|11-16-2006, 01:40 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2001
BP's American nightmare
From ethical champion to rogue interloper - BP's American nightmare
Accidents and allegations of market fixing destroy environmentalist image
Andrew Clark in New York
Thursday November 16, 2006
BP's tie-up with its United States rival Amoco was supposed to create an ethical champion at the top of the global oil industry. Negotiated by Lord Browne over a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet in a London restaurant, it was one of the biggest mergers in history. But eight years on, BP's US arm is becoming America's most accident-prone business.
Federal regulators have accused BP of price gouging. Its corroded pipelines have been leaking in Alaska. A BP oil spill has polluted the coast of California. Civil rights activists are picketing its petrol stations.
To cap it all, a young woman, Eva Rowe, has forced a humbling apology from the company for shocking safety lapses that caused its Texas City oil refinery to explode last year, killing her parents and 13 other people. BP's yellow sunburst logo and its eco-friendly "Beyond Petroleum" slogan, which once won cautious admiration even from the green lobby, now leave a sour taste in the mouths of many Americans. BP's public image is at rock bottom and the company is seen by some as a rogue foreign interloper.
"If you drew up a list of companies that Americans are most disappointed in, BP would definitely feature," said James Hoopes, professor of business ethics at Babson College, Massachusetts.
For a while, he says, BP's talk of ethics and sustainability overcame a grand old American tradition of hating big oil companies.
"Expectations had been raised so high that people's feelings have been crushed," said Prof Hoopes. "The predominant feeling about BP is, 'Oh no, fooled again.'" Others take a blunter line. Athan Manuel, director of lands protection at the Sierra Club, a North American environmental network, said: "Their reputation is pretty much in the toilet."
It is difficult to identify the point at which things began to fall apart for BP in the US. But the day when a problem became obvious to the world was March 23 last year, when workers overfilled a 50-year-old blowdown drum with chemicals at the Texas City refinery, causing a huge blast in which flaming liquid showered nearby accommodation trailers.
It was the worst US industrial accident for a decade. Safety officials found that antiquated equipment was on site, that trailers were too close to flammable materials, that eight previous incidents had happened at the blowdown drum and that a cost-cutting culture permitted "catastrophic safety risks".
BP's reaction to the disaster drew criticism. Ms Rowe says she got a letter a few days later apologising for the death of her father, James. But it appeared to be a form letter intended for a bereaved wife, rather than for a daughter who had also lost her mother. "It was hurtful," she said. "Those were my parents - my mum and dad. It wasn't just anybody."
(cont'd on site)
|11-16-2006, 02:45 PM||#2|
Angling in the Deep
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Texas Riviera, Southern Mountains
Ms rowe was on CNBC in the past weeks. She sued for over 1 billion dollars but what she was really after she got, BP admitting they knowingly ignored many safety warniings that led directly to her parents death.
I posted a thread a while back on it.