Did BP Assassinate This Man?
Are BP and the Obama administration involved in a massive cover up that resulted in the assassination of Bush energy advisor Matthew Simmons?
On August 8th, 2010, sometime in the late evening, investment banker, oil industry insider and energy advisor to President George W. Bush, Matthew Simmons, put on a pair of swimming trunks, climbed into his hot tub at his Maine home and attempted to relax after a long day’s work. By 10:00pm Simmons had been found dead, floating in the hot tub of an apparent drowning.
The medical examiner later determined that Simmons had suffered a heart attack. What remains unclear is if Simmons suffered a heart attack that led to the drowning, or if he suffered a heart attack while drowning.
The former scenario would seem to be the most probable explanation, especially considering that Simmons was a 67-year-old man, to which these things happen. But, if he suffered a heart attack while drowning, it begs the question: How does a grown man drown in a hot tub? Let your imagination consider the possibilities.
Within hours of Simmons death, theories of what really caused his death began to emerge—conspiracy theories. Some in the blogosphere have suggested Simmons, a proponent of peak oil and a man critical of British Petroleum’s response to the BP Oil spill, had been targeted by the corporation. Others suggested it had been the CIA—that Simmons had been put on a Kill List that the Obama administration keeps, allowing them to assassinate threats to national security. And then there were the fringe individuals who believe Simmon’s death was a conspiracy involving the federal government and BP.
Many have claimed a CIA-developed weapon was used on Simmons that stopped his heart remotely. Video of an early design of this gun can be found in a governmental oversight video, which is proof enough for the conspiracy theorists, considering the video is from 1975 and the CIA has had 35 years to improve its methods.
The mind can go to fantastic places. As Thomas Pynchon taught us with The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow, the brain can produce intricate systems of interlocking theories that seem to explain the function of power in civilizations, both corporate and governmental. In the absence of a satisfying truth for any given event, a unifying truth assembled from elements of fact and fiction, is superimposed upon the official history. It is here, in the mind, where the static event (JFK’s assassination, for instance) acquires its conspiratorial tentacles.
And, attractive as it may be, it is the province of conjecture. For such theories to enter into the world of fact, a revelation from several insiders with bona fides would be required, or an investigation into the matter by government. The former will not satisfy the skeptic, and will get the whistleblower branded a lunatic (or ironically, a conspiracy theorist), while the latter will raise suspicions in the conspiracy theorists themselves.
Matt Simmons: Conspiracy Theorist?
Matt Simmons was no stranger to a conspiracy theorist’s architecture of the mind. Many of his comments following the Deepwater Horizon explosion were riddled with conspiratorial inferences and unverifiable claims. In an interview with KPFK, an NPR station in Los Angeles, Simmons called the BP Oil spill “the biggest cover-up we have ever seen.” If Simmons were a bedroom conspiracy theorist, the comment might be easy enough to discount. However, Simmons was an energy insider and he’d been an advisor to W. So, this changes the very dynamic of the question. It might be helpful to think of Simmons as a Jeffrey Wygand that wasn’t so lucky. [Wygand was a cigarette industry insider who turned whistleblower, a story later made into a film by Michael Mann with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.]
Simmons was a complex man. He was born in Kaysville, Utah on April 7, 1943 to a family of Mormon heritage. Apparently, he remained a Mormon all his life. His father, Roy W. Simmons, was a chairman of the Utah-based Zions Bancorporation. Say what you will of the Latter Day Saints as a religion, but they do put their morality and heavenly salvation at a premium. Could Simmons have had a moment of moral clarity when he came into possession of information related to the BP Oil Spill? Did he feel that it was imperative as a righteous man to speak truth to power?
Yet, Simmons was the very same man who founded and was a chairman for thirty-five years of Simmons & Company International, an investment bank catering to the oil business, formed in the wake of the 1973 Oil Crisis. For those thirty-five years Simmons was part of an apparatus that financed America’s dependency on oil.
Abruptly, in 2009, Simmons retired from Simmons & Company and devoted himself to the Ocean Energy Institute, which he founded in 2007—a think-tank and venture-capital fund that researches the viability of wind and tidal energy, for instance. Is it possible that Simmons’ controversial statements of BP’s Oil spill response were a bit of corporate maneuvering to turn public opinion further away from oil and toward his own alternative energy sources? As Cicero, quoting Lucius Cassius, once said in his defense of Roscius of Ameria, “Cui bono?” which translates “To whose benefit?”
Simmons stood to benefit from BP’s bungle, in particular, and the collateral damage of the oil industry, in general. Even so, Simmons still had personal investments in the oil industry at the time, telling Fortune in the month following the spill that he shorted the BP stock; a point that he reiterated in a Bloomberg television interview on July 21, 2010. In the very same Bloomberg interview, Simmons claimed he had never shorted a stock in his life, and that he did so only because he was convinced BP would go out of business due to projected Gulf clean-up costs that would amount to around $1 trillion.
