Jul 052010

America was a country that put a man on the Moon, invented the Internet, cured Polio, was the first to mass produce cars and airplanes; but America is apparently now a nation that can not even plug a leaking pipe.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster is a case in point. The disaster started with an explosion that nobody was ready for, although explosions sometimes do happen in the drilling business. Then the oil companies (BP and Transatlantic) discovered that they had absolutely “NO PLANS’ to handle the unfolding disaster; they had to think things up as they went along. They had only one shut off station in one location, and that malfunctioned!

Why didn’t they have other shut off valves along the pipe line? They probably didn’t because it would cost too much (you can’t cut into profits too deeply). But there is no excuse for not being ready for this oil spill because since 1909 there have been almost one hundred major oil spills worldwide. So, there is absolutely no excuse for them not being ready for it.

Then as the oil well was spilling a million gallons a day into the Gulf of Mexico, they were fooling around with one gizmo after another. First they tried a 100 ton cap that didn’t work, then they tried a smaller cap that also didn’t work, they they tried a so called “Top Kill” technique; which was a small pipe in a big pipe that pumped mud into it, but that didn’t work either.

But the most anguishing question remains, “Why didn’t they have a back-up plan?” Things happen in the ocean – hurricanes, sinking ships, equipment breakdowns, Murphy’s Law etc. Why didn’t they have plans for these possible disasters?

Having plans means looking at the long history of oil spills and just making plans, it’s just that simple, but they didn’t do it.  For example, they could have prepared for it by placing a pipe of similar size on the ocean bottom at the depth they are drilling at and could have pumped harmless sea water through it to simulate an accident with a leaking pipe; then tried different ways to stop the leak. A portable shut-off valve could have been designed and tested this way. This would be similar to what fire fighters do by setting an abandoned house on fire an practicing different ways to fight the fire. I guess BP either couldn’t think of this (brain dead) or they didn’t want to spend the money to build such a portable shut-off valve just to have it sit around taking up space and maintenance money and not be used for anything. Completely useless, like a life boat on the Titanic!

Since many techniques have been tried to cap the well and all failed, except the latest Top Cap that’s only partly effective, and since the so-called experts are telling us that drilling a relief well is the best way to stop a run away leaking oil well; we may have to establish a law that requires that a relief well be drilled along side every major producing well.

But just to look at a worse case scenario (since BP doesn’t want to do this), what if a sinking ship hit an oil well just where it comes out of the sea floor, currently this may be the disaster that just may not have a solution. So, requiring that relief wells be drilled along side all producing wells may be required; these relief wells should be deep enough and far enough away from the leak with a sunk ship on top of it so that it will still be possible to cap it. This sort of thinking must be applied to the drilling business even if this means developing the technology to remove a damaged ship and still be able to cap the leaking well involved. We have to develop effective technology to quickly cap a run away leaking oil well regardless of how severe the accident is, before any more offshore drilling is allowed. The oil companies will certainly not like this because this will certainly be very expensive and damage profits, but the working lives of people who use the sea for a living must be protected.

But then again, the very least that should be done is to improve the existing blow-out preventer ram press valve that the Deepwater Horizon had but failed to close the well. If this valve can be improved to make it more reliable and if a portable back-up valve can also be developed this just may solve the problem. But then again the oil giant BP is not even thinking about this. Their thinking about the “Small People”and about how the “Small People” need their oil no matter what they do.

As things now stand, all the people who had a great life of freedom on the open Gulf of Mexico, are just going to be more bodies on the unemployment lines. The restaurant owners and workers and fishing equipment suppliers will also join them on the unemployment line. They had a great life on the sea, but it’s over now.

All that can be done now is to establish a museum of the life and times of the mariners who lived on the Gulf so that future generations can remember.

But now is the time for Americans to take a hard look at what we’ve done by establishing this corporate culture that we now have, with its limited liability and quick, cheap and dirty way of doing things. The modern corporation as we know it started in 1855 with the “Limited Liability Act” passed in England, then similar laws were passed in America starting with the ” Delaware General Corporation Law” in 1899. Soon after that the stock market crashed in 1929. Then there was the Saving and Loan scandal, the Current Sub-Prime mess and Bernie Madoff. Is there a connection with the Limited Liability Act of 1855? Maybe. But notice that corporations came about in the second half of Americas history when the stock market crashed and a host of other scandals started; corporations really didn’t exist when America was founded or in the first half of American history, you know the part of our history that made us a great nation. Granted there were some small financial problems in the first half, but nothing like the second half of our history. Do you see a connection here.

