Where’s the Outrage?

Since I’m revisiting the BP spill disaster, you might assume from my title I’m talking about the President. I’m not. Rather, I’m talking about evangelicals in general and global warming skeptics in particular.

I’ve been debating global warming here for years because I believe that evangelicals have been manipulated by the energy companies and their political and ideological allies. The energy companies want two things. The first is less regulation and the second is to limit their exposure to legal liability. In the case of the latter, this has been done since the 70s when current global warming skeptics such as Richard Lindzen were hired to claim that cigarettes did not cause cancer. As a Brown and Williamson memo put it:

Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.

Energy companies such as BP latched onto this strategy. They also sought to promote offshore drilling in the last presidential campaign and gained the support of conservative evangelicals. I received a flier from the political arm of Focus on the Family concerning the Senate race in Colorado. In it they listed offshore oil drilling as a family-related issue!

Just before this blog was formed I was asked why I was not commenting on the so-called ClimateGate. My response then was since this was the result of a crime that it was inappropriate to make comments on it. Since then, official investigations have largely exonerated the participants and some are ongoing. What I find ironic is the accusations made then and how they apply to the current situation:

  1. The scientists manipulated research to make things fit their preconceived notions.
  2. The scientists blocked independent researchers from accessing their data.

First of all, BP and other oil companies created an illusion that oil was simply not running out in the U.S. and thus more oil production in environmentally sensitive areas would give us more “energy independence”.

Look at this ASA e-mail post from August 2004, entitled Funny Numbers and note from where the “funny numbers” came:

Looking at the 2004 BP Statistical Review of energy shows up lots of funny
numbers. Here are a couple I found interesting
With respect to tables listing “Proven Reserves” of Oil:

  1. of 53 geographical regions covered in the review, the proven reserves of 39
    of them were exactly unchanged from the previous year. For example the US is
    reported to have 30.7 billion barrels (Bbbl) of proven reserves at the end of
    2002 and again at the end of 2003, this despite the fact that domestic
    production amounted to 2.7 Bbbl during 2003. Similarly 10 out of 11 of the
    Middle Eastern country’s reserves are unchanged from the previous year despite
    production of some 8.25 Bbbl of oil in 2003 from these nations.
  2. eight producing regions listed small declines in oil reserves; 6 listed
    small increases in reserves; overall, according to the BP report, world proven
    reserves of oil grew from 1146.3 Bbbl in 2002 to 1147.7 Bbbl in 2003; this
    despite world production of more than 28 Bbbl of oil in 2003. Remarkably, most
    nations, including the US, must be discovering new reserves at exactly the same
    rate that we are producing oil.

And note this post by ASA member and oil industry expert Glenn Morton from February 2005:

“The Gulf of Mexico shelf has a serious problem–declining production that is not being arrested. Production from shelf wells has dropped from above 333 MMbbl and 4.8 tcf in 2000 to a projected 186 MMbbl and 2.5 tcf in 2004. The 244 MMbbl of produced oil in 2003 is down 27% from 2000. Oil production for 2004 is expected to drop 44% from 2000. Gas production in 2003 at 3.3 tcf is down 1.5 tcf, 31% off the 4.8 tcf produced in 2000.” James Dodson, Ted Dodson, Victor Schmidt, “GoM deep Shelf Incentive Fails to Overcome Decline,” Offshore, Jan 2005, p. 35

And the situation has not gotten any better since then. The EIA has noted that OCS production will only decrease gasoline prices by pennies a gallon in the 2020s. The oil industry has misrepresented the amount of so-called energy independence these risky wells will produce.

Second of all, that’s not the worst of it. BP low-balled the spill rate from the beginning. Why? Because it reduces their exposure in court. The same M.O. that was used in global warming denial was done by one of their executives on Anderson Cooper called the larger — read more and more accurate with every passing day — estimates “alarmist”. They also said estimates of the flow could not be done like what was claimed with respect to the computer models for global warming.

Furthermore, independent scientists have been blocked from measuring the flow or have access to injured wildlife. Employees and contractors of BP have been required to sign onerous non-disclosure agreements. Media cameras have been blocked from sensitive areas.

But so what? Because of the low estimates there is now insufficient production capacity to remove the oil from the cap BP installed. This is why it’s important to have the best estimates. Even if the blowout could not have been avoided and this is the best mitigation that could be done, the bad estimates are causing oil to go into the Gulf that could have been avoided with sufficient production resources in place. The same holds true for the low-ball estimates of the global warming skeptics. The same people are telling us that anthropogenic global warming is under control and we can fix whatever problems are caused by it. Fool me once…

BP is doing the exact same thing that got all the people incensed about ClimateGate. Where’s the outrage? So far I’ve heard crickets.

12 comments to Where’s the Outrage?

  • Richard Blinne

    Dave, there appears to be a huge difference in compliance between BP and other companies. Still, some time will be needed to determine to what extent the problem was the result of factors that were or were not unique to BP. That’s why the moratorium is important. We need to learn from this and not let our haste to find blame blind us to generic problems that are not the result of misbehavior.  For example, it seems that your country has a very wise policy: require relief wells to be done simultaneously with the exploratory ones. Once the blowout happens it appears the only effective means of stopping it is the relief well. (At least I hope the relief well works and that the answer is not to wait several years for the reserve to deplete.)

  • […] By Terry Gray, on October 4th, 2010 A few months ago Rich Blinne posted on the Voices blog a discussion of the BP Gulf oil spill entitled “Where’s the outrage?”–no doubt a warranted critique of evangelical Christians’ response to the human caused […]

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