Welcome Antonia Juhasz and Host Dr. Kirk Murphy.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

Kirk Murphy, Host:

Antonia Juhasz’ Black Tide drills into our past, our present, and all too possibly, our future. Black Tide gives us the chance to learn from Antonia’s years of expert work on the oil industry and the industry’s effects upon us all and the planet we all depend on. This book goes far beyond history and policy – the book draws on the months Antonia spent with Gulf Coast residents living with the consequences of the oil catastrophe BP and partners brought upon them and the Gulf one year and thirteen days ago. The result is a powerful, compelling work of non-fiction that reads like a novel. But unlike a novel, Black Tide brings us into the lives of real people, and Antonia brings them to us in their own words.

While we’re learning about the people suffering through this catastrophe, in Black Tide we see the Macondo oil blowout spills far beyond BP and partners. What happened there reaches over the whole industry. The toxic oil and dispersants poured out there last year still poison the Gulf and the human and non-human creatures living there, just as the oil industry still threatens our health, communities, and freedoms. Black Tide helps us place these dark truths in the larger context of the agencies and officials who were supposed to protect us from these threats, and it also helps us see how the technology that was supposed to protect us failed, and could fail us yet again.

As FDL’s readers know all too well, much of the time the Obama administration’s response to BP’s Macondo blow-out all looked more like collaboration after the fact than meaningful assistance to badly damaged lives and ecosystems. Black Tide gives us a picture of where Obama’s administration helped and where it didn’t. Black Tide also gives us a detailed account of how the net result of BP’s strenuous efforts and the White House and Congress’s response is that our Federal Government has done virtually nothing to prevent the next Macondo.

Black Tide also places the Macondo catastrophe in the context of two petrodisasters that actually did spark greater protection for Americans against the Lords of the Rigs: the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and the Exxon Valdez supertanker disaster. Like Macondo, these calamities cast long shadows: when I attended UCSB a decade later, we still had to wash beach tar off our feet; the people and ecosystems Exxon injured have not recovered to this day. Like Macondo, both were avoidable. And like Macondo, both were wellsprings of citizen activism and public organizing that persist to the day. Without the Santa Barbara spill, California’s people would not have protected their coast by popular initiative. And as awful as Macondo was and is for the people and other living creatures of the Gulf, without this dreadful loss we may not have seen the powerful citizen activism which has welled up across the Gulf over this last year.

Antonia Juhasz’s long and thorough work researching the global oil industry and sharing her knowledge with the rest of us gives her a powerful platform from which to write Black Tide. Her long years of effective activism inform that work, and empower Black Tide. Like all the effective activists I’ve seen, Antonia’s activism draws power from and returns power to the communities she works with. Little more than two weeks ago, Antonia joined five Gulf Coast community leaders at BP’s annual shareholders’ London meeting. All five of the community leaders held valid proxies entitling them to address the meeting. Just as BP (with the help of Obama’s Coast Guard) quashed public rights on our Gulf Coast, BP quashed the leaders’ participation.

And just as she has done in Black Tide, Antonia spoke the truth of the Gulf Coast residents BP, so terribly injured, and the truth of those mourning their dead for all the world to hear:

“I demanded an immediate response to BP’s denying the voice of those that had traveled from the Gulf to tell the truth about what has really been happening to their health, livelihoods and home,” Juhasz said after the meeting. “I also demanded a response to the failure of the corporation to provide for the safety of its deep water operations and read a statement that Keith Jones, whose son, Gordon Jones, was killed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, gave to me and asked me to read.”

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Antonia’s excellent work for many years, and I’ve always come away impressed, refreshed, and empowered. You’ll have the opportunity to hear her on her tour for Black Tide. I hope you’ll go. She’s an excellent speaker with an incisive mind and powerful message.

Global Exchange is very fortunate to have Antonia Juhasz as Director of their Energy Program. We’re even more fortunate that she’s taken time out from speaking Truth to Power to join us here today at FDL’s Book Salon. Please join me in giving the Lake’s warmest possible welcome to Antonia Juhasz.

110 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Antonia Juhasz, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill”

BevW May 1st, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Antonia, Welcome to the Lake.

Kirk, Thank you for Hosting this Book Salon.

dakine01 May 1st, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Good afternoon and welcome to FDL this afternoon Antonia.

Good afternoon Kirk!

I have to say, I am not all that surprised by BP refusing to allow you and the other Gulf Coast folks to speak. You would be telling them inconvenient truths.

