Spill, Baby, Spill: Capitalism Gone Wild

By Bonnie Weinstein

On a beautiful early autumn day last year we had a unique visitor to our back yard ponds. I noticed a giant bird perched on my neighbor’s roof. At first, I thought it was a plastic bird, until it moved. It was a Great Blue Heron. The magnificent creature stayed around for about four days hopping from roof to roof intent upon catching my neighbor’s Koi. The Great Blue Heron would have had no trouble catching our gold fish if it weren’t for our dogs. The Great Blue Heron seemed especially pleased when perched just out of reach looking straight into our dog’s big, round eyes. The bird did, however, swoop effortlessly into our neighbor’s yard where there were no dogs, but bigger fish. Now, in the Gulf, these magnificent creatures, along with thousands of other species, are being threatened by the Deepwater Horizon oil-volcano, disaster.

Day by day, estimates of the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf are pushed higher—it’s now estimated to be 100,000 barrels a day—with no end to the man-made eruption in sight. This is a catastrophe of monumental proportions that will have an impact on life on earth for decades, if not centuries, to come. And, in spite of a temporary six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, they have plans to keep on drilling and spilling on land and sea all over the world.

In his speech from the Oval Office June 15, President Obama stressed that he would see to it that BP would pay for the damages and the clean up. Unfortunately, no amount of money—not even $20 billion—can compensate a child for the loss of a parent or a Great Blue Heron for a loss of its habitat. The obvious is ignored—the oceans are connected to fresh water, air and all life on Earth. That’s where rain comes from and what all life on Earth depends upon.

A new Manhattan Project

What is so terrifying about this disaster is the total impotence of both the government and the oil companies to stop the gusher, clean up the catastrophic mess, or to quit the drilling. In fact, their solution to the spill is to drill what are euphemistically called, “relief wells” that could compound the disaster—they have no proof the “relief wells” will stop the gusher—it’s a “guesstimate,” at best and, at worst, may cause an even more catastrophic event.

Astonishingly, all of this is being left up to the profit-guzzling “experts” at BP—the very same “experts” who caused this ecological disaster! It is particularly telling that there has been no general call for a Manhattan-type project to deal with this corporate and government-sponsored disaster.

Logic and reason would dictate calling together the best scientific minds in the world, in cooperation with the workers on the rigs themselves who are intimately familiar with their operations, to figure out the best way to proceed—a kind of “Manhattan Project”—to save lives, not to end them.

From 1942-1946 over 130,000 scientists and engineers directed by American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, with a budget of over two billion dollars ($22 billion in today’s terms) were brought together to develop the first atomic bombs that led to the death of millions of Japanese.1 This massive project was meant to prove that when the U.S. wanted to get a job done, the sky’s the limit. Yet today, to save life, they find, their pockets are empty. No such “experts” have been called together. No such funds have been put into use. No such effort is being made. And it will take such a massive effort if we are to recover from this disaster, if, indeed, we can.

International capital and war

According to a May 23, 2010 article by David Randall and Margareta Pagano that appeared in the Independent, UK, titled “The Black Hole at the Bottom of the Gulf, No One Seems to Know the Extent of the BP Disaster,”2 “Supplying the U.S. army with oil is one of BP’s biggest markets, and further exploration in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico is part of its long-term strategy.”

As the oceans, land and shorelines are connected, the oil companies extraction of the oil and the armies they fuel, are indelibly and intimately connected. Both devastate human life and the environment. Both, with blatant indifference, depend upon human cannon fodder—the soldiers of war and the soldiers of industry—to carry out their goals.

On Friday, May 28, 2010, I was listening to a live broadcast of the U.S. Minerals Management Service and Coast Guard hearing on the Deepwater Horizon “incident.” When I tuned in to the live stream on the Internet, a Horizon oil rig worker was giving testimony of what he observed at the time of the first explosion until he jumped off the rig. He was being questioned about emergency training procedures, frequency of safety drills, responsibilities of safety officers, what his duties were, as well as the details he observed at the time of the explosions.