Now, this is just Simmons’ business activity in recent months. He was also an outspoken proponent of sealing the leak by dropping a small nuclear bomb down the well, the intense heat of which would melt the surrounding oceanic rock into essentially a glass cork. This isn’t some unheard-of Strangelovian mad science. The Soviets used the technique a number of times in natural gas leaks, and Obama had Energy Secretary Steven Chu chair a group that included nuclear scientists to assess the feasibility of the Soviet technique, amongst other considerations. Yet, Simmons was lambasted for being a Doctor Doom of sorts, even as this nation’s President and a Nobel Laureate, in Steven Chu, openly considered the idea.
When BP reported initial estimates of the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf as 5,000 barrels per day, Simmons—working on scientific data from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—estimated that a more accurate figure would be 120,000 barrels per day.
The NOAA estimates were later determined to be more accurate, in fact, than BP’s initial estimates. In an interview on CNBC dated July 7, 2010, Simmons claimed that the Gulf of Mexico had lost 40% of its oxygen. (Although this claim could not be corroborated, a potential drop in the Gulf’s oxygen levels has been a concern.) He also claimed that the relief wells would be ineffective in stopping the oil leak from the Macondo Prospect wellhead.
This is where things start to become interesting in the Simmons vs. BP and U.S. government story. On July 15, 2010, in the KPFK interview cited above, Simmons made claims that BP’s footage of the oil leak was essentially smoke and mirrors — a diversion. He claimed the real leak was not being reported by either BP, the government or the media. It’s here we enter the Land of Conspiracy.
Did the BP Oil Spill Happen Where BP and the Government Told Us It Did?
To understand Simmons claim, a basic explanation of the Deepwater Horizon rig “blow-out” itself is necessary. The Deepwater Horizon rig was positioned over the Macondo Prospect, a region 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The critical distinction here is that the crew had just succeeded in drilling an exploratory well, and that the well was not operational. Attached to deep-sea oil exploration wells are marine risers, which are fixed to the oil rigs on the ocean’s surface. It is a flexible pipe that circulates fluids between the ocean floor and the rig to relieve pressure. After this has been done, the crew installs casing so that the well can be produced at a later date.
The plan was to set a cement plug once the casing had been installed, then the rig would temporarily abandon the well and make further explorations. According to Transocean executive Adrian Rose, the Deepwater Horizon crew was installing the casing and cementing it into place when pressure built up in the riser (possibly from gas) and shot up at great speed, expanding rapidly and then igniting once it reached the rig’s deck. The crew felt the impact and had about five minutes to escape the inferno.
Back to Simmons’ claims. According to Simmons’ interpretation of data—and his apparent conversations with scientists—NOAA’s research vessel, the Thomas Jefferson, discovered evidence of a leak anywhere from 5 to 10 miles from the leaking riser, which is located where the Deepwater Horizon rig eventually sunk.
It should also be noted that a brave rig operator had been able to move the rig approximately 1600 feet in the minutes after the explosion. Simmons’ claimed that the wellbore (the hole leaking oil) is 5 to 10 miles away from the rig and the riser pipe would seem to indicate that the rig had moved even further away before it sunk. However, this claim could not be corroborated.
Did the rig drift that distance or was it helped along by other means? I haven’t been able to make heads or tails of the truth in the official story or Simmons’ interpretation of events. BP and the government have said the rig and riser lie roughly 1600 feet from the wellbore. Simmons thought a distance of at least 5 miles separates the rig and riser from the leak, and he was apparently quoting NOAA scientists aboard the Thomas Jefferson research vessel and oil insiders who are under confidentiality agreements. (Again, to date, this claim has not been corroborated.)
NOAA reports seem to support Simmons assessment that oil has congregated miles away, but only to the extent that there are underwater plumes several miles from the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well.
This is the very essence of Simmons’ cover-up accusation: The official NOAA story—that there are plumes miles from the leak—may not be the reality. The plumes could be coming from a leak that is not being acknowledged officially by BP or U.S. Government through NOAA and White House press releases. And so the $60,000 Question that needs to be answered publicly—determined of course by independent underwater research—is how far the sunken rig and riser are located from the actual wellbore, where the crude oil is leaking.
What does this mean if Simmons’ claims hold any truth? Well, that BP has been manipulating public perception by conveniently showing footage of the leaking riser torn from the wellbore—a riser which would eventually run out of residual crude anyway, allowing BP to claim they’ve capped the leak (which they have now), when, in fact, the real leak lies miles away, unleashing 120,000 barrels of crude into the gulf daily.
What Simmons is suggesting is that BP has carried out a monumental sleight-of-hand. And if the Obama administration and Congress are aware of this fact, then they are complicit in the magic show—a magic show designed to minimize fallout from a leaking vent that has turned the Gulf of Mexico seabed into a lake of oil.