(Note: I currently reside in the Tampa Bay area where the current governor of the state in which I reside has declined to be a party to law suits against BP – and I haven’t had any sea food at all in the last year)

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Bev, thanks for making this Salon possible.

Antonia, thank you for your work and for joining us today. Welcome!

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Great to be with you all and thanks for the lovely introduction. I’m really looking forward to the discussion.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:04 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

Hello dakine01,
Actually, while the five Gulf Coast residents were denied access to the meeting, even though they had valid proxies, because I held shares in BP (for the specific purpose, to get in to the meeting), I was permitted entrance. However, the permission was only granted on the condition that I not speak during the period of time in which shareholders address the meeting. Nonetheless, I got up and spoke, and no one stopped me.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Antonia, your interviews with Gulf Coast residents trying to reclaim their lives from BP’s catastrophe make for compelling reading. What led you take this approach in researching and writing Black Tide?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:05 pm

The YouTube footage of my presentation during the meeting is provided here:
http://www.black-tide.org/article.php?id=753
Our allies at You & I films snuck in a camera and filmed the intervention.
There was quite a lively back-and-forth between myself and the CEO and the chairman of the board (and the other shareholders, some of whom supported me, others of whom did not).

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Thanks Kirk,
My previous two books, The Bush Agenda and The Tyranny of Oil, are both primarily policy books. My background is in public policy – both my masters and undergraduate degrees and I’ve worked for two members of Congress. I also am an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. My initial approach to this book was also going to be a policy approach. but

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:08 pm

then I got down to the Gulf following the explosion and quickly realized that this was at its core a human story built on human failings, human suffering, and human activism in response. To truly understand what happened, why it happened, and what we could do about it, I had to follow real people and their real experiences in this industry, in the Gulf, and in response to this disaster.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I also encountered so many amazing people from the moment I first stepped foot in the Gulf, and people were so generous with their time, their stories, and their experiences, that I knew a great book would come from this approach – the personal story-based approach. So, I spent time in peoples’ homes, played with their children, went to their work places and their places of worship, walked on their beaches, slept in their homes, etc. etc. and brought forth what I think is a really powerful story.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 9

I imagine that over the months you were following people directly you were in sustained contact with many folks who were grieving terribly, and in a world of hurt. What was that experience like for you?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:13 pm

There were many powerful stories, but, certainly the most difficult to tell were those of the families who lost their loved ones aboard the Deepwater Horizon. I interviewed Keith Jones, whose son, Gordon, died aboard the rig. I also interviewed Sherri Revette whose husband, Dewey, also died aboard the rig.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I got the closest to Keith and have remained in close contact with him ever since.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:15 pm

It’s very hard to explain what it is like to interview those who have suffered this kind of loss. Gordon, Keith’s son, was just 28 years old when he died. his wife, Michelle, was one week away from giving birth to their second son. Their older son had just turned two years old. Keith was and remains beside-himself with grief. But, both he and Sherri exhibited an incredible strength to ensure that the stories of their loved ones were told, remembered, and told to serve a purpose – to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Sherri remains committed to the industry which employed her husband throughout his entire adult life. Keith, on the other hand, committed his entire life to ensuring that BP, Transocean, and the rest of the oil companies involved were held fully to account for what are sure to be judged as crimes.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 12

Seeing as Keith Jones trusted you to bring his message to BP, I’d imagine your and his connection is powerful. For FDL readers who haven’t yet read Black Tide, what would you like them to know about Mr. Jones (or any of the other people whose stories you tell so vividly?

I suppose what I’m asking is: did your contact with the people you met researching Black Tide change you in any way you may care to share here?

[oops - was pecking away here as you posted your observations re Keith and Sherri. slow typist on board...]

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 2:18 pm

There has been so much obfuscation and cover-up since the event. Were you able to put together a comprehensive picture that you accepted of what went wrong?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Yes, my contact changed me in many ways. But, starting with Keith Jones. I think what I’d like people to know the most is about Gordon, his son. Because, while the Gulf oil disaster is about oil, fish, the natural environment destroyed, livelihoods destroyed and even ways of life destroyed, it is also literally about death and loss of life. Gordon, Keith’s son, was, according to Keith, incredibly kind and generous. He died because the man who was supposed to take his place that night looked tired to Gordon. So, Gordon told him to go back to bed and Gordon would just stay on and take another shift. “That’s just the kind of man Gordon was,” Keith tells me. Gordon and all the other men who died also died as heroes. They could have left the heart of the rig at any time and saved themselves. But, instead, they stayed where they were to try to save their crewmates and to save the rig. The were successful in the former, but lost in the latter case.
The story of the explosion of the rig is a story of incredible heroism and loss. It’s also a story of an industry utterly run amoke, pushed beyond its own technological capacity, and beyond our ability to regulate it. As Keith said in his statement which he gave me to read at BP’s annual shareholder meeting, the oil companies were “greedy,” they were “cutting corners,” and “they threw the dice with my son’s life, and they lost.”

