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Jindal jumps the shark, crashes into oil-spoiled Gulf

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Faced with devastating BP disaster, Louisiana’s governor demands … more deepwater drilling ASAP?

A stunning new letter by the oil-addicted governor of Louisiana gives the lie to right-wing claims that environmentalists are to blame for the BP oil disaster.

On Wednesday, Bobby Jindal, who blames everybody but himself for the environmental disaster hitting his state, wrote to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pleading with them to end the deep water drilling moratorium immediately.

Jindal has been trying to position himself as the can-do guy in the face of the worst environmental disaster in US history, but fundamentally like so many Louisiana politicians, he is beholden to Big Oil, and thus inherently oblivious to the consequences of the states addiction to petro-dollars.  My latest Salon piece discusses the shameless letter he wrote and what it says about pro-pollution politicians like Jindal — and Palin.

In the letter, Jindal expresses “grave concerns” for the “economic impact of a six-month (or longer) suspension of activity” at 33 Gulf rigs — “including and in particular the 22 deepwater drilling rigs currently in operation off the Louisiana coast.” Jindal warns that the “announced moratorium of deepwater drilling activity creates a significant risk that many of these drilling platforms would be relocated to other countries — along with the hundreds of high-paying jobs that they each create.”

Jindal seems oblivious to the ‘significant risk’ and potentially devastating economic impact posed by the drilling itself — risk that will be present until we figure out all of the causes of the spill and how to make sure it never happens again.

Amazingly, Jindal writes:

I fully understand the need for strict oversight of deepwater drilling. However, I would ask that the federal government move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely….

Jindal omnisciently — and mistakenly — asserts here that current federal regulations are sufficient to avoid another blowout disaster. He has no way of knowing if this is true, whereas we have every reason to believe it is false.

Under the Cheney-Bush Administration, efforts to strengthen regulation were blocked and the industry demanded and achieved essentially voluntary, “trust us” self-regulation and self-certification. For instance, when the Minerals Management Service considered requiring an acoustic backup system to shut off the blowout preventer in the event of a disaster, as Brazil and Norway require, lobbying by BP and other oil companies persuaded them not to.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “the safety record of U.S. offshore drilling compares unfavorably, in terms of deaths and serious accidents, to other major oil-producing countries. Over the past five years, an offshore oil worker in the U.S. was more than four times as likely to be killed than a worker in European waters, and 23% more likely to sustain an injury.” A 2007 MMS study of 39 blowouts from 1992 to 2006 found, “Nearly all the blowouts examined occurred in the Gulf of Mexico.” Big Oil clearly can’t be trusted to regulate itself.

That’s why some are calling this disaster “Cheney’s Katrina.” And that’s why Obama set up a commission to figure out exactly why this disaster occurred. Until we know all the causes, we can’t be sure we are taking every possible step to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And that’s why the president put in place the moratorium for six months, to wait until the findings from the commission are in. That’s also why the president on Tuesday called the disaster a wake-up call that should lead us to once and for all end our addiction to oil.

Jindal has every right to be concerned about the economic impact on his state and region. But rather than recklessly open the Gulf to another potential disaster, the prudent thing would be to support a short-term economic support measure for the region. But that isn’t the approach Big Oil wants to take.

Some shameless industry shills and pro-pollution right-wingers have been spinning the most amazing argument about the origins of the spill, as I noted yesterday.

First, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer blamed the extreme deep-water drilling that led to the spill in part on those who care about the environment, “Environmental chic has driven us out there.”

Sarah Palin posted a message to “extreme” environmentalists on her Facebook page:

“Extreme Enviros: Drill, Baby, Drill in ANWR – Now Do You Get It?”:

Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country’s energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas. It’s catching up with you. The tragic, unprecedented deep water Gulf oil spill proves it.

Yes, the recklessness of one of the world’s biggest oil company — one that played a key role in the failed effort to protect her state after the Exxon Valdez disaster — “proves” to Palin that we should let them all into a pristine national refuge.

