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BP’s public relations nightmare

By The Washington Post
May 6, 2010

(AP)

What do you call a gigantic man-made disaster that is threatening to despoil the ecosystems and wreck the economies of the Gulf Coast? The answer is important, if you happen to be one of the companies responsible for it.

The massive slick spreading toward Louisiana has gone by several names since crude oil began gushing from a damaged drilling rig on April 20. Media accounts have referred to it as “the Gulf oil spill,” “the Deepwater Horizon spill” and the “Gulf Coast disaster.”

President Obama, leaving little doubt about whom he considers responsible for the epic mess, put a brand name on it in remarks in Louisiana on Sunday. The president dubbed it “the BP oil spill,” after the company (formerly British Petroleum) that leased the now-damaged drilling platform. The Environmental Protection Agency refers to it the same way in its official pronouncements.

The name of a disaster can be critical, both as a historic matter and the more immediate matters of image, public relations and legal liability. BP has said it will honor “legitimate” claims from people and businesses seeking compensation from disruption caused by the spill. But since there are likely to be many disputed claims (“This is America — come on,” BP chief executive Tony Hayward told the Times of London on Wednesday), having your company’s name inextricably linked to a disaster can’t help when a jury begins assigning damages.

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3 Responses to BP’s public relations nightmare

  1. Keith

    May 6, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Somehow, the Canadian oil sands are looking a whole lot less “dirty” after this episode. Indeed, if energy is the master resource of the human race, then Canada is truly blessed.

    That’s because, beneath the boreal forests of Alberta and Saskatchewan, halfway between Edmonton and the border of the Northwest Territories, lies a black bonanza of oil-soaked sand.

    It’s hard for most Americans (and even many Canadians) to grasp the simple fact that these sands make up THE largest known petroleum assets on the planet. The pool covers an area larger than England and it absolutely DWARFS the light oil reserves of the entire Middle East.

    So, how much is there? Right now, our friends to the north are sitting on a pool of 1 Trillion (that’s right…TRILLION…with a “T”) barrels of oil with another 2 Trillion barrels in reserve. By comparison, Saudi Arabia is sitting on “only” 250 Billion barrels.

    What’s more, most Americans remain totally oblivious to the fact that we now get most of our “foreign oil” from Canada, NOT from the Middle East. And, as the Middle East becomes more and more engrossed in ethnic and religious strife (and their oil reserves become more and more depleted) new technologies are already being applied to remove the oil in Canada’s oil sands FAR more efficiently while at the same time, minimizing its impact on the environment.

    Indeed, Alberta (where a lot of this oil is located) has recently placed strict limits on the amount of water (a critical element in generating the steam that removes the oil from the sand) that can be drawn from the aquifer there. This, in turn, has forced oil companies working the oil sands to find new and innovative ways to recycle that water. And they have.

    As a result of all this good fortune, and while many of the rest of the world’s currencies are collapsing, Canada’s dollar is now close to par with ours. What’s more, thanks to FAR stricter regulations on their banking industry, Canada also managed to avoid most of the economic downturn that our country is STILL going through.

    Indeed, NONE of their “big five” commercial banks required ANY bailout money from the Canadian government to say afloat. To the contrary, most of them came through the recession with tens of Billions more in profit. Maybe that’s because our neighbors to the north are also carrying only a small fraction of the Trillions in national debt we here in the United States are now paying interest on.

    Clearly, Canada is now poised to become a major future supplier of raw materials (including oil) to the rest of the planet as it moves beyond the recession. And it’s nice to know that, for now at least, the United States and Canada remain on friendly political and trading terms.

    And it’s a good thing, too, because, in a world that is becoming more “Anti-American” every day, we can certainly use all the friends we can get.

    • Carl Nemo

      May 6, 2010 at 11:55 pm

      Thanks Keith for your well researched enthusiastic article for developing Canada’s oil sand reserves.

      Alberta is planning to build a nuclear reactor in NW Alberta whose power will be necessary for distilling the oil from the tar sands. With oil prices moving much higher from offshore sources then this would allow the North American continent self sufficiency from the traditional sources.

      There’s a number of links starting from 2007 to present on the web concerning the building of these necessary reactors. The reason is that it’s necessary to have a relatively cheap source of power to make the extraction of the oil practical. When oil is down to $40 then it doesn’t make it cost effective to extract from tar sands, but with oil prices moving slowly, but surely back up to the $100 bbl plus zone there will be handsome profit margins. Little do folks realize that Canada is the largest importer of oil to the U.S. on a daily basis with Saudi Arabia coming in fifth.

      The U.S. is also sitting on top of the massive Bakken Oil Shale reserves found in Montana which will also need heat and pressure to distill the oil from the rock. America needs to wake up that modern, U.S. designed nuclear power plant facilities are a clean, efficient source of energy and pose little risk compare to older reactors of the “Three Mile Island” variety. As far as Chernobyl is concerned, it was a piece of old sovietski junk from the beginning. So the electricity generated from nukes will allow the U.S. to sustain it’s standard of living relative to the necessity of having oil and its products. Oil is necessary for just about everything we use from the food on our tables, to plastics, fuel for heating to power a host of equipment for various purposes. It takes 32 barrels of oil just to bring one steer to market through all it’s phases from birth to a store wrapped product !?

      Natural gas, wind and solar power are coming on like gangbusters too. So providing our financial system doesn’t collapse moving us into a long term period of stagflation; ie., a recession/depression along with skyrocketing prices then we should be able to save our bacon relative to energy supplies.

      http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html

      Carl Nemo **==

  2. Almandine

    May 6, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    What I have found interesting in this episode is a statistic I heard on public radio a couple days ago.

    The gist is that the Exxon Valdez was probably the largest such man-made eco-disaster in history, spewing about 250K barrels of oil into Alaskan waters… and this BP incident may double that amount. The kicker???

    The seabed of the Gulf of Mexico exudes about twice that much annually.