

Well, what do you expect from an old Skull and Bones man? That he said this is not a surprise, as he serves the same cortporaste interests as the rest of Congress, whic to keep their friends well-oiled (pun intended). Not surprising, but certainly disgusting.