Two things were clear from his testimony. First, all the fire drills in the world will not prepare you when everything just explodes, tearing out walls, ceilings and floors and sending fire plumes 500 feet in the air. Second, that safety was the least of the concerns of the corporate bosses running the rig. Increasing oil production levels was, and is, their primary concern. In fact, the main research BP was doing focused on how to drill in even deeper waters!

And ironically, the Senate, the day before the U.S. Minerals Management Service hearing, approved a $60 billion dollar allotment to pay for continuing military operations in Afghanistan
and Iraq.3

President Obama has left these same corporations that have U.S. military contracts to supply the oil needed to carry out these wars, in charge of managing the disaster and recovery operations in the Gulf.

However, their experience is in drilling and extracting, not in stopping spills or cleaning them up. In a May 28, 2010 New York Times article by Elisabeth Rosenthal titled, “Our Fix-It Faith and the Oil Spill,”4 “As BP struggled last week to stanch the flow of spewing oil at the Deepwater Horizon rig, it has become clear that the pressure to dig deeper and faster from what Mr. Eyton then called a ‘frontier province’ of oil exploration has in some ways outpaced the knowledge about how to do that safely. (And there is still the question of whether BP used all the tools and safety mechanisms available.)”

Both the wars and the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe are preventable, corporate-made, human and environmental disasters of massive proportions. The difference between the two is that we could stop the wars immediately. Unfortunately, with all their “experience” and “expertise” neither BP, Transocean, Ltd., Halliburton, nor the U.S. government have a clue as to how to stop this out-of-control volcano of oil or how to clean it up—especially since the damage to the workers, the ocean, the shores and the estuaries has already been done—and with more oil on the way!

Can energy extraction ever be safe?

Rational and intelligent logic would dictate that safety can’t be left in the hands of those who profit from energy extraction—whatever its form. Before trying such dangerous and potentially catastrophic techniques for energy extraction, a rational society would gather the best minds not connected in any way to the profiteering corporations—including the men and women who actually do the work in those industries and who take all the risks—to weigh-in on the feasibility of doing it safely. And before risks are taken, a rational society would take stock and review ways to cut down on the need for expanding energy extraction by doing things like ending the wars and manufacturing for safety, energy conservation and extending the durability of manufactured goods.

Money changes everything

All rational planning falls by the wayside under capitalist production for profit. The wars and the oil that supplies them safeguards the right of the wealthy micro-minority to privately accumulate huge reserves of wealth. To do this they must be able to go wherever there are resources to procure, to protect their wealth, fuel their military and ensure their ability to accumulate even more profits.

All decisions are based on one criterion—whether or not they will increase profits. Businesses and their puppet governments make their decisions based on this criterion. They are incapable of rational and reasonable thinking. Every money-saving shortcut will be taken no matter what the risk if it increases profit. That’s why they are still planning to drill and spill even in the face of this devastating catastrophe.

In order to bring the best scientific minds together to solve the crisis that capitalist exploitation has brought about on every continent and in every industry, the capitalists and their paid puppet governments the world over must be bypassed, disarmed, and dethroned, and the masses of working people must come together and take the helm for the good of all.

Capitalism has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, incapable of fixing this disaster or preventing more. They have proven that they will not stop their pursuit of energy and the power it can buy them no matter what the cost.

Will we witness the extinction of the Great Blue Heron—or all life on Earth? That answer lies with us.


2 “The Black hole at the Bottom of the Gulf

No One Seems to Know the Extent of the BP Disaster,”

“Supplying the US army with oil is one of BP’s biggest markets, and further exploration in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico is part of its long-term strategy.”

By David Randall and Margareta Pagano

Sunday, May 23, 2010

3 “Senate Approves Nearly $60 Billion for Wars”


May 27, 2010

4 “Our Fix-It Faith and the Oil Spill”


May 28, 2010