But the larger point is that environmentalists aren’t the reason we’re drilling out in the deep water of the Gulf. If it were up to enviros, we wouldn’t be drilling anywhere off the Gulf Coast. No, there are three reasons we are drilling in the dangerous deep waters of the Gulf: (1) industry assurances that new technology made oil disaster is impossible and “inconceivable,” as BP put it; (2) “Drill, baby, drill” demagoguing by anti-environment right-wingers; and (3) decades of opposition by conservatives to slash our dependence on oil, such as tougher fuel economy standards.

And the clearest evidence of that is Jindal’s crazy call to quickly restart deep water drilling now, even in the face of the environmental and economic devastation to his state from such drilling.

Hard to believe that Jindal and Palin are considered leading conservative prospects for the 2012 GOP nomination — along with dirty energy lobbyist-turned-Governor Haley Barbour and Newt  “drill here, drill now” Gingrich.  Then again, perhaps shilling for Big Oil is a litmus test.

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26 Responses to Jindal jumps the shark, crashes into oil-spoiled Gulf

  1. Michael Tucker says:

    The Republicans have been saying quite a number of stupid things. They seem to be traumatized by the disaster in the Gulf; even the ones who do not represent Gulf region states. Why would they try to minimize the disaster? I think we all know the answer. If the oil companies cannot drill in US waters or in ANWR the oil companies do not really need to support these congress people with donations (or jobs).

    This is a big economic deal for Republicans and Democrats who represent oil producing states or states with the potential to produce oil (oil shale). They are in crisis mode and they want to minimize all the damage this mess has caused to them personally. These folks will say we need the oil for the jobs and for our oil independence but all they are truly concerned about is their own political power.

  2. mike roddy says:

    Shilling for big oil is not just a litmus test for the Republican Party, it’s become the #1 requirement for admission. It’s obvious that the big boys from Exxon and Chevron sat Mr. Jindal down and had a long talk with him, just as they did with Graham and McCain.

    The message was: “You want to be on the team, and get support from the Republican Party campaign apparatus? Stop doing anything that keeps us from making money, then. If you persist in this wild insubordination, we will find and finance primary opponents to defeat you”.

    In Graham and McCain’s case, that meant abandoning any support for climate change legislation or a price on carbon. For Jindal, he had to forget about the Louisianans who died horrible deaths in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, deaths that were clearly attributable to cost cutting and basic incompetence. Enough of that hanging out with the fishermen along the coast, too!

    This is the dark side we’re dealing with, folks. They need to be so totally defeated that they will never arise to try to destroy our world again.

  3. Leif says:

    A fitting punishment, (can there really be one?), might be a restitution of all the advertising money, lobbying money, think tank money, underhanded dealings, even shareholder profits, (above “x” per year to protect small investors), be dedicated to a sustainable, no interest, green awakening investment fund.

    Fossil fuel big investment folks are driving a fancier car than me.

    Back to the subject. The oil industry owes society for the successful brain washing of the population as witnessed by the very existence of folks like the tea baggers, Jindal, Palin, etc… (I predict that none of them would exist if they did not get big money support from fossil industry). That money is up front, and then we can dicker on a carbon tax.

  4. catman306 says:

    When the history of the end or our civilization is written, the coal, petroleum, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical corporations will each be given important chapters. Weren’t the original automobiles just a way to market petroleum back in the early days before paved roads, before we paved the world?

    Who will be left to write that history?

  5. George Ennis says:

    The sad part is that Jindal’s remarks as much as they may be disconnected from reality actually might be a winning strategy for the Republicans in 2010 and 2012. I have learned not to underestimate how many Americans prefer to maintain a willful ignorance about any number of issues if it means any and I do mean any inconvenience or higher taxes for them. In short they will not allow the facts too get in the way and be used to confuse them at election time. Just another case of the chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.

  6. Mike says:

    You continue to make the assertion that “lack of regulation” was responsible for this disaster, but when pressed you fail to present any information to back this claim. You further undermine this argument later in the article by stating, quite plainly, that the cause of this disaster is still unknown.

  7. BobSmith says:

    Unfortunately, I find myself playing devils advocate here: we know for certain that BP -did not- follow regulations as they are, because BP was buddy-buddy with regulators.
    I really don’t envy Governor Jindal right now.

  8. Ronald says:

    Where exactly is the underwater oil rig blowout prevention done? And how much does government oversee that and do the research?

