Everyone under the sun is familiar with the fact BP's oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off of the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, resulting in 11 deaths and the spewing of approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. For the last 100+ days the saga of this industrial disaster has revealed the underbelly of secrecy in the media and the cherry-picking of science to suit the industry's agenda. The appropriately named "Deepwater" rig uncovered plenty of blame, including links to Halliburton, Transocean, and the salacious relationship between the Minerals Management Services and Big Oil. This melodrama is not "Big Brother" the reality show but its evil twin known as Corporatism. All the while, as ecological terrorism loomed in the Gulf of Mexico, BP's CEO Tony Hayward whimpered "I want my life back!"
Corexit--BP's boom and nature's gloom
Let us review some of the events. On May 26, 2010, the EPA produced a memo directing BP to reduce its use of the chemical dispersant Corexit (produced by Nalco) by 75 percent (the maximum allowed was 15,000 gallons/day). The memo requested elimination of surface spraying but allowed a caveat indicating rare exceptions would be considered by submitting a request in writing to the United States Coast Guard's Federal On-Scene Coordinator. According to the "Washington Post" all requests (a total of 74 during a 54 period) to spray in deep and shallow waters were approved. Lockheed Martin's July 2010 newsletter "Today" indicates the deployment of C-130s and P-3s to the Gulf region by Air Force and Coast Guard for monitoring, mapping, and dispersant spraying. Yes, and this was per the request of the almighty EPA. To date, approximately 1.8 million gallons of Corexit, primarily a cocktail of 2-butoxyethanol, propylene glycol, and "proprietary ingredients" have been sprayed on the gushing crude oil. Corexit, Class B carcinogen, has been banned by the European Union. Whilst the hoopla concerning Corexit embroiled, a Nalco's goggled and gloved representative declares in a video "[the dispersant] is as safe as detergent."
EPA Chief Lisa Jackson has voiced her "concern" over the use of Corexit but refused to outright ban its use. EPA's Senior Policy Analyst, Hugh Kaufman, denounced the use of the dispersant and boldly announced on "Democracy Now" that
Corexit is one of a number of dispersants, that are toxic, that are used to atomize the oil and force it down the water column so that it's invisible to the eye. In this case, these dispersants were used in massive quantities, almost two million gallons so far, to hide the magnitude of the spill and save BP money. And the government--both EPA, NOAA, etc.--have been sock puppets for BP in this cover-up.
Hugh Kaufman has been employed with the EPA since 1971, was instrumental in development of the Superfund, and is not one to shy away from controversy. During the EPA's cover-up of the health hazards at Ground Zero, Kaufman lodged a whistle blowing complaint. Christie Todd-Whitman subsequently silenced him in 2002 by shutting down the EPA's National Ombudsman Office, which had been investigating Ground Zero and other Superfund sites across the nation. How Kaufman maintains his employment with the EPA whilst repeatedly blowing the whistle on cover-ups is beyond me! Maybe he knows where the bodies are buried? Nevertheless, he is a hero!
"Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil"
Another disturbing twist in the Gulf Oil Crisis saga is the media blackout which occurred in late May/early June. BP set up clean-up camps along the gulf coast to remove oil and tar from beaches. During this period reporters were forbidden to talk to cleanup workers--either on or off the clock--or suffer a possible $40,000 fine or Class B felony charge. I started to see videos crop up in alternative news outlets showing Blackwater-type guards forcing news reporters away from the area. I was shocked (mainly because it was allowed) to see mainstream media regular Anderson Cooper discussing the 65 feet distance required between the media and the cleanup response areas (including beaches and vessels) without permission from the Port of New Orleans. The Federal Aviation Authority announced the region encompassing Deepwater Horizon and its plume was "off limits" for flyovers. Rumors indicating that only "National Geographic" was permitted to film the spill.
During this "blackout" period alternative news outlets were reporting disturbing findings. Residents of the gulf region indicated clean-up crews were suffering health issues (e.g., intestinal bleeding, skin lesions). Animals with missing heads were discovered on beaches preventing scientists from possibly analyzing the cause of death. Fishers hoping to receive compensation for lost wages were asked to sign "gag orders." Independent analyses of surface water by TV stations were showing high levels of oils and dispersants.
Links were being drawn between members of the Obama Administration (Geitner and Summers) and BP executives. The "UK Telegraph" even reported that CEO Tony Hayward sold 1.4 million of stocks approximately two weeks prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Shortly after the sale, Goldman Sachs sold off $250 million of BP stock.
Alternative news showed "experts" describing possible doomsday scenarios based on methane building from oil leakage beneath the sea floor. Internet newshounds began to notice changes or "blackouts" for North America in NOAA's Tsunami warning website. Between June and July earthquake tremors were noted in odd places like Michigan, Niagara, Maryland, and Louisiana. According to the "European Union Times" NATO ordered the U.S. to ship 7,000 Marines to Costa Rica over fear the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico fractures the zone lying between North America and the Caribbean Plates. The Oil Crisis scenario was growing more apocalyptic by the day.
The best science money can buy!
All the while only a couple of university and "experts" were being interviewed on mainstream media. I observed in May that the University of South Florida, Tampa, appeared to be on the forefront of reporting the presence of oil plumes in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Being a scientist, I wondered, "Where is my alma mater Florida Institute of Technology? Where is the University of Miami? MIT? Woodshole?" The scientific community was totally hush-hush as the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States progressed--and BP's crew of stooges attempted to "plug the hole." What I innately believed to be true and later described on the internet finally upwelled into mainstream news noting BP was "buying up" notable experts at universities for pending lawsuits. Essentially, BP shopped around for experts who were willing to assist BP at hourly rates up to $250/hour in exchange for a three-year gag order on publishing. Universities like Texas A&M, Louisiana State University, and University of Southern Mississippi jumped at the opportunity. Who else may have sold out to BP will only be known in the future.
Now you see it, now you don't!
As the summer months ensued the ecological and economical effects from the Gulf Oil Crisis appeared bleak. BP commercials using homey language "we're gonna' make things right" and daily full-page ads emblazoned BP's image campaign. BP has spent millions to protect its image yet where is pay-out to the gulf region it economically affected?
The daily reports of BP's attempting to cap the well became part of the normal media spectrum (if not a daily joke). Obama and his administration continued to look weak in spite of tough "kick ass" rhetoric. Much to the embarrassment of the "drill baby drill" crowd the worst case scenario of the result of drilling became a reality. Much to dismay of the energy industry, additional spills around the globe (including China, Michigan, and Utah) funneled into the news. Fear of eating Gulf seafood and vacationing on tar-covered sands prevailed. On the bright side the summer gas prices began to lower, possibly to create a warm and fuzzy feeling toward the oil industry. After all, it is an election year. By the end of July, BP's CEO Tony Hayward stepped down from his position with an estimated package worth $18 million.