Once upon a time, when the Bush/Cheney decade was still young and the “War on Terror” was just warming up, I marched with about 100,000 other skeptics through downtown Washington, D.C., chanting the familiar litanies of unrest. One of these chants went something like this: “ExxonMobil, BP, Shell / Take Your War and Go To Hell!” Not very nice, but it speaks of the distrust and anger toward multinational oil companies that were then so blatantly and insultingly profiteering off war and their powerful influence in the U.S. government.
Five or so years later, while the Iraq War and the animosity towards it raged on, much of the public heat on specific oil companies seemed to fade as G.W. Bush became the easy-to-pin, stuttering scapegoat for the anti-war movement. Meanwhile, oil companies were working hard to re-brand themselves.
The renewable energy industry, led by wind and solar and the state of California, was (and is) skyrocketing. So, British Petroleum (BP), Shell and Chevron began touting their “progressive” energy goals in an attempt to sell the public a cunningly formed illusion. Nobody did it better than BP. Their yellow-green sunflower-like logo and “Beyond Petroleum” slogan were incredibly effective. BP Solar became a world leader among solar power companies and we the people were lulled to sleep with visions of clean energy fairies dancing in our heads, even while BP was spilling oil in Alaska, investing big bucks in tar sands in Canada and drilling deeper and deeper into the seabeds of the Gulf of Mexico.
Then the BOOM-heard-’round-the-world went off. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and igniting the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Suddenly, BP’s greenie solar-flower-power veil melted into a sludgy black blob of ineptitude, lies and embarrassment. It turns out BP is a greenwashing machine, publicly displaying its renewable energy scruples on one hand while slyly neglecting worker safety and natural environment on the other.
The Short List of BP Atrocities:
- In June of 2001, BP Pipelines North America reportedly settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $10 million for a pipeline break that spilled 200,000 gallons of gas into a creek in Washington state. A fireball ensued that killed two 10-year-old boys, as well as an 18-year-old fisherman from overexposure to fumes.
- In 2006, the discovery of an oil spill in the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska revealed an incredible amount of neglect on the part of BP. That detection led to the discovery of widespread corrosion in the pipeline and lax worker safety standards at BP facilities. The company was fined $50 million in 2007 under the Clean Air Act for failure to maintain safe operations in Prudhoe Bay, according to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and was later fined another $303 million for price-fixing in the natural gas sector. BP was cited by OSHA for 296 safety violations at the Texas City facility, where the explosion leading to the leak occurred.
- BP paid the two largest fines in OSHA history, totaling over $100 million in 2005, for willful negligence of safety protocol, which led to the death of 15 workers after an explosion at a Texas facility. The list goes on and on. Read more if you like at PublicCitizenEnergy.org.
BP is by far the dirtiest oil and gas company operating in North America, and yet somehow managed to maintain an image of energy cleanliness up until Earth Day 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and 11 more employees of BP met their untimely deaths. I expect BP will eventually pay the largest fines the company has yet paid in response to the Gulf of Mexico disaster, which continues to spew oil and kill everything from sea life to the regional economy.
Of course, BP maintains that it is sincere in its desire for renewable energy and that it is and always has kept worker and environmental safety as its highest priorities. Whatever Big Oil rhetoric the company may be using today, this is essentially its message: “This is SO unlike us, we don’t know what happened! We’re working so hard to stop this and we swear it’ll never happen again!”
Well, they are working hard to stop the leak because the eyes of the world are on them and this is a political nightmare just when they were about to get more offshore drilling approved. And of course, it won’t happen again…at least not on that oil rig or in the same exact way. Right now, believing anything BP says (or Shell or Chevron or ExxonMobil for that matter) is like believing a serial killer when he says it won’t happen again, as he throws an axe in his bag and strolls on to a different neighborhood.
