Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Show Must Go On....

Steve Flynn, VP of Safety for BP was recently asked by Senator Al Franken if he felt responsible for the safety of the people working for BP. Flynn responded, "Sir, I have a part to play, and that role is to establish standards that extend company-wide."

Excuse me?? "a PART to play"? "that ROLE"? Does this guy think he's an actor? Oh hell...who knows...maybe he IS an actor. Lord knows "sincerity" is not exactly something that BP can be accused of with all they've done. But I have news for him...this is NOT a play! If he's not clear on that fact, I'm sure there are a bunch of boat captains, shrimpers, and millions of Gulf residents that will GLADLY clear it up for him.

Then Senator Franken pointed out that the Center for Public Integrity issued a recent report which found that BP is responsible for 760 of the 761 “egregious and willful violations of OSHA regulations over the past three years.” Mr. Flynn responded by saying, "We were disappointed with the 760 violations because we believe that we were in compliance with the requirements of those orders."

Disappointed?? DISAPPOINTED???!!!  Mr. Flynn...I'm not "disappointed". I passed “disappointed” on the 20th of April when I realized that, contrary to law, your company had no plan whatsoever to deal with this catastrophe that BP knew was likely to happen. And now instead of remorse, you’re going to sit there and say that you honestly believed you were “in compliance,” really??

I'm not "disappointed" Mr. Flynn…I'm appalled, disgusted, horrified and absolutely sickened. Not only at BP and their greed-spawned, cost-cutting, to-hell-with-safety behavior...but I'm also appalled at my fellow Americans. I find the lack of wide-ranging outrage absolutely staggering.  But then, in truth I’ve been finding lack of outrage staggering for a LONG time…like the entire eight years of the Bush administration.  But you know, there was plenty of indignant outrage that President Obama played golf on Father's Day.  Maybe that's what's making me so crazy...the utterly misplaced outrage. I still find myself shocked that there are any vehicles sitting at the pumps in BP stations...fueling up and putting their hard-earned money into the pockets of these men of absolutely no character.

On the other hand, BP at least does have the marketing sense to understand that they're in a precarious public relations situation. So, it was announced on Tuesday (7/27/10) that as of October first Tony Hayward is out of the BP CEO post and Robert Dudley is in. Oddly, what's actually happening is that Hayward and Dudley are merely swapping jobs.

Tony Hayward and Bob Dudley
Dudley was run out of Russia (they refused to grant him a new work visa) so he's taking Tony's job (as he's being run out of the Gulf). Tony, on the other hand, is going to Russia...Siberia to be fill Dudley's old job as head of TNK-BP. Seems like a pretty typical 'bait and switch' to me. Although I have to say I do find it somewhat poetic that Hayward is LITERALLY being sent to Siberia.

Back in June Hayward was pulled from the clean-up in the Gulf, and Dudley was put in charge of the operation. Of course, old "I'd like my life back" Tony just had to lie a bit more to Congress before he left for his great Siberian trek. He testified before a congressional committee last month that the drilling mud used by BP in May was "Water based with no toxicity whatsoever" when in fact, they have recently admitted that it contained lye and ethylene glycol (a toxic substance primarily used in anti-freeze).

And Tony's ouster is not going to come cheap either...his financial punishment will be, according to Mark Phillips of CBS News, "a year's salary of $1.6 million, a pension worth roughly another million dollars every year, and BP shares that could be worth many more millions," but that's assuming, of course, that the BP stock price manages to rebound...which, amazingly, it seems to be starting to do.

Bob Dudley is the first American to ever head the British oil giant. Dudley started his oil career with Amoco in 1979 and stayed with them until they were bought out by BP in 1998. It seems that Dudley was likely chosen for his American accent and the fact that he was raised in Mississippi. He has a reputation (according to the British press) as a "straight-talker" and claims he has a "somewhat evangelical attitude toward safety." In fact, it is claimed that he supposedly alienated the Russians by using town-hall style meetings "to emphasize safety in a country where it had long been a low priority," according to the New York Times.

In regard to the Gulf, Dudley said, "I picked up that people think that, well, once we cap this well, we're somehow going to pack up and disappear," he said. "That is certainly not the case. We're -- we've got a lot of clean-up to do. We've got claims facilities. We've got 35 of those around the Gulf coast. As of this morning, we wrote a quarter of a billion dollars in checks, for claims. There's still more to go. We know that. We haven't been perfect at this. But it's a deep, deep personal commitment from me for BP and the many people in the Gulf coast to make this right in America."

Which all SOUNDS good, if he really is the "straight talker" that the Brits claim that he is...but I have to say that to me it sounds a LOT like Tony Hayward's "we will make this right" commercial, so I have to admit I doubt the veracity.

Let's face it...BP is a bit desperate. According to an AP article which appeared in both the Boston Herald and on, BP is the largest producer of oil and gas in the United States and over 40 percent of the company's assets are located here. Additionally, BP has fuel contracts with the US military which amounted to over $2.2 billion last year. And lastly, BP has a lot of interests in Alaska and the Gulf, with much of it yet to be developed (don't forget their big plans for that manmade gravel island in the Arctic since they can't drill "offshore").

According to Amy Myers Jaffe, an oil industry expert at Rice University in Houston, "If BP is going to survive and grow, it must protect those assets.  He needs to run the whole company.” Jaffe noted, “His first job is to convince people BP is going to come back and you better buy BP stock while it's cheap.”

I find myself hoping that this Robert Dudley really is an honorable man though I am skeptical on that. If it turns out that he's not an honorable man, I hope that people don't fall for this "we care" act and buy up the value of BP stock. I further hope that my fellow Americans stop putting BP gas in their tanks and their money in BP's pockets until we see some real improvement from BP, not just in the shutdown and cleanup of the current Gulf mess, but in their general business practices as well (giving up on their Arctic gravel island debacle and stiffening their own safety standards without being forced to would be a nice start).

Lastly, I understand that the US Congress is currently considering a proposal which would block granting new offshore oil and gas leases to companies with bad safety records (for which BP would definitely qualify...remember…760 of 761 "egregious and willful violations"). I sincerely hope that this proposal is being SERIOUSLY considered, and I hope that it actually manages to pass, though I'm sure it's just one more thing that the Republicans will block. After all...big oil has no better friends than the GOP.

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