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Disaster on the Horizon reviewed in Digital Journal

New book reveals BP’s risky business, alter ego, and global power
By Lynn Hermann

A new book is hitting the shelves and gives readers an inside look at misdeeds, lack of leadership skills, the government-BP merger, and the ego of greed, all combined as the perfect recipe that led to this year’s deepwater disaster.

Disaster on the Horizon, written by Bob Cavnar, takes readers behind the scenes, explaining in detail how easily an environmental calamity such as BP’s Deepwater Horizon incident could occur when all parties involved are focused on earnings forecasts, profits and oil revenues.

Human health and the environment – life as we know it – take a back row seat to the debacle. Admission, of course, comes with a high price.

The book reveals explosive details involving the disaster, including BP’s inability to assume responsibility, the Obama administration and BP’s real $20 billion deal disguised as a clean-up fund, the untold risks of the top kill procedure, and collusion between the government and BP to conceal severity of the disaster.

With first-hand experience in the oil industry, himself being the miraculous survivor of a gas well fire in 1981, Cavnar takes readers into what will be, for many, uncharted territory regarding industry standards, oversight, or lack thereof, BP’s global influence dating back to its Anglo-Persian Oil Company days, and a combination of reckless and thoughtless acts, all fueled by greed.

Disaster on the Horizon brings to light many under-publicized events leading up to, during, and after the tragedy. For instance, the fact that no company fire marshall was called in after the explosions; therefore, an early line of command was half-baked at best. Cavnar writes:

In the confusion of the night of the blowout, no one called a fire marshal in, and the vessels surrounding the rig started pouring tons of seawater on its decks with onboard water cannons. Daun Winslow, a Transocean executive who had been visiting the rig when the blowout occurred, was concerned about the Horizon’s stability and gave early instructions by radio to the firefighting vessels to put water only on the columns that supported the rig to keep them as cool as possible, and to avoid flooding the decks.

Cavnar then reveals one of the many bombshells in the book:

However, because there was no one on the scene who was really in charge, including the Coast Guard, that request was ignored. The private boats poured tons of water directly onto the decks, flooding the vessel and upsetting its stability. Over the next 36 hours, the rig listed farther and farther as the boats continued to flood it.

The rig sank on the afternoon of April 22, taking the riser connecting the rig to the well with it. Most of us have seen, at least in part, the ensuing result.

Writing about the recently lifted moratorium on off-shore drilling, Cavnar sheds some light on the oil industry’s self-professed unfair treatment the moratorium created for them and the results it would create:

For messaging, industry lobbyists and CEOs pulled out the usual weapon of choice: employment. Drilling contractors threatened to pull their floating rigs out of the Gulf, firing thousands. Service companies threatened the same. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, even held a political rally (the unofficial kickoff, it seemed, for his 2012 presidential campaign) using worried oil field workers as props.

The real problem, however, really wasn’t about worried oil field workers joining the ranks of record-setting unemployed, numbers the likes of which this nation has never seen. Instead, Cavnar points out the hypocrisy of the oil industry’s double-speak over employment:

The problem of employment during the moratorium is certainly real; however, it is made worse by the very companies that are complaining about it. For example, drilling companies almost always flag their rigs in foreign countries, such as the Marshall Islands or Panama. The Marshall Islands lists 2,200 vessels under its registry; of those, 117 are MODUs (mobile offshore drilling units).

Cavnar easily connects the dots for the reader as he continues:

The reasons? There are many — including safety inspection requirements; the ability to contract for a facility inspector of choice; lax wage, employment, and staffing requirements; and avoidance of US taxes. If these rigs were flagged in the United States, these requirements would be more stringent — but most important, they would be required to have a crew made up of at least 75 percent Americans.

Then, final food for thought on the oil industry’s concern over unemployed Americans:

If the rig moved to foreign waters, the jobs would go with it. As it is now, the drilling company can fire the American crew, hire cheaper labor where they go, and then complain publicly about how the US government caused lost jobs.

Even as an industry insider – and to his credit – Cavnar presents to the reader a relatively level playing field in terms of failed politics and oil industry motives. The resulting hypocrisy may be uncomfortable for some readers. Disaster on the Horizon is one of the first books to come on scene about America’s greatest environmental disaster in its history. Cavnar explains to us with alarming clarity the fact that, unless we as a society change our ways – including lifestyles, critical oversight of the petroleum industry, and the political election process – history is doomed to repeat itself.

Read the original review at Digital Journal.

Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, is available now.


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