FOX News Rhetoric & the Palin Effect
Yet, whatever BP does down the road, at least they stand before the cameras every morning with their tails between their legs. Almost more angering to me is the ridiculous garbage spilling out of the mouths of oil proponents in the national media, including the entire Fox News network and putzos like Sarah Palin (check out her absurd Twitterings), Rush Limbaugh and the like.
I’m hearing from Mrs. Palin, former one-time, half-term governor of Alaska who I’m sure has seen, directly or indirectly, to some of BP’s fines in recent years, things like, Hey, if you’d just let us drill for oil onshore in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), then maybe we wouldn’t see these offshore catastrophes. No, the drill-babies want both. I don’t know exactly how stupid Sarah Palin thinks we are, but apparently it’s at least as stupid as she reveals herself to be.
Obama’s Katrina? Really?
Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and, I dare say, Glenn Beck are blaming the entire thing on Barack Obama. “This is Obama’s Katrina!” had been a fixture-phrase on the FN network over the last several weeks, in a ploy to hit anyone with any common sense with that takes-one-to-know-one playground bull-malarkey. Their assertion is that the spill got so bad because the federal government failed to react — just as G.W. Bush failed to react to Katrina and weeks of death and squalor ensued. But here’s the truth of the matter: the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command has posted a clear time line of the government’s response to the disaster, beginning with the Coast Guard search and rescue mission immediately following the explosion. Apparently, such information is too hard to find for the staffers at FOX News or the Rush Limbaugh program (Check out some other ridiculous things good ole’ Limbaugh has uttered about the BP oil spill at ecopolitology).
Every time I go to the grocery store these days, I fully expect to find a live feed of FOX News airing on a TV embedded between The National Enquirer and The Globe. Of course, let’s not forget that (if memory serves) it was the Enquirer that broke the story of Rush Limbaugh’s rabid pill addiction (even as the host was calling for the proverbial lynching of drug offenders).
Where to Go from Here
Between BP’s greenwashing and the pundit palookas in the national media, the BP oil spill has become an embarrassment to us all. I appreciate President Obama’s moratorium on new offshore drilling permits, but I’d like to see that extended indefinitely. As I’ve said before, I understand that all offshore drilling isn’t going to halt tomorrow, but let’s stop expanding it.
Last year, Obama, in defending his openness to offshore drilling, noted that these wells don’t “generally” fail. Well, the Deepwater Horizon has proven to me that “generally” isn’t good enough. I mean if every oil spill (or just BP’s alone) received even half the media attention as this one, there’s no way in hell the public would be accepting new drilling permits.
We’re working toward a new clean energy paradigm more aggressively each year, and that’s good, but we also need to stop this greenwashing machine that BP and its partners in corporate crime have started. Oil companies are touting their greenness (while trying to corner future energy markets) by tossing millions or even a few billion at solar power and renewable energy, but they’re also trying to milk every last drop of the dirty fossil fuels that are polluting our cities, land and waterways. Just check out what’s going on in Canada’s tar sands (where we really get most of our foreign oil).
Don’t Buy it
Politically, there’s never been a better chance for change. Don’t listen to the alarmists who say that without new oil drilling our economy would collapse and you won’t be able to get to work (buy a bicycle anyway). Oil companies are on their heels. We’re going to see a lot of fines for BP and the greenwashing machine will kick into high gear, with heart-wrenching TV ads the likes of which we’ve probably never seen before. But don’t buy it. And don’t buy their oil if you can help it.
So I say it again, and I hope you say it with me: “ExxonMobil, BP, Shell. Take your greenwashing-oil slicking-land killing-water polluting-money grubbing-dishonest ways and go to hell!”
Last 5 posts in Residential Solar
- CEGA Welcomes Ralph Krongold as Chief Solar Trainer - June 1st, 2012
- The Myths Behind Offshore Drilling - March 29th, 2012
- Solar Thermal + PV = Efficiency x 3 - March 23rd, 2012
- Solar Gets Bailed Out! - March 22nd, 2012
- Solar Coming Out of the Shadows - March 18th, 2012