Should you believe anything BP says?

As gigantic oil plumes form under Gulf, BP recklessly ignores scientists’ pleas: “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

If you had any lingering doubts about who was to blame for the disastrous undersea volcano of oil in the Gulf, last night’s 60 Minutes utterly dispels them:

This makes clear that BP’s cost- and corner-cutting caused this disaster.  Equally shocking is the story of BP’s willful  and “fundamentally wrong” approach to safety on another well, the Atlantis.  Part 1 is well worth watching too.  A full transcript is here.

The 60 Minutes story is consistent with other reporting (see The three causes of BP’s Titanic oil disaster: Recklessness, Arrogance, and Hubris and Stupak stunner: Oil well’s blowout preventer had leaks, dead battery, design flaws, “How can a device that has 260 failure modes be considered fail-safe?”).

Bottom line:  BP is responsible, as Bea says.  And Bea “investigated the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster for NASA and the Hurricane Katrina disaster for the National Science Foundation” and “Last week, the White House asked Bea to help analyze the Deepwater Horizon accident.”

BP’s response to the disaster is as outrageous as its pre-disaster corner-cutting.

The NY Times reported Sunday:

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

But what is even more shocking than this fairly predictable observation is BP’s Goldman-Sachs-like hubris and lies.  We’ve seen that expert analysis of BP’s video by Purdue Prof. Steve Wereley and others concluded the oil giant’s undersea volcano is spewing 3 million gallons a day “” two Exxon Valdezes a week.

Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

“The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

This is an unconscionable falsehood.

AFP reported this morning:

BP’s Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CNN that about 1,000 barrels of oil per day is being suctioned up by the tube, out of about 5,000 barrels that the company believes is gushing out daily.

“I’m really pleased we’ve had success now. We’ve actually had what we call this rise insertion tube working more than 24 hours now,” he told CNN.

“This morning we were producing over 1,000 barrels of oil into the drill ship. So it’s good progress.”

Suttles acknowledged that most of the oil continues to spill into the open Gulf waters, but said he hoped to be able over time to increase the ratio of captured oil….

Uhh, the fact that BP is asserting it it knows what fraction of oil it is collecting is prima facie proof that the flow rate is incredibly relevant to the response — as if that weren’t obvious from the fact that you can’t possibly know what the toxicological risk is if you don’t know the full volume of toxic fluid you’ve put into the ocean.

On ABC’s Good Morning America today, Prof. Wereley made this on-air statement:

I am very skeptical it could collect most of the oil and gas because the connection will be leaky under the tremendous pressure that will be inside the pipe.

The Obama administration needs to insist that BP make available all of its videos of underwater gusher and that independent scientists be allowed to analyze the data.

BP’s falsehoods are apparently going to have very serious consequences for public health.

Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott has a shocking piece on HuffPost, which opens:

Venice, Louisiana — Local fishermen hired to work on BP’s uncontrolled oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico are scared and confused. Fishermen here and in other small communities dotting the southern marshes and swamplands of Barataria Bay are getting sick from the working on the cleanup, yet BP is assuring them they don’t need respirators or other special protection from the crude oil, strong hydrocarbon vapors, or chemical dispersants being sprayed in massive quantities on the oil slick.

Fishermen have never seen the results from the air-quality monitoring patches some of them wear on their rain gear when they are out booming and skimming the giant oil slick. However, more and more fishermen are suffering from bad headaches, burning eyes, persistent coughs, sore throats, stuffy sinuses, nausea, and dizziness. They are starting to suspect that BP is not telling them the truth.

And based on air monitoring conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a Louisiana coastal community, those workers seem to be correct. The EPA findings show that airborne levels of toxic chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds like benzene, for instance, now far exceed safety standards for human exposure.

The answer to the headline question is an unequivocal “no.”

BP is clearly guilty of gross negligence and outright falsehoods.  They must be held accountable.

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29 Responses to Should you believe anything BP says?

  1. Chris Dudley says:

    Worse, BP’s Robert Dudley is refusing to clean up subsurface oil according to NPR. That is probably most of the oil they’ve spilled. Dudley claims that it will come to the surface but that seems very doubtful given its present behavior. At the least, they should counter the hypoxia they are inducing.

  2. Doug Bostrom says:

    “Too big to fail.”

    What are we going to do, stop buying BP’s product?

    No, we can’t.

    This is a harsh lesson on what a pathetic addiction we have. It reminds me of nothing so much as that old commercial w/the nicely dressed man scrabbling for his dropped cocaine on the floor of a filthy public restroom.

  3. Andy says:

    Lets see if I have this right – 1) the leak is potentially 10x’s worse than BP’s estimate, 2) at BEST this new “fix” will capture 80% of the leaking oil (sure), 3) that leaves a heck of a lot of eco-damaging oil still escaping. Oh…and MSM is painting this as a success and we should be happy…not so much.

    CP regulars – Thanks for all that you are doing, and keep up the good work.

  4. Hilda Orepesa says:

    Last Year Salazar and the manager of MMS gave Transocean the big safety award. I understand the rig was so safe, they even missed monthly checks and inspections. The most recent was 2 hours on the massive rig. They were most recently NOT doing serious inspections.