    I hear every once in a while how they stopped some mexico leak in 1979 in using something and then they’ll mention some other leak that was stopped using something else. Where are all the leak stoppage tests that they have done?

    Take the FAA and NASA.

    Most people will look at NASA as Space Administration, but it also does alot of Aeronautics work. And the FAA, Federal Aviation Adminitration, with investigating plane crashes, has major power in aviation safty.

    We need another government agency along the lines of Nasa and FAA to do water oil drilling research and safty.

  9. homunq says:

    Here’s how it is, trolls. There are two possibilities. Either this was an inevitable consequence of drilling, or this was a consequence of drilling carelessly due to lack of regulation. The economic, human, and environmental costs of this one disaster will surpass all benefit from deepwater offshore drilling so far. So the options are, we should have forbidden deepwater drilling, or we should have regulated it more. Since forbidding it is a form of regulation, we don’t need any further evidence that “lack of regulation” was a cause.

    Is that simple enough for you to grasp? Or does your salary depend on you not grasping it?

  10. catman306 says:

    According to a BBC News (radio) interview Nigeria prevents the press from covering BPs oil spill in their waters, too.
    If it works in the third world BP figures it will work with their oil gusher in our Gulf. It wouldn’t work without corporatism in both countries.

  11. Mike says:

    Homunq: a specious argument to be sure, but let me comment anyways. Risk cannot be eliminated fully, no matter how many engineering and administrative safeguards are put into place. With any level of activity, as you pointed out, there will be a frequency of failure of safeguards. No denying this. Whether that frequency is 1 in 1000 or one in 1,000,000 certainly does matter, but that’s a topic for another time.

    We will need oil for at least the mid-term and we will still need some for the long term. I doubt anyone could seriously argue with this. No matter what we do in so far as alternatives to oil, there will still be a need for it. Aside from automobiles, planes have to fly, trucks and trains have to roll, bulldozers have to doze, ships have to sail and gears need lubricants.

    Louisiana fishing industry will take a severe hit from this, just how big is anyone’s guess, but the fishing industry is 1/10th the size of the oil industry in Louisiana. The people of Louisiana, the most heavily affected by this, as well as the rest of the nation, still supports offshore oil development by large margins because we realize we still need the oil and the only option is to produce it ourselves or but it from someone else.

    I wouldn’t argue that BP has behaved atrociously here, but I also wouldn’t argue that we don’t need the oil.

    And as far as my “paycheck” goes (because naturally anyone who disagrees with the strict orthodoxy here must be on the payroll of big oil), I work for a chemical company … not big oil.

  12. Leif says:

    Mike, #11: “I work for a chemical company … not big oil.”
    Same difference for the most part in my eyes.

    All indications are that there was zero redundancy being exercised in this multi-million dollar investment. It is not like there was no cash flow to cover extra safety precautions. Efforts spent on bimbos, booze and buzz to MMS would have gone a long way toward at least one redundant system. But NO. Push harder… deeper… faster…
    Where have I heard that before?

  13. Mike says:

    “Same difference for the most part in my eyes.”

    Well yes, that would indicate a degree of ignorance common in the “reality based community”.

    As far as the redundancy … do explain which systems lacked any redundancy. I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting your thoughtful answer reinforced by decades of engineering experience.

  14. BobSmith says:

    I’m glad that people are capable of making such distinctions.

  15. Lore says:

    Jindal represents the ideological wall we must climb in almost any issue concerning the environment from the right. No matter how dire the reality there will always be an excuse to place the blame on the opposition while forwarding their agenda. Even though their positions are blatantly inconsistent and ridiculous. The pity is that there is a huge segment of the population that are more than willing to accept their nonsensical reasoning and explanations.

  16. Leif says:

    Mike, #13: I am a over the hill boat builder in the NW with a couple of unrelated years of collage. All I can give you from my perspective is the fact that events like this happen. Evidence from numerous fronts point to little to no respect from BIG FOSSIL and yes, Chemical, (Remember Bhopal? Love Canal?) for environmental systems and the well-being of humanity. Some other nations require redundant back up. Shunt wells pre drilled. Tested and redundant valves. Inspections from inspectors that you did not bed. Laws from congressmen not bought and payed for. A population given open access to quality news.