dakine01 May 1st, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Antonia, did any of the folks you worked with/spoke with have any insights or thoughts on Transocean giving bonuses because “it was the best safety record year for them evah!” (though they have since supposedly donated the safety portion of the bonuses to Gulf Coast charities)

Jim May 1st, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I read they’ve reopened the last of the closed Gulf fishing sites. Based on what criteria, God only knows. Scientists found oil in the water in microdroplets, we know it’s there. We know there is Corexit in the fish as well. I would not recommend eating anything that comes out of the Gulf for a long time.

Mauimom May 1st, 2011 at 2:28 pm

What sort of reception are you getting for your work?

I’d imagine that the Gulf Coast press would just ignore it. Are you able to gain a toehold anywhere?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Hi Dakine,
There was a great deal of hostility among people in the Gulf towards teh Transcoean bonuses. For those not following, Transcoean gave its executives, and its CEO, both raises and Bonuses for, as you write, “the best safety year” on record at the end of 2010. A great deal of public attention was given to this move, which then led to them giving about one quarter of the bonuses to a fund for the families of the victims. They did not give up all of the bonuses, nor did they do away with their raises. People were angry because this was a clear sign that Transocean had not learned any lessons from the Disaster. As I write in the book, Transocean is the largest owner and operator of rigs in the Gulf Coast.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Of the 126 people aboard the rig that day, the vast majority worked for Transocean.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:29 pm

As I found investigating the book, Transocean’s poor operations onboard the Deepwater Horizon are sure to be found just as responsible for the disaster as are BP’s poor management and Halliburton’s poor cement job.

marymccurnin May 1st, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Antonia,
How much responsibility for the lack of a real governmental response to the spill be given to the Obama administration?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:30 pm

In fact, since 2008, 73 percent of incidents that triggered federal investigations into safety and other problems on deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf have been on rigs operated by Transocean. This rate is out of proportion to the percentage of rigs the company operates in the Gulf: less than half.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 18

A few days before the shareholders meeting the Neiman Foundation published your Questions for BP and the oil industry, one year after the Deepwater Horizon.

Among your questions, you ask:

If the relief well is the only satisfactory final answer to a deepwater blowout, is there any reason to believe that it will not take five months again to stop the next deepwater blowout, as it is impossible to drill faster?

Though I fear the answer, I’m wondering if there is any reason to believe we won’t suffer another Deepwater Horizon level catastrophe? Can you share with folks who haven’t yet read Black Tide what you have learned about this question?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Hi Mary,
The Obama administration inherited an incredibly broken and unregulated offshore oil system. There were not enough staff at the regulatory body (the Mineral Management Service), not enough money, not enough authority, not enough training, and a far far too cozy relationship between regulators and regulatees. Including the now infamous story which I cover in the book of regulators literally having sex with, doing drugs with, and playing paintball with those they were supposed to be regulating. But

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:33 pm

the Obama administration did not enter with an agenda to correct these problems. Instead

hackworth1 May 1st, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Antonia, seeing the video of your dialogue with the BP Board, I was encouraged by the way you shamed them into letting you read the message from Gordon’s family. You were astoundingly quick on your feet – quick with the turn of a phrase – that shamed the criminals into hearing the message.

At first, rejected outright. No no no we don’t have time, he said.

You pleaded, “Don’t you want to hear from one of the families of the young men that were killed?”

Then, politically, Gollum realized how horrible he would appear to be had he refused you.

Then some people shouted read it read it!

Very well done.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Even though candidate Obama had at first been opposed to offshore drilling, over the course of the 2008 election, he came to embrace it. Such that, on March 30, 2010, just weeks before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, President Obama announced that he would be implementing a Bush administration decision to lift of much of the moratorium on offshore drilling that existed in much of the U.S.

Propagandee May 1st, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Greetz Antonia:

Anything to share on how the Gulf currents might have transported all that yuk into the Atlantic current, up the East Coast, and on to Europe beyond?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Thus when the explosion happened, he was not in a good position to be a harsh critic of the industry – nor was the MMS in a position to oversee the response. Thus, BP and the rest of the oil industry was put in charge of virtually all of the response to the disaster – both because it had the expertise, which the regulators did not, and because the Administration was happy to see BP take the heat.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:38 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 30

thank you! I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I did not know how they were going to respond, especially since I had been specifically told I could not speak. But, when I got into the meeting and at that time found out that the rest of the Gulf residents were not allowed entry, AND, when I looked down in my folder and saw Keith’s statement there, I knew I had no choice but to get up and say what I came there to say.

