The Greenwash Brigade

Kill baby kill: BP’s "energy mix" won’t clean this bird

Heidi Siegelbaum May 27, 2010

(photo: NewsHour via Flickr)

Beyond Petroleum?

  • Beyond Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

  • Beyond Pick up the Tab

  • Beyond Pigs Might Fly

BP, since its purchase of ARCO and Solarex in 1999, has poured millions of dollars into its now sullied green campaign, resulting in BP receiving PRWeek’s 2001 Campaign of the Year in the “product brand development” category. We owe a debt of gratitude to BP and its $200 million check to Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide — the PR firm that developed the campaign to differentiate the company from its bad-boy U.S. oil counterparts.

BP’s investments in renewable energy represent 1.3% of its overall investment compared to oil and gas exploration. Their lobbying and environmental records really speak to the depth of our “special relationship” with the English. BP’s site is replete with such color and happy stories, you would never know they were involved in the filthy business of oil production.

“Making a positive difference to the societies we work in brings mutual advantage” which apparently includes putting out of work shrimpers and fishermen on oil clean up duty. Their record belies their wish to have an environmental ethos:

  1. Campaigning to Open Up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
  2. Attempting to relax the guidelines for the World’s Protected Areas by nudging the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  3. Lobbying against Texas’ attempt to strengthen environmental regulations (ok, well line up with all the others)
  4. A culture of cost cutting (total maintenance spending reduced 41% between 1992 and 1999)
  5. The results of their litigation fiesta: 2002 Prudhoe Bay spill in which they ignored safety warnings which resulted in 6 miles of pipeline corrosion ($12 million fine); the 2005 Texas City explosion, the malfeasance and incompetence of which is amply documented by the U. S. Chemical Safety Board assessment (felony charge of $50 million plus an OSHA $87 million fine for 270 safety violations); and the 2008 shared responsibility for MTBE contamination of over 100 public water supplies
  6. Spurring investments in the Alberta oil sands, one the worst decisions on the planet, alive with wholesale environmental and Indigenous culture destruction, enormous climate change implications, as well as being a poor return on investment
  7. 2009 axing of 5,000 jobs which saved them $4 billion in operating costs.

It is clear that BP has a lousy safety record and that despite repeated counsel, it failed to take safety recommendations seriously. In a report associated with the Texas City explosion, an external assessor remarked that “[i]ncident reporting occurs for routine lagging indicators and such reports are having little visible impact on decisions and direction of safety management throughout the organization.”

What will certainly be a lifetime legacy of environmental and economic devastation, the Gulf Oil disaster is emblematic of other bads outside greenwashing: the drugs, gifts, environmental waivers, chumminess and other gifts bestowed by the Minerals Management Service (Inspector general report linked above) and the slick contributions made to Congress on a routine basis, including zesty support by Louisiana and a high rate of Democratic takes on contributions (more Rs take oil money but Senate Democrats take 2.1 times more oil money when they vote against clean energy proposals).

I say throw the bums out.

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