Tag Archives: BP

Charlie Skelton reports from behind the ring of steel at Watford

Firstly, a few pertinent words from Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Taken from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) 1

*

At one point in the meeting, during a tense exchange about contingency plans for dog-walkers, [police Chief Inspector] Rhodes let slip that Operation Discuss (the codename for the Bilderberg security operation) had been up and running for 18 months. Residents and journalists shared an intake of breath. “Eighteen months?” The reason for all the secrecy? “Terrorism”.

After 59 years of Bilderberg guests scuttling about in the shadows, ducking lenses and dodging the news, that’s the rationale we’re given? The same rationale, presumably, is behind the Great Wall of Watford, a concrete-and-wire security fence encircling the hotel. As ugly as it is unnecessary, it looks like the kind of thing you throw yourself against in a stalag before being machine-gunned from a watchtower. Appropriately fascistic, you might say, if you regard fascism as “the merger of corporate and government power”, as Mussolini put it.

The same threat of “terrorism” was used to justify the no-pedestrian, no-stopping zones near the venue. The police laid out their logic: they had “no specific intelligence” regarding a terror threat. However, in recent incidents, such as Boston and Woolwich, there had been no intelligence prior to the attack. Therefore the lack of any threat of a terror attack fitted exactly the profile of a terror attack. The lack of a threat was a threat. Welcome to 1984.

So writes Charlie Skelton, who is again one of the only mainstream journalists reporting from this year’s Bilderberg meeting which officially opened yesterday. Skelton, who also has a career as comedy script writer, adding with typically understated irony:

The audience was an odd mix. Half were residents from around the venue worried about the possibility of tyre-damage to a strip of lawn; the other half were journalists from around the world worried about the geopolitical implications of a conference at which BAE, Stratfor and General Petraeus will be discussing “Africa’s challenges”.

Both halves were worried about the funding for the gigantic security operation. The police assured sceptical residents that the conference would be “cost-neutral” for Hertfordshire, thanks in part to a “donation” from the conference organisers. This “donation” will have come, in part at least, from the Bilderberg Association, a registered UK charity that takes “donations” from BP and Goldman Sachs.

So, in a sense, the Herts police are doing charity work for Goldman Sachs. Which must be a comfort for the executives of Goldman Sachs attending the conference: the vice-chairman, a director and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. They’ve got their charity team out patrolling, keeping the lenses at bay.2

Click here to read his full article entitled “Bilderberg 2013: welcome to 1984” published by the Guardian on Wednesday 5th.

Here is Skelton again reporting a few days earlier on his same Bilderblog, and on this occasion delving deeper into Bilderberg’s wonderful and little known works of charity whilst also pointing out how the timing of this year’s get-together happens to coincide with a long overdue scandal about political lobbying:

If you’ve been wondering who picks up the tab for this gigantic conference and security operation, the answer arrived last week, on a pdf file sent round by Anonymous. It showed that the Bilderberg conference is paid for, in the UK, by an officially registered charity: the Bilderberg Association (charity number 272706).

According to its Charity Commission accounts, the association meets the “considerable costs” of the conference when it is held in the UK, which include hospitality costs and the travel costs of some delegates. Presumably the charity is also covering the massive G4S security contract. Fortunately, the charity receives regular five-figure sums from two kindly supporters of its benevolent aims: Goldman Sachs and BP. The most recent documentary proof of this is from 2008 (pdf), since when the charity has omitted its donors’ names (pdf) from its accounts.

The charity’s goal is “public education”.3

Public education! From an organisation that hides its face in shame behind armed guards and steel cordons. Skelton adds:

If you are concerned about transparency or lobbying, Watford is the place to be next weekend. Whether the delegates reach out to the press and public remains to be seen. Don’t forget, they’ve got their hands full carrying out the good works of Bilderberg. The conference is, after all, run as a charity.

A charity which specialises in helping those most in need of a little corporate lobbying:

It’s a remarkable spectacle – one of nature’s wonders – and the most exciting thing to happen to Watford since that roundabout on the A412 got traffic lights. The area round the hotel is in lockdown: locals are having to show their passports to get to their homes. It’s exciting too for the delegates. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell will hop from his limo, delighted to be spending three solid days in policy talks with the head of HSBC, the president of Dow Chemical, his favourite European finance ministers and US intelligence chiefs. The conference is the highlight of every plutocrat’s year and has been since 1954. The only time Bilderberg skipped a year was 1976, after the group’s founding chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, was caught taking bribes from Lockheed Martin.

