Sunday, 20 June 2010

The money behind "Drill Baby Drill" - Plus: Same toxic chemicals that poisoned Exxon Valdez clean-up workers now used in the Gulf of Mexico

"Big Oil" and the ugly truth behind oily political connections and bribes to politicians remain for us one of the most important topics - especially since Sarah Palin is never far away.

Is the word "bribe" unfair? Perhaps, as these payments are commonly referred to as "contributions". But how independent can a politician be who receives huge sums from the oil and gas industry? Is there "room for dissent"? If that's the case, then this fact is definitely very well hidden.

The current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico highlights that some politicians in the US seem to have turned into unofficial lobbyists for "Big Oil". Just ask Wikipedia:

"Petroleum supermajors are sometimes collectively referred to as Big Oil, a pejorative term used to describe the individual and collective economic power of the largest oil and gas producers, and their perceived influence on politics, particularly in the United States. Big Oil is often associated with the Energy Lobby."

The terrible consequences of this culture of "legal corruption" are now obvious.

A facebook group called "Power without Petroleum" created an incredibly powerful video, which strikes right at the heart of these "politicians", who seem to be lobbyists for Big Oil in the first case:

Please spread this video wide!

The video file can be downloaded HERE, in case you would like to upload it somewhere else as well.

This powerful clip should be seen by as many people as possible.

And don't forget to join the facebook group! :-)


In addition, history is already starting to repeat itself at the Gulf of Mexico.

From the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, many important lessons could and should have been learned, for example that

1) Dispersants which contain highly toxic components will cause much more harm then they do good,

2) Clean-up workers will need extremely good protection, otherwise terrible long-term health problems seem to be inevitable.

It's horrific to see that these lessons have apparently not been learned.

Many clean-up workers in Alaska suffered severe long-term health damage. Their stories are heartbreaking.

An excellent link with lots of information about severe illnesses suffered by Exxon Valdez clean-up workers can be found HERE.

This is one typical example of such a story - Merle Savage, who worked extensively in the Exxon Valdez clean-up operation:

All of my life I had been in great health and had endless energy. However, after returning from the oil spill cleanup I began to experience prolonged respiratory ailments similar to the "Valdez Crud" I had while on the cleanup. At first I assumed that living in the Anchorage weather gave me the reason of always having a cold, the flu or sinus infections, to the point of the Doctor prescribing allergy shots in an effort to help. There was always a cough which extended into bronchial infections. Along with the lungs, respiratory, sinus problems there was a stomach issue which eventually expanded to the entire digestion tract. I had always had a strong stomach and could eat anything without problems. But this was something new for me and I began to see the breakdown of my general health. My condition grew increasingly worse without explanation, so in 1994 I decided to leave my Real Estate business in Anchorage and relocate to a warmer climate thinking it would be healthy for me.

I arrived in Las Vegas to be closer to my family. I began attending Real Estate School, but for the most part found myself struggling to attend classes. After passing the test I left my license inactive, because I couldn't commit to a full time job. In the mean time my body became riddled with pain to the point that at times I couldn't even get into a tub for a bath. Walking, bending and simply moving my limbs was painful every day, all day. This combined with the continuing respiratory condition, became unbearable. At one point I was taken to the emergency room after my body had swollen to the point of not being able to move at all. In 1998 I had angioplasty in two arteries in my heart. I struggled with recovery for a year, and then swelling took over my body, and dominated my every movement with pain. Because of my declining immune system over the past 19 years, my health has deterorated into heart problems, with angioplasty, chronic fatigue with muscle and joint pain, digestive problems, respiratory complications, cataracts in both eyes, Rheumatoid Arthritis and the latest discovery a mass on my liver. I do not smoke or drink, and have never had Hepatitis, so the doctors are questioning the reason for the liver problem.

I was forced to retire from a family owned business in 2002 for health reasons. I could no longer get through and complete a work day, not even with reduced hours. I continued going from one medication to another without relief. I was in the hospital twice with Pneumonia. The flu was a constant yearly occurrence that would last for weeks usually leading to a bronchial infection. At times I could see no way out of my predicament.

