Could the Gulf oil disaster be Halliburton's fault?

It was Halliburton's job to cement the deepwater drilling hole where all the oil's coming out of.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

No matter how I write this, some people will claim it's political. The left-wing loons are going to think I'm siding with an evil corporation and the right-wing nut-jobs will think I'm just picking on Cheney again.

This is what it means to be an independent patriot: sometimes, you know you can't win and you're going to annoy both sets of wackos -- and yet you do your job anyway.

So be it. Here goes.

Halliburton might be to blame for the Gulf oil spill that's currently threatening the coasts, livelihoods, health, and seafood restaurants of many states along the Gulf of Mexico.

Halliburton hot seat

If you don't remember Halliburton, let's recap. Former Vice President Dick Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton before he became VP. According to the U.K.'s Guardian, he left with a severance package totaling about $36 million.

Halliburton is also the company that made more than $16 billion providing services in the Iraq war and, according to the Washington Post, charged U.S. taxpayers "$45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water."

And, finally, Halliburton is the company that, after making all that money from U.S. taxpayers, decided to move its headquarters from Houston to Dubai -- saving it, potentially, "a fortune in U.S. taxes," according to ABC's Jake Tapper.

That Halliburton.

So here's the thing. Halliburton does oil well stuff. They're particularly expert at that sort of thing, which is part of why we used the company in Iraq, and part of why they're showing up in our story, possibly inflagranti delicto.

Drill, Baby, Drill

Since we just did a short Halliburton retrospective, let's touch quickly on the Gulf oil spill. Contrary to what a lot of people apparently think, the spill was not a leak in an oil tanker, ala Exxon Valdez. Instead, an explosion occurred on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig, drilling off the coast of Louisiana.

This is not a minor spill. Deepwater was drilling in deep water, 5,000 feet down. The spill is covering about 2,500 square miles of ocean and is spewing 200,000 to a million gallons of crude into the ocean each day.

In other words, it's bad.

So where's Halliburton fit in with all this? It turns out, it was Halliburton's job to cement the deepwater drilling hole where all the oil's coming out of. There's a lot of science here, but the gist of it is that cement is a key part of the process, sealing up the hole for part of the drilling process.

If the cement were to fail, the hole would have a hole.

This is apparently what happened off the coast of Australia about a year ago. There was a major blowout in the Timor Sea and Halliburton has been accused of performing a poor cement job.

That time, they were being accused of poor performance by parties completely outside the American political system. This time, not so much. This time, Halliburton is being "investigated" by Congress-critters Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak (yep, that Bart Stupak).

Waxman and Stupak, are, of course, Democrats. As you might imagine, with Halliburton's ties to a former Republican administration, it could be interpreted that the Dems are merely trying to find a scapegoat and, to them, Halliburton would grill up oh-so-juicy.

This may or may not be Halliburton's fault. While Halliburton did complete the cementing process 20 hours prior to the blowout, the company claims the final cement plug hadn't been placed, which might mean other methods were being used for sealing and it wasn't Halliburton's work that failed.

At this point, no one knows. It may take quite a while to figure out the true cause of the disaster -- and, sadly, probably as long to clean it all up.

No matter what, in addition to being a complete and total economic and environmental disaster, the spill is going to be a sticky mess politically as well.

Some research resources used in this article can be found here.

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