The real villain of the Gulf oil-spill disaster: not BP but PC

Hands up who thinks BP’s public image has been improved as a result of pumping upwards of half a million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, ravaging eco-systems, depriving fishermen of their livelihoods, incurring the pantomime wrath of President Obama and the undying hatred of half America?

Hmm. That’s not many hands.

But I suspect your crowd wisdom is quite right here. BP has spent the last decade rebranding itself as Beyond Petroleum in order to make out that it doesn’t do anything so disgusting and immoral as plundering Mother Gaia of her dwindling supplies of precious black blood. Yet I doubt all that strenuous greenwashing has been enough to offset the damage done by even a single one of those photographs of ickle pelicans smeared in oily gunk.

As Patrick Hayes argues in a brilliant article at Spiked, this is not the fault of BP’s beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward, but of his fantastically wrong-headed predecessor Lord Browne of Madingley.

Under Browne’s stewardship, BP became the first multinational oil company to accept a causal relationship between increased carbon emissions and global warming. In 2005 it famously developed a carbon footprint calculator for use on its website. According to Mathis Wackernagel, executive director of the Global Footprint Network, the media campaigns around BP’s calculator played an important part in establishing the notion of a ‘carbon footprint’ in popular consciousness.

As a result, BP, the world’s second-largest oil company, came to rank high on a wide range of the ‘key performance indicators’ so beloved by companies. It was lavished with awards, including a gold ‘Effie’ at the American Marketing Association awards. Brand research revealed that BP was seen as the most environmental oil brand, and BP’s brand awareness rose from four per cent in 2000 to 67 per cent in 2007. It has been claimed that the rebranding generated considerable increases in sales for BP. In 2007, Business Week speculated whether the AA risk rating awarded to BP by credit agency Innovest was a result of its commitment to invest $8billion in renewables.

Funny to remember how Browne was revered in so many profiles of the era as the kind of modern, touchy-feely, visionary boss all go-ahead companies should emulate. What we can now recognise is that Browne did about as much for BP’s unfortunate shareholders as Kenneth Lay did for Enron’s.

Had BP spent a fraction of the budget it has dedicated to greenwashing (its 2001 rebranding alone cost $200 million; it has squandered further millions on solar and wind power) on doing the job its supposed to do – ie drilling for oil as safely and efficiently as is reasonably possible in so risky business; definitely not cutting corners – the Gulf Oil disaster would almost certainly have never happened. Exxon gets a lot of stick from the green movement. But its safety procedures are much more stringent than BPs.

And while we’re on the subject of the warped, self-destructive tactics of eco-zealots, lets not forget the disastrous role America’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has played in all this. Thanks to the EPA’s bizarre sense of ecological priorities, the US government initially turned down an offer from the Dutch to provide 4 oil skimmers capable of scooping up 146,000 barrels of spilt oil per day.

The Dutch offered to fly their skimmer arm systems to the Gulf 3 days after the oil spill started. The offer was apparently turned down because EPA regulations do not allow water with oil to be pumped back into the ocean. If all the oily water was retained in the tanker, the capacity of the system would be greatly diminished because most of what is pumped into the tanker is sea water.

This crazy decision has since been rescinded. But as I’ve argued before, for Obama and his eco-fascist chums in the global green movement, the more damage this disaster is allowed to do to the image of Big Oil and Big Carbon the better. For them this crisis isn’t a disaster at all. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.

4 thoughts on “The real villain of the Gulf oil-spill disaster: not BP but PC”

  1. “……. for Obama and his eco-fascist chums in the global green movement, the more damage this disaster is allowed to do to the image of Big Oil and Big Carbon the better. For them this crisis isn’t a disaster at all. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

    Pure truth. Of the 40% here that approve of Obama, half are naive and the other half ignorant on a grand scale, a portion of each continuing with the Bush-hating mentality. With all the information and raw evidence available of this man’s philosophy and intentions, they still just don’t get it.

    Gus Walters
    USA

  2. Hi James
    Hi James
    You got the wrong culprit for the total cock-up in what is laughingly here called the “clean up process”. The reason the Dutch and all the other countries who offered were turned down was something called the “Jones Act”.
    One of the most destructive pieces of legislation in our history (before Barry’s Health Care)the Act states that no foreign flag carrier is allowed to ship port-to-port within the US. As a result the unions were happy but the US Merchant Marine industry almost ceased to exist. Barry (unlike Bush during Katrina) REFUSED to suspend the Jones ACT in order to allow foreign carriers to help out. Gotta pay back your biggest contributors right?

    Gets worse all the time doesn’t it?
    JLK

  3. There are many methods for extracting oil from tar sands and tar sands don’t always exist on the surface, such as in Alberta Canada where the sands are too far below the surface for open pit extraction.

  4. “Exxon gets a lot of stick from the green movement. But its safety procedures are much more stringent than BPs. ”

    Not sure where you get that nugget from James. Having worked with oil service companies for 25 years I would say only one thing about the majors, they are all the same and only care about the profit.

    Hence, they squeeze the service companies to the pip shoots out. They are ALL safety mad until it gets in the way production.

    Trust me, when they get to the bottom of this, and there is plenty out there already, it will be seen that BP’s presence on the rig had been warned of problems by the operators but were overuled.

    Operations on rigs are fraught with danger and very little has been heard about accidents and operating errors until now. Have a look at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYTO_0_0ReQ
    and you will see a very lucky operator just make it out of the way!

    There are many such incidents on the Internet if one cares to look but bare this in mind, none of us wants to die or cause a pollution incident. That said, the majors pay us and the piper calls the tune? I bet the relatives of the dead 11 (who already seem to have been forgotten due to the Pelicans) wish someone had strangled the piper!

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