Phoenix Woman May 1st, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Antonia, welcome to the Lake!

Much has been made in the corporate mainstream press about how the residents of the Gulf don’t want BP to go away as in many cases the BP jobs are the only decent-paying jobs to be had. Did you detect that sort of sentiment when you did the research for your book?

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 33

How well did that work out for the Administration? IIRC Obama took terrible heat for not being in control, giving a lifeless speech, etc.
Did it seem that he ever really gained control?

marymccurnin May 1st, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 28

I grew up in New Orleans. I remember after Hurricane Betsy, President Johnson was in New Orleans right away. He flew in a helicopter with a bull horn announcing to the city that he was there to help. And he meant it. After Katrina and The BP act of terrorism I have little faith in this government (notice I did not say my government)to even pretend to do its job. We are now facing another potential disaster with the cresting of the MS River in 12 days. If the area floods again what do you think will happen? Is the government prepared for anything at all?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 21

Many of the interviews that I’ve done are posted here on my website:
http://www.black-tide.org/section.php?id=27
Not included there is probably the most “mainstream” of the press I’ve received and that was an interview on MSNBC news.
I’d say the press reception has been mixed. The alternative and independent press has been excellent and I have done numerous interviews. I’ve also done quite a bit of NPR stations as well. But, it has not been as welcoming as when I released my last book, The Tyranny of Oil, which came out when oil was at $150 a barrel and gas was over $4.00 and people were very very interested in discussing “why.” I’ve found people – including the press – less concerned about this disaster, its causes, aftermath, and consequences, as I had expected and hoped that they would be.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 35

Thanks for the welcome!
Hi Phoenix Woman,
That’s a great question. I’ve written extensively in the book about Louisiana in particular viewing itself as a “petrostate” when this simply is not the case. Angola is a petro state – some 86% of GDP is from oil, the same is true of Iraq. In Louisiana, on the other hand, just 8% of GDP comes from oil. BUT, the oil industry does maintain a critical lock on the politics in the state. Moreover, for those people who make their living from the 8%, including offshore oil workers, these jobs are, of course, critical. A very interesting thing happened as I was writing this book…

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:44 pm

when I first showed up in the Gulf in May, I could hardly even get an environmentalist to say anything against the oil industry, they were all just so worried about standing up to the industry and looking like they were anti-oil. But

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:47 pm

by the time I was done, there were even oil workers saying to me, “we’d love not to do offshore oil work anymore.” One of the things they all learned over the course of the disaster through all the investigations and press attention was that it was not just their own experiences that revealed the dangers of this industry, it was a fact across the entire industry that corners were being cut, costs being saved, and technology simply not living up to the needs of the industry. Oil workers were now convinced that — as they believed — they really weren’t safe doing this work. Thus, many people began saying freely, “please, we’d love not to do offshore anymore, BUT, we need something else to do. Give us an alternative energy industry, and we’ll do it. we’ll build the windmills and the solar panels, just give us the industry.” It was a very interesting change to observe.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:48 pm

But, they also stressed, that it was a change they could not organize for in their conservative and oil-industry-dominated states. they needed us in the “liberal” states to push for them. Those of us in California (like me), Washington, Oregon, etc.

mafr May 1st, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Give us an alternative energy industry, and we’ll do it. we’ll build the windmills and the solar panels, just give us the industry.” It was a very interesting change to observe.

this is the answer.

Thanks for your work. thanks very much.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Thanks Kirk.
This is, of course, a big question. But, sadly, the short answer is “no” – there is absolutely no reason to believe that this will not happen again. Every single investigation into this disaster has found that the problems that led to it are systemic and endemic to the entire industry. And, that our regulators cannot regulate the industry adequately. When this disaster struck, we learned a terrifying lesson: not a single oil company knew how to deal with a deepwater blowout. AND, none of them knew how do deal with the subsequent spill. Instead, they learned on the fly for three long months. And, as I wrote above, it was not until the relief well was drilled five months later than anyone felt safe that the well was really done spewing.

hackworth1 May 1st, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 41

Well. we thought Obama was going to go that way – pursue wind and solar energy – instead, he’s proved himself to be beholden to the same old fossils as Dubya. Obama fooled me once. Shame on me. Don’t get fooled again.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 41

