Business & Technology

Sinking chips

Agribiz giant ADM gets taste of Hugo Chavez’s wrath

Longtime Grist readers might recall reading here about a Mexico-based transnational company called Gruma. I’ve written two articles (in 2006 and 2007) about how, after Mexico’s privatization bonanza in the early ’90s, this well-connected company managed to industrialize one of the world’s greatest foodstuffs, the tortilla, strip it of its flavor and much of its nutrition, and gain a near-monopoly over its production in Mexico. The company’s canny owner, Roberto González Barrera, did so by using top-level political connections to manipulate policies designed to protect Mexican farmers and consumers. By the time he was done, those protections were gone — …

Notable Quotable

BP chief says catastrophic oil spill really not all that big

“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” – Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, attempts to put the now-underestimated Deepwater Horizon oil spill into perspective with that big, blue ocean thing

Out of oversight

The federal MMS: a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry

The Deepwater Horizons rig goes boom, killing 11 people and starting a massive and ongoing oil leak. If the Minerals Management Service had been a functional, independent oversight agency, this disaster would likely have never happened.  (Photo: U.S. Navy) Has the government surrendered its ability to rein in corporate excess? Yes, says the New York Times: The federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency …

American PRIDE – alternative to the Lieberman-Kerry Disaster

The leading U.S. bill in tackling the climate crisis is so flawed and weak and full of concessions to major polluters that even centrist environmental groups like Greenpeace have noticed that it is worse than nothing. It fails to take advantage of the many opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ways that strengthen our economy. The people most to blame for this are not our Congress critters and Senators. The kind of changes we need originate with grassroots pressure, not with politicians. We need an organized movement centered on grassroots demands for solutions. While networks like 350.org have accomplished …

two views, both oily

From above and below, Gulf oil leak looks bad on video

The Waterkeeper Alliance provides aerial footage of the Gulf oil leak, shot last week. And BP, after initially refusing, releases underwater footage of the leak. From above: From below: One more from last week: Writes Jed Lewison at DailyKos, “BP is trying to position itself as a responsible corporate citizen, but its [temporary] decision to keep this video secret from public scrutiny in the midst of what is likely to become the single largest oil spill in American history underscores the fact that first and foremost, BP wants to protect its own interest, everyone else be damned.”    

Fantasy games

Disaster contingency plans are ‘fantasy documents’ when it comes to big oil spills

Lee Clarke.Am I the only one mystified — and, OK, horrified — by British Petroleum’s apparent failure to have a contingency plan in place for just the kind of worst-case scenario that happened in the Gulf on April 20? Thankfully not. “Fantasy documents” is how author and sociologist Lee Clarke describes most corporate contingency plans in his book Mission Impossible: Using Fantasy Documents to Tame Disaster. Clarke is a professor at Rutgers University who studies (how perfect?) disasters and organizational failure. He is also the author of six books on breezy topics such as risk, catastrophes, terrorism, and worst-case scenarios. …

Dodge a trois

A three-way blame game at oil-spill hearing

Here’s your 30-second wrap of the first congressional hearing on the BP Gulf oil disaster: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hauled in executives from BP America, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig; Transocean, which owned the rig; and America’s favorite, Halliburton, which laid cement for the rig. Executives from the three companies — shockingly — blamed each other for the ongoing disaster. BP America’s Lamar McKay focused on Transocean’s failed blowout preventer. Transocean’s Steven Newman talked about the failed Halliburton cement. Halliburton’s Tim Probert said a drilling contractor misused a cement plug (it’s unclear if he was blaming …

Criticizing Cap-and-Dividend by inventing something worse

Sean Casten’s  criticism of Cap-and-dividend[1] seems to indicate that he had a really bad day. Implying that former  former CEO Peter Barnes, and former software corporate executive Senator Maria Cantwell are Marxists is simply not a propitious way to begin a critique or proposal.  The substance does not seem any better. One of his criticisms of the Cantwell-Collins bill: “The closer an incentive/penalty to the behavior, the more efficient the incentive/penalty. In the Cantwell-Collins bill, CO2 is not taxed at the point of CO2 release, but rather at the point of fossil fuel extraction/import. The theory says that these prices …

An inconvenient ad

Poorly timed Sodexo ad boasts ‘safer’ oil rigs [UPDATE]

UPDATE: Only a few hours after I posted this, Sodexo took down the video. Sorry if you weren’t able to have the same WTF?! moment I had, but Sodexo made the right decision. UPDATE: We tracked down a file of the original video for your viewing pleasure. Call it bad timing, tone deaf PR, or just plain dumb, but Sodexo, a “leading integrated facilities management services company” — better known to me as the corporation that provided all my crappy college food — released a new ad Tuesday promoting “safer” oil rigs. Watch the video below (especially nine seconds in): …