    To paraphrase your statement: “Well yes, that would indicate a degree of ignorance common in the “un-reality based community”.

  17. Andy says:

    Re: Mike – lack of redundancy – Example: Canada requires a relief well to be drilled along with the primary well in case a blow-out occurs. The US doesn’t.

    Some oil reservoirs cause or can cause much more environmental harm than others when exploited. We need to reduce and eventually eliminate our use of oil for transportation, heating and electricity production as soon as possible so that the harmful deposits can be left alone. Not only ultra deep water deposits, but also those that underly sea level elevation wetlands like the Mississippi Delta and Chenier Plain where production causes surface subsidence and subsequent wetland loss.

    This is the main cause of wetland loss in Louisiana though most residents are unaware of this due to explicit disinformation and hush up campaigns waged by the oil industry.

    If oil production weren’t so profitable we’d have found substitutes long ago. Just like the tobacco industry; oil remains front and center long after its adverse attributes were brought to light due to the huge quantities of money it gets from those it harms.

  18. prokaryote says:

    A politican should make his decision based on the best data.

    The environment should come first then the rest of topics. This should be the first agenda for any adventure.

    Based on the magnitude of force we dealing with, oil companys should be forced to switch to clean energy and remaining deposits which are best accessable should be used for technological development – not to burn them in a blink of an eye.

  19. prokaryote says:

    Ocean currents likely to carry oil along Atlantic coast – VIDEO

    Boulder – A detailed computer modeling study released today indicates that oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico might soon extend along thousands of miles of the Atlantic coast and open ocean as early as this summer. The modeling results are captured in a series of dramatic animations
    http://www2.ucar.edu/news/ocean-currents-likely-to-carry-oil-spill-to-atlantic-coast

  20. prokaryote says:

    Caught in the oil

    AP Photographer Charlie Riedel just filed the following images of seabirds caught in the oil slick on a beach on Louisiana’s East Grand Terre Island. As BP engineers continue their efforts to cap the underwater flow of oil, landfall is becoming more frequent, and the effects more evident.
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/caught_in_the_oil.html

  21. David Smith says:

    Many economic arguments against switching to a clean economy have something in common with the denier arguments relative to climate change. They are defensive positions that do not reflect the reality on the ground, and they distract from the actual issues at hand. In the case of economics, you can t actually prove anything right or wrong. This makes it a perfect smoke screen.

    If you make your way back through the arguments you find an industry about to be in decline struggling to maintain itself and pursue its future, nothing more. This translates into self interest. For those of us who accept the science, the problem is that this pursuit, continued, could mean the death of future generations. Arguing economics and jobs in the current dirty energy business becomes the equivalent of arguing that the Germans should not close the death camps of WWII because it will put lots of good Germans out of work and cause difficulty for munitions and chemical manufacturers.

    If the link between Energy companies – Global Warming – the destruction of human lives and culture could be made crystal clear, the system would shut down over night and the Pearl Harbor type change would happen. Arguing about things that cannot be proven in the political arena only isolates and divides us (Americans).

    I am a progressive. I believe in positive change leading to a better future. The final legacy of industrialization cannot be the destruction of life on the planet. If there is even a chance of this, we (who have caused this problem) must figure out how to stand up united and create real solutions, not just talk about it..

  22. Robert Nagle says:

    MIKE: One tension here is that Republicans regard environmental risks as an inevitable cost of doing business (especially if it provides additional revenues for the state and reduces the tax burden on citizens). But that equates the best interest of society with that of industry. You are asking me to accept these unknown and known risks simply because of the benefits to a certain sector of industry.

    In the case of oil, there are legitimate alternatives to fossil fuels. They are not fully developed or ready-for-market, but it’s clear that “true cost” carbon pricing or market incentives could accelerate the time when it is competitive (and when Republicans oppose such measures, they are essentially voting for a continuation of the status quo). They say: the methods of producing fossil fuels are familiar to us, but the methods of producing renewable energy are unknown or less reliable. But the BP spill calls attention to the fact that the standard way of doing business is already fraught with risks and unknowns.

