An ounce of prevention…

It occurs to me that BP is no longer in the business of finding, refining, and selling oil. It seems like now its entire corporate philosophy involves conducting emergency public relations work on its own self-image.

I keep hearing this commercial on the radio set to sad, lilting music where some important BP so-and-so explains in detail all the impressive numbers behind the cleanup effort. You know, how many x-thousands of people are involved, how many x-thousand boats, how many x-million “feet of boom” (whatever that is). The numbers are very carefully manipulated to give you the impression that BP is committed to containing and cleaning its mess.

What bothers me about this commercial, and about all the related information on BP’s website, is that the company seems to be alarmingly silent on the subject of why its business wasn’t up to snuff to begin with. I don’t know how much a million feet of boom costs, but it can’t be more than simply installing and properly maintaining the missing safeguards in the first place.

Apparently that safeguard is called a “blowout preventer”. I admit I’m a layman, but that sounds like a pretty damned important thing to have on an oil rig.

I tried using the Job Search function on BP’s website, but it doesn’t seem to be responding. I wonder if that’s a clever bit of trickery on their part to stem the tide of resumes that must be flooding in, or if the site is just legitimately broken. Maybe we need a heartfelt advertisement telling us all about how the company is working around the clock to resolve the situation, so as to do its part to stem the tide of unemployment in these troubled times.

It’s the lack of accountability that gets me, I think. It’s the lack of, okay, here’s exactly what we did wrong and here’s exactly why we did it that way. Because they aren’t being truthful about their screw-up, people are getting the idea that the Deepwater Horizon explosion was a freak accident, a danger inherent to the act of drilling oil. I’m reminded about how a few design flaws caused the Three Mile Island meltdown, and as a result nuclear power continues to be a boogeyman to this day, twenty-plus years later.

It’s aggravating that legitimate methods of procuring resources are blocked off in response to negative public reaction, especially if that reaction happens because the companies in charge of said resources simply can’t be bothered to keep their pants pulled up.

The bottom line is that we need that oil. We absolutely need it, and in the end no amount of disgruntled shrimp boat captains or depressed-looking slicked-up pelicans is going to prevent us from going in after it. But we’re smart. We know how to go down and get it, and bring it back up. We can do this safely and efficiently. BP, for whatever reason, chose to cut corners and… well… kaboom.

More impressive to me than how many airplanes they have in the air searching for oil would be transparency about the cause of the situation, and an examination of the technology and legislation involved in ensuring it doesn’t happen in other drill sites BP owns around the world. More impressive, to me, would be some sort of notification that BP is working with other oil companies in order to set industry standards about the way employee safety concerns are handled before a catastrophe occurs.

But bittersweet piano scores and well-dressed talking heads are more impressive, so that’s what we get. Cue months of “stop the drilling!” and “not in my backyard!” protests, as if that were the problem.

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2 comments to An ounce of prevention…

  • It’s not some great mystery why BP chose to cut corners. It’s because nobody forced them not to, and they knew that even if something went wrong, the cost to them personally would be negligible. Want things like this not to happen? Pass safety regulations that have some teeth. That, however, is not going to happen, due to the hysterically corporatist government we’ve got going on. If anyone’s got a good solution that’s within the bounds of possibility, I’d love to hear it. I sure can’t come up with any.

  • Harmonic

    This is a very rare and refreshing post. Seems like people are either “STOP DRILLING CUZ OIL IS BAD LOL” or totally in the tank for BP (95% are the former) but you actually share the common sense opinion that drilling is pretty much necessary, just that BP sucks at it.

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