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Disaster capitalists: Halliburton to make money off oil spill

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Does a company that both builds oil rigs and cleans up oil spills have any motivation to prevent oil rig disasters?

That’s the question some people in business and politics are asking themselves after Halliburton’s purchase of an oil clean-up company 10 days before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and launched the worst oil spill in US history.

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Some observers see a conspiracy in the actions of the company once headed by Dick Cheney. Halliburton, which built the cement casing for the Deepwater Horizon’s drill, announced its purchase of Houston-based oilfield services company Boots and Coots for $240 million on April 9, just 11 days before the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

According to a report at the Christian Science Monitor Friday, Boots and Coots is now under contract with BP to help with the oil spill. The company “focuses on oil spill prevention and blowout response,” CSM reports. Halliburton’s purchase is not yet a done deal — it’s still awaiting regulatory approval, though few observers think the purchase won’t pass muster.

“[Mergers and acquisitions] in the industrial and oil services sectors is totally normal,” writes David Anderson at The Inspired Economist, “but the timing in this case, is not. Boots & Coots sure seems like the perfect company to own if it would soon become necessary to get more involved with some oil disaster.

“Does this strike readers as a coincidence? If so, it’s a pretty lucky one for Halliburton.”

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But could Halliburton have known that an oil disaster was on the horizon, and planned in advance to profit from it? News reports indicate they could have.

The New York Times reported in May that BP was concerned about the rig’s well casing — which Halliburton worked on — as early as June of 2009. The Times also reported that a Halliburton employee warned BP three weeks before the explosion that BP’s use of cement for the well casing was “against [Halliburton’s] best practices.”

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But even if the company’s purchase of Boots and Coots was just a “lucky coincidence,” there is still plenty about it to alarm observers. According to CSM, analysts are worried that a company like Halliburton will grow “complacent” in preventing disasters, because there is money to be made from cleaning up the mess — and then rebuilding the oil rig.

“Working on both sides of the fence” is common in the oil industry, University of Louisiana professor Robert Gramling told CSM, but “it makes for a very complex decision-making environment that can become problematic.”

At the very least, Halliburton’s purchase should give the company a revenue boost. While Halliburton has been reporting plummeting revenue in recent quarters, Boots and Coots has been a business success story, with its revenue jumping from $11 million in 2000 to $209 million in 2008, before dropping slightly in 2009.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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2020 Election

Democrats could flip the Texas state house in 2020 — and reshape the national map

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Blue Texas? Democrats have long dreamt of winning Texas’s 38 electoral votes in the presidential election. That may still be a long shot, but a recent “Texodus” from Congress has given new talk to a political transformation across the Lone Star State that could have massive ramifications down the ballot and for decades to come.

This article was originally posted at Salon.

Four of the state’s GOP members of Congress have announced their retirements in recent weeks, an unusual torrent of departures signaling that a storm is coming. And evidence shows that it’s not just hitting Texas’s federal delegation. It’s coming to Austin, too.

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‘There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there’: Joe Biden at Cape Cod fundraiser

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Former Vice President Joe Biden defended Republican lawmakers in DC as "decent people" during a campaign fundraiser held at Cape Cod.

"There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there," Biden argued, according to Washington Post reporter Matt Viser.

"I get in trouble for saying that with Democrats, but...every time we ever got in trouble with our administration, remember who got sent up to Capitol Hill to fix it? Me," he said.

”Because they know I respect the other team. I do. They’re decent people," Biden claimed. "They ran because they care about things, but they’re intimidated right now.”

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Neo-Nazi ‘Atomwaffen Division’ holding live-fire militia trainings at ‘The Base’ near Spokane: report

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One sign of the growing white nationalist crisis in America is a new outreach effort for paramilitary training.

"A neo-Nazi group focused on providing paramilitary-style training to far-right extremists has been conducting a massive recruitment drive and claims to have already conducted live-fire training with its members," Vice News reports.

"The Base, which is connected to extreme-right groups the Atomwaffen Division and the Feuerkrieg Division, has been promoting its growth on social media with photos announcing its presence in major cities across North America, including New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and in Europe, South Africa, and Australia," Vice reported. "The images often include a small contingent (typically one to three) of masked, camo-clad men holding weapons standing in front of The Base's flag, a black flag with three white lines running down the centre."

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