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British Petroleum (BP)

Ending the Oil Age

By Jess Worth; lead image by Jenna Pope - New Internationalist, November 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In September 2014, the $860 million Rockefeller Foundation made an historic announcement. Timed to coincide with massive marches for climate action all over the world, the fund revealed it was going to divest from fossil fuels. Following in the footsteps of the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and Stanford University, the latest major institution to make such an announcement is also the most symbolic. Because the Rockefeller fortune owes its very existence to oil.

The Rockefeller story is also the story of the rise and fall of the first ‘oil major’. Standard Oil, founded by John D Rockefeller in 1870, soon came to control the burgeoning US oil industry, from extraction to refining to transportation to retail.

It built an unprecedented monopoly that ultimately became so publicly despised that the US government stepped in and broke it up – birthing Exxon, Mobil and Chevron, among others. But by then, Standard had already set the Western world on a path to oil dependence that we are still shackled to, chain-gang-style, today.

The forced break-up created the Rockefeller millions. A century later, those millions are being used to make a dramatic point: we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the oil age.

What Did the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium Mean for the Workforce?

By Joseph E. Aldy - Common Resources, August 22, 2014

On April 20, 2010, the Transocean Deepwater Horizon suffered a catastrophic blowout while drilling in a BP lease in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect. This accident resulted in the largest oil spill in US history and an unprecedented spill response effort. Due to the ongoing spill and concerns about the safety of offshore oil drilling, the US Department of the Interior suspended offshore deep water oil and gas drilling operations on May 27, 2010, in what became known as the offshore drilling moratorium. The media portrayed the impacts of these events on local employment, with images of closed fisheries, idle rigs, as well as boats skimming oil and workers cleaning oiled beaches.

In a new RFF discussion paper, “The Labor Market Impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium,” I estimate and examine the net impact of the oil spill, the drilling moratorium, and spill response on employment and wages in the Gulf Coast. The spill and moratorium represented unexpected events in the region, and the resulting economic impacts varied within and among the Gulf states. Coastal counties and parishes were expected to bear the vast majority of the burden of these two events, while inland areas were expected to be largely unaffected. The moratorium was expected to affect Louisiana—with significant support of the offshore drilling industry—but not, for example, Florida, which had no active drilling off of its coastline. Beyond the economic impacts, the timing and magnitude of the spill response varied across the states over the course of the spill as well.

Despite predictions of major job losses in Louisiana resulting from these events, I find that the most oil-intensive parishes in Louisiana experienced a net increase in employment and wages. In contrast, Gulf Coast Florida counties south of the Panhandle experienced a decline in employment. Analysis of the number of business establishments, worker migration, accommodations industry employment and wages, sales tax data, and commercial air arrivals likewise show positive economic activity impacts in the oil-intensive coastal parishes of Louisiana and reduced economic activity along the non-Panhandle Florida Gulf Coast. The billions of dollars of spill response and clean-up mobilized over the course of the spring and summer of 2010 positively impacted economic activity, similar to the effect of fiscal stimulus. The geographic variation in labor market impacts reflects the focus of spill response efforts in Louisiana and the absence of oil and thus spill response along the Gulf coast of Florida south of the Panhandle.

Read the report (PDF).

Four Years After the BP Disaster, Vietnamese Oyster Fishermen and Shrimpers Struggle to Survive

By Cherri Foytlin - The Life Support Project, October 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Undeterred by the blazing sun and high humidity of a mid-August afternoon in Biloxi, Mississippi, Tuat Nguyen and Bien Do moved nimbly around their shrimp boat, making last-minute preparations to leave for Lake Borgne, where the Louisiana shrimp season would open in a few days. Watching them work, moving with ease from one end of the boat to the other, climbing up and down, it was hard to believe both are in their seventies and each has been making a living on the water for more than six decades.