Which raises yet another question: Why would the Obama administration aid and abet BP in the “cover-up,” as Simmons termed the oil spill’s aftermath? A simple answer might be that the US government has military fuel contracts with BP that keep the military supplied with BP oil. According to a report in the Washington Post dated July 5, 2010, “BP has fuel contracts with the US military worth at least $980 million.” The contracts are handled by the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC).
This is not good publicity for the Obama administration—not with mid-term elections in November. Why hasn’t the Washington Post article been picked up by major news networks? One would think that at least Fox News would run with the story because it would draw attention to the Obama administration’s ethics.
What Does It All Mean?
What is to be done with this information? You must enter into the looking glass, to quote Oliver Stone’s “JFK.” The fact that the U.S. government is in bed with BP is superficial: it’s all just scenery. If Simmons is whistle blowing about BP’s control of public perception, and the US government is locked into contracts with BP for military purposes, is that not a matter of national security (in the mind of the administration)?
Did that make Matt Simmons a threat to national security, if suddenly a nation’s war-making capability is crippled for lack of fuel? Perhaps it is a stretch of logic, but it is within the realm of possibility no matter how much it wreaks of conspiracy theory at a fundamental level. This would seem to support the theory that Simmons was put on the Kill List and assassinated by the CIA.
The Washington Post went on to say the following:
“Jeanne Pascal, a former EPA lawyer who until recently oversaw the review of BP’s possible debarment [after an Alaskan oil spill in 2006 and a Texas refinery explosion in 2005], has said she initially supported taking such action but held off after an official at the Defense Department warned her that the Pentagon depended heavily on BP fuel for its operations in the Middle East.”
In the same article, Pascal elaborated, “My contact at the DESC, another attorney, told me that BP was supplying approximately 80 percent of the fuel being used to move U.S. forces… BP was very fortunate in that there is an exception when the U.S. is involved in military action or a war.”
As a shareholder in BP stock, Simmons must have known the extent of BP’s contracts with the DOD. Even if the contracts were not common knowledge to shareholders, then someone of Simmons insider status would surely have known of the relationship. Why? Well, people talk—even higher-ups. The oil industry is really just a fraternity of sorts, and fraternity brothers are consummate gossipers.
It must be a point of pride for BP that they have 80% of Defense Department fuel contracts locked-up, making them the big swinging dick of our War On Terrorism. BP spokesman Robert Wine has been quoted as saying BP and the Pentagon signed at least one “big contract” after the BP Oil Spill. At least one? How many contracts did the Pentagon sign with BP after the spill, all under the nose of the Obama administration? At some point even the skeptic must ask what the fuck is going on?!
As I noted in my article on the testing of invisible vapors in Boston’s subway system, there is the truth ready for public dissemination and that which is not. There are levels of truth—stratified layers might be more appropriate since we’re dealing here with matters geological.
Even former Shell CEO John Hofmeister has been weighing in, though not nearly as conspiratorial in tone as Simmons. Hofmeister hasn’t addressed the question of the rig and riser’s distance from the wellbore, but he did offer a telling quote when interviewed by NBC’s Brian Williams:
“Will [the] cap lead to more breaches, if there are breaches, or what exactly is going on in the well itself? It’s a confidence game. And where do you believe, who do you believe, what they have to say?”
Back at the Beginning
What do we know now? On August 21, 2010, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, led by Richard Camilli, published a peer-reviewed study in the journal Science.
Their findings indicate a “continuous plume over 35km [22 miles] in length” at a depth of 1100 feet that persisted for months “without substantial biodegradation.” The team determined the plume was 200 meters thick and 2 kilometers wide.
Camilli said it was created by the Deepwater Horizon well and not by naturally occurring gas and oil seepage. The plume has not dissipated. Other plumes have been found, including one by the University of South Florida that is approximately 6 miles in length. USF researchers have determined the oil is not degrading and possibly toxic enough to affect the entire food chain.
The leak from the riser has been capped, but who benefits in this confidence game? Did Simmons, when he was alive, benefit from criticizing BP’s cleanup and public relations efforts, all the while shorting the stock and hoping the backlash might prop up his business at the Ocean Energy Institute? Maybe. Was he a conspiracy theorist? It’s certainly a possibility.
Did BP, the Pentagon and the Obama administration, in particular, benefit from a silenced Matt Simmons? Most definitely, given the potential that the Pentagon’s military contracts with BP could prove toxic to Obama in the mid-term elections. Did BP and the U.S. government cover up the true nature and extent of the oil spill? It is not outside the realm of possibility, especially given BP’s desire to control information, as when they released doctored photos of their “command center.”
Does this prove a conspiracy to assassinate Matt Simmons? No. But, it certainly makes you wonder, ‘Who benefits?’