During the recent weeks, when we learned that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is refused access to research and measure the spill by British Petroleum (BP), and the US Coast Guard warns reporters, research scientists and engineers away from the area, stating that they are simply following orders --- from BP --- one might surmise the sovereignty of the United States of America has been ceded to an oil multinational.
It would certainly appear that way. Many complaints have been heard from a variety of scientists and engineers, eager to monitor, research and learn from this catastrophe, in order to better prepare, and avoid, future such occurrences.
But what of the past decade and BP's other adventures?
Well, in this study by the GAO from October of 2007 (p.54):
In another case, on June 28, 2006, CFTC brought an enforcement action against BP Products North America, Inc., alleging, among other things, that BP cornered the physical propane market and manipulated the price of propane in February 2004.63 Also on June 28, 2006, DOJ announced that a former BP trader had pled guilty to conspiracy to manipulate and corner the physical propane market.(emphasis added - JW)
Hmmm......interesting stuff here!
This is especially interesting, from a strictly financial and market manipulation angle, as it was Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsch Bank, BP, Royal Dutch/Shell et al., who originally financed the InterContinental Exchange (ICE), and later purchased the International Petroleum Exchange, changing its name to ICE Futures.
A well-researched report published by the Air Transport Association in 2007 had some interesting data-based graphs pertaining to oil and energy futures market manipulation via leveraged speculation.
Another ATA graph gives an even better portrayal of ICE's good fortunes.
Please note the position (the small blue sphere to the far right) of ICE. Much the same position in 2007 and 2008 as well.
Now a recent article at the propulica.org site explains a bit of BP's sad record:
A series of internal investigations over the past decade warned senior BP managers that the company repeatedly disregarded safety and environmental rules and risked a serious accident if it did not change its ways.
The confidential inquiries, which have not previously been made public, focused on a rash of problems at BP's Alaska oil-drilling unit that undermined the company’s publicly proclaimed commitment to safe operations. They described instances in which management flouted safety by neglecting aging equipment, pressured or harassed employees not to report problems, and cut short or delayed inspections in order to reduce production costs. Executives were not held accountable for the failures, and some were promoted despite them.
They also include a study done (by James Baker III, no less, and several other fellows) on BP's refinery safety record. Not too confidence-inspiring, as one might expect.
Now the Telegraph, an excellent newspaper in the United Kingdom, mentions that BP's CEO (the one who yearns "..to get his life back."), Tony Hayward, very recently sold BP shares prior to the oil spill:
Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one month before a well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental disaster.
Mr Hayward, whose pay package is £4 million a year, then paid off the mortgage on his family’s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be valued at more than £1.2 million.
And, as one would expect, BP's stock price has suddenly fallen quite recently.
Now, I am not suggesting Mr. Hayward, upstanding fellow that he is (just kidding), knew beforehand of the spill.
But judging from Propublica's excellent and revealing article, Hayward would certainly have access to internal reports coming from that rig, including various problems occurring, and one might surmise he would actually read these senior management-destined reports?
Well, at least someone profited from this incredible ecological and economic catastrophe.....unfortunately, not the specific individual one would wish to be the lucky party!
And once again it is extremely important to mention that this oil rig, as one might easily expect, wasn't a union rig. Since the news has finally been reported that the senior management ignored pressure reading fluctuation problems (as well as others), and the marine engineer overseeing the rig was neither a licensed engineer nor had any formal training, the obviousness of why union employees should be mandatory is readily apparent.
With union workers goes union safety.
GAO-08-25. Trends in Energy Derivatives Markets Raise Questions about CFTC’s Oversight. Oct. 2007.
Telegraph.co.uk. BP chief Tony Hayward sold shares weeks before oil spill. June 5, 2010.
Air Transport Association. Some info on oil speculation. July 7, 2008 (last revised).
(Originally from: Heimlich, John [VP and chief economist, ATA]. Reformulating Commercial Aviation. August 20, 2008.)
Morgan Stanley P/E Global Exchange chart, p. 3.