While Bien made final preparations to depart– they’d already had mechanical problems earlier that day – Tuat, who speaks only a little English, invited community leader and interpreter Thao Vu and myself to sit down for a few minutes at the small table in the boat’s tidy galley.

Tuat says her father taught her how to shrimp when she was only 8 or 9 years old. The invention of GPS and modern technology were still decades away, so at night the moon and the stars were their guide. She remembers following the sun during the day, following it as it moved from east to west. Everything was done by hand. Someone would blow a horn to guide them into the dock after dark.

She says her husband, Bien, can’t remember a time he didn’t work on a boat. He’s a hardworking oyster fisherman and a shrimper, livelihoods that go back generations.

After leaving Vietnam, they settled in Biloxi, drawn by the warm Gulf waters where they could make a living dredging for oysters and shrimping. The Gulf’s abundance and their own hard work allowed them to be productive, independent and part of a thriving community.

But that was before BP.

NGOs Are Cages: How Capitalists Control Mass Movements

By Stephanie McMillan - CounterPunch, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We really need to understand the methods used by NGOs* to undermine radical political organizing efforts and divert us into political dead ends. The People’s Climate March is a good case study because it’s so blatant.

In South Florida, we saw the exact same process after the BP oil spill. Once the NGOs came in to the organizing meetings and were given the floor, all potential resistance was blocked, strangled, and left for dead. NGOs will descend on any organizing effort and try to take it over, dilute it, and bring it eventually to the Democratic Party. We can also see an identical set-up with the established labor unions and many other organizations.

If organizers are being paid, usually they are trapped in this dynamic, whether or not they want to be. While combining a job with organizing to challenge the system sounds very tempting and full of potential, it’s overwhelmingly not possible. They are two fundamentally incompatible aims, and those funding the job definitely do not have the aim of allowing its employees to undermine the system — the very system that allows the funders to exist, that they feed off of. Capitalists aren’t stupid, and they know how to keep their employees chained to a post, even if the leash feels long. With NGOs, capitalism has set up a great mechanism for itself both to generate revenue, and to pacify people who might otherwise be fighting to break the framework. “The unity of the chicken and the roach happens in the belly of the chicken.”

Another problem is that the rest of us attending an activity or a demonstration have to wonder: when organizers are being paid to say whatever it is they’re saying, how do we know whether or not they believe it? They follow a script, and can’t reveal their true feelings. They attempt to promote their cause in a convincing way, but if their funding was cut off, would they still be involved? Would their orientation still be the same? It’s hard to believe anything said by a paid spokespuppet – it’s like interacting with an embodied list of talking points. There can be no real trust, that the person could be relied upon when the money is no longer there.

Of course people need jobs, and NGOs provide them. I’m not blaming those who work for NGOs any more than who work for any other capitalist institution. We’re all trapped in the enemy’s economy. Instead, what I’m arguing for is to be aware of the nature of it, its severe limitations, and to do real political work outside the framework provided by the job.

We should attend demonstrations like the climate march, because a lot of sincere people will be there who want to make a difference. But we should remain autonomous within them, bringing our own message targeting capitalism as the root of the problem, exposing the uselessness of working within the political frameworks it sets up for us, and building our own organizations with the people we meet.

To challenge, weaken and ultimately destroy capitalism, we need to build a strong, organized, broad, combative mass movement outside the influence of capitalist interests.

Ain't NOTHING's Changed!


This images is not an official image of the IWW or the IWW EUC.

Dispersant illness robbing a once strong local generation of work, economic security

By Charles Digges - Bellona, September 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

NEW ORLEANS/BAYOU LABATRA, Alabama – Lamont Moore’s short dreadlocks and mammoth fists make a shot glass of his coffee mug in the well of his knot-knuckled hand as he leans back to ponder a question, shying vampirically from the light bellowing into the Waffle House on Alabama State Road 39.

Adjusting his Terminator shades with his other meaty mitt, he radiates the impression of a retired prizefighter tired of talking to the media.

