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BP & Nationalism

Those of you who know me will be aware I am a little bit of a news fiend – and I often watch the American CBS and ABC evening news which is repeated on Sky News / BBC over here at 0030 and 0130; but lately their coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster has ground on me enough now to provoke a blog post.  Well, that combined with the outbursts of the previously sensible President Obama.

They seem to have lost all context as to what is actually happening, but what grates on me the most if the anti-British propaganda they are promoting.  Obviously I am somewhat bound to say this as I am British; but I would be equally annoyed if they were rounding on a French / Spanish / Brazillian company – the accident which occurred in the Gulf Of Mexico has nothing to do with the nationality of the company involved.   If anything you could argue that the regulatory oversight of the country licencing the drilling was lacking.

However, we need to provide some context to the GoM diasaster which I think some in the American media are missing:

  • Transocean, the company whose rig it was that blew up, is listed on the NYSE and traces its roots back to Birmingham, AL.
  • BP’s Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people.  Occidental’s Piper Alpha Disaster killed 167 people in UK waters, and is the worlds worst offshore oil disaster.
  • 39% of BP’s shareholding is held by American’s.  40% by British.  Most of the shareholders are institutional pension funds.  Stopping the dividend hurts these funds.
  • An estimated 15,000 people died as a result of the industrial incident in Bhopal, India in 1984; a plant ran by an American company.
  • Chevron, a large American, company are currently being sued because they refuse to acknowledge environmental damage around the Lago Agrio field in Ecuador.
  • ExxonMobil’s environmental disasters in Alaska & The Niger Delta.
  • Obama was the biggest single recipient of BP campaign donations.

The point I am trying to make is not an anti-American one, but simply that the disaster which has beset the GoM & BP has nothing to do with BP being a British company (if indeed it really is?).  Those American’s who believe so, notably including Sarah Palin, should really stop being so niave.  The USA and the UK have a long standing special relationship, born out of our broadly common outlook on life – a relationship which has seen our countrymen stand shoulder to shoulder in warfare… just look at the extraordinary flying of Flt Lt Fortune, shot in the helmet, to rescue US troops.

So, I think the Amercian media, and President Obama should possibly try and put a cap on the hypocrisy of it all and concentrate on making sure that BP is held fairly to account and pays for its mistakes; while more importantly improving the regulatory oversight and licensing of operations in the GoM by both national and “foreign” oil companies.

2 thoughts to “BP & Nationalism”

  1. “but I would be equally annoyed if they were rounding on a French / Spanish / Brazillian company ”

    I doubt that very much. Your reasoning is also quite suspect. All you do is present a series of red herring arguments (“Obama was the biggest single recipient of BP campaign donations.”) that really have nothing to do with the issue at hand. Most Americans don’t view this as a British problem. It’s the British that are viewing it through a nationalistic lens. Why? Because they have a lot at stage economically.

    What’s more important is that BP take responsibility for its actions. They’ve been doing a reasonable job at that. Cameron is the one who is incorporating nationalistic rhetoric into this issue. If anyone’s at fault, its British politicians. If an American corporation dumped quarter of a billion gallons of oil of your coast, I can imagine what you’d be writing, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

    BTW, I’m Canadian.

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for your comment. A lot has changed in the way this disaster is presented by the media, BP and The US Government since I wrote this article – mainly for the better.

    I do think I would be annoyed if the US media and government were rounding on France / Brazil / Spain – because my point was it had nothing to do with where the country was listed, it had to do with the company itself (and the standards which it is held to by the country in which it is operating).

    Most Americans now do appear to realise that it is not a nationalistic issue, but 6 weeks ago that wasn’t how it was being portrayed. Mr Obama was specifically calling the company “British Petroleum” despite its name being “BP plc”. But you are absolutely right about BP being a big deal economically – just remember though that it is 39% owned by US investors, largely state pension funds!

    As for Cameron – he was rounded on by our own media over here for not being nationalistic enough initially, but then as is typical for him he went overboard!

    Lets just hope the cap can work until the relief wells are drilled, and then BP makes sure that all of those affected are compensated and helped back to normal life.

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