Scape-Goating BP Lets Big Oil Off Scot-Free


I’ve been watching the growing condemnation of BP from all sides of the political spectrum and it’s making me mad as hell!

Now, don’t get me wrong – BP is no friend of mine. Some days I can’t bear to read the news coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, let alone look at the heart-wrenching images of oil-coated wildlife. It’s about to get worse with Tropical Storm Bonnie likely to spread the oil and migratory birds starting to fly south for winter, many of them via the Gulf.

There is no doubt that BP’s behavior has been appalling. It was evidently lax in its safety standards, it repeatedly attempted to play down the amount of oil gushing from the well, some of the comments by senior executives have been downright thoughtless, and its eagerness to find new places to drill before it’s fixed this problem is nothing short of obscene.

But here’s the truth: BP is no better or worse in its environmental or ethical practices than any other big oil company. Right now, BP is being made a scape-goat and that suits all the other oil companies just fine.

Right-wing darling Sarah Palin of “drill baby, drill” fame has bashed BP as a “foreign company”. Meanwhile President Obama and other government officials insist on calling it British Petroleum, when the company’s official name is BP and has been for more than a decade. Last I checked Britain and the United States were allies and being based in Britain wasn’t a corporate crime. Anyway, BP is a multinational and 39 percent of it is owned by Americans, with six Americans on the board of directors. It’s a slick trick.

Then there’s the whole brouhaha over BP’s latest deal in Libya and whether BP is responsible for the release of the Lockerbie bomber. It’s a fact that the U.S. and Europe don’t see eye to eye over Libya – I’m not about to defend the regime, but public perception of Libya is a whole lot worse in the US than it is across the pond. I don’t think BP has a particularly moral stance vis-à-vis Libya, but then oil companies are not usually known for their moral stances, are they? The Libya affair pales into insignificance next to Shell’s crimes in the Niger Delta. Or should we call it Royal Dutch Shell? Nor is it as dangerous for the world as U.S.-based Exxon Mobil pumping millions of dollars into spurious climate denial research.

Now I don’t really care if people want to say bad things about BP. The public anger is more than justified. What I do care about is that demonizing BP makes it easier for the other oil giants to get away with their evil-doing. They don’t even need to throw their hands up and say “don’t blame us, it’s all BP’s fault,” because we’re doing it for them.

Already, the Obama Administration has been unable to impose a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, after an appeals court judge branded the decision “arbitrary.” Arbitrary? Really? Does the judge truly think the decision was random or capricious? I would call it “sensible” myself. But then Obama did rather back himself into a corner by announcing an expansion to offshore oil drilling right before the BP disaster struck.

As difficult as it may be, we need to remember that Big Oil is the true enemy, not just BP. It’s the oil industry at large that is responsible for the mess in the Niger Delta, the oil pipeline explosion in China earlier last week, and the leaky oil tanker that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in April.

Off-shore drilling is inherently risky. It’s a miracle of modern engineering and human ingenuity that we’re able to do it at all. And when things go wrong, we’re at the mercy of natural forces and there’s not a whole lot we can do. It’s lunacy to even consider doing it somewhere remote, cold and pristine like the Alaskan wilderness, even if the waters are shallower. I don’t care if it’s not BP at the rig – I don’t trust Shell any more.

Public support for offshore drilling has eroded since the BP oil disaster. No wonder, after seeing shocking evidence of just how badly things can go wrong. What’s astonishing is that it’s still supported by the majority of those polled. And there’s a good chance that allowing BP to take all the blame while other oil companies go scot-free, could mean this trend is reversed and public support for offshore drilling once again continues to rise.

We need to end off-shore drilling for all oil companies, not just point fingers at BP. And if we don’t want to be dependent on foreign oil, well then that seems a good reason to wean ourselves off it altogether. How about we build windmills, invest in electric cars, move to sustainable farming methods and ditch the plastic addiction? Can we do it? Yes, we can!

Image: Fibonacci Blue