21 May 2010

Dubya : The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Image from SodaHead.

Bush, Cheney and Halliburton:
The making of a disaster

By Ed Felien / The Rag Blog / May 21, 2010

He gave us the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, an economic collapse, tax cuts for the wealthy that bankrupted the treasury, and, now, we can credit him with giving us the greatest man-made ecological disaster in history.

But how can we lay the blame for the Gulf oil disaster at Bush's door? In 1998, when Clinton was President, Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton. He arranged a sale of stock whereby Dresser Industries, owned by the Bush family, bought controlling interest in Halliburton.

Bush didn't stop owning Halliburton when he became President in 2000 and Dick Cheney didn't really stop being CEO -- they just took advantage of greater opportunities to make lots more money.

They funneled multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to Halliburton through Defense appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan, and they let the oil industry write the regulations that covered drilling so that Halliburton and Dresser Industries (the only companies that manufacture and supply oil drilling equipment to the industry) would have an easy time getting the oil out of the ground without having to worry about a lot of
environmental safeguards.

When they were deciding on new regulations for drilling offshore, the Bush Administration rejected the idea of requiring an acoustic trigger that could by remote control turn off an oil well that is out of control. They thought it would be too great a burden on the oil industry, even though Norway and Brazil have required acoustic triggers for years, specifically to prevent the kind of disaster that happened in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2003 a report by the Minerals Management Services of the Bush Administration said, "acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly."

The cost of $500,000 for the acoustic trigger was considered too high a price to pay. As a result, 11 lives were lost, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that cost $560 million was lost, and British Petroleum is spending $6 million a day trying (unsuccessfully) to clean up the mess. Last week the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post reported:
Though the investigation into the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon site is still in its early stages, drilling experts agree that blame probably lies with flaws in the "cementing" process -- that is, plugging holes in the pipeline seal by pumping cement into it from the rig. Halliburton was in charge of cementing for Deepwater Horizon.

The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement," said Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer in the oil industry.

The problem could have been a faulty cement plug at the bottom of the well, he said. Another possibility would be that cement between the pipe and well walls didn't harden properly and allowed gas to pass through it.
The possibility of Halliburton's culpability was first reported Monday by Marcus Baram of The Huffington Post.
According to a lawsuit filed in federal court by Natalie Roshto, whose husband, Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion and whose body has not yet been located, Halliburton is culpable for its actions prior to the incident.

The suit claims that the company "prior to the explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and, upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these duties, which was a cause of the explosion."

And Congressman Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a tough letter on Friday to Halliburton, asking for an explanation of its work on the rig, according to a spokesperson for the committee.

Last year, Halliburton was also implicated for its cementing work prior to a massive blowout off the coast of Australia, where a rig caught on fire and spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons into the sea for ten weeks. In that incident, workers apparently failed to properly pump cement into the well, according to Elmer Danenberger, former head of regulatory affairs for the U.S. Minerals Management Service, who testified to an Australian commission probing that accident.

"The problem with the cementing job was one of the root causes in the Australian blowout," Danenberger told Huffington Post, adding that the rig crew didn't pick up on indications of an influx of fluids coming back in after they cemented the casing. "The crew didn't pick up on them and didn't take action."
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida warned that if the leak flows for three months while the relief well is being completed, then, "It's going to cover up the Gulf Coast and the wind is eventually going to keep it going south, and it's going to get into the Loop Current." The Loop Current could take the contamination around the Florida Keys and into the Gulf Stream.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said, in hearings before his committee: "If the largest oil and oil service companies in the world had been more careful, 11 lives might have been saved and our coastlines protected."

[Ed Felien is publisher and editor of Southside Pride, a South Minneapolis monthly.]

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