Once again, the Federal government and many news outlets have been shown as willing to suspend disbelief. That is, the same folks who at first echoed BPs numbers and proclaimed a "mere" 1,000 barrels per day leak, and then after a week or two proclaimed a 5,000 barrel (210,000 gallon) per day leak for over a month, and more recently adjusted to a 12,000 barrel per day (oh, no, that became 19,000 barrels per day) leak, have again been shown to be wildly inaccurate.
I wrote here on May 14th about reports that the true range of the oil leak size was about 50,000 to 100,000 barrels daily. Now that BP has officially announced that it has been capturing about 15,000 barrels per day at the same time as we can still see a giant gusher of escaping oil from the same leak location, seemingly unchanged despite the 15,000 barrels a day being removed, it is clear to all informed viewers that the real rate of leak must be several times that 15,000, or, once again, at least 50,000 barrels per day.
BP refused to release high-definition video versions of the leak until June 8th; such a high-definition video will allow accurate modeling and determination of the true rate of the leak by a wide range of experts using well-known tools. This hiding of information is part of a pattern of irresponsibility starting long before the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurred, when BP had the highest rate of accidents in the major oil industry companies, through allowing the explosion to occur by overriding the strong recommendations of experts Transocean, and through irresponsible behaviors in the publicly visible aftermath of the explosion. See the video for more about one attorney's interpretation of BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron criminal liability.
Granted, this attorney is in the process of leading a law suit against some or all of those companies. However, the US Justice Department has started investigating criminal charges, and BP has had a significant history with barely avoiding criminal prosecution brought on by shoddy and reckless operations; in the last ten years they avoided such prosecution due to US government collusion by the Bush Administration.
Some of the publicly visible misbehavior by BP in the aftermath of the explosion has included repeatedly understating the size of the oil leak to its own financial benefit, preventing news media and scientists from gathering important information regarding the leak and its impact, advising cleanup workers not to wear protective equipment, and apparently failing to take some of the available steps that could reduce the amount of oil reaching Gulf shorelines.
I read the various reports on the emergency response as a layman, and the small size of the response led by BP in terms of limited oil barriers and oil removal provided, through the small number of cleanup workers hired, these indicate a company that either is not fully aware of the seriousness of damage that is taking place to livelihoods and the environment, or a company that is trying to downplay the response as part of an effort to protect its image. I suspect it is a combination of those factors.
Beyond the repeated reminders during this disaster of the venality (greed) inherent in much human behavior, and further emphasized in the world of the public corporation, what is appalling is the lack of government understanding and action. One simple measure of this is the government's repeated parroting of the BP numbers for the leak size, long after amateur observers like me smelled a whole pack of rats. When you have a brain trust of environmentalists led by a Nobel-prize winner, Steven Chu, and no one in the government can speak up about the realities other than saying they are going to "kick ass", it speaks of corruption of government, conscious or unconscious. It appears to me that Obama, without fully realizing it, has been co-opted by the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, like every president before him. In another article published here today, Harvey Wasserman points out the alarming reality that this same mindset is in the process of unleashing what could become a flood of new nuclear plant construction despite a terrible record of safety failures, groundwater pollution, and inherent risks for nuclear waste disposal and for terrorist targeting of nuclear plants.
Reality keeps asserting itself. Ignoring reality requires a lot of effort and self-indulgence, including use of drugs (legal and illegal), temptation of sexual favors such as those exchanged between the fossil fuel industry and the MMS (Minerals Management Service), and other lower-functioning seductions that appeal to the human id and blind people to reality. Such ongoing blindness prevents our government, governments around the world, and our media from fully exposing the realities with which we are living, and the swords dangling over our collective heads. According to my observation, the reality ranges from aggression against other countries to aggression against the whole planet in order to extract minerals and to gain land and water, as ways of achieving national goals.
The Roman government in 140 B.C.E. got it right when they determined that the way to get what they wanted without public interference was to provide "bread and circuses".
But sometimes a nation does shake off its collective lethargy and becomes active in making its own destiny. This awakening and action has been occurring in a variety of contexts worldwide, such as the Transition Towns movement, measurable increases in local farming markets and organic food production, a slow increase in alternative, renewable energy production, and other small signs of change.
I hope enough of us wake up and remember to walk out of the circus tent so we can begin to make policies and take actions that will lead toward a better future.