Here is the definition of “bribe”: Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person’s views or conduct. So surely then, every form of lobbying is a kind of bribery.

Just imagine, for example, if my college discovered that I or any of my colleagues were accepting cash payments (or other ‘gifts’) from students – they would rightly sack us on the spot. Would it make any difference if I told them that the students were only “lobbying me” about their coursework, or would it be deemed more acceptable if I had “registered their interests”? Of course it wouldn’t! So in what way is lobbying not bribery?

That said, some kinds of bribery are more prosecutable than others. So was Prince Bernhard ever criminally charged after accepting a $1.1 million bribe from Lockheed? Of course not, after all he’s Prince Bernhard. Although apparently he was forced “to step down from several public positions and was forbidden to wear his military uniforms again.”4 Rough justice.

Back to Skelton’s comparative analysis of the current goings on at the Grove hotel to the on-going parliamentary scandal:

It may seem odd, as our own lobbying scandal unfolds, amid calls for a statutory register of lobbyists, that a bunch of our senior politicians will be holed up for three days in luxurious privacy with the chairmen and CEOs of hedge funds, tech corporations and vast multinational holding companies, with zero press oversight. “It runs contrary to [George] Osborne’s public commitment in 2010 to ‘the most radical transparency agenda the country has ever seen’,” says Michael Meacher MP. Meacher describes the conference as “an anti-democratic cabal of the leaders of western market capitalism meeting in private to maintain their own power and influence outside the reach of public scrutiny”.

But, to be fair, is “public scrutiny” really necessary when our politicians are tucked safely away with so many responsible members of JP Morgan’s international advisory board? There’s always the group chief executive of BP on hand to make sure they do not get unduly lobbied. And if he is not in the room, keeping an eye out, then at least one of the chairmen of Novartis, Zurich Insurance, Fiat or Goldman Sachs International will be around.

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article.

Charlie Skelton is doing an excellent job again this year, and when, later today, I finally make it down to Watford myself, perhaps I’ll happen to run into him. If not then I’d certainly like to express my gratitude to him here before I leave.

I must also say that it is quite pleasing to see others in the media finally picking up the gauntlet and taking serious note of this most extraordinary annual general meeting for globalisation. There was even a surprisingly balanced report on Channel 4 news broadcast yesterday. You can watch it here:

http://www.channel4.com/news/the-bilderberg-group-a-meeting-of-minds-video

Finally, here is Charlie Skelton talking to Max Keiser on Tuesday’s Keiser Report:

*

This year’s official list (which is reliably unreliable) has been released and includes amongst many the following names of particular interest:

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Ed Balls – Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Tim Geithner – Former US Secretary of the Treasury

Christine Lagarde – Head of IMF

Peter Sutherland – Chairman of Goldman Sachs

Mario Monti – Former appointed Prime Minister of Italy

Ken Clarke – who is listed merely as “Member of Parliament”

Peter Mandelson – listed as Chairman of Global Council and also Lazard International

José Barroso – President, European Commission

Richard Perle – neo con, veteran warmonger and well known member of PNAC

Henry Kissinger – listed only as “Chairman of Kissinger Associates”

last, but certainly not least, I notice the recently disgraced Gen David Petraeus – why he, we might wonder?

And so to Watford… I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Mark Carney who has attended previous meetings at St Moritz (2011) and Chantilly (2012) and is about to replace Mervyn King as the next Governor of the Bank of England.

Various livestream broadcasts of the event can also be found here.

1 From Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Chapter X, Part II, p. 152.

2 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2013: welcome to 1984” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 5, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/05/bilderberg-2013-goldman-sachs-watford

3 From an article entitled “The week ahead: Bilderberg 2013 comes to… the Grove hotel, Watford” written by Charlie Skelton, published by the Guardian on June 2, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/02/week-ahead-bilderberg-2013-watford

4 At least according to wikipedia. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals#Netherlands

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Charlie Skelton, Max Keiser

why we don’t need 400 holes in Blackpool Lancashire

I read the news today, oh boy…

An energy firm which has been test drilling for controversial “shale gas” in Lancashire has said it has found vast gas resources underground.

Cuadrilla Resources began testing for gas on the Fylde Coast in March, using a technique known as “fracking”. […]

Cuadrilla hopes to drill as many as 400 wells over the next nine years and up to 800 over 16 years if gas extraction is successful.1

Click here to read the full BBC article.

