First off, I am accepting no money from BP to write this, have not been offered any, and I’m sure I will go completely unnoticed by BP anyway. Second, I think the oil spill is a horrible tragic ecological and financial disaster. But I’m not so pissed at BP that I’m going to boycott.
I don’t think BP is an evil company, and this comes from a very liberal and ecologically minded person, and in defending them, I feel at odds with myself in a way, but here I am. BP is just any company doing their business as best they can. They didn’t want this disaster to happen, they didn’t plan it by any means. They are going to suffer tremendously during and after all of this, both in their earnings and their share prices, and for as big as they are, we will suffer as well.
All of the consumers out there screaming at BP don’t know the scope of this thing in terms of the technology involved, the scale of the operation. Think about this—the hole is a mile underwater. 5,280 feet between the surface and the floor, and who knows how deep under the floor from there. Everybody involved knew it was pushing the limits of our oil technology, and stopping the flow is doing the same.
The reaction to scorn and boycott a company caught in a predicament is in this case kneejerk at best. We didn’t catch them purposely spilling pollutants into the gulf and then lying about it and trying to cover it up and denying it. They are actively pursuing containment, cleanup, resolution and restitution in action and public statements. They seem to be far more open about what has happened and what they are doing than any other company I’ve ever seen in this situation. I read an article yesterday about (http://io9.com/5543260/supertankers-could-be-super-easy-solution-to-gulf-coast-oil-disaster) a cleanup strategy that mentioned a spill by a Saudi company:
“He says he first developed the method while working for the Saudi company Aramco to control a massive 800 million gallon oil spill in 1993 and 1994. (The spill, which at roughly twenty million barrels is about twice as bad as any other oil spill in history, was not reported at the time, likely due to the secrecy of the Saudi government and its state-owned oil company.)”
Yes, a spill twice as bad as any other in history which wasn’t reported at the time. That puts BP on the path to sainthood by comparison. Let’s look at some of the thoughts that might be floating around in your head about this.
The 5,000 barrel a day figure. I won’t defend BP’s use of it, but let’s look at how it came about and is being used. First, it was an early Coast Guard estimate, not a BP estimate. It was an estimate based on oil reaching the surface, the only meric we had available to us at the time. When it came out, I don’t think there was any video of the oil leak itself, at the very least not released. Now we have the video, and we have better estimates, not because we see more oil at the surface, but we have a better source to analyze.
The big issue on this front, which makes the public not trust BP is how they clung to the estimate after the video was released. This was probably their PR people pushing them, after all, the Coast Guard is a pretty reputable source to exploit, but they began to back off that figure surprisingly quickly for a company in their position. In other oil spills, they’d be holding that number until their grandkids were through college. I mean, their coming off of that number in this instance is practically unheard of for a company, especially for an “evil” oil company.
The efforts to stop the leak. Being a mile down, not only are we pushing the limits of our drilling technology, but we’re pushing the limits of our emergency contingency technology, too. BP is already spending $6-$7 million dollars a day trying to stop this, the first attempt, a giant 100 ton box with a hose attached essentially, failed because of a design flaw. In a quickly designed and built completely from scratch in a few days of that size which was going to push technology past where we had been, I don’t blame them for the failure. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never tried to drop a 100 ton box to the sea floor a mile down. I’m not sure I ever saw a cost to hastily making this box, but even though it failed, I’m satisfied with the attempt.
Point is, they’re trying. They’re saying they will pay for every claim and all of the cleanup. Once this is stopped, as eventually it will be, it will be interesting to see how well they stick to that promise. And I’ll pay close attention to what they do compared to the Exxon Valdez. By comparison, Exxon denied, avoided and has wormed its way out of most of the fines the government levied on it. So far BP is putting on the responsible hat, and time will tell if it stays that way.
But the next biggest question in the debacle is who messed up? I so want to place the blame on Halliburton, and most experts say when the oil has floated to the surface as it were, Halliburton will get a large part of the blame. For right now, I can’t say it matters. Setting these CEO’s in front of Congress was a silly exercise in cart before the horse. We don’t even know what went wrong, and Congress wants a body to hang. I do, too, but that buoywon’t get the spill cleaned up any faster. Whether the concrete seal blew out, or the emergency cut off systems which failed were properly designed, maintained, or executed is unimportant if the leak never stops leaking.
And as for the boycott, all we’re doing is depriving a company that is behaving with shocking responsibility of funds which might be useful should it actually need to pay off all the fines and legal judgments against them.
I’m not saying that we should feel bad for BP, either. We should feel bad for the people the spill has affected, for the animals caught in our mess. We all drive cars, we all rely on these fuels while we haven’t pushed for replacement technologies. It is time we recognized some complicity while we make sure we hold BP accountable for the accident when all is said and done.