But Moore, 34, is fatigued for other reasons. He can’t climb a flight of stairs without having to sit down and catch his wind. He pinches the bridge of his nose against the swirling hurricane of a debilitating migraine. He’s chosen not to join the rest of us in breakfast because of stomach pain. And he can’t read the menu anyway – the sunlight is too much for his eyes.

lamar

Lamar Moore, who cleaned beaches in Alabama during the Deepwater Horizon spill. (Charles Digges/Bellona)

Even the sunglasses that he fashioned out of welder’s goggles don’t help. Most of the time, he says, he bumbling around in a whiteout.

He finally breaks the silence, rubbing a cyst the size of cherry on his jaw that’s been there since he worked the beaches of Dauphin Island, Alabama to help cleanup the oil of the Deepwater Horizon spill. “I’m really sorry, but what did you ask?”

The memory loss is part of the overall symptomology of Corexit poisoning, or “BP syndrome,” as it’s sometimes referred to by Dr. Michael Robichaux, one of the few Gulf area physicians to treat and document the symptoms of poisoning by crude and Corexit, the oil dispersant that BP dumped 1.84 million gallons of to hide the effects of its 4.9 million barrel blowout in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo well.

Reckless BP Kills 11 Men Now They Face Civil Fines

West Coast Native News - September 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A Louisiana federal court basted BP for the massive 2010 oil spill in the U.S. Gulf Coast on Thursday, saying the incident was a combination of “gross negligence” and “reckless” conduct by the oil giant and other oil producers — a judgement the company strongly rejected.

The ruling means BP could face as much as $17.6 billion in civil fines under the Clean Water Act, The company could now face fines as much as $4,300 for every barrel of oil lost. Based on government estimates from the time of how much was lost, the company could end up with a fine of almost $18 billion. Just this week, Halliburton agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle claims related to its role in the disaster.

Earlier this year, a separate court ruling determined BP would have to set aside $9.2 billion in settlement funds, a figure the company was fighting to reduce.

Here is a list of the 11 workers who died after a blast on the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010 about 50 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico.  — after burning for about a day and a half — the Deepwater Horizon sank. It rests on the bottom about a mile below the Gulf surface.

None of the men worked directly for BP. Two were employed by M-I Swaco, a division of oil field services company Schlumberger. The rest worked for Transocean.

— Jason Anderson, 35, of Midfield, Texas. A father of two. His wife, Shelley, said Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. Anderson began preparing a will in February 2010 and kept it in a spiral notebook. It sank with the rig.

—Aaron Dale “Bubba” Burkeen, 37, of Philadelphia, Miss. His death at the Deepwater Horizon came on his wedding anniversary and four days before his birthday. He was married with two children.

—Donald Clark, 49, of Newellton, La. He was scheduled to leave the rig on April 21, the day after the blast.

—Stephen Ray Curtis, 40, of Georgetown, La., Curtis was married and had two teenagers.

—Gordon Jones, 28, of Baton Rouge, La. Jones arrived on the rig the day before the explosion. He died three days before his sixth wedding anniversary and 10 minutes after talking to his pregnant wife, Michelle Jones. Their son, Max, was born three weeks later.

—Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, Jonesville, La. Kemp was married. His daughter’s birthday was 3 days before the explosion. Kemp was scheduled to leave the rig on April 21.

—Karl Kleppinger Jr., 38, of Natchez, Miss. Kleppinger was a veteran of the first Gulf War and the father of one child.

—Keith Blair Manuel, 56, of Gonzales, La. Manuel had three daughters. He was a fan of LSU athletics and had football and basketball season tickets.

—Dewey A. Revette, 48, of State Line, Miss. Revette had been married to his wife, Sherri, for 26 years when the rig exploded. He was scheduled to leave the rig on April 21.

—Shane M. Roshto, 22, of Liberty, Miss. His wife, Natalie, filed a lawsuit April 21, 2010, saying she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after her husband was killed in the explosion. He was set to leave the rig on April 21.

