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BP CEO Supports a Boycott?

Does BP CEO Tony Hayward want millions of people to take the BP boycott pledge?

Admittedly, it seems unlikely.

Yet, how else can you explain a company CEO who before and during what is now the worst oil spill in U.S. history provokes consumers with comments like this:

1. "We had too many people that were working to save the world." [1]

OK, this is one that actually came before BP's oil gusher, in a speech at Stanford Business School. Hayward explained how in 2007 he took over a company that was in crisis, following the explosion of its Texas refinery that killed 15 workers, a major oil spill in Alaska, a price-fixing case and other serious problems. Part of his diagnosis for the source of the company's problems, strangely, was that "we had too many people that were working to save the world." Not exactly what you might have expected led to problems with refinery safety, oil pipe maintenance and avoiding price conspiracies. (15:24

2. "What the hell did we do to deserve this?" [2]

Yes, Tony Hayward seems to think that BP is the victim of the oil spill catastrophe it created.

"Deserve" in this context is a strange sentiment. But if Hayward had asked what in the hell BP did to cause the disaster, emerging evidence suggests the answers are straightforward: recklessly proceed with extreme deepwater drilling that far exceeds the ability of industry to control problems; fail to invest properly in safety, including in relatively cheap safety equipment; fail to oversee its contractors sufficiently; and order drilling operations to skirt safety measures.

3. "It wasn't our accident. But we are absolutely responsible for the oil, for cleaning it up and that's what we intend to do ... The drilling rig was a Transocean drilling rig, it was their rig and their equipment that failed, run by their people with their processes. But our responsibility is the oil and it is ours to clean it up." [3]

It increasingly seems the case that BP and its contractor Transocean, as well as Halliburton, another contractor working on the rig, all contributed significantly to the disaster through negligence and malfeasance. But Hayward only gets it half right. It's BP's responsibility to clean up the oil, yes, but it was responsible for the rig, too. Even if the mistakes were all Transocean's -- which is not the case -- it is still BP's accident.

4. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." [4]

Yes, and a deadly dose of cyanide is tiny in relationship to a person's overall body mass.

Even more importantly, BP is putting far, far more oil into the Gulf of Mexico than it has admitted. Remember, the company first claimed only 1,000 barrels were leaking a day. Then it increased its estimate five fold, to 5,000 barrels. Now it claims to be capturing 5,000 barrels, while the oil gusher appears to continue almost unabated. Independent scientists say the actual amount could be as much as 95,000 barrels a day, or more. That would be almost 4 million gallons, meaning the BP disaster is spewing an Exxon Valdez equivalent roughly every two and a half days.

5. "I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest." [5]

What is emerging as this disaster unfolds is that scientists have surprisingly little idea how it will play out. But a "very, very modest" impact is very, very unlikely. The risks to the shore and to deepwater sealife, of winding up in Gulf currents, and even of being exacerbated by hurricanes are profound. Even BP's remedial measures, notably the use of mass quantities of chemical dispersants, pose all kinds of uncertain environmental risks.

Tony Hayward doesn't want to admit that BP is responsible for the Gulf disaster, is spinning the disaster, and seems to think BP is a victim.

Tony Hayward needs to hear a message from consumers that they don't see the world as he apparently does. Take the BP Boycott Pledge.

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Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen. Weissman was formerly director of Essential Action, editor of Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks corporate actions worldwide, and a public interest attorney at the Center for Study of Responsive Law. He was a leader in organizing the 2000 IMF and World Bank protests in D.C. and helped make HIV drugs available to the developing world.


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