Jim Brown bottom lines the BP Disaster

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



British Petroleum, the overseas oil giant, is under siege from every direction as they struggle to cap the massive Gulf oil spill. The BP stock price has plummeted 25% since the start of the spill, and company officials have been hauled daily before a litany of federal and state regulatory and legislative committees. It’s hard to keep track of the numerous daily lawsuits that have been filed all along the Gulf Coast. And in the latest salvo, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a criminal investigation, noting that there is “a wide` range of possible criminal violations.” But if BP collapses under the weight of all this cross fire, who are the real losers?

How about quit buying BP gasoline? Ralph Nader’s consumer-advocacy group Public Citizen is calling for a national moratorium to boycott BP gas stations. You can go to Facebook where thousands of members swear to bypass any BP retail outlets. But most of the BP service stations are independently owned, so a boycott hurts individual retailers who live in the local community that is doing the boycotting. Does this really hurt the BP corporate entity that operates internationally?

The criminal investigation will cause BP executives to scurry and find lawyers, who will strongly advise all those being investigated to say nothing. This is a critical time when company officials should be solely focused on shutting down the spill and cleaning up their mess. Is it wise to put a chill on their efforts by waiving possible criminal charges over their heads? It’s like the farmer who accidently starts a grass fire and has the only tools to bring the fire under control. He’s told to just put his efforts aside and come to town so as to answer possible charges. Just let the fire burn.

If laws were broken, then a full investigation, both civil and criminal, should be undertaken. But is it wise to pull away the folks who have a great deal of institutional knowledge about the problem, and who have a huge vested interest in getting the spill contained? There will be plenty of time to get into the “fault” business. Now should be the time to gather every resource, including those with the knowledge to solve the crisis, and move the clean up forward. It would seem that the public officials in charge are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

This is far from any defense for BP, and the various subcontractors that failed time and time again to carry out required checks and balances. But those in the private sector, who know they have vast exposure and who are desperately trying to find a way to cap the spill, are dealing with contradictory messages and orders from federal regulators. Just a week ago, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar proclaimed: “If we find that BP is not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately.”

Not so, says Coast Guard head and national incident commander Thad Allan, who the next day at the White House said: “To push BP out of the way, it would raise a question: Replace them with what?”

Allan, who is in the trenches fighting the “Spill War” daily, is blunt in observing that: “What makes this an unprecedented anomalous event is access to the discharge site that is controlled by the technology that was used for the drilling, which is owned by the private sector.” In simple English, BP and team have whatever helpful knowledge is available, and the feds do not. So be careful to whom you start hollering about criminal charges, at least until the problem is solved.

Maybe BP should not be the source of solving the problem, and there should have been a rapid and forceful federal response. But this presupposes that both the feds and the Gulf States had the foresight to have put together a “Plan B.” Whose fault is it that so much authority and knowledge exists only in the private sector? If this is a public body of water, then where is the public response? None such exists say any knowledgeable observers.

The Washington Post’s E.J.Dionne writes that “deregulation is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren’t issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right, because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its tea party critics claim.”

The fact is that we are stuck with BP and whatever technical drilling knowledge they can bring to the table. Government has sat on the sidelines for years giving vast responsibilities over to the oil industry. Even worse, there is ample evidence that the little regulation that took place by the Minerals Management Service was in full collusion with BP and other major oil companies.

The public interest was far from being served. The country cannot have it both ways. If there is any doubt about this, one only needs to look at the sludge in the Gulf, which is, sadly, a product of our own contradictions.


“We will die a slow death over the next two years as this oil creeps ashore.”

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am central time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

5 thoughts on “Jim Brown bottom lines the BP Disaster”

  1. The oil spill, like the greed driven implosion of our financial system in 2008 by the Wall street crowd is a real game changer in terms of how people view that which has happened to our government since the 1980s. Jim’s column will kick start a much needed conversation not just on the spill itself or the narrow issue of how we regulate offshore drilling, rather the concept of unfettered free markets espoused by pompous, ivory tower idiots like Grover Norquist.

    This oil spill embodies the concept and end result of regulatory capture. It is a term I’ve used frequently to describe the collective state of our insurance regulation. People can see the end result of the oil spill with beaches fouled and the ecosystem hopelessly polluted for years to come. The problems in insurance are no different it just the concepts are more arcane and there is no federal regulation of these global financial enterprises, one of which in AIG almost single handedly took out our entire economy.

    Ordinary people suffer in silence being gang raped by an insurance company and marketplace without transparency. None of this is new; just ask the good people on the west coast that were gang raped on their power bills by ENRON manipulating the market back in 2001. To this point the gang in DC has had their heads inserted straight up their hineys on this. Something tells me enough entrenched, corrupt politicians will be thrown out of office this November that something will finally be done.

    If I were giving advice to Gene Taylor and Roger Wicker it would be to let the spill speak for itself and apply the lessons learned of contracting out our government to the other issues besides our now polluted coast such as insurance. The NFIP is owned AND OPERATED by the WYO insurance companies for example. Is it any wonder they made it into the ultimate backstop in Hurricanes?

    My thanks to Jim for breaking my writers block on this overall topic. Great minds think alike. 😉


  2. OOOOOOOOOOOOOwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee I’ll tell you where the problem arises– its real simple— with the campaign contributions and lobbyists. Before Obama became the chief, under Bush the MMS was found to be corrupt with big oil and changes were under way. So we were supposed to get “real”change from the lobby crap— remember Obama’s political platform? So guess what Presidential candidate got the most money from BS(name has been changed from BP to properly characterize the company)? That’s right, Obama. And guess who he put in direct control of big oil in MMS?— a women who had previously worked for BS for the previous 8 years.Obama will of course blame Bush but it was Obama’s appointment who was connected to BS. Is that what we call “real”change? She has resigned of course but during her tenure I bet it will be revealed through congressional hearings that she was hands off of BS and big oil. It’s the old ancient fox watching the hen house syndrome.Its also the exact thing happening locally in JP with the gang of seven councilpeople putting Theriot in as President to protect their campaign contributor’s contracts. That is why until JP and the Federal government ban lobbyists and/or campaign contributions to councilpeople and federal candidates things will never really change. OOOOOOOOOOOOOwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    1. There is no change with Obama despite his campaign rhetoric. He is as phoney as the idiot he replaced. Obama came to Mississippi in 2008 saying he was open to multi peril insurance in concept and once elected quickly annoucned he was against it. Barack Obama is a lying sack of shit politician just like Chris Dodd, Max Baucus, Thad Cochran, David Vitter etc etc etc.

      A good gorillia can count the number of honest US Senators on their fingers and toes.


  3. Sop, the good people of Mississippi, like yourself and Nowdy, should consider yourselves blessed and fortunate to have a US Rep. such as Mr. Gene Taylor. Although not perfect, his forthright demeanor and gritty fortitude is what could be characterized as “true” representation of the people of his district, whether they voted for him or not. Although not a Senator, Mr. Taylor may have the one finger on that one hand pointing toward Washington DC, a way towards our new course of action.

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