by Kevin Kelley
“Phoom!” Former Texas oilman and part-time Vermonter Bob Cavnar begins his new book on the BP oil disaster with that approximation of the “impossible-to-describe sound” of an East Texas gas well exploding in his face.
The blast blew off Cavnar’s clothing and catapulted him headfirst into a ditch flooded with chemicals. That was the lucky part. Although his face was burned in the flash fire, “landing in the ditch had saved me from critical injury,” Cavnar writes in Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, published by Vermont’s Chelsea Green.
That too-close encounter with death in 1981 “changed me forever,” he relates. For all its flaming theatrics, however, the accident wasn’t a full-on epiphany. Cavnar, then 28, had already seen several men injured or killed in the three years he’d been working on the frontlines of the oil and gas industry. He’d learned that unsafe practices and irresponsible decision making were routine. Those experiences, along with his subsequent stints as an energy-company entrepreneur and executive, have given Cavnar deep insights into not only the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but also the federal policies and industry behavior that made it inevitable. In this book, he combines common sense with a sense of decency to produce a progressive analysis from an insider’s perspective. On April 20, the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform killed 11 workers and triggered the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. President Barack Obama, who had just proposed opening vast stretches of coastline for oil drilling, said nothing about the unfolding disaster in his Earth Day speech two days later. Cavnar points out these sad ironies in his book and in a telephone interview from Colorado, where he’s now running a natural-gas production company. Read the full article at Seven Days. Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon is available now.