It has to be admitted that shady deals always existed throughout human history, but if you remove personal liability (like corporation law does) this can only increase shady deals and this is not good. It lowers morality and a sense of justice that has effects through out our society.

Some people said that corporation laws will expand business and create jobs and so be good for the economy, but this is just not so, deals were being made as far back as ancient Rome, the real boost for business was the industrial revolution and modern banking that provided financing; not limited liability laws. If anything, limited liability laws are hurting business because people are afraid of con-artists that will rob them.

Today there are many people who believe that products are not made as good as they used to be. An example of this is an old refrigerator that I had in my old apartment, around the year 1980, it just stopped working and so I decided to get a new one. Then my landlord told me that it was 30 years old which ment that it was made about 1950. Today you will not have a refrigerator that lasts 3o years, your lucky if it lasts 10 years, the same can be said for water heaters and other products. Can this low service life of todays products be the result of the corporate mentality for quick and dirty products and fast profits that are only filling up land-fills and wasting natural resources. I can think of no other reason for this, but you have to make up your mind about this.

The basic reason for the establishment of corporations is that the people who operate corporations convinced the politicians that nobody will take on the responsibility of operating a corporation with the threat of  lawsuits they would face (actually, they just wanted to avoid lawsuits). So, it was decided to establish corporations in such a way that the people who operate corporations can not be sued for wrong doing, only the corporation (a legal non-person) can face lawsuits and pay for them, while the executives still get their contractually guaranteed multi-million dollar pensions and walk happily away from any catastrophes they created. This is why president Obama was only talking to the BP executives, legally that’s all he can do, he can not take legal action against them and he knows it. The president was talking tough just to look good for the cameras; he is after all just another politician. But maybe it’s time we stop this insanity (just look at the Gulf of Mexico) and make corporate executives personally legally responsible for what they do; maybe then they will set-up the emergency procedures needed for disasters like the Gulf Oil Spill.

As for a motive for establishing a big business, instead of freedom from lawsuits, maybe we should try something we haven’t tried for a long time, it’s called:

“The Profit Motive”

It made America the great nation it is (or was). It was the dream of making the big score, getting rich and having it all. That’s the dream people had at the beginning of America that made them take the chance and earn a success that was a living dream. Today’s corporate executives have a cake walk and they know it, so why should they take extra precautions and spend money unnecessarily when their covered from liability and they know that no matter what happens, they still will have that multi-million dollar pension waiting for them.

Did you notice that when the BP executives were talking in front of a camera about the “Small People” and the oil spill in the Gulf at the beginning of the disaster, they didn’t look excited or worried (neither did the president) they know they will not be personally responsible for it; they’re covered and they know it. Although as the disaster dragged on, I think their public relations people told them to look a little more concerned about it (they might hurt profits) then they sort of had a concerned look about them. But it still seems they are taking their time about this as millions of gallons of oil pour into the Gulf, 350 million gallons so far.

As for the president, so far he said NO to 13 foreign nations that offered help with oil skimmer ships. The Feds also said NO to some of the governors of the Gulf who wanted to build sand berms to block oil coming in. The government also took some oil skimming barges of the Gulf to check for life jackets and stuff like that. Also, a Taiwanese skimmer (a converted oil tanker) called “A Whale” that can skim 21 million gallons of oil a day arrived in the Gulf and was immediately tied up at dock by the Feds for “Testing”. Who’s side is the government is on is certainly open to question now.

What congress is doing is getting old and annoying and their wrecking America in the process. Big time changes are certainly needed and I don’t mean just getting rid of them (that’s coming this November). The American people have to stop voting for a smiling face on a poster and really find out who these people are and what they are going to do in congress before they vote for them.This business of voting because of a photo opp or sound bite has just got to stop and we have to figure out how to get some good people in congress. We need people who can think things through, look ahead, maybe even plan for a disaster. The American people have to take charge of the government and re-establish the Constitution before it’s too late and the next disaster strikes. Or maybe the people should establish and electronic democracy to get directly involved in government. I think the founders of America would have done this if they had our modern mass communication technology.

But just for the record, other potential disasters waiting are: a super volcano in Yellowstone National Park that can take out the whole American West if it explodes, but there are NO PLANS for it. If an astroid like in the movie Armageddon heads towards Earth there some theories about what to do about it, but there are NO PLANS for it. If a Tsunami wave comes towards the West Coast or the East Coast, there are NO PLANS for it.

If you can sleep tight after reading this essay, good for you; but for the rest of your time you better get involved in government

Jose Lugo, email- lugo@ddtv.org

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