How can we hold oil companies more accountable? Sima Gandhi, Senior Policy Analyst at CAP has the scoop in this “ask the expert” video:
At today’s press conference on the BP oil disaster, President Barack Obama’s first in 300 days, reporters discussed several of the issues raised by the Center for American Progress in “Calling the Shots in the Gulf.” The president was pressed on the relationship between the federal government and BP, and whether whether this criminally negligent foreign oil company can be trusted to manage so much of the response. NBC’s Chuck Todd asked why the president does not follow CAP’s suggestion to “ask BP to simply step aside on the onshore stuff” and “make it an entirely government thing.” Obama responded that BP had a system of contractors in place from the start but that the government is “potentially already in charge“:
I guess the point being that the Coast Guard and our military are potentially already in charge, as long as we’ve got good information and we are making the right decisions. And if there are mistakes that are being made right now, we’ve got the power to correct those decisions.
Even conceding the premise of depending on private contractors, is there any reason to believe that BP will give the government “good information”? Obama admitted that it’s in BP’s interest not to be open and forthcoming with the government or the American public:
Well, BP’s interests are aligned with the public interest to the extent that they want to get this well capped. It’s bad for their business; it’s bad for their bottom line. They’re going to be paying a lot of damages, and we’ll be staying on them about that. So I think it’s fair to say that they want this thing capped as badly as anybody does. And they want to minimize the damage as much as they can. I think it is a legitimate concern to question whether BP’s interests in being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage is aligned with the public interest. I mean, they — their interest may be to minimize the damage and, to the extent that they have better information than anybody else, to not be fully forthcoming.
In other words, Obama recognized that although he as president is ultimately responsible for the response to BP’s devastating catastrophe, the government is only in charge to the degree they’re not kept in the dark by BP. And he knows that it’s in BP’s interest to keep the American people in the dark.
The president — and this nation — would be much better served if the foreign oil giant BP’s blatantly uncaring management were cut out of the response and people committed to the public interest were in charge of all operational decisions, from top to bottom. As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said: “BP has got a business challenge; we have a national challenge.”
TVMOB’s talk proves “how easy it is to fabricate data.”
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (TVMOB) is a shameless purveyor of hate speech and anti-science disinformation (see links below).
Nonetheless, you rarely see such a thorough debunking of an anti-science disinformer as this astonishing point-by-point evisceration put together by John Abraham, an engineering professor at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN.
95% of above normal seasons have 2 Gulf hurricanes, 50% have at least one in June-July
Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is projecting a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:
* 14 to 23 Named Storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
* 8 to 14 Hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
* 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued its seasonal outlook today.
It is a worrisome. Administrator Lubchenco, says, “If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record.”
What is the biggest uncertainty in the forecast?
Five weeks into the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States, even the right-wing Fox networks are turning on BP, the foreign oil behemoth responsible for the undersea oil volcano now fouling the shores of Louisiana. Brad Johnson has the story in this TP repost.
Today in the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove pens an op-ed titled: “Yes, the Gulf Spill is Obama’s Katrina.” He predictably places blame on Obama for a supposedly inadequate response to the BP oil spill. But the real significance of the op-ed is not what conservative-strategist Rove has to say about Obama; rather, it’s that Rove is implicitly acknowledging that Bush screwed up the response to Katrina. Rove is essentially trying to make the case that Obama mismanaged a disaster almost as terribly as he and Bush did. TP explains why this op-ed is news, but not the way Rove thinks.
Officials have finally admitted that the Deepwater Horizon blowout is the worst oil disaster in American history, exceeding the Exxon Valdez spill. After a month of insisting that the damaged well was only spewing 210,000 gallons (5000 barrels) of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, officials admitted this morning that was a gross underestimate. In a conference call, Dr. Marcia McNutt, U.S. Geological Survey Director and chair of the technical group convened to determine the flow rate, announced that the Deepwater Horizon disaster has now spewed between 15 and 40 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, greater than the estimated 11-million-gallon Exxon Valdez disaster.