The LA Times reported in November 2001:

There are others whom almost no one talks about, although unlike the birds, most of them are still alive. They are the people who scraped oil off the beaches, skimmed it off the top of the water, hosed it off rocks.* Workers who stood in the brown foam 18 hours a day, who came back to their sleeping barges with oil matted in their hair, ate sandwiches speckled with oil, steered boats through a brown hydrocarbon haze that looked like the smog from hell.

After that summer, some found oil traces in their lungs, in their blood cells, in the fatty tissue of their buttocks. They got treated for headaches, nausea, chemical burns and breathing problems, and went home. But some never got well.

Steve Cruikshank of Wasilla, Alaska, has headaches that go on for days. Two years ago, he was hospitalized when his lungs nearly stopped working. "The doctor said, 'I'm going to give you the strongest antibiotic known to man, and you're either going to survive or not survive. I don't know what's wrong with you.' What's wrong is, I haven't felt right since that oil spill."

Safety measures during the Exxon Valdez clean-up were neglected:

"Nobody complied with any of the health and safety rules, and everybody turned a blind eye," said Robert J. Gryder, a Coast Guard safety officer at the spill who has worked for decades in the field of hazardous materials handling and training. "They were issuing rain suits [as protective gear], and a rain suit is worthless as protective equipment except for one chemical: water."

"In 1989, we did not know what the adverse health effects would be of that exposure to Prudhoe Bay crude oil," Gryder said. "We simply didn't know, and we still don't know."

So what caused these illnesses?

The citizen website "" explains that 2-Butoxyethanol apparently played a major role 1989 in Alaska.

A factsheet (PDF) about this substance explains:

The substance irritates the eyes, the skin, and the respiratory tract
Exposure could cause central nervous system depression and liver and kidney damage.

The liquid defats the skin.
The substance may have effects on the haematopoietic system, resulting in blood disorders.

The New Jersey Department of Health also points out the following (PDF):

The following chronic (long-term) health effects can occur at
some time after exposure to 2-Butoxy Ethanol and can last
for months or years:

Cancer Hazard
􀁦 2-Butoxy Ethanol may be a CARCINOGEN in humans
since it has been shown to cause liver cancer in animals.
􀁦 Many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to
a carcinogen."

BP is currently using Corexit 9500 and 9527 in unprecedently large quantities in the Gulf of Mexico.

In case you didn't know it already, you could have probably guessed by now what one the main ingredients is - from the company factsheet for Corexit 9527 (PDF):

Corexit 9527 data sheet - edit

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that clean-up workers at the Golf Coast start to complain about very similar symptoms, as Huffington Post reported several days ago in a very detailed article.

CNN also reported shocking facts:

BP has not supplied workers with masks when they work near the oil and dispersants.
"We're been carrying out very extensive air quality since early on in this exercise, to make sure that we have working safe conditions, and thus far not found situations where there are air quality concerns that would require face masks," MacEwen said.
He added that workers who want to wear masks are "free to do so" as long as they receive instructions from their supervisors on how to use them.
According to Guidry from the shrimpers' association, BP told workers they were not allowed to wear masks.
"Some of our men asked, and they were told they'd be fired if they wore masks," he said.
Tony Hayward, the chief executive officer of BP, offered another explanation for the fishermen's illness: spoiled food.
"Food poisoning is clearly a big issue," Hayward said Sunday. "It's something we've got to be very mindful of. It's one of the big issues of keeping the Army operating. You know, the Army marches on their stomachs."

I don't know where the army marches, but it seems to be clear that their soldiers will suffer very, very badly.


To conclude:

Today I discovered an outstanding British documentary about the Exxon Valdez oil disaster which was made in 2009.

I found a copy of this documentary only in the Swedish version, however, there is hardly any Swedish commentary. In the center of this moving and incredibly well made documentary are the people in Alaska - officials of Exxon, politicians, clean-up workers, citizens etc.

The suffering of the clean-up workers and the use of dispersants are prominently featured in this documentary. One person who bravely spoke out in public against the use of dispersants in Alaska in 1989 was Riki Ott (link to her website). Merle Savage (see the excerpt of her sad story regarding the ill effects of the clean-up operation above) is also interviewed.

If only more people could see what mistakes were made 20 years ago! Now history is bound to repeat itself, but instead of "Big Oil" Exxon, it's "Big Oil" BP's turn today.


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