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The Inside Story of How Obama Let the World’s Most Dangerous Oil Company Spiral out of Control

Though George W. Bush paved the way for the catastrophe, it was Obama who gave BP the green light to drill.

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JUAN GONZALEZ: You’ve reported about BP’s accident problems in other parts of the world, as well, and its safety record. Could you talk about that?

TIM DICKINSON: Right, and first, to your point about the increasing number of accidents, the NOAA, in fact, in their review of the Obama "Bush Lite" plan to open up offshore drilling, made note of the fact that the Obama administration was using pre-Hurricane Katrina and Rita data, so that they were, you know, significantly understating the number of spills in assessing the risk and that they were also underplaying the global risk of an oil spill.

But to your point about BP, I mean, BP, it just has to be noted as a serial felon. I mean, they had a felony conviction in, I think, '99 about the essentially dumping of oil or oil byproduct in Alaska into the open environment, and then another felony conviction following the 2005 disaster, in which an oil refinery, where they had cut costs and scaled back required safety equipment, blew up and killed fifteen people and injured 170 more. And so, you know, BP was in charge of the consortium that was supposed to respond to the Exxon Valdez in 1990, and that response was hampered in the early hours because they didn't have the right equipment available. And Exxon fairly quickly realized that BP was not a good partner and shoved them aside. And then BP was also responsible for what was the second-largest leak after Exxon Valdez, just recently up in Prudhoe Bay, where there was a pipeline that was corroded because they hadn’t done required maintenance, again in a cost-cutting move. And so, BP has this incredibly criminal history of cutting corners, you know, for the sake of adding to the bottom line, and it has repeatedly risked worker safety and worker lives, and in fact, you know, ended up in people dying, again now, repeatedly, and also just massive, massive harm to the nation’s environment and our public welfare. And the fact that this serial felon is still, you know, essentially in charge of trying to cap this leak is astounding to me. I don’t understand—I just don’t understand it.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim Dickinson, you point out that this particular well in the Gulf that exploded is one of the richest in the Gulf of Mexico. Talk more about that.

TIM DICKINSON: Well, so I was talking to someone who’s privy to discussions at some of the—one of the largest oil firms in the world, and he was just sort of saying, well, how many wells in the Gulf are as productive as this spill, this output of this current well appears to be? And it’s just a handful. And so, it seems clear that BP, you know, struck it rich here, except that they totally botched it. And now we’ve got a dirty bomb that’s going off every day in the Gulf, and we don’t really have any sure-fire hope of getting it sealed up until August, September, October. No one seems to be able to answer exactly what the probability of getting these relief wells drilled and sealed off appropriately, as it seems likely that it’s going to happen eventually, but no one seems to have a very high level of confidence it’s going to happen on the first try or the second try or the fourth try. I think when they tried to do this in the East Timor Sea, it took ten tries, and that was in shallow water. So this is a problem that’s not going away anytime soon.

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