  5. Andy says:

    If oil spills beneath the sea, and no one is there to see it, does it cause any harm?

    Unfortunately reality is a pain in the ass sometimes.

    The undersea oil will come up to the surface. A little at a time. Long after the media has come up with an ending for the story, the Gulf of Mexico beaches will be plagued with tar balls over the next 10 to 15 years.

    Same old, same old. BP and the other oil companies will blame it on natural seeps. The origin of tar balls can be determined, but why bother if there is no responsible party to send a bill to? Or no news organization doing a story on it? Or no political party using the issue to make hay?

  6. catman306 says:

    No, I don’t believe anything BP says or what the MSM says about BP.

    What state is BP chartered in? What does it take to revoke their corporate charter in that state? What can be done politically to initiate the corporate revocation process in that state?

    Was BP represented at Dick Cheney’s notorious energy conference early in 2001? What media companies were there? Were any non-English media companies represented? Is that why climate change is understood to be a problem in non-English countries? Was Cheney’s meeting where the marriage between lying energy corporations and lying media companies consummated?

    Is there a complete list of BP brands? A short list of a few includes: Castrol, Amoco, Standard Oil of Indiana, Atlantic-Richfield (Arco). These brands and all of their products need to be seriously boycotted. Yes, WE CAN BOYCOTT BP and everything thing they touch. If you don’t like the way BP is handling oil rig safety or anything else they do, DON’T BUY THEIR STUFF!

    The bottom line is the only thing that Corporatists understand. Hit them in the bottom line. That will get their attention.

  7. Mark Shapiro says:

    Joe, three miscellaneous OT points:

    1) Can you please add “previous post” and “next post” buttons so we can go easily from one post to the next? You post so often!

    2) Zhang et al at PSC at UW have just updated the Arctic Ice Volume Anomaly graph (which you introduced in your “2010/05/13/arctic-ice-volume-nsidc-polar-science-center” post), and it just smashed the record low — more than 8,000 km3 negative anomaly.

    3) As a previous commenter noted, posts after about 5/14/10 seem way out of chronological order.

  8. robhon says:

    Literally, this whole thing is nothing short of a Chernobyl event.

  9. steroids says:

    The undersea oil will come up to the surface. A little at a time. Long after the media has come up with an ending for the story, the Gulf of Mexico beaches will be plagued with tar balls over the next 10 to 15 years.

  10. Karen S. says:

    BP is our crack dealer and we’re all at fault. Like, we should trust our crack dealer?

    I know it’s hard to imagine worse than this, but did anyone hear the former (and fired) BP expert say, in that 60 Minutes clip, that Atlantis, the other huge rig in the Gulf, is so dangerous due to the same maintenance problems Deepwater had (and it pumps so much more oil,) that it “.. could make the current spill look like a bubble in the water by comparison.” Let me know when it’s okay to start trusting BP again… oh wait, I never did.

  11. Russ H says:

    BP were unlucky to be the first oil company to have this type of accident to happen to them. The reality is that it could have happened to any oil company.

  12. Chris Winter says:

    @Hilda Orepesa (#4)

    Let’s remember that this cozy relationship between Big Oil and the MMS started under the previous administration. Here’s a 2008 article about government auditor Bobby Maxwell:

    Whistleblower: Oil watchdog agency ‘cult of corruption’
    From Dan Simon and David Fitzpatrick, CNN
    Updated 5:48 p.m. EDT, Tue October 14, 2008

    I’ll quote one paragraph.

    Maxwell, a registered independent, said the shift in attitude at the agency began about seven or eight years ago, about the time the Bush administration came into power. He said he was discouraged from aggressively auditing oil companies.

    I’ll also note that in October, 2009, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis imposed a record $87.4 million fine on BP for failing to correct the faults that led to a March 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery.

  13. Aaron Lewis says:

    There seems to be a lot of oil on the surface of the ocean that BP is not cleaning up. So, BP is NOT keeping that promise.

    For those of you that need your own panic button, try:

    This is one time when the commercial secdtor seems to have better knowledge of the local tides and currents than the Coast Guard.

  14. Leif says:

    Just a thought. BP is using proprietary “dispersants” and will not divulge the formula. Could it be that the “dispersants” might in fact coagulate the oil at different temperature levels or density levels? Sort of like a natural cracking tower. After all, out of sight out of mind. BP did make an effort to use their own product, (manufactured by the industry’s own source), when others were shown to be more effective as reported on CP a few days ago. They also refuse to divulge the product to investigators and appear reluctant to allow scientists with better equipment access to the area.

    I apologize BP, but I just do not trust you any more. I do not understand why anyone should.

    The Anti-Science crowd has numerous conspiracy theories, why can’t we have a few?

  15. Doug Bostrom says:

    BP were unlucky to be the first oil company to have this type of accident to happen to them. The reality is that it could have happened to any oil company.

    An excellent formulation, very salving to a wounded image. Unfortunately it is missing the final, most important clause: “…that ignores broken safety procedures in pursuit of that last iota of profit.”

