Irony of BP, the self-professed most green energy company, creating the potentially worse oil spill in US history
BP’s Hypocritical Green Image is Covered With Oil
By Dr. Tim Ball Thursday, May 27, 2010
“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Words of advice Polonius gave to his son Laertes in Hamlet. They’re addressed to an individual, but also apply to groups. Beyond self-deception you are misrepresenting yourself to the world. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of examples in all segments of society, especially in the exploitation of the environment and climate change. Environmental groups with a political agenda or businesses pretending to be ‘green’ are good examples. Shakespeare would appreciate the irony of BP, the self-professed most green energy company, creating the potentially worse oil spill in US history.
The motive for being untrue to self is important because the public have empathy for some self-aggrandizement. However, when the actions are premeditated, and cynically assume people don’t know or are easily fooled, then they are angry. There is no empathy or sympathy for hypocrisy. Nothing did more to destroy Al Gore’s credibility than disclosure that his carbon footprint was multiples larger than average.
Self-Inflicted Public Relations Disaster
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a disaster and everyone understands accidents happen. What they expect is quick acceptance of blame and then responsibility. British Petroleum handling of the event is a public relations nightmare and evidence of technological incompetence. Instead of taking full and complete blame they tried to blame subcontractors; they made lame excuses about the amount of oil and water volume; split hairs when they said they would pay all ‘legitimate’ claims; it is unconscionable that they lacked any pre-planned technology to deal with deepwater blowouts; each failed attempt to stop the flow shows they didn’t even do theoretical planning. This is not to take the US government off the hook because they failed to ensure BP was prepared and have nothing in place to control the oil as it spread. But how serious is BPs commitment beyond mitigating the costs and reducing lawsuits? Obama is using the spill to reduce dependence on oil and promote alternate energy in which BP is a major player.
BP Connection With Gore and Enron
Nothing does more to destroy British Petroleum’s (BP) credibility than the hypocrisy of their history. They were one of the first oil companies to pretend to be green. 1997 was a momentous year with a meeting at the White House between Clinton, Gore, Lord Browne head of then British Petroleum (BP) and Ken Lay of Enron. At the meeting, “Lay urged President Clinton and Vice President Gore to back a ‘market-based’ approach to the problem of global warming—a strategy that a later Enron memo makes clear would be ‘good for Enron stock.’”
Chris Horner describes Enron’s involvement this way, “Enron was part of a select group that shaped the administration’s case for policy action on the theory of man-made climate change.”
Browne and BP were involved in the market based strategy discussions, which required acknowledgement of human induced global warming. In 1997 BP pulled out of the Global Climate Coalition declaring that global warming was a real problem and needed attention. Browne reiterated his views in a 2002 speech at Stanford University and as one commentary states, “Had you stumbled into the auditorium partway through, you might be forgiven for assuming the man at the podium was not an oil baron, an industrialist, an extractor of fossil fuels from the tender earth but an environmentalist of the high church calling for the abolition of hydrocarbons, the very substance that had made his company and himself so fabulously rich. His subject was global climate change—in particular, the process by which humans, by burning oil and gas, have been slowly, perhaps irreversibly, warming the earth’s atmosphere.” (Source)
Played the Precautionary Principle Game
Browne claims he examined climate science research and spoke with several climate scientists. He concluded, ‘‘The science wasn’t complete—but science is never complete.’’ ‘‘But they knew enough to say that there were long-term risks and that precautionary action was necessary if we were to avoid the greater risk—of the evidence mounting to the point where draconian action was unavoidable.’’ (Source)
Who did he speak to? It is hard to believe BP did not have scientists who would know the problems with climate science. The statement suggests he was told the science was lousy so avoided the problem with the standard ‘green’ justification of the precautionary principle.
Browne had already begun changing BP‘s corporate image and direction. The corporate name was officially BP instead of British Petroleum and tacitly promoted to stand for Beyond Petroleum. The corporate logo changed from the mundane shield to the greener image with solar implications.
BP began investment in alternate energies and now has a major interest in solar energy panels
The campaign was successful as, “a survey of consumers found 21 percent of them thought BP was the greenest of oil companies.”
Despite its new sunburst logo and ‘‘Beyond Petroleum’’ slogan, BP still invests $12 billion, or 25 times more, on oil and gas than on its wind and solar division for the simple fact that, right now, there’s a huge market for oil and almost none for solar panels.
But this creates a problem for current CEO Tony Hayward who says he “wants BP’s alternative energy investments to be more than a publicity exercise, according to FT. To that end, BP will now look at its alternative energy unit as a portfolio of investments which will face deadlines for delivering profits.”
Hayward is going to have to pursue that in light of the disastrous spill. BP can continue the hypocrisy and play the green card, but they will do it quietly. They will also have to continue ignoring the real science of climate change. Lord Browne may help as colleagues say he is.
The issue is not profit; business is about profit. Companies are going ‘green’ purely for profit and to suggest it is otherwise is pure hypocrisy. It is the hypocrisy of using climate change and pretending to be green as justification. They deceived themselves so they could deceive