McNutt explained that the flow rate group used multiple kinds of analysis: satellite imagery, mass balance analysis, and undersea video. McNutt expressed her greatest confidence in the mass balance analysis which estimated the flow rate over the first 27 days of the disaster at between 462,000 and 800,000 gallons (11,000 to 19,000 barrels) of oil a day. The video analysis team estimated an upper bound of one million gallons of oil a day. When asked if this spill exceed the Exxon Valdez disaster, McNutt replied, “You can do the math.”
A week and a half ago, McNutt said, officials were able to directly measure the composition of the plumes coming from the leak points. They found that 75 percent of the plumes were in fact natural gas, and only 25 percent oil, which is why outside video analysis that did not use that figure was so much higher.
If the top-kill efforts are unsuccessful and the gusher continues for the two months before the relief wells are estimated to work, the ultimate amount of oil spilled could be greater than 100 million gallons.
Throughout the course of the disaster, BP and administration officials made false claims about the scope of the disaster and the importance of finding out the flow rate, despite far different estimates from outside experts. As late as this week, National Oceanic and Atmospheric administrator Jane Lubchenco continued to insist the laughably low-ball number used since April 28 was the “best estimate.”
More explanation of the mass balance analysis:
A mass-balance team made its estimate based upon the volume of oil seen on the surface of the water, saying that it believed 130,000-270,000 bbl [5.5 million to 11.3 million gallons] of oil was on the surface on May 17. Using that estimate along with calculations of oil already burned, skimmed, dispersed, or evaporated, the team calculated a flow rate estimate of 12,000-19,000 b/d [500,000 to 800,000 gallons per day].
Starts the pivot from spill to bill: “We’re not going to be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can’t sustain it…. I’m going to keep fighting to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation”
UPDATE: Transcript of Obama presser on BP oil disaster here.
Obama gave a big speech at Solyndra, a California solar manufacturing plant, yesterday, which I’ll excerpt below. For background on Solyndra, see “First Energy Department loan guarantee goes to “¦ a solar manufacturer.”
DotEarth opinion blogger Andy Revkin just tweeted,
Obama sci chief: POTUS will give major speech on climate (not imminent). “He believes it, he understands it, we’re going to get it done.”
Here are excerpts from Obama’s speech:
In must-see video, Vet who served in clean-up with LA National Guard, explains “When I signed on with the National Guard, I did it to help protect America from our enemies… Not to clean up an oil company’s mess here in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Polls show that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans overwhelmingly support clean energy and climate legislation
Vote Vets has another hard-hitting ad tying the BP oil disaster with the threat our dependence on fossil fuels poses to our national security:
Energy and Global Warming News for May 27: Greenland’s uplift is evidence of rapid ice loss; Nation’s largest concentrated PV project opens; Western U.S. grid can handle more renewables
Scientists at the University of Miami say Greenland’s ice is melting so quickly that the land underneath is rising at an accelerated pace.
Two experts argue the Federal Government needs to take command
Whoever is running the disaster response is going to have limited success and what appear to be very visible failures (see Will eco-disasters destroy Obama’s legacy? and 20-year veteran of the Coast Guard: “With a spill of this magnitude and complexity, there is no such thing as an effective response.”)
Will BP take responsibility, or squeeze the tragedy for profits the way Exxon did?
To get a daily update on the BP oil disaster and all things climate and energy, click here.
ExxonMobil convened its annual shareholders meeting in Dallas this week as the magnitude of the ongoing BP oil disaster grows. This is a reminder that oil companies need to be held accountable for their actions””both while the oil gushes from the ocean floor and 20 years after the spill. The Exxon Valdez oil accident that slimed Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989 is a chilling reminder of the need for government oversight and corporate accountability.