    So here’s the complete prescription, ready to be repeated ad nauseam:

    “BP were unlucky to be the first oil company to have this type of accident to happen to them. The reality is that it could have happened to any oil company that ignores broken safety procedures in pursuit of that last iota of profit.”

    Glad to be of service, you’re very welcome.

  16. JRL says:

    @Doug B #15

    “any oil company that ignores broken safety procedures in pursuit of that last iota of profit.”

    Isn’t that all of them?

  17. Bill W says:

    I shared the 60 Minutes clip on Facebook, and one of my conservative friends opined that “60 Minutes lost their credibility years ago.” Yep, they’ll no more believe 60 Minutes than I’ll believe Fox. Which is a big part of the problem in this country.

    [JR: Yes, everybody who reports facts has lost their credibility.]

  18. Ryan T says:

    Bill, one of the last vestiges of investigative journalism, based on facts, is bound to lack credibility with much of the Faux crowd.

  19. jim says:

    The 60 minutes piece makes clear that the event was a near certain consequence of decisions made and actions taken by BP.

    Four weeks before the event, they accidentally destroyed the seal in the blowout preventer, by pulling the drillstring up while the seal was compressed. After that point, pressure readings taken in the well were meaningless.

    Then during the well closure sequence, BP personnel overrode TransOcean personnel and required early purge of the drilling mud, based on now-meaningless pressure readings from inside the well.

    So there they were running with known dead batteries and hydraulic leaks in the blowout preventer, as well as a known-destroyed seal in the unit (rubber chunks came up in the drilling mud).

    The legal term is “depraved indifference,” I believe.

    Remember how after the Exxon Valdez disaster, one big thing Exxon did was to re-brand all the gas stations? Remember what the new brand name was? BP.

    Looking forward to seeing “Esso” or “Exxon” on my neighborhood gas station again….

  20. WastedEnergy says:

    #20 Jim: better answer here.

    And to answer the question posed in the title: that one is easy. No.

  21. anonymous says:

    OK, time for some speculative ecological connections: dispersant disperses oil -> emulsified droplets keep it under water -> archaea+some prokaryotes use up oxygen trying to break up the oil AND dispersant to grow -> vast amounts of archaea produce a response in red and blue-green algae that will fight them by toxic surface molecules -> they keep to surface and produce toxic blooms -> people on beach get sick -> someone claims this is a natural phenomenon that can’t be prevented (nevermind the bloom would likely not be toxic from the extra phosphorus and biologically active nitrogen alone.)

    Note: not for publishing, quoting nor spreading (good luck for finding funding to this kind of research)

  22. Doug Bostrom says:

    jim says:

    The legal term is “depraved indifference,” I believe.

    Yikes, that’s even better than “reckless endangerment!”

  23. anonymous says:

    probably someone has already noted these,-Tell-Me-What-Happens-When-Oil-Spills-Mix-With-Red-Tides-Or-Algae-Blooms?&id=4218793

    COREXIT® EC9500A :
    1. Flash Point: 181.4ºF
    2. Pour Point: Less than -71ºF
    3. Viscosity: 22.5 cst at 104ºF
    4. Specific Gravity: 0.949 at 60ºF
    5. pH: 6.2
    6. Chemical Name and Percentage by Weight of the Total Formulation: CONFIDENTIAL
    7. Surface Active Agents: CONFIDENTIAL
    8. Solvents: CONFIDENTIAL
    9. Additives: None
    10. Solubility: Miscible

    Compound Concentration (ppm)
    Arsenic 0.16
    Cadmium N/D
    Chromium 0.03
    Copper 0.10
    Lead N/D
    Mercury N/D
    Nickel N/D
    Zinc N/D
    Cyanide N/D
    Chlorinated Hydrocarbons N/D

    COREXIT® EC9580A (not the one):
    Compound Concentration (ppm)
    Arsenic < 0.06
    Cadmium < 0.002
    Chromium 0.003
    Copper < 0.001
    Iron 0.046
    Lead < 0.009
    Mercury < 0.0002
    Nickel 0.01
    Zinc 0.041
    Cyanide < 0.05
    Chlorinated Hydrocarbons ND

  24. anonymous says:

    to add, nickel, iron and zinc are needed to grow methanogenic archaea (producing methane from some aromatic hydrocarbons) so the trade is between methane and aromatic hydrocarbons (which are very damaging to fish and other marines (f.e. Pacific Salmon run decline partly because of this?)), and later on in the water cycle between waste oil and methanol/formaldehyde containing rain water. Basically, anything that uses oxygen and happens to swim over an oil flow treated with this may die of CO poisoning. One might call this catastrophe a human induced migration of all fast enough swimmers.

  25. Windsong says:

    Corporations rule the world and they are destroying it.

  26. d.o. says:

    Everyone talks about revoking corporate charters but no one does anything about it. Where are the lawyers when we need them?

  27. Sara says:

    Does anyone know if BP is a British company? Does any of the Managing Directors or executives live here in the United States and so they would be affected like the rest of us here are by this spill? I would find it interesting if the oil spills are happening here yet none of the top executives live here but live in Britain. If they don’t live here then why aren’t they drilling in Britain and not here so any disasters happen where they live?