Posts tagged BP
What BP Doesn’t Want You To Know About The 2012 Gulf Oil Spill

"It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” 
That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work.
“The BP representative said, ‘Jamie, just mop it like you’d mop any other dirty floor,’” Griffin recalls in her Louisiana drawl.
It was the opening weeks of what everyone, echoing President Barack Obama, was calling “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” At 9:45 p.m. local time on April 20, 2010, a fiery explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had killed 11 workers and injured 17. One mile underwater, the Macondo well had blown apart, unleashing a gusher of oil into the gulf. At risk were fishing areas that supplied one third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., beaches from Texas to Florida that drew billions of dollars’ worth of tourism to local economies, and Obama’s chances of reelection. Republicans were blaming him for mishandling the disaster, his poll numbers were falling, even his 11-year-old daughter was demanding, “Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?”
Griffin did as she was told: “I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.
Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.
Then things got much worse.
Like hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers on the cleanup, Griffin soon fell ill with a cluster of excruciating, bizarre, grotesque ailments. By July, unstoppable muscle spasms were twisting her hands into immovable claws. In August, she began losing her short-term memory. After cooking professionally for 10 years, she couldn’t remember the recipe for vegetable soup; one morning, she got in the car to go to work, only to discover she hadn’t put on pants. The right side, but only the right side, of her body “started acting crazy. It felt like the nerves were coming out of my skin. It was so painful. My right leg swelled—my ankle would get as wide as my calf—and my skin got incredibly itchy.”

[Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty]

What BP Doesn’t Want You To Know About The 2012 Gulf Oil Spill

"It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” 

That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work.

“The BP representative said, ‘Jamie, just mop it like you’d mop any other dirty floor,’” Griffin recalls in her Louisiana drawl.

It was the opening weeks of what everyone, echoing President Barack Obama, was calling “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” At 9:45 p.m. local time on April 20, 2010, a fiery explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had killed 11 workers and injured 17. One mile underwater, the Macondo well had blown apart, unleashing a gusher of oil into the gulf. At risk were fishing areas that supplied one third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., beaches from Texas to Florida that drew billions of dollars’ worth of tourism to local economies, and Obama’s chances of reelection. Republicans were blaming him for mishandling the disaster, his poll numbers were falling, even his 11-year-old daughter was demanding, “Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?”

Griffin did as she was told: “I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.

Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.

Then things got much worse.

Like hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers on the cleanup, Griffin soon fell ill with a cluster of excruciating, bizarre, grotesque ailments. By July, unstoppable muscle spasms were twisting her hands into immovable claws. In August, she began losing her short-term memory. After cooking professionally for 10 years, she couldn’t remember the recipe for vegetable soup; one morning, she got in the car to go to work, only to discover she hadn’t put on pants. The right side, but only the right side, of her body “started acting crazy. It felt like the nerves were coming out of my skin. It was so painful. My right leg swelled—my ankle would get as wide as my calf—and my skin got incredibly itchy.”

[Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty]

Nothing like this has ever been tried, and the potential problems are legion. For starters, the 45 miles of berms the Army Corps of Engineers has OK’d will take six months to build, and “is going to start to erode and disappear immediately,” says Young. “I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time they get to the end the beginning is gone—and that’s without a storm.” (Scientists predict this hurricane season will be one of the worst in years.) But heck, it’s BP’s money ($360 million for the berms alone, to be constructed by The Shaw Group Inc. of Baton Rouge, though the feds and state would have to front it and hope to be repaid), so who cares if the berms have to be rebuilt over and over? The real problem could be if they last long enough to block inlets that carry water to the wetlands on shore. If that happens, notes Young, “organisms that need to move in and out with tidal flushing won’t. You could kill the wetlands without the oil ever reaching them.”
As CEO, Hayward is ultimately responsible for BP’s operations, and for its response to the crisis. And by any measure, the performance has been a debacle. So why is he still in the corner office? Ironically, Hayward owes his continued tenure largely to BP’s unsuccessful efforts to cap the well. For better or worse (mostly for worse), Hayward has emerged as the public face of BP. When he shows up at the Gulf, or on television, he catches all the flak—for his colleagues, for those who report to him, and for those to whom he reports. As a human punching bag, he absorbs all the blows thrown by politicians, the media, and locals that might otherwise land on the corporate board or on investors. He literally owns the spill—and its consequences.
The BP Oil Spill Response Plan for the region, which was approved by the Minerals Management Service in July, is full of details about how to estimate the amount of oil on the surface of the water and which forms to fill out after using dispersants. But when it comes to the type of innovative solutions required to stop a spill deep underwater, the plan has no answers, nor does it show much serious thought. “My jaw dropped when I read it,” says Steiner, a longtime critic of the oil industry who left his job as a professor at the University of Alaska after he lost NOAA funding.

Wow. That Brand-Advertising Stuff Really Does Work

The other day we were sitting around the office, wondering idly how BP, the company that always seemed so responsible and environmentally friendly, could find itself in this situation; we started to look into doing a story on the company’s branding efforts. 

But, it turns out, there was no need! FP beat us to it, with this nice piece. Excerpts:

 A decade ago, the company then known as British Petroleum launched a multimillion dollar advertising campaign to rebrand itself as the greenest of oil giants. Since then, it has gone only by the initials “BP” and has popularized a new slogan: “Beyond Petroleum.” The campaign launched with a $200 million public relations and advertising budget and a new logo featuring the now-ubiquitous green-and-yellow sunburst. Ten years later, the company still spends big on advertising, dropping $76 million on radio and TV ads touting its image in the United States just last year.

The campaign has paid off for the company. A customer survey in 2007 found that BP had by far the most environmentally friendly image of any major oil company. That year, the “Beyond Petroleum” campaign also won the Gold Award from the American Marketing Association. The company reported that between 2000 and 2007, its brand awareness jumped from 4 percent to 67 percent and sales rose steadily.  

[snip]

But in fact, there have been plenty of warning signs in recent years that the company has little regard for the safety of workers or the environment. A 2005 explosion at the company’s Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured 170 others. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the company $21 million for safety failures that led to the explosion, at the time a record for the agency. The Justice Department fined BP an additional $50 million. Despite assurances from BP that it would take comprehensive action to protect employees after the incident, the company continued to fail in that regard — prompting OSHA to set another $87 million fine.