Big oil has signaled it intends to remain obscenely profitable

Published 2:23 pm Thursday, September 16, 2010

Big oil says it needs better and more inspections, and it’s going to make the American consumer pay for them one way or the other.

These companies are now so profitable that one of its group, BP, can set a new record for oil spills and shrug off the costs of the disaster as just a cost of doing business. The company is still making profits hand-over-fist after setting up a $20 billion account to meet at least some of the costs of the damage it caused others, after paying for the cleanup, after paying for a huge advertising campaign aimed at protecting its public image, after paying its executives huge bonuses and after so on and so on, and still remain hugely profitable.

Now it, along with other oil giants — such as Exxon, which came out of another massive spill more profitable than ever — are wringing their hands and crying about proposals to increase what the oil giants have to pay for inspections to try to ensure that we never again go through another disaster such as that which began with the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The inspections would cost less than paying for such a disaster, but the oil companies would rather gamble that such a disaster won’t occur — or individually gamble that it  will happen to someone else.

As the direct victims of the oil spill are discovering, though, no matter how much money a company such as BP throws at paying off the victims, they are never fully compensated for all their losses, despite oil company propaganda to the contrary.

The rest of us — and all of us who live here in the Gulf Coast region, especially — are victims of the disaster in one form are the other. How much we have been victimized may not be clear for years, even a decade or two or three or four, to come. Recent scientific study has found what scientists believe to be a two-to-three inch layer of oil on the seabed of the Gulf with dead shrimp and other sea creatures beneath, or in, it. What this means isn’t instantly clear, but it does show the devastation may well be greater than BP, or even the federal government or the state governments of the states bordering the Gulf, wants to acknowledge.

How much damage their mistakes may cause obviously is of little concern to the oil companies and they think they can buffalo the federal and state governments and the ordinary citizen by threatening jobs if the federal government raises fees to pay for the inspections the oil companies admit they need. What they are not saying, but what should be obvious to any observer, is that if the oil inspections are increased and made more stringent, either the oil companies will pay for them or we taxpayers will pay for them.

The oil companies know that the government can’t afford to pay for the inspections with our tax money, therefore they also know the number and quality of the inspections won’t be increased if they can bamboozle us into not making them pay for the inspections.

In other words, we’ll be back to where we were before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, living on the edge, waiting for another disaster to further victimize us, destroy our seafood, our recreation, our, or our neighbors, livelihood — perhaps damage our Gulf of Mexico beyond recovery.

Yes, it can be damaged beyond recovery, or at least recovery in any near future. Just look at the Chesapeake Bay and the continuing efforts to bring it back from the disasters of massive pig farming waste discharges and coal mining discharges into streams that eventually reach that body of water and from leaky seaside sewer systems and similar stresses. Or just look at the damage still remaining to Prince William Sound after two decades of trying to cleanup after that oil company disaster.

None of this concern makes any impact on the oil companies. They have been obscenely profitable for decades. Several countries could easily be run in the black from the profitability of just BP. Yet these companies don’t want to in anyway reduce their profits by even one cent to pay for the federal inspections they acknowledge that they actually need. No, if those inspections are going to be made, then we, the taxpayers, will be required to pay for them or the oil companies will punish us be taking away some jobs, at least temporarily.

Oil will remain so obscenely profitable for the foreseeable future that the oil companies will quietly add back those jobs after making a big noise about taking them away just to punish us for our temerity at making them pay some of their own costs.

Of course, if the inspection fees do rise, as they should and probably will, we still will pay for them in what we pay for gasoline. The oil companies have shown they have every intention of remaining obscenely profitable and we, the public, be darned.