    Finally I wish to remind you about the University of Massachusetts study last year about the economic benefits of renewable energies: “Clean-energy investments create 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending. Spending on fossil fuels, by contrast, generates 5.3 jobs per $1 million in spending.” So the arguments about the benefits to society from fossil fuel industries are dwarfed by the potential benefits of developing a renewable energy industry.

  23. dhogaza says:

    Re: Mike – lack of redundancy – Example: Canada requires a relief well to be drilled along with the primary well in case a blow-out occurs. The US doesn’t.

    Andy beat me too it, but let me add that drilling regulations in Brazil also require a relief well to be drilled along with the primary well.

    The lack of such a regulation in the US makes it certain that the consequences of a blowout will be far more severe, and the drilling of a relief well after a blowout takes, as we’re seeing, months.

    If this will were offshore brazil, they would’ve been able to intersect with the relief well and perform a bottom-kill on the well within days.

    And as far as my “paycheck” goes (because naturally anyone who disagrees with the strict orthodoxy here must be on the payroll of big oil), I work for a chemical company … not big oil.

    Chemicals and plastics don’t often come to mind when one thinks of products made from oil. Petrochemicals, made by ‘cracking’ oil, a process by which hydrocarbon molecules are broken apart, are the raw materials for a vast amount of products and materials. In particular, three main petrochemicals, ethylene, propylene, and butadiene, are the building blocks of modern society, providing everything from disinfectants to coolants to plastics. Without these vital oil-based derivatives, medical science, information technology, modern cityscapes, and a wealth of other aspects of modern societies would not exist.

  24. dhogaza says:

    Mike:

    a specious argument to be sure, but let me comment anyways. Risk cannot be eliminated fully, no matter how many engineering and administrative safeguards are put into place. With any level of activity, as you pointed out, there will be a frequency of failure of safeguards. No denying this. Whether that frequency is 1 in 1000 or one in 1,000,000 certainly does matter, but that’s a topic for another time.

    No, it’s speaks strictly to the point. The more catastrophic the result, the more society should demand – through regulatory behavior – that the risk be lowered to as minimal a level as possible.

    This is why canada and brazil require relief wells be driven before they’re needed.

  25. Not only are many oil state politicians in oil companies’ pockets, but many workers are idled by the oil drilling moratorium. Instead of pushing for an end to the moratorium, especially before far more real oversight and safety measures are put in place, they should be asking for all these workers to be immediately trained and hired as part of a MUCH larger and more effective response and cleanup effort, which will no doubt be needed at that level for months, then continuing for years. Or that could be the administration’s response to end-the-moratorium demands!

  26. Mike says:

    Andy:

    Canada requires a relief well to be drilled along with the primary well in case a blow-out occurs. The US doesn’t.

    The Canadians only require relief wells to be drilled in the Arctic (yeah … they are drilling in the Arctic) and the permit doesn’t actually “require” them to drill it simultaneously, it only stipulates that they have the capability to drill a relief well before winter if the need arises. I don’t know about Brazil … I would like to know where you got that piece of information from.

    Dhogaza:

    That paragraph from “oildepeletionprotocol” sure was interesting and sounded quite convincing to the layman but it is most erroneous. They did get the three primary organic chemical feedstocks right: ethylene, propene and butadiene, but they struck out after that. First of all, over 80% of ethylene is made from natural gas. Refineries do produce some, but the lions share comes from gas .. not oil. The same is true, all be it to a lesser extent, with respect to propene. Butadiene is produced mainly through steam cracking naphtha and other LHC’s at oil refineries … so at least “oildepeletionprotocol” got one of them correct. However, other parts of the world use ethanol as a feedstock for butadiene production.

    Whats the moral here … you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the interwebs.

    No, it’s speaks strictly to the point. The more catastrophic the result, the more society should demand – through regulatory behavior – that the risk be lowered to as minimal a level as possible.

    And I agree with you whole heartedly. That’s the entire focus behind risk management. But as I have pointed out several times, there was no regulation proposed that would have prevented this disaster as it is becoming more and more obvious (to me at any rate) that this was primarily the responsibility of the BP project manager (and maybe higher ups) as he evidently ignored federal regulations and industry standards during this operation.