On the surface, it looked to me as though the Santa Barbara ad Exxon Valdez megaspills did far more to provoke public policy changes than has Deepwater Horizon. The change you describe in the culture of Gulf oil workers sounds as though it could be very powerful. Do you have a sense of whether this change is persisting (and perhaps even growing?) over time?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:53 pm

In response to the disaster the Obama administration has put in place some very good new regulations, but, even the Interior Department has admitted that these do not go far enough and that the department is now able to regulate the industry. Not a single piece of legislation written in response to the disaster has become law. We have some good regulatory fixed, but not nearly enough.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to Propagandee @ 32

Hi Propagandee,
Some oil did enter into the Gulf current and did enter the Atlantic. But it was not a sizeable amount and it did not last for very long. so, we got lucky on this count, thank goodness. Thanks for the question.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Thanks Kirk,
When the 1969 Unocal oil rig suffered a massive blowout off the coast of Santa Barbara, there was an organized resistance that immediately came into action.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Activists started organizing right away and within a year their message carried all the way to the Nixon White House where the response was the passive of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the first Earth Day, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Eleven long organizing years later, in 1981, under President Ronald Reagan, the moratorium on all new offshore drilling off the Atlantic, the Pacific, and part of Alaska was finally implemented. Then, in 1990, one year after the Exxon Valdez disaster, people organized to see the Oil Pollution Act passed under the first Bush administration.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:58 pm

There was amazing organizing immediately in response to this disaster at the Macondo well. It was cresting in June, July and August, and it looked like major legislative change was going to occur.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 44

My goddess, that degree of recklessness is terrifying. Depsite this lethal outcome and the environmeental devastation, their learning curve is flat.

When docs don’t – or won’t – learn from catastrophic errors, they lose their malpractice insurance. Is there any prospect that the insurers (or reinsurers) may pull the plug on underwriting the drilling entities?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 2:59 pm

But then two things happened: 1) the well was capped! which was great. People kept organizing for legislation because, ofcourse, there was still oil everywhere and we knew that no fundamental changes had occurred. Then, #2) happened.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:01 pm

On August 16, Carol Browner, Obama’s “Climate Czar” went on every single major news station and announced “the vast majority of the oil is gone” from the Gulf – when it absolutely was not. In fact, the documents she was referring to when she made the announcement said the exact opposite: 70% of the oil remained, 30% was gone. But, the damage was done. The American public turned away and no meaningful legislation was passed. Hopefully, now, at the one year anniversary of this disaster we can rekindle that momentum and the momentum created in response to earlier disasters and push for real change.

Phoenix Woman May 1st, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 42

Thanks! This would make a good op-ed, if any mainstream paper dared run it. (If you were to expand on this — say, in a MyFDL diary titled: “Gulf Workers Want Your Help With Their Transitioning To Wind and Solar” — that would be lovely.)

Jeff Kaye May 1st, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Thanks Antonia, and thanks Kirk.

I was struck by the amount of emotional and psychological damage that the disaster incurred, as documented in the book. This is the unknown cost of destruction of the environment and way of life of a population.

It is devastating. As a clinician, I’ve seen the distress that occurs when people are forced to leave their house because of a fire or flood, even if the house itself is only damaged, and the loss limited only to so-called “personal items.”

The human cost of these kinds of disasters is exactly what needs to be reported and understood. Thanks, Antonia for doing that (and to FDL for helping publicize the book).

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 55

Given what you’ve seen among the Gulf oil workers and the folks suffering in their communities, do you see any paths by which those outside the area may help create that momentum?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to RevBev @ 17

Hi RevBev,
I absolutely was able to put together a very comprehensive picture and that is because I was able to interview numerous oil industry experts, oil workers from the Gulf, investigators into the disaster, expert scientists, family members of those who were on the rig, etc. It was not easy. As you say, there was incredible obfuscation from BP, the Obama Administration, and the rest of the industry. In fact, it was the lack of transparency from the start which made me realize early on that a mere article or two would not suffice in understanding this disaster. Rather, an entire book would be needed. Thankfully, thanks to this full-year process, I was able to uncover a very clear picture of this disaster.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 56

Thank you very much. I have, by the way, had several articles published on this topic in addition to my book, they are found here, http://www.black-tide.org/section.php?id=50
But your suggestion is a great new approach.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 56

Yes! I’d love to see that – and an accounting of what the tax dollars sluiced into subsidizing Gulf drilling would enable us to have if redirected towards renewable energy in the Gulf.