I have already posted an earlier article which details the process of fracking and the long-term environmental devastation it has already caused across America and beyond.

Basically, if you were ever looking to systematically pollute vast tracts of land, then you’d struggle to beat the process of fracking. It goes like this: take huge quantities of freshwater, mix in a secret and highly toxic cocktail of chemical ingredients, and then inject it into the ground under high pressure. The results are impressive, as this recent article in The New York Times shows:

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.2

Click here to read the full article.

And here is a short documentary film made by Earth Focus and UK’s Ecological Film Unit, who looked into the effects of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale of the Appalachian Basin, North-East America:

A word of caution though, because if you feel angered or worried about any of this, then do be careful how you raise your objections. Some in America, who have expressed opposition, are now being treated as eco-terrorists:

As for Britain, exploratory drilling around Blackpool was suspended due to earthquakes, and an announcement is expected in the next thirty days as to whether permission will be granted for further fracking:

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it had to ensure any operations which went ahead were properly regulated.

“We welcome the news that Cuadrilla believe there to be good quantities of gas contained in the shale covered by their licence,” he said.

From the same BBC news report.

The DECC spokesman also told the BBC that “nothing will temper the government’s firm and unbending commitment to safety and environmental protection”. Nothing that is, except money and influence perhaps…

Cuadrilla Resources is owned by its management team and two substantial investors, AJ Lucas and Riverstone LLC. And the Managing Director of Riverstone is Lord John Browne of Madingley.

Prior to his appointment at Riverstone, Lord Browne, who was also a non-executive director of Goldman Sachs, had spent 41 years working for BP, having been appointed as Chief Executive in June 1995. Indeed, he was the immediate predecessor to the much reviled Tony Hayward, who assumed the position of CEO after Lord Browne’s forced resignation from BP in May 2007. So could Lord Browne have been culpable in any way for what was to occur just a few years later in the Gulf of Mexico?

In July 2010, just a few months after the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Tom Bower wrote this about Lord Browne:

Last Monday, amid the elegant surroundings of Dartmouth House in London’s Mayfair, Lord Browne of Madingley, the dapper former chief executive of BP, gave a lecture about ‘inspiration and vision in business’.

At ease in front of 60 hand-picked guests, the ultra-smooth tycoon shrugged off all personal responsibility for the company’s unfolding catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

He brushed aside critical questions about the poisoned legacy he bequeathed his beleaguered successor Tony Hayward.3

In his article, entitled “Return of Lord Oil Slick: Why has Cameron handed this Labour luvvie such a key job?”, Bower continues:

After his appointment as BP boss in 1998, Lord Browne swiftly transformed the firm from a dying oil corporation with just two fields – in Alaska and the North sea – into the world’s second largest behemoth.

By re-focusing on so-called ‘elephants’ (the big oil reservoirs) and ruthlessly cutting costs, his mastery of financial engineering used BP’s rising share price to launch audacious take-overs of failing oil companies, especially in America.

His success earned worldwide plaudits.

After re-branding BP as ‘Beyond Petroleum’ – the world’s most environmentally friendly oil company – he boasted during visits to Washington that BP was not only the largest producer of oil in America, but also the most successful explorer in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the most difficult places to extract oil. […]

Success depended on BP earning high profits, which could be used to set up a merger with Shell. Lord Browne went for broke by cutting costs.

His philosophy was ‘more for less’: operations would be completed at a cost that was 10 per cent cheaper than the previous time, and so on.

Taking his cue from New Labour, targets became the Holy Grail. In July 2000, he announced that production would annually grow over three years by 5.5 to 7 per cent, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico and Angola.

This optimism was hailed and BP’s share price soared. But, in fact, BP’s growth turned out to be only 2.9 per cent and BP could hit its targets only by more ruthless cost-cutting.

Hundreds of engineers were sacked. Budgets for safety and maintenance were slashed. Skilled oil men resigned in disgust.

Bower’s catalogue of criticisms and failures goes on and on. Click here to read more.

