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Disaster on the Horizon

High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout

Disaster on the Horizon is a behind-the-scenes investigative look at the worst oil well accident in US history, which led to the current environmental and economic catastrophe on the Gulf Coast. Cavnar uses his 30 years in the business to take readers inside the disaster, exposing the decisions leading up to the blowout and the immediate aftermath. It includes personal accounts of the survivors, assembled from testimony during various investigations, as well as personal interviews with survivors, witnesses, and family. It also provides a layman's look at the industry, its technology, people, and risks. It deconstructs events and decisions made by BP, Transocean, and the US Government before and after the disaster, and the effects of those decisions, both good and bad.

Cavnar explains what happened in the Gulf, explores how we arrived at deep water drilling in the first place and then charts a course for how to avoid these disasters in the future.


"Because of Bob Cavnar's extensive experince in the oil and gas drilling business--which includes being the victim of a drilling-related explosion himself--his book brings alive the BP disaster in ways no other account has done. Cavnar lets the reader understand how the disaster really happened, and who bears responsibility. Not surprisingly, he also shows what happened during the Bush administration to make this tragedy more likely."--Howard Dean, former DNC Chair and Vermont governor; author of Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform

"Cavnar captures all the drama of the disaster with an oilman's expertise. This book not only explains what happened on the well on April 20th, but all the decisions made in the past that led up to that fateful night. In the process, Cavnar hasn't just delivered a riveting story, but a political call to arms."--Mimi Schwartz, executive editor of Texas Monthly and co-author of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron

Bob Cavnar, with thirty years of oil patch experience, has written the definitive story of the blowout in the Gulf. It is a gripping and deadly tale--one that takes the reader to the rig site, where he makes you feel the blast and heat from the explosion, and gives you an unrivaled look at what actually went on in the blowout and in the months that followed it. Lives tragically lost and lessons to be learned. A must read for everyone concerned about the oil industry, the effectiveness of government regulation, and America's energy future.--Mark White, former governor of Texas

"Brilliant. A must read to understand what happened--and why."--Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. secretary of the Interior and governor of Arizona; author of Cities in the Wilderness

Publishers Weekly-
Cavnar, a veteran of the energy industry (including early work on oil rigs and pipeline construction), does a more-than-admirable job of clarifying deepwater drilling, specifically the corporate interests behind it and the mechanics and risks associated with it. Cavnar approach his subject like a muckraking reporter, pointing fingers and wringing hands and, though he doesn't spare BP, he argues that their hands were tied. Regarding their lowball estimates of oil spilled in the early days, Cavnar states that "liability is based on the amount of oil released into the environment"; though BP officials "probably had calculated the actual flow rate to within a few percent," releasing those figures would have meant owning up to a much greater liability. Especially chilling is Cavnar's assertion that other disasters will follow Deepwater Horizon, since 27% of domestic production comes from deepwater drilling and a 2009 study of subsea Blow Out Protectors showed a failure rate of 45%. Even if the US were to regulate or ban all offshore drilling, multinational companies would set up deepwater rigs near more lenient nations to sidestep the problem. Ultimately Cavnar issues a call to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels; only this, he suggest, will spare us ecological catastrophe.


  • Runner-up - Foreword Book of the Year Award: Environment - 2010


Bob Cavnar

Bob Cavnar

Bob Cavnar is a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry with deep experience in operations, start-ups, turn-arounds, and management of both public and private companies. He is currently chief executive officer of Luca Technologies, which harnesses natural processes to produce natural gas sustainably. Previously he was President and Chief Executive Officer of Milagro Exploration, a large, privately held oil and gas exploration firm based in Houston, Texas with operations along the Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi Gulf Coasts, and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Cavnar holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Southern Methodist University and completed the Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School.  He blogs at This Small Planet and The Daily Hurricane.


Bob's Blog: Daily Hurricane
Bob's Website: This Small Planet
Articles on


Bob Cavnar on Al Jazeera re: Halliburton & BP 10-28-2010

Bob Cavnar on NBC Nightly News re: BP Blowout Preventer 09-06-2010

Bob Canvar on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann re: Drilling Regulation

Bob Canvar on MSBNC's The Rachel Maddow Show re: Recent Oil Rig Explosion

Bob Canvar on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show re: BP Oil Spill and Toxic Mud

Bob Cavnar on FNC's Studio B With Shepard Smith 03-22-2011

Bob Canvar on NBC Nightly News re: BP Blowout Preventer

Bob Canvar on NBC Nightly News re: BP Blowout Preventer

Disaster on the Horizon

Pages:248 pages
Size: 5.375 x 8.375 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603583169
Pub. Date October 22, 2010

Available In/Retail Price

Paperback, 248 pages, $17.95