Um, Antonia…. when’s the next decade you may have any free time?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 57

Thank you, Jeff.
The emotional toll has been immense. Among those I interviewed who have suffered the most may be those who are used to disasters, but never anything like this. The members of the United Houma Nation native American tribe who live in Dulac, Louisiana. Or the residents of Bayou La Batre, Alabama – “the seafood processing center of the U.S.”

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 3:09 pm

From what you know did she have any basis for her claim? Just a PR lie? It was such a departure from what all the coverage had been.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:09 pm

These people, such as Jamie Billiot, Vinh Tran, and others who I interviewed, as used to hurricanes. In fact, I heard over and over again during my time conducting these interviews from people all across the Gulf that they had JUST rebuilt their lives following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustave or Ike. BUT then the oil hit and they had to start all over again. The difference with the oil, however, was that they had no idea when it would be gone. When the trauma would be over. When the Corexit would be gone. When they could put their lives back together.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:10 pm

What the future would hold. What the next hurricane would wash up from the bottom of the ocean. It is this ongoing list of endless unknowns which continues to wreak havoc not only on peoples’ financial lives, but also their emotional health as well.

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 59

Thanks for your answer and for all that hard, diligent work…So near to Katrina, it is hard to think of people more vulnerable to another disruption.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:13 pm

The companies that engage in major deepwater drilling are the wealthiest corporations the world has ever known: BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, etc. There is absolutely no financial comparison to their wealth. They are far less dependent upon underwriters for insurance, loans, etc. then we are accustomed to with other industries. They finance themselves and are financially independent.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:15 pm

:)

The recent debate of ending oil company subsidies has been very interesting. In fact, President Obama has tried every year since he’s been in office to cut the $40 billion in oil company tax breaks and subsidies put in place by the Bush Administration. He’s failed at every try. Most recently, however, there’s been a great deal of news coverage of the fact that the Republicans and Obama have potentially agreed to a mere $4 billion in cuts to oil industry subsidies. So, what happened to that extra “zero”?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 45

It has been very interesting to watch the Obama administration’s response to this disaster. Whereas the Bush administration was the “oiliest” administration in the history of the U.S. in terms of the number of people working in the administration who had come out of the industry or were on their way back into it, and in terms of the amount of money the administration took from the industry, the Obama administration is NOT an oil administration in that way.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:20 pm

It’s money does not come from this industry and it is not beholden to it in the same way as the Bush administration was. HOWEVER, this is the wealthiest industry the world has ever known. And, unfortunately, the Obama administration and the Congress have both proven themselves utterly incapable of truly withstanding the pressure of all of that wealth. Such that, while the administration has not failed in response to this disaster or in response to the industry, it is far far from a government “success” story.

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 70

Maybe one day you will find out what Cheney and his task force were up to.;) This has been a very informative thread…thank you. It’s such a tragedy.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:26 pm
In response to RevBev @ 71

I actually write extensively about the Cheney energy task force in The Bush Agenda, my first book. Thanks to freedom of information act requests, we do know quite a bit about what happened within the Task Force. We also know that the Bush administration implemented virtually every request of the Task Force.
I have enjoyed the thread too! For those who would like to ask questions in person, please do not miss my upcoming book tour events in Colorado and California this week and next.

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 72

Thank you for that…I did not realize we had even had a peep. Your work is very important. Thank you for being here….Take care of yourself also…these are very sad tales.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Yes, there is tremendous opportunities for activism thanks to all of the great activist groups who continue to bring attention to this critical problem. In the Gulf there is the Gulf Restoration Network and Gulf Coast Fund, which are both umbrella groups for larger organizing efforts. There are the Water Keepers Alliance which is a network of wonderful groups across the Gulf. There are organizations like mine, Global Exchange in California, the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Environment America, and more in Washington, DC.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 64

Adding Corexit to the toxic goo erupting from the Gulf floor still looks to me like an incredibly gratuitous factor in amplifying the toxicity of the immense chemical contamination Deepwater Horizon inflected upon the Gulf and the people and other creatures residing there.

One doesn’t need any formal scientific training to understand that dispersing a mess just makes it spread farther. Anyone who used too much water to mop a floor knows this.

The briefest search through the public database for biomedical literature immediately showed Corexit amplifies the effect of endocrine disruptors.

Corexit’s very real dangers and the EPA’s corruption in allowing massive contamination of the Gulf with this poison were immediately obvious to many of us here at FDL. Now I fear the people of the Gulf are living out this nightmare in their own bodies – and perhaps may do so for generations, due to direct genetic damage and potential epigentic damage from maximum dispersal of polycyclic and aromatic hydrocarbons due to Corexit.

