BP CEO: We Were Unprepared for Spill


Photo: uscgd8, US Coast Guard, Flickr, CC

The big news on the BP spill front today is little more than an admission of the obvious: Ex-BP CEO Tony Hayward (of the "I want my life back" fame) told the BBC that his company was indeed unprepared for the spill, and that "we were making it up day to day." He also discusses his "personal vilification" and how he may have done better as the public face of the disaster if he had taken acting lessons: The AP reports:

In an interview with the BBC to be broadcast Tuesday, Hayward said company's contingency plans were inadequate and "we were making it up day to day." ... "What was going on was some extraordinary engineering," he said. "But when it was played out in the full glare of the media as it was, of course it looked like fumbling and incompetence."

Hayward said BP was "not prepared to deal with the intensity of the media scrutiny" it faced as millions of barrels of oil poured into the ocean and washed up on shore ... Hayward said he was "pretty angry" at the personal vilification. "If I had done a degree at RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) rather than a degree in geology, I may have done better, but I'm not certain it would've changed the outcome," he said.

As you can tell, at least from this handful of quotes, Hayward seems to feel sorriest that BP didn't have a better contingency plan for facing the media in light of the spill. The attitude conveyed here seems to be something like, 'well, of course we looked foolish, trying to stop the biggest oil spill ever to hit US shores -- who wouldn't? But if you look closer, we were really doing some brilliant work back there.'

This attitude is to be expected, but is troubling nonetheless. Lacking here is any reflection on the event as a whole: On BP drilling where it couldn't respond to any accident even if it wanted to, on the greater impact of the spill on ecology and human health, and so on. Not that we would expect reflection of that sort from the CEO of one of the world's biggest oil companies, but his statements provide some context for BP's role in the event: That Hayward, and, to be honest, most us Americans, accept as a given that BP was engaged in unsafe drilling operations in deep waters in the Gulf in the first place.

He's sorry that he wasn't able to fix the spill sooner, and he's bummed that he bungled the spill response in the media -- and really, those are the things most Americans are sorry about too. Most Americans would have been much more satisfied if Hayward appeared to be competent, and if BP had a plan in place to deal with the spill -- even if it spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf and killed a few people along the way.

These are the critiques -- that BP bungled the response, and that they had no emergency plan -- not that our over-consumptive habits have driven the company there in the first place. We simply want to feel like we can master any catastrophe that arises as a result of market demands -- but we're not really interested in changing the conditions (dependence on fossil fuels) that created it in the first place.

More on the BP Spill
Why the BP Spill Hasn't Invigorated Environmentalism
Breaking: BP Spill is Over, Oil is Gone, Problem Solved

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