In June climate negotiators will reconvene in Bonn, Germany for an interim meeting to discuss the working text of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, the international treaty that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent climate change’s worst effects. A relatively new aspect of this conversation is how women can help adapt to climate change and their unique circumstances when it comes to the issue. They are severely affected by climate change yet underrepresented and not engaged in solutions. CAP’s Kari Manlove has the story in this repost.
15 sites had rainfall exceeding maximum associated with Hurricane Katrina landfall
What is a 100 year flood? A 100 year flood is an event that statistically has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. A 500 year flood has a .2% chance of occurring and a 1000 year flood has a .1% chance of occurring. The map below relates [the] amount of rainfall that fell to the chances of that amount of rain actually occurring.
Climate Progress has been documenting the woefully underreported Tennessee deluge of 2010 aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’. It was an off-the-charts extreme weather event that human-caused global warming set the table for and almost certainly made more intense, as a leading climate scientist explained to me (interview to be posted next week).
But I didn’t understand just how unprecedented this superstorm was until I saw the above map from the Office of Hydrological Development at NOAA/NWS. I have never seen a map like this before, but then that may be because there simply aren’t many events to rival this one. Look at the red streak, which is the area hit by a greater than 1000-year deluge. And look at how much of western Tennessee was slammed with a greater than 500 year downpour. This is the “high water” of Hell and High Water.
The NWS has more maps that put the deluge in perspective, including how it compared to Hurricane Katrina’s rainfall:
Reid: “This is an opportunity for us as a country to move away from fossil fuel, to do a better job of looking at renewable energies that are available to us all over this country.”
“I said to the Republicans, join with me,” Obama said. “There’s been some good work done by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. Let’s go. Let’s not wait. Let’s show the American people that in the midst of this crisis, all of us are opening our eyes to what’s necessary to fulfill the promise to our children and our grandchildren.”
Greenwire (subs. req’d) reports today on Obama’s remarks at an SF fundraiser for Sen. Boxer (D-CA) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Here’s more:
Our guest blogger is Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.
As federal authorities struggle to deal with the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it is probably useful to remember that power companies continue poisoning water bodies throughout the nation. The power industry’s successful campaign to sidestep toxic pollution controls has left a legacy of poisoned rivers and lakes. As ugly as this legacy seems, the power industry appears to be maneuvering once again for further delays, trying to use pending Senate climate legislation as an escape hatch.
A draft version of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act would create a new task force to examine pending EPA air pollution rules for the power industry, and make recommendations about weakening or eliminating public health safeguards in the name of electricity generation reliability. The American Lung Association has warned that this provision could undermine EPA’s efforts to tackle toxic emissions from power plants. That concern was echoed by NRDC, long a leader in the effort to clean up toxic mercury:
Specifically, the draft bill establishes a highly objectionable task force to examine utility industry calls for exemptions from federal environmental laws and regulations that utilities allege are impeding power plant retirements or transitions to cleaner energy. The provision’s language is suffused with utility industry complaints and rhetoric and pleas for payment, making clear the design for a biased exercise. Polluter lobbyists deliver a deregulatory wish list to Congress and federal agencies. The agencies then are authorized by this bill to propose regulatory changes to carry out those wishes.
Written with Tom Kenworthy, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow.
The catastrophic explosion of the Deepwater Horizon exploratory rig off the coast of Louisiana one month ago cost eleven lives and now threatens the entire Gulf of Mexico with ecological devastation. BP, the foreign oil giant responsible for the disaster, has claimed it was unforeseeable and inconceivable, despite an industry history of similar accidents and years of warnings.
There are obvious limits to how much control the federal government can exert over the frantic and so far hapless effort to stem the catastrophic oil eruption that threatens the entire Gulf of Mexico with ecological devastation. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has recognized the sobering reality the government does not have the equipment or technical expertise to simply shove aside BP and its industry partners:
This administration has done everything we can possibly do to make sure that we push BP to stop the spill and to contain the impact. We have also been very clear that there are areas where BP and the private sector are the ones who must continue to lead the efforts with government oversight, such as the deployment of private sector technology 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface to kill the well.