Can you help folks here who’ve yet to read Black Tide how the EPA signed off on massive contamination of the Gulf with a dangerous chemical that made this hideous mass poisoning even more dangerous?

How did Obama’s EPA end up acting like the Borgias’ apprentice?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I was recently at Power Shift in Washington, DC and the youth who organized this great event made the BP oil disaster a central focus of the event. BUT, there is much more work that needs to be done. The nation has really moved on in its focus. The phrase that Gulf Coast residents are using is, “The Oil is Still Here and So Are We!” to get peoples’ attention once again. They feel abandoned by the government, by BP, and by much of the nation.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Yes, this was a real tragedy. Here is the short answer to an excellent question….

May 1st, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 72

Where are you going to be in Colorado next week? I’m in Denver, would love to participate.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Corexit was used in response to the Exxon Valdez disaster over twenty years ago.

marymccurnin May 1st, 2011 at 3:33 pm

How did Obama’s EPA end up acting like the Borgias’ apprentice?

There is a part of me that feels that BP wanted the gulf dead. If it cannot be saved, it can be taken for what it is worth to the oil industry.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 78

I’m at Boulder Bookstore on Tuesday, May 3 and at Tattered Cover Bookstore in LoDo Denver on Wednesday, May 4. Here’s all the details and my tour schedule:
http://www.black-tide.org/calendar.php
Please share with others!

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 79

sorry, back to this answer on Corexit.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:34 pm

After the Valdez, as I said, public pressure led to the passage of the Oil Pollution act which required, among other things, that the oil industry invest in new technology to address oil spills, given that they were only able to recover 14% of the oil spilled by the Valdez.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to RevBev @ 73

More info on the Black Tide tour here – anyone who has heard or seen Antonia’s media interviews will look forward to her direct appearances.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:36 pm

What we learned in response to this disaster is another terrible truth: the industry did not spend any significant amount of time nor money on new technologies to address oil spills. For example, BP spent more money on PR following the disaster then it had spent on oil spill research in the many years leading up to the disaster (I can’t remember the exact number off the top of my head, but its in the book).

arob May 1st, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Antonia, I look forward to reading your book.

What do you make of the changes at MMS? Merely cosmetic or substantive in some way?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Instead, when the disaster struck, they applied the same old Corexit which is toxic and is particularly toxic when combined with oil. Applying corexit is a standard response to spills, however. BUT, spills MUCH smaller than this one. A little Corexit in the water is one thing in response to a “little” spill. But this was hands down the largest unintentional oil spill in world history. So, the industry applied nearly 2 million gallons of toxic chemical dispersant into the ocean creating a massive science experiment. Scientists within the EPA protested. Eventually, the EPA did ask BP to use less dispersant, in fact, ordered it to. But, in spite of the order, BP and the Coast Guard continued to apply the dispersant. The great human and environmental impacts of this decision continue to be experienced and studied.

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Thanks…we have a great indy bookstore in Austin…maybe she will find her way.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to arob @ 86

There were good changes made at MMS, particularly breaking the agency up into three separate parts. And some good new regulations were put into place. Unfortunately the new agency does not have the money, staff, experience, skills, nor authority it needs to regulate this industry. In fact, the agency has said so itself. The changes simply do not go nearly far enough to address the systemic and endemic problems identified by every investigatory body that has studied this disaster. Thus, I believe we should not be allowing offshore drilling. If we cannot regulate it, and if the industry cannot prove that it knows how to do these operations safely, nor that it knows how to deal with failure when it occurs, and when the cost of failure is so very great, the operations should not be permitted.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to RevBev @ 88

I love Book People! Please ask them to have me and I’ll happily come to Austin!

econobuzz May 1st, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 87

But, in spite of the order, BP and the Coast Guard continued to apply the dispersant.

I believe this was a criminal act. Antonia, thanks for your book.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:44 pm

The oil industry and the Federal regulators (and elected officials) they own tell us we have to keep the Gulf drilling even though it’s poisoning us because America must have the oil. Kinda like Archer Daniels Midland and the Dept of Ag tell us we have to keep the massively subsidized corn monoculture going even though it’s poisoning us.

Yet just as much of the corn we all pay to subsidize is exported at great corporate profit, a substantial amount of the the Gulf oil we all pay to subsidize is exported at great corporate profit.

Can you help us understand how much we are all paying for the privilege of poisonous petroexports form the Gulf?

