Who am I?Where am I?

20 June 2010

British Petroleum and British Attitudes

Ever since the explosion of Deepwater Horizon and subsequent oil spill, I have been glued to news reports about the progress being made to contain the spill, plug the leak, drill a relief well, and clean up the mess. Coincidentally, I was recently reading Collapse by Jared Diamond (which is an excellent book.)

In this book, Diamond is discussing Chevron and some of the reasons the company has taken such a pro-environment stance in New Guinea and why mining companies do not behave in a similar manner. "No one in the oil industry today would deny that spilled oil is harmful, but mine executives do deny the harm of spilled metals and acid." Mr. Diamond, I would like you to meet a scapegrace named Mr. Tony Hayward, CEO of BP.

Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20 (yes over two months ago), Mr. Hayward has repeatedly made comments that are repugnant to the senses. For example, Mr. Hayward was quoted as saying, "I want my life back." Well Mr. Hayward, so too do the residents of the Gulf. Unfortunately, your company created a mess that you and your colleagues seemingly cannot deal with.

While I have watched this environmental catastrophe unfold second by second, I am struck by the lunacy of the British public. I have seen numerous interviews on BBC where someone interviewed has stated something like this: "President Obama is treating BP too harshly."

This attitude is ridiculous! Let us think about this for a moment. A company is responsible for a disaster, cannot find a way to fix the problem, and the people affected ask for compensation. Hmmm. This sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I recently expressed my frustration with BP to a British colleague. His response, "Remember that it was your government that asked and allowed BP to drill there." Fair enough. SAFELY. My astonished response included me asking him whether or not he would like it if Exxon had dumped this much oil in the North Sea, English Channel, or Irish Sea? I also pointed out that had this been a US company, nothing different would be happening. There would still be a public outcry. You would not see Americans discussing how poorly Mr. Obama was treating Exxon. Another difference is that BP stock forms a significant portion of many 401k retirement and pension funds. Therefore, the lack of dividend payouts is adversely affecting these funds. Guess what? If you own a stock, you own a piece of a company. If you own a company, you are responsible for what it does. Here is a newsflash: You own a company with an abysmal environmental record and this was bound to happen. Please stop complaining about the amount of money this is costing BP. It is not as if BP is a company with exiguous resources

In the time it has taken me to write this, approximately 43500 gallons (164,665.4126 liters for you metric types) of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. (Just for the sake of reference, that's enough fuel to drive a Hummer H2, one of the least efficient cars on the planet--using its worst case city MPG--around the circumference of the globe--at the equator--over 15 times.) Until BP can stop the spill, clean up the mess, and compensate those affected by this spill, BBC and the media, as well as the British public need to cease with this ridiculous spin and focus on fixing this mess.


Anonymous said...

We have an expression. "Don't bayonet the wounded". Everything you say is absolutely true and BP should pay fair compensation and pay for the clean up. If they did anything illegal they should be busted for that too. I suspect this is a cultural thing, British "Don't kick a man when he is down", US "Pound of flesh". BP will take ... See more responsibility and it will be sorted. If you look on the list of worst oil spills, the UK is there, we've had that T-shirt. I've told you on many occasions of the differences in culture and language on each side of the pond, we are not as similar as anyone would like to think. What you are seeing is the British "Fair Play thing" the main difference is the UK will persecute BP when it is all over, in the dark, very quietly and very brutally, it has always been the British way.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when you had this discussion with your British friend. You had some good points and that gives me something to think about.

nathalie said...

as an animal lover , It's a pity what happened to the bird.Anyway,human activity has its end how strong ,state-of-the-art the materials used(pipelines etc). it has been helpful to our life the oil or BP anyway, so let's not blame too much