Saturday, May 1, 2010

Unvarnished Greed.

When the explosion occurred on April 20, 2010 that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and killed eleven people, that alone was a tremendous tragedy.

Now, that tragedy has transmogrified into a catastrophe of unimaginable proportion: An oil spill, still flowing at a daily rate of 5,000 or more barrels (that's 210,000 gallons) per day or more, with no easily predictable end in sight.

From information available, it looks like it may take as long as two months to stop this spill, if that soon... and decades or more to assess the actual environmental impact.

It may well eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster, both in terms of environmental damage and human cost.

In their plan for Deepwater Horizon, British Petroleum dismissed the risk of a spill like this as unlikely, or virtually impossible.

Well.  THAT didn't work out, did it?


Yeah. Exxon promised Alaskans it would clean up Prince William Sound, and would "make them whole," too. After more than 20 years, and with the help of the US Supreme Court, Exxon reneged on that.

No matter what Mr. Hayward says now, just like Exxon, BP will fight this out to the bitter end before it pays out a dime. 

A dramatically reduced dime.

Which brings me to the main thrust of this post:

Greed.
Greed that outweighs any moral obligation.

Yes, British Petroleum is (and Exxon and Shell and Chevron) in the business of supplying a needed commodity to an energy-hungry world, but there is nothing altruistic about their motives.

The bottom line here is... the bottom line.

When weighing the dangers of the operation of Deepwater Horizon versus the potential of something going wrong, British Petroleum's decision came down squarely on the side of their profit margin.

This action is hardly unprecedented. People outside of Alaska may not have noticed, but over the years, British Petroleum has had a number of spills from aged pipelines occur on Alaska's North Slope attributable to mostly one thing: A lack of maintenance.

Saving a buck or two improves the profit margin.

This isn't only the mindset of the petroleum industry. 

It pervades pretty much every corporate entity out there.

Goldman Sachs' head shed didn't give a damn about how their actions might affect the economy... or people's lives. They cared only about the bottom line, and their own personal fortunes.

WellPoint Insurance and CIGNA, and every major health insurance company in existence in America)?

Nevermind the people for whom they are supposed to cover medical costs. Instead, find a way to deny coverage, because this isn't really about health care. It's about profit. About a huge return for shareholders, and ginormous salaries for the CEO's.


Instead of correcting safety violations at the Upper Big Branch Mine, tie up every violation citation in an appeal process (or maybe even bribe officials) so that instead of making the miners safer, money is saved. After all, this isn't about providing a safe working environment. It's about profit.


Nevermind the safety of American fighting men and women, or even KBR employees. Let them get raped or electrocuted. This isn't about what's right. It's about profit.


No, not all of them are despicable, but enough to block or stymie meaningful reform are.

Want to know who? Take a look at campaign coffers and other perks provided by industry lobbyists, and compare that to their votes on laws that would improve safety standards, punish companies like KBR by denying them lucrative goverment contracts, or creating stringent financial regulation that might prevent another economic meltdown.

Their effort isn't really about representing the interests of those who elected them. It's about guaranteeing profits for those who paid for that election (and bolstering their personal financial portfolios as well).

Yes, I know.

Greed has always existed, and has always been the driving force of commerce in most cultures, especially western (or westernized) ones.

But at some point, we have to say "enough!"

Perhaps some good can be salvaged from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, and the Goldman Sachs debacle.

Perhaps a sufficient number of people will say "enough!" and things will begin to actually change.

Based on human history... I doubt it.

4 comments:

Rosie said...

I keep trying to comment, but it doesn't seem to like me here.
Right on, Wolfe.

Grace said...

Nicely said. It's all about the benjamins. People's lives and the environment have no bearing on far too many corporate decisions.
From what I've read Halliburton [WSJ] and Cheney's Energy Task Force share a lot of the fault in the Gulf spill. Wish I could say I'm surprised by that.

Steve said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Halliburton was cited as the likely culprit in the blowout in the Timor Sea last August.

Same kind of failure, so BP had no business saying 'it can't happen here', they had to know of the Timor blowout. (even if our press didn't cover it )

It took 74 days to get that one sealed off, after leaking 9 million or so gallons of oil.

This latest gulf spill exceeded Exxon's Alaska spill yesterday, leaking at a rate of a million gallons a day, it's now day 13.

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