But if government has little choice but to keep the perpetrator on the job at the immediate crime scene, it does have a choice when it comes to operations beyond the urgent task of quelling the erupting well. In addition to the efforts to stop the leaks, BP now controls claims processing, environmental contractors on land and sea, volunteer assistance, access to the disaster site, and data collection.
Federal and state governments in the gulf must take greater charge of containing the ecological impacts and coordinating the response, as the President has full authority to do. This requires a greater mobilization than exists today, and Washington needs to send the message that it is in full command of the disaster response with the following actions:
– One highly visible leader at the White House should lead the command and coordination at the cabinet level between the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, the White House Office of Energy and Climate Policy, the White House Office of Science and Technology, and the Department of Defense. Two excellent choices for this role would be Vice President Joe Biden or energy advisor Carol Browner. This leader should also work directly with the affected states’ governors.
– The Federal Emergency Management Agency should be in charge of onshore coastal recovery and disaster response, assisted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The National Guard under the control of each state’s governor should be fully deployed, with Army units if necessary. The EPA, NOAA, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should exercise relevant oversight. And any environmental and disaster response contractors working for BP should instead work directly for the federal government.
– The U.S. Coast Guard should clearly be in charge of surface-water recovery and maritime disaster response. The Vessels of Opportunity and other maritime contractors now working for BP should be under contract with the federal government, including research vessels. The Coast Guard with the EPA, NOAA, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversight should manage dispersant use for cleanup.
– Claims for damages and lost revenues should be put under the authority of the U.S. Coast Guard National Pollution Funds Center. As the scope of this disaster far exceeds the NPFC’s traditional resources, other federal, state, and local claims processing resources must be brought to bear, particularly from the Coast Guard’s sister agency FEMA.
– EPA, the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and other law enforcement branches of the federal, state, and local government should be exercising subpoena authority if necessary to seize or monitor all ongoing communications and data collection.
– The EPA should immediately bar BP from new federal contracts — including drilling in federally controlled oil fields — because of its repeated environmental crimes.
– The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must begin a health monitoring program for the most at risk populations so there is a baseline from which to measure health impacts.
– Federal agencies, not BP, should handle spill response hotlines for volunteers, technology ideas, affected wildlife, and others. Full call records need to be logged with incident reports and technology ideas presented publicly on dynamic websites.
– The State Department should continue to reach out to other nations that have experience with disastrous oil spills to see if assistance and ideas are available. This should be a government-to-government effort, not one undertaken by private companies.
BP is required as the responsible party for this apocalyptic disaster to provide full and instant funding for the response by the federal, state, and local governments and their contractors. BP personnel and equipment being used for disaster response in the Gulf should be put under governmental control during the crisis.
BP’s funding should come in the form of an escrow account that draws on BP’s $100 billion in capital reserves, without limit. The federal government should require BP to use its first quarter 2010 profits — $5 billion – to establish the escrow account.
View the original, extended version of the column at the Center for American Progress.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) tells CNN that Obama should send in the military:
If this thing is not fixed today, the president doesn’t have any choice and he better go in and completely take over, perhaps with the military in charge. The military has an apparatus, the organization by which it can bring together the civilian agencies of government and to get this thing done.
Brulle: “The NY Times doesnt need to go to European conferences to find out why public opinion on climate change has shifted…. Just look in the mirror.”
The NYT‘s Elisabeth Rosenthal had another front-page “teach the controversy” piece yesterday, “Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons.” That has apparently become a specialty of the one-time paper of record (see NYT faces credibility siege over unbalanced climate coverage and The NYT once again equates non-scientists “” Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) “” with climate scientists).
That’s the headline of my new piece in Salon (click here).
The president is in now in genuine political trouble over the BP disaster, some of his own making, some not.
Here are my thoughts — as always, I’d love to hear yours: