Saturday, June 12, 2010

Return of the King

Rumors reach us that in a secret ceremony at Buckminster Palace, the CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

Our source, whom has chosen to remain confidential, explained: “In 90 days time, BP has done more to reverse the power relationship between the Kingdom and its former colony than anything in nearly a century.”

The damage to British dignity and self-respect was most acutely felt during the first decade of the new century, when to everyone in the world, Britain seemed no more than Bush’s Bitch. When a compliant vassal was needed for the invasion of Iraq, to send elite troops to Basra, to validate the phony Italian memo on uranium from Niger, or to twist Chinese and Russian arms at the UN Security Council, England always bowed to US wishes. As the Downing Street Memo revealed, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw well knew that President George W. Bush had "made up his mind" to take military action and “facts were being fixed around the decision” but "the case was thin." Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith had warned that legal grounds were utterly lacking and that invasion of Iraq would be tantamount to a war crime. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom had no choice but to join the war planning and do as it was told. It was called a “partner” in White House public statements, but handled with thinly-disguised contempt in private.

Since the end of April, the power relationship between the two countries has completely reversed, and Hayward deserves much of the credit.

BP currently has oil reserves of 63 billion barrels in its portfolio, and if the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout pressure is any indication, that amount could be understated. At $60 per barrel, 63 billion barrels represents $3.78 trillion dollars. Costs of the spill are currently running BP 500 million USD (344 million pounds Sterling) per month, so in theory it would take 3780 years at that rate for the company to exhaust its assets through the hole in the bottom of the sea. If the price of oil were to rise to $120 per barrel (it reached $147 two years ago), BP’s assets, applied to present disaster cost levels, would not run out for 7562 years.

On April 2, 2010, eighteen days before the explosion in the Gulf, US President Obama, in a gala ceremony unveiling his plan to open US coastal waters to deep-sea drilling, announced, “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.”

A report in the June 20 issue of Rolling Stone  reveals that the White House was caught flatfooted by the scale and implications of the disaster. Within the first 48 hours the President’s national security briefers advised him that the flow rate might be 110,000 barrels per day, that the loop current could wipe out the Eastern Gulf and Florida Keys fisheries, and possibly even tar beaches from Hilton Head to Hyannisport during peak summer vacation months. The damage to the nation’s seafood and tourism industries would be immense, and there are as yet no technology remedies known to politics or science.

And don’t forget the pelicans.

A blame game immediately ensued, with BP the principal target, but BP held too many cards and quickly outplayed the White House with finesse and panache.
First, it controlled the intel: concealing its high-definition cameras and other devices that would have easily allowed government scientists to calculate the flow rate of oil and gas into the Gulf; denying the presence of any underwater plume; claiming a release rate of only 5000 barrels per day. BP thumbed its nose at the puny capabilities of the United States to either assess or repair the damage.

Then it controlled the mass media: buying up search engines; taking over prime time news commercial spots with its mea culpa, and “we’ll protect you” advertisements; putting its top management at the front lines with rolled-up sleeves and ready sound bytes.

The failure of nearly every attempt at an engineered solution by the oil company made no difference to its immunity, either from criminal prosecution or the nationalization of its assets. BP’s hole card was the 9 billion dollars worth of petroleum products that it supplied the US military each year to keep boots on the ground in Af-Pak and Predator drones flying over Yemen. Without BP’s willing cooperation, every carrier fleet at sea would have to return to port, and the White House knew it.

The irony is that even as the U.S.’s oil addiction continues to feather the nests of British pensioners, that addiction could be ended virtually overnight, as every president since Jimmy Carter has well known. As John Michael Greer pointed out in The Long Descent, if the average USAnian used only as much energy as the average European, the US would be exporting oil, not importing it. Only 4 percent of the land area of the US (rooftops, deserts, and areas near cities) is enough to supply all US energy requirements, solely from the sun and wind. Even less space would be needed if the US used its long, now greasier, coastlines to tap wave and ocean thermal energy. Only the colony’s political insistence on clinging to spendthrift habit keeps BP stockholders laughing all the way to the bank.

While the Buckingham Palace ceremony was a closely guarded secret, Hayward continued to put the best foot forward for his company. “Everyone at BP is heartbroken by this event, by the loss of life and by the damage to the environment and to the livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast,” Hayward told the cameras. “It should not have happened and we are bound and determined to learn every lesson to try and ensure it never happens again.”

Never, that is, until another lesson in empire might be required.




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