Saturday, August 12, 2006

Oil & Politics

The Color of Money

BP America tries to promote itself as a “green” shale-hugging company; that is if its public relations department, which is sounding more like a crisis center, is to be believed. Well, from where I sit, the warm and fuzzy oil conglomerate looks more “black and blue”. The only “green” they seem to be interested is the color of money. As most everyone knows by now, BP was forced to shut down production in North America’s largest oil field due to corroded and leaking lines along a 16 mile stretch after 270,000 gallons of crude oil poured into the Prudhoe Bay tundra. This reduced America’s total oil supply by 8%, or to put it another way, it will cut by 400,000 barrels of crude for each day of shut down. On August 8th, BP America’s President, Bob Malone, apologized for the shutdown. Mr. Malone said, “We have now taken the decision to replace the main oil transit lines at Prudhoe Bay. This will be accomplished as part of our overall plan for ensuring the integrity of the field” and added that he expected the 16 miles of pipeline to be replaced and back up to full capacity by January 2007, but neglected to mention a cost to Alaska alone is $6.4 million dollars per day in tax revenue and royalties, not to mention higher pump and heating oil prices this winter.

For those who didn’t see Mr. Malone’s “aw-shucks” routine on MSNBS, the company president looked like he just stopped by after posing for LL Bean’s latest outdoor catalog to answer a few quick questions from the media. His attitude, and indeed, his comments seemed less concerned about the leakage as for the fact they were going to have to divert profits to maintenance, and what profits indeed. Over the last 5 years, BP America has made a net profit of $63 billion dollars. $51 billion dollars of that went to shareholders; while a paltry $1.5 billion went into general maintenance for all of North America. In fact, just before the announcement of the shutdown, BP America posted yet another record setting quarter of $6.1 billion in profits over the last 90 days. Not surprisingly, there were no comments (or questions for that matter) about the company’s decision to remove corrosion cleaning devises known as “smart pigs” some 15 years ago, along with a reduction of the inspection crews as costs saving measures, or why didn’t management failed to act on numerous reports and internal memos from line maintenance personnel, many of whom are members of the United Steelworkers union, warning about the deteriorating conditions of the pipelines. The BP subsidiary, Exploration Alaska, which operates the pipeline, has been fined over recent years $1.2 million for environmental damage. Was no one at corporate paying attention, or where they too busy counting their money?

All this falls on the recent woes of BP America, which has included an oil refinery explosion in 2005 in Texas, resulting in the deaths of 15 workers and injury to 150 others (a year earlier, two workers burned to death at the same plant), the breakup of an oil tanker off the Alaskan coast, and series of other high profile disasters. Ever the shut-the-barn-doors-after-the-horses-are-out Congress is finally calling for tighter restrictions and more oversight of the oil industry. No doubt with two oil men occupying the White House and the power of the oil lobby, the America taxpayer will somehow have to bear the brunt of BP’s greed. There’s no question in my mind that we’ll be certainly paying for it at the pump. I just won’t be spending mine at BP.

All Dressed Up

The Fancy Farm Picinic was, well, not so fancy this time around. The annual political “dog and pony” show, and occasional old fashion “slug-fest” held every year in Fancy Farm Kentucky was, in a word, boring. None of the big players bothered to show. Governor Fletcher decided to attend a near by, and much friendlier, GOP fundraiser. Absent too was Attorney General Greg Stumbo, US Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, as well as Congresswoman Anne Northup among other notables. One note of interest was the announcement of Republican Secretary of State, Trey Grayson’s intent to strongly explore a run for Governor in 2007. Of course, he’ll need to get past ole Ernie, but doesn’t seem to be much of problem. In fact, Fletcher’s ole sponsor and friend, “Kingmaker” Senator McConnell recently attended a Grayson fundraiser. Senate President David Williams has also given his blessing to Grayson. The Frankfort rats long ago began jumping ship and have been swimming for their political lives from the sinking Fletcher Administration. Well, mates, welcome aboard the USS Trey Grayson; the line is in the water, so scurry on up.

I would like to add a couple personal comments about Trey Grayson if I may. I’ve had the opportunity to meet Trey on several occasions. In fact, he was the only state or party official to have the class to attend a fundraiser of mine several years ago. Trey is friendly, well-spoken, intelligent, and well liked by Democrats and moderate Republicans alike. He has an excellent professional background, and his performance as SOS has been terrific thus far. I see only two possible chinks in his armor however. The first is his age. Trey is only around 34 years old. Some folks equate age with knowledge or wisdom. I think once they’ve had an opportunity to meet Trey, this will resolve itself. The other is Trey’s relative lack of political experience. He’s done a lot to be sure, but he’s still learning how the game (and indeed, politics is nothing if not a game). He needs some “deep water” exposure. In time, I think Trey will be able to swim with the best of the sharks.

The Men who would be King

Regarding the ongoing campaign for Mayor, Republican candidate Kelly Downard, announced his plans for Metro Louisville if elected. Missing were any major improvements for Louisville’s South End or the creation of a cabinet level position to oversee Louisville’s growing (and aging) veteran population. I had suggested to Downard that he give serious consideration to creating a coordinating position on behalf of veterans earlier this year. In fact, when current Mayor, “King” Jerry Abramson was running for Metro Mayor in 2000, Abramson and I discussed this issue, and despite repeated promises, veterans remain ignored by Metro Louisville.

And a Court Jester too

The Courier Journal ran an article a comic running for Metro Mayor. Yeah, I know this could apply to just about any of them, but this guy is an actual stand-up “yuk-yuk” comedian. He’s running as an independent, and frankly, I don’t even recall his name. What I do remember, however, was this was basically a “running” joke (except he had to pay a filing fee). Well, so be it I suppose. What I’d really like to know is why the Courier Journal isn’t spending its time covering serious candidates. If its independents that the C/J staff is interested in these days, what’s wrong with Ed Springston? Mr.Springston is an independent, and this Labor activist is quite serious in his efforts to become mayor. So, come on Courier Journal, how about a fair shake here? You have nothing to lose except your credibility…oh, wait a minute….

And a thank you

Finally, I like to thank and welcome Campaign and Elections. I received an email from this well respected “Bible of American Politics” about a week ago letting me know they were adding my blog to their site list. All I can say is “wow”. “Another Opinion” will be listed under the Liberal category as a progressive Kentucky political blog site. Look for their link on my blog.

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