Archive - May 4, 2010

Can't We Just Get Beyond Petroleum?

« May 2010 »

Memo to BP and wingnuts: WHY CAN'T YOU SURPRISE ME?

Ideally, one of the upsides to being a cynic is that you will only be pleasantly surprised, because you're always expecting the worst of people, and nobody's shitty 100% of the time. In practice, this rarely works out as advertised, because while nobody's shitty 100% of the time, when it really matters, human and corporate nature inevitably wins out.

Case in point, the Gulf oil spill. The cynical view is that BP will be complete douchebags about the volcano of oil they, and possibly Halliburton*, have unleashed into the ocean. And that the right-wing echo chamber will use this as a way to criticize Obama, because they use everything to criticize Obama. According to the theory of pleasant surprise, maybe I'd find out that BP not only did everything in their power to prevent the leak from happening, but has acted responsibly since then to assist with the cleanup.

And as for the wingnutosphere, while I don't expect them to abandon their baby-drilling chants or claims that deregulation wasn't at fault, it would have been nice if they didn't find a way to try and pin this on the President. But as I mentioned yesterday, "Obama's Katrina" is the meme, and the talking point is that Obama spent eight days dithering while disaster loomed.

This is, of course, fucking stupid. On one hand, you have a natural disaster you know is coming, devastation you can see immediately, actual human beings suffering in vast quantities on land, and a clear set of things that could have been done to help and weren't, or weren't with any kind of decent response time. On the other hand you have BP lying about the amount of oil leaking, you have the scope of the disaster only revealing itself over the course of days, and you have a seriously limited set of options for both stopping the oil volcano under the ocean, and containing, dispersing, and cleaning up the oil on the choppy ocean surface.

We knew what Bush was supposed to do, which is why it was so fucking obvious when he wasn't doing it. But what was Obama supposed to do during the time he was supposedly asleep at the wheel? Nobody will say. Oh, they'll give vague ranty notions about sending in the military, because the military is the only part of government the right trusts to do anything. But the military's not really trained to fight oil slicks. Plus, oil slicks rarely hold wedding parties or live in mountain villages.

BP, on the other hand, is supposed to know how to get oil from under the oceans, and to fix shit when it breaks. Why blame them? I mean, sure, they didn't install a $500,000 device that likely would have provided a final fail-safe, but in their defense, it was really expensive and they didn't wanna. And the government didn't make them. Of course, the government didn't make them because companies like BP begged politicians like Dick Cheney not to make them because it was really expensive and they didn't wanna.

And then, when the horrible offshore drilling accident some of us said was inevitable and wrong people said would never happen because companies like BP spend lots of money to make sure they're safe, BP downplayed the extent of the damage, and gave a "we're all fine, everything's fine" performance that even Harrison Ford would envy. Because nobody ever gets in more trouble these days for putting off admitting how bad things are.

And then, when they had to admit how bad it really was? You know what the first thing to hit the shores of Alabama was? Not dead turtles covered in black goo. Not an army of volunteers with paper towels and dish soap. No, an army of BP lawyers, trying to convince poor Alabama coastal residents to sign an agreement that they wouldn't file a lawsuit against BP in exchange for a $5,000 check.

I. Shit. You. Not.

They got caught doing this, blamed it on boilerplate language, and said they'd stop. And if you believe that, then I have some sushi-grade Gulf Coast "black bass" to sell you. BP has one goal and one goal only - getting out of this by spending as little as possible while rehabbing their image as much as possible. That's their motivation under free market capitalism. And since there are a lot cheaper ways to rehab their image than actually doing the work and spending the money on whatever cleanup methods are possible, that's not what they'll do.

Of course, I could be pleasantly surprised. Hah.

*Seriously, they were apparently in charge of the concrete at the well head. Their actual role in the clusterfuck is still undetermined, but wherever there's a clusterfuck, Halliburton is there.