— Adam Weise, 24, Yorktown, Texas. Weise drove 10 hours to Louisiana every three weeks to work on the rig. A high school football star, he spent off- time hunting and fishing. He was scheduled to leave the rig on April 21.

No bodies were recovered.

Obama Opened Floodgates for Offshore Fracking in Recent Gulf of Mexico Lease

By Steve Horn - DeSmog Blog, August 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In little-noticed news arising out of a recent Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas lease held by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the floodgates have opened for Gulf offshore hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

With 21.6 million acres auctioned off by the Obama Administration and 433,822 acres receiving bids, some press accounts have declared BP America — of 2010 Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill infamy — a big winner of the auction. If true, fracking and the oil and gas services companies who perform it like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger came in a close second.

Common Resources PDF: What Did the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium Mean for the Workforce?

Joseph E Aldy - Common Resources, August 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On April 20, 2010, the Transocean Deepwater Horizon suffered a catastrophic blowout while drilling in a BP lease in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect. This accident resulted in the largest oil spill in US history and an unprecedented spill response effort. Due to the ongoing spill and concerns about the safety of offshore oil drilling, the US Department of the Interior suspended offshore deep water oil and gas drilling operations on May 27, 2010, in what became known as the offshore drilling moratorium. The media portrayed the impacts of these events on local employment, with images of closed fisheries, idle rigs, as well as boats skimming oil and workers cleaning oiled beaches.

In a new RFF discussion paper, “The Labor Market Impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium,” I estimate and examine the net impact of the oil spill, the drilling moratorium, and spill response on employment and wages in the Gulf Coast.

Read the full article here.

This and other PDFs are featured on our links page.

Subsidy Spotlight: Paid to Pollute and Poison

By Paul Thacker - Oil Change International, July 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A wife and mother of two from Venice, Louisiana, Kindra Arnesen says her life can be divided into two chapters: before April 20, 2010, and after. On that evening, an oil well located several miles off the coast of Louisiana discharged large bubbles of gas which traveled a mile to the surface before igniting, destroying the oil rig and killing eleven men. Thus began the worst marine oil spill in history and America’s largest environmental disaster, with hundreds of millions of gallons of oil eventually spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

Four years later, residents from surrounding communities claim they still struggle with the health problems caused by the BP oil spill. “You just learn to live sick,” says Arnesen, who complains of headaches and unexplained rashes that won’t go away.

Her husband, who was hired by BP to help clean up the spill, has it much worse.

A fisherman in his mid-forties, his life has not been the same. He struggles to go to work and every month he is laid low by headaches, respiratory problems, and general weakness. “I roll over at night sometimes to see if he is still breathing,” Kindra says. “It’s really scary.”

The impact of exposure to oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill on people’s wellbeing has been documented by numerous government-sponsored studies. After seven fishermen hired for oil spill cleanup were hospitalized, the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined possible health effects of the spill. Because of the wide variety of working conditions, differing levels of exposures, and confounding problems from heat, the agency’s conclusions, released in August 2011, remain rather vague. During the summer of 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a workshop to assess the effects on people and attempted to identify high risk populations for future health concerns.

But science places a high value on controlling for variables when drawing conclusions. It has been difficult if not impossible to place direct blame on the oil spill for each individual’s health problems. Exposures to oil were not carefully measured. For all intents, people who were exposed have become involved in an uncontrolled medical experiment.

However, what is certainly well documented, yet much less publicized, is that the likelihood of this disaster was certainly encouraged by tax policies created in Washington. According to Oil Change International’s latest report, federal and state subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries result in a $21 billion windfall for carbon polluting companies every year. This occurs at a time when the biggest five oil companies are earning record profits, close to $93 billion last year, or $177,000 per minute. And according to corporate documents, risky drilling projects like those undertaken by BP would most likely never occur without this type of corporate welfare.

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