1 From an article entitled “Shale gas firm finds ‘vast’ gas resources in Lancashire” published by BBC News on September 21, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-14990573

2 From an article entitled “Regulation Lax as Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers”, written by Ian Urbina, published in The New York Times on February 26, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?pagewanted=all

3 From an article entitled “Return of Lord Oil Slick: Why has Cameron handed this Labour luvvie such a key job?”, written by Tom Bower, published in the Daily Mail on July 3, 2010. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1291663/Return-Lord-Oil-Slick-Why-Cameron-handed-Lord-Browne-key-job.html

1 Comment

Filed under Britain, fracking (shale & coal seam gas), Uncategorized, USA

BP’s secret blowout

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Following the explosion on April 20th that killed 11 workers, an estimated 200 million gallons of oil were released into the ocean, making this the biggest environmental disaster in US history; so could it have been prevented?

Investigative reporter Greg Palast says that 17 months before the Gulf of Mexico disaster, another BP deepwater oil platform in the Caspian Sea had already suffered a blowout.

In an article published on Tuesday 19th April for Truthout, Palast draws comparisons between these events:

“The earlier blowout occurred in September 2008 on BP’s Central Azeri platform in the Caspian Sea. As one memo marked “secret” puts it, “Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition.” The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers. It was eerily similar to the Gulf catastrophe as it involved BP’s controversial “quick set” drilling cement.”

Yet BP had completely failed to inform Congress or the US safety regulators about this earlier incident, leading Palast to ask why there isn’t a clear law that requires disclosure:

“If you bump into another car on the Los Angeles freeway, you have to report it. But there seems no clear requirement on corporations to report a disaster in which knowledge of it could save lives.

Five months prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP’s Chief of Exploration in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress against increased safety regulation of its deepwater drilling operation. Despite the company’s knowledge of the Caspian blowout a year earlier, the oil company’s man told the Senate Energy Committee that BP’s methods are, “both safe and protective of the environment.”

Really? BP’s quick-dry cement saves money, but other drillers find it too risky in deepwater. It was a key factor in the Caspian blowout. Would US regulators or Congress have permitted BP to continue to use this cement had they known? Would they have investigated before issuing permits to drill?”

As Palast explains, putting profits before environmental protection and human life means that “regulation” has become a dirty word in politics:

“In its 2009 report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), BP inched closer to the full truth. Though not mentioning “blowout” or “cement,” the company placed the leak “under” the platform [as opposed to “in the area of” the drilling platform, as BP had originally told reporters].

This points to a cruel irony: the SEC requires full disclosure of events that might cause harm to the performance of BP’s financial securities. But reporting on events that might harm humans? That’s not so clear.”

“’Regulation’ has become a dirty word in US politics. Corporations have convinced the public to fear little bureaucrats with thick rulebooks. But let us remember why government began to regulate these creatures. As Andrew Jackson said, ‘Corporations have neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn.’”

Leave a comment

Filed under Greg Palast, Uncategorized

BP and Shell’s “strategic interest” in Iraq invasion exposed

On 6th February 2003, Tony Blair said:

“Let me just deal with the oil thing because… the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons…”

However, given the complete absence of WMDs, the true purpose of the Iraq invasion has never been officially explained. But now, with over 1,000 documents obtained under Freedom of Information by Greg Muttitt, a part of the truth has at last been exposed.

We now know, for instance, that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002, and an article in today’s Independent also reveals that:

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”

Greg Muttitt, the author of “Fuel on the Fire”, which is due to be published next week, said:

“Before the war, the Government went to great lengths to insist it had no interest in Iraq’s oil. These documents provide the evidence that give the lie to those claims.

“We see that oil was in fact one of the Government’s most important strategic considerations, and it secretly colluded with oil companies to give them access to that huge prize.”

Click here to read the full article “Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq” by Paul Bignell, published in The Independent on Tuesday 19th April.

Click here to read reviews of “Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq” by Greg Muttitt

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, Iraq, Uncategorized

BP, the British government and MI6

BP: In Deep Water — Dispatches

Broadcast on Channel 4 at 8:00pm — 9:00pm on Monday 28th March

Executive producer Peter Grimsdale
Produced and directed by James Brabazon

Greg Palast investigates BP and its close ties to the British government and MI6.

In part 1, Palast examines how the oil industry has devastated the wetlands of Louisiana, with catastrophic consequences for New Orleans, and how plans for future oil exploration in the Arctic will soon pose a further threat to the environment.

In the final part, he turns his attention to how the oil company does its business in “the wild East”. Investigating BP’s operation inside Azerbaijan, Palast uncovers allegations of bribery and espionage.

Click here for link to 4OD

Leave a comment

Filed under Azerbaijan, Britain, did you see?, Greg Palast, Uncategorized