Anything & Everything

June 10, 2010

Trust No One: Especially Big Business

Filed under: Life,Writing — Susan Morgan @ 7:38 pm
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That line, Trust No One, used to be a part of one of my favorite TV shows, though at the time I thought it was a bit paranoid. Now I’m not so innocent… or so sure.

Like many of you, I was absolutely outraged when BP CEO Tony Hayward appeared on TV complaining that he “wanted his life back“. Talk about out of touch and unsympathetic… this guy has the look and entitled manner of the elitist corporate fat cats we’ve all come to despise. Oh, and Tony… in case you’re reading… we want our ocean’s back… and the people of the Gulf want their lives (probably a lot less comfortable than yours) back too.  How’s it feel to want?

Nearly two months after the explosion that took the lives of  11 workers, oil continues to spew into the open ocean… killing wildlife, destroying shoreline and ruining generations old businesses that depend on the sea. BP has tried a well publicized variety of tactics — containment domes, top kills, top hats — to contain the oil… so far with only limited success. When movie maker James Cameron is invited to offer advice and actor Kevin Costner might have a product under consideration, you know experts are out of ideas.

Worse yet, there have been conflicting estimates (BPs and scientists) about just how much oil is being released — flow rate was estimated by BP and the government at 5,000 barrels a day, though an impartial expert suggests the amount could be 20 times that number. The number is still considered a huge unknown, but the lower end estimates seem unlikely given the amount of oil being captured each day. Recently BP preparedness documents have been found to have numerous and glaring inaccuracies and under-estimations of the impact of a spill. Not surprisingly, BPs assessment of its own preparation for a just such a disaster was drastically overstated.

In an effort to help its public image, BP has debuted an “apology” ad. The ad delivered an Ace Score  of 526 (out of 950) well within the average. The ad scored highest with women 36 to 49 and interestingly lowest with men of the same age group. Despite the scores, many are still angry — 75% of those who saw the ad think Tony Hayward should be replaced; 50% won’t buy from BP again.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll has Americans, by more than a 2 to 1 margin, supporting the pursuit of criminal charges related to the spill of oil. Eight and ten criticize the way the British oil company has handled it, and 69% or respondents judge the response by the federal government to be worse than Hurricane Katrina. Also interesting, 73% of those polled believe that unnecessary risks taken by BP and its drilling partners were a large factor in the spill.

Comforting to see that others aren’t fooled by the company spin.

The poll was taken before BPs announcement that a containment cap was capturing a good amount of the oil gushing into the Gulf. BP has its claims, but no one really knows how much oil is still escaping from the well, and there are those who aren’t sure the “solution” might not have made things worse. As if that could happen. The company has also said the recaptured oil can’t all be processed — a good portion will be burned off. What a waste.

Ever the aware corporate citizen, BP is considering paying dividends to its shareholders, while those workers and businesses in the Gulf, impacted most by the spill complain of delays, excessive paperwork and stingy payments from the company. BPs dividend plans will be announced on July 27th, though a growing chorus of lawmakers are urging the company to halt dividends until the spill is cleaned. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the plans.

All of us can take some comfort in the loss of value of BP stock… money and security the only thing these pampered execs care about. There’s also a steady stream of tweets from the fake Twitter account (BPGlobalPR) that offers a “public relations” response to the oil spill… typically content is rather dark and irreverent… so right up my alley. Better yet, the account now has five times more followers than the official BP Twitter feed.

If  there is any good thing to come from all the destruction… galvanizing the American public into caring about the oceans (and the environment as a whole) and being angry enough to do something that actually makes a difference. Learn all you can. Spread the word. Vote in November. Don’t buy gas at BP or buy from any business that wantonly risks environmental disaster in favor of profit.

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