Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drill Baby Drill! - Spill Baby Spill!

The unexplained explosion that destroyed the British Petroleum off-shore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico is much worse that was reported even yesterday. The new leaks that have been learned of make this spill even worse the the Exxon Valdez - already. How much worse is not known yet. Remember, the Exxon Valdez was limited to the amount of oil in one super tanker. This spill comes directly from the geological oil pool underground, so no one can predict how much worse that the Exxon Valdez this is going to get.

Why is this oil spill so bad? Why this spill is it so massive, and more important, so hard to stop? We're told so often that private industry is "always more effective than government is" you'd think this spill was caused by inefficient and ineffective government. But it's not. It's that "inefficient" government organization, the US Coast Guard, that is taking the lead in first saving as many of the crew as possible and later trying to protect the Gulf and the coastal areas.

But back to what caused this to get so bad. Here is some new information from DaveJ at OpenLeft. Dave points out that much of the fault lies in the hands of the private oil drillers.
How many times have you heard, "The private sector does everything more efficiently and effectively than government?" Right. Not this time. Leaking Oil Well Lacked Safeguard Device,

The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.

So once again the private sector screwed up and created a disaster that is way, way beyond private capabilities to fix things... and again it is government to the rescue: US military joins Gulf of Mexico oil spill effort. But government coming in after the fact to clean things up after the private sector created a major disaster is a very expensive way to do things. Maybe we ought to revisit that "government is bad" ideology that let's this kind of thing happen over and over again.

Anti-government ideology? Deregulation ideology? I wonder where it comes from? Well, all that Koch money you may have been hearing about, funding the Tea Party movement, funding the climate deniers, funding all that anti-government, anti-regulation crap -- that's oil money. Exxon, Schell and BP are in that mix as well.

This stuff follows a model developed by the tobacco companies to keep their franchise going after it became clear they were profiting from a product that was killing people. The model is to fund a political movement to throw as much smoke as possible in the air -- "doubt is our product" -- get people arguing about "personal responsibility" instead of our community responsibilities to each other, and turn people against government so it can't regulate. It works: tobacco still kills over 400,000 Americans a year and it's still legal -- and still very, very profitable. Revise and extend the model and you have today's conservative movement - a pay for play operation serving the biggest companies.

Let's not forget that of the 129 member crew on board when the (still unexplained) explosion occurred, 11 are missing and presumed dead, while seven others are critically injured. Add this to the cost our hunger for more and more cheap energy on top of the recent deaths of 29 coal miners as a result of Don Massey refusing to act to dig coal safely.

I can't find a song about oil roughnecks, but this was one of my favorites 50 years ago. ("Though I remember the superb Peter, Paul and Mary version.) The key line that has always remained with me is the refrain: "Bone and blood is the price of coal. Bone and blood is the price of coal."

Perhaps we should remember why these working people die in greater numbers than necessary. It's cheaper for them to die than for the companies to spend the money to make their jobs safer! The companies make bigger profits and they sell more energy because it it costs less!
Meanwhile, here is one more reason the big corporations are opposing things like wind energy: Wind's latest problem: it ... makes power too cheap.

The key thing here is that we are beginning to unveil what I've labelled the dirty secret of wind: utilities don't like wind not because it's not competitive, but because it brings prices down for their existing assets, thus lowering their revenues and their profits.
Perhaps this is beginning to sound a bit like class warfare. Well isn't it? This is the wealthy investors in older energy sources like coal and oil spending the lives of workers to build their profits. And are they willing to share their profits? Of course not. Consider the attitude of Pete Peterson and Bob Rubin as they work to reduce the American deficit. The deficit is scary and dangerous, so someone is going to have to sacrifice to reduce the deficit. Think the extremely wealth Peterson and Rubin are offering to sacrifice some of their wealth to the effort? Here is a sample of their attitude:
"Peter Peterson and Robert Rubin are both enormously wealthy men. (They joked about dividing their lunch tab based on their net worth.) They are lecturing the country on the need to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for retirees who have a tiny fraction of their wealth. Many of the victims of the cuts that they would push are people who are already struggling."
[H/t to Digby at Hullabaloo.]
Of course the aristocrats are not going to sacrifice any of the wealth they control. Think Don Massey is going to spend "His" money to make digging coal safer for coal miners. Peterson and Rubin (among others) are working hard to take money from those on Social Security and government operated health care. What they can't get in taxes (such as those that backed the Wall Street bailouts) they will fight to get through the banks by predatory lending. Consider the usury of Pay Day lending, or the sub prime loans required by working people to buy a car from someplace that does not check credit. Since the wealthy prevent building public transportation, the workers have to buy the overpriced crap used cars with overpriced sub prime loans. And the wealthy get richer. See Massey, Rubin and Peterson as examples.

British Petroleum has a similar hesitation to spend money on blow-out protective devices that are only needed if things go badly wrong when drilling. Safety is for the plebeians and cuts into profits. Make them pay for it if they want it.

That's the core reason why the health care public option never had a chance to be adopted, either. The aristocratic wealthy members of the Senate don't want to pay for the working classes. It cuts into profits and makes it harder for them to gather wealth and maintain their exalted social positions.

This is class warfare conducted by the Movement Conservatives on the rest of us. That's the lesson of the growing inequality of wealth and reduced economic class mobility in America. It's also the lesson of the Massey Coal Mine disaster and the current Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

The refrain keeps ringing for me. "Bone and blood is the price of coal. Bone and blood is the price of coal." That's cheap, high-profit coal with the benefits going to the rich and (rarely) a little bit trickling down to the rest of us.

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