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:45 pm

In the Bay Area, by the way, I’ll be at Moe’s Books in Berkeley on May 11 and at Book Passages in Corte Madera with Peter Coyote on May 12.

Peterr May 1st, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Antonia,

Have you seen any change in how this mess in the Gulf affected the appetite for oil-drilling along the Atlantic?

(Sorry I’m getting here for this discussion so late!)

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 91

Unfortunately, it wasn’t “criminal” because there was an exception written into the order. The Coast Guard could give exemptions to the order and it did so, to the tune of several a day, every day, after the order was past. We have Congressman Edward Markey of MA to thank for going deep into his investigations of the disaster to find out that the exemptions were being made and how much Corexit continued to be sprayed from the air and below the ocean even after the EPA determined its use to be unwanted and unsafe.

RevBev May 1st, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 90

Sure….I’ll refer them to this thread….Have you contacted them?

econobuzz May 1st, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 95

Thanks for clarifying that. Too bad.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Thanks Kirk,
This is a topic which I do cover at great detail in Black Tide and in my articles on http://www.Black-Tide.org

There is a great myth that drilling in the U.S. creates “energy security” and even reduces our prices for oil and gasoline. This is not true.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:50 pm

From the oil industry’s perspective, the U.S. is “awash” in excess oil production right now. In fact, we are producing more oil at this time today then we were at this time last year, but demand has gone up only slightly for gasoline. Production in the U.S. of oil has been steadily increasing every year since 2004, yet demand has hardly risen (for gasoline). In fact, it appears that 2007 will be the peak year for gasoline consumption in the U.S.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:51 pm

As a result, oil companies in the U.S. are increasingly exporting oil and gasoline out of the United States. At the same time, even though supply is up and demand is just barely up, the price of both oil and gasoline in the United States are, of course, far far higher today than they were one year ago.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 87

I wonder how many lives and illnesses in the Gulf would have been averted if the Obama administration observed the Precautionary Principle.

It’s so easy even a child can understand it. I’m still stunned that millions of people and untold millions of creatures became walking (and swimming and flying) experimental subjects when BP and the EPA’s used the Gulf as a vast test tube for their Corexit experiment.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:52 pm

This is because the price of both oil and gasoline have far more to do with rampant speculation in oil futures markets and over concentration in the production and distribution of gasoline. Thus, (1) oil produced here does not stay here – thus it does not create “energy security.” and (2) more production does not mean lower prices.

arob May 1st, 2011 at 3:52 pm

The Center for Biological Diversity has provided an excellent summary of what has not been done here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/lingering_threats.html

What do you think of the role Ken Salazar has played in this whole mess? Given the pro-oil inclination he demonstrated as a senator, he was a terrible choice for Interior. It seems to me the Big Green groups have been much too soft on him. Only the Center protested when he was nominated.

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to Antonia Juhasz @ 95

Thanks for educating us on this! I was totally ignorant about the Coast Guard’s power in this matter. I wonder what other mass poisonings they have the power to abet.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to arob @ 103

I agree. All the Big Green Groups need to hear from All Of Us and demand that they continue to fight for real restoration of livelihoods, the environment, and the coast in the Gulf; that BP and the rest of the oil industry be held to account; that real change occurs within the Obama administration; and that we impose of moratorium on all offshore drilling. As long as we continue to be dependent on oil, which we will for sometime, we will be dependent on Big Oil. It is our responsibility, therefore, to hold Big Oil in check. We have to be the parents and tell them where they cannot operate. Where it is just too inhumane, unsafe, or unhealthy. Offshore is one of those areas.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate the opportunity.

There is ofcourse much more information in my book. I can also be followed on Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/BlackTideBook
and on Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/AntoniaJuhasz

This was great!

Thanks again to FDL, Kirk, Bev, and all of you!

BevW May 1st, 2011 at 3:59 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Antonia, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending your afternoon with us discussing your new book and the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

Kirk, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Antonia’s website and book, and Global Exchange

Kirk’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Antonia, thank you for your many years of intensive research and powerful activism. You are a force of nature – and for her.

Thank you also for Black Tide, and for making the time to join us all today. You learned us.

Happy May day and Happy Beltane to you and everyone here today.

Antonia Juhasz May 1st, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thank you, Kirk!

Kirk Murphy May 1st, 2011 at 4:01 pm
In response to BevW @ 107

Bev, I hope everyone who came to this and all of FDL’s other Book Salons knows that you are the person who makes sure this happens for us. Thank you for giving us all such an opportunity.

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