Saturday, 17 July 2010

Glasshouses - no stone throwing please

Remember the explosion that killed 29 miners in West Virginia earlier this year? Sure you do. Now the investigation is proceeding apace.

Remember back when it happened that many miners and family members of those miners who died were quoted saying things like Massey Energy, the owner, put profits ahead of everything, even their safety and lives, and the miners weren't surprised in the least that this sort of thing happened, and Massey denied all this and thundered that nothing came before safety?

What is now coming to the surface is a serious breach of safety precautions. Not just being a bit adventurous with procedures but deliberate by-passing of safety devices intended to prevent methane accumulations which can lead to explosions. As was the case in West Virginia. The explosion was not a one-off isolated incident.

According to records from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the mine had about 500 violations issued against it last year (many of which are being contested). Nearly 200 of the violations were deemed “significant and substantial,” and about 50 were tagged as "unwarrantable failure" to comply – among the most serious citations that can be issued.

The Mexican Gulf problems of BP have attracted lots of heat where there are allegations about their allegedly cavalier attitude to safety procedures and working procedures. At one point, the U.S. threatened to block its dividend payments and there was increasing speculation it could be taken over.

Conservative Mayor of London Mr Johnson and former trade and industry secretary Lord Tebbit both openly attacked Mr Obama's anti-BP rhetoric, accusing him of 'petulance' and trying to shift the blame.

Experts have accused him of having his 'boot on the throat' of British pensioners because the company is such a major contributor to UK pension schemes. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has also now told the Senate it will be asked to repay salaries to workers laid off because of the six-month ban on deepwater drilling imposed since the spill. In a further sign of public fury across the Atlantic, the windows of a BP petrol station in Memphis were shot out.

Mr Obama's attacks - in the past week he has said he wants to know whose 'ass to kick' at BP and said its chief executive Tony Hayward should be sacked - have only fuelled concern for the firm. He has also sparked anger in the UK by insisting on using BP's former name - British Petroleum - which was axed back in 1998.

The President and his administration do not seem to be maintaining their crusading attitude towards BP in the case of the matter in their own back yard. Maybe he is irked at knowledge that he cannot win in Afghanistan and is seeking to bolster his credentials by attacking an old ally. The seeming success in blocking off the leak in the Gulf will deprive him of an opportunity to further showboat in his meeting with the Boy Dave in the coming week. This relaxation in tensions should allow proper debate and planning on the real problem - the elephant in the Oval Office must be about doing a Vietnam in Afghanistan.

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