Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Is This Halliburton's Katrina?

The spreading stench of oil, money and destruction off the Louisiana coast should be enough reason for anyone to protest opening more wells offshore. In case it's not, let's just put an end to the myths that offshore drilling is safe, government regulation is bad, and this particular disaster is "Obama's Katrina". It's not, no matter what the AP's Calvin Woodward alleges.

The political subtext of the crisis was clear and increasingly on people's minds, whether from a federal office deploying oil-containment booms or from a Louisiana parish awaiting yet another sucker punch from the sea.

Will this be Obama's Katrina? Should the federal and state governments have done more, and earlier? Did they learn the lessons of the devastating hurricane?

Well, yes. They did. If it weren't for the Obama administration, none of us would know that the flow of oil into the sea was 5 times the rate reported by BP. It was, after all, the federal government experts who exposed the true leakage rate.

On Wednesday night, she reported the findings of federal experts that up to 5,000 barrels a day were leaking from the well. BP had estimated only 1,000. As well, the company told the Coast Guard a new leak had been found. Obama was briefed on these developments on Air Force One while returning at night from the Midwest.

True to form, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, and every other right wing hack has jumped right on the bandwagon.

Problem is, it's just not true. The Wall Street Journal has some interesting facts to contradict this set of Frank Luntz/Karl Rove talking points.

Halliburton is directly linked to the failure causing the spill and explosion.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, workers had finished pumping cement to fill the space between the pipe and the sides of the hole and had begun temporarily plugging the well with cement; it isn't known whether they had completed the plugging process before the blast.

Regulators have previously identified problems in the cementing process as a leading cause of well blowouts, in which oil and natural gas surge out of a well with explosive force. When cement develops cracks or doesn't set properly, oil and gas can escape, ultimately flowing out of control. The gas is highly combustible and prone to ignite, as it appears to have done aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which was leased by BP PLC, the British oil giant.

Concerns about the cementing process—and about whether rigs have enough safeguards to prevent blowouts—raise questions about whether the industry can safely drill in deep water and whether regulators are up to the task of monitoring them.

The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week. The disaster, which killed 11, has left a gusher of oil streaming into the Gulf from a mile under the surface.

It's not the first time for Halliburton, either.

Halliburton also was the cementer on a well that suffered a big blowout last August in the Timor Sea, off Australia. The rig there caught fire and a well leaked tens of thousands of barrels of oil over 10 weeks before it was shut down. The investigation is continuing; Halliburton declined to comment on it.

Meanwhile, the devastation spreads.

Offshore, cleanup workers struggled to contain an oily sheen spreading from a well ruptured by the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon exploration platform. Coast Guard officials estimate that some 42,000 gallons of crude continue to leak into the Gulf of Mexico each day. Remote submersibles have so far failed in an effort to close the shattered well's blowout valve, which should have shut off automatically. Boom crews plan to begin burning collected oil on the Gulf's surface as early as Wednesday. - Mother Nature Network

The failed blowout valve? It was manufactured by Cameron International. One look at Cameron's board should tell you all you need to know. They're all Bush/Cheney contractor cronies, here and around the world.

Offshore drilling has been put forward by the Obama administration as one prong of a multi-prong approach to ending our foreign oil dependence. With thousands of barrels of oil spilling offshore, perhaps it's time for the administration to reconsider opening more wells to companies willing to overlook consistent records of failure like Halliburton's.

Natural disasters like Katrina are devastating and unpreventable. The best we can do is be prepared to deal with the fallout, including levees unable to handle the stress of a Category 5 hurricane. The government failed the people of New Orleans and allowed the aftermath of Katrina to devastate New Orleans. This disaster is a man-made mess, beginning to end, engineered by corporate interests. It isn't anyone's Katrina. It's just chapter two of the war waged on our coasts by Bush, Cheney, and their gang of corporate cronies.

Update: Media Matters has a timeline of the Obama administration's response.

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