Do BP’s initials stand for Bad at Politics?

This was bound to be a difficult time for the company long known as British Petroleum. An explosion at an oil well near the southern United States coast has set-off the worst spill in American history. Even after nearly two months it’s still not plugged.

President Barack Obama pumped up the pressure on BP this week. He made his fourth visit to the disaster zone, spoke about it in the first televised address he’s ever made from the enormously symbolic setting of the Oval Office and summoned BP executives to meet face-to-face.

Obama has blamed the company at every opportunity and used this week’s White House meeting to convince it to create a $20-billion fund to cover the environmental and economic cost.

But BP executives seem adept at making things worse on their own.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward first described the spill as “tiny” and then “very, very modest”.


He complained that he wanted his life back, apparently forgetting that 11 rig workers lost their lives in the explosion that set-off the spill.

His boss hardly helped. After the meeting with Obama this week, BP chairperson Carl-Henric Svanberg apologised and said his company wouldn’t ignore the people affected by the spill’s impact on fishing, tourism or way of life.

“We care about the small people,” he said. That unfortunate turn of phrase seemed like a patronising description of the very people already punished by BP’s mishap. The chairperson later apologised for that too.

The politics have been bad for President Obama as well.

A USA Today/Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans say the president hasn’t been tough enough on BP.

His administration is being blamed for what local residents describe as a slow and disorganised response to the catastrophe.

BP and the Obama administration have been unintentionally paired-up in an awkward partnership. Both are suffering the effects of the spill. Neither has been able to end it.

There is just too much oil and a lot of Bad Politics.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts

Battle over R6bn workers’ retirement fund

Allegations from both sides tumble out in court papers

Nigeria’s anti-corruption boss arrested for corruption

Ibrahim Magu’s arrest by the secret police was a surprise — but also not surprising

Eskom refers employees suspected of contracts graft for criminal investigations

The struggling power utility has updated Parliament on investigations into contracts where more than R4-billion was lost in overpayments
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday