Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 2 (2 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   5 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

What's the Difference between British Petroleum and Terrorists?

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Well Said 2   Must Read 1   Valuable 1  
View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H2 5/12/10

- Advertisement -

Saturday morning I got a call from my friend in Boston, a zany PhD student finishing his studies at MIT. We recounted our lives since the last call, and conversation drifted to current events and the BP oil spill. We compared the physical damages from the spill to a terrorist attack. Quite suddenly, my friend asked, "What's the difference between British Petroleum and Terrorists?"

I thought for a moment. "Intent," I answered.

British Petroleum did not intend to spill gobs of oil into the Gulf: they care about people, and would never maliciously hurt anyone. Or would they? Long after I hung up the phone, I began thinking about the words a roommate had said while working Valero, the largest oil refiner in the United States.

"If there is one company bound to have another accident," the roommate assured, "it's British Petroleum. They have no regard for safety, and have a poor track record." This was 2005. Down in Texas, a major explosion on March 23 killed 15 workers and injuring over 170 others. Since the accident, BP has paid $50 million in environmental fines, yet made over $80 billion in profit, after taxes.

Now misfortune strikes BP again, this time in the Gulf of Mexico, with exponentially worse environmental damage. CEO Tony Hayward will go on television and apologize. If he borrows a technique from Toyota's chairman, Hayward might shed a tear or two for dramatic effect. Recall the last major American oil spill in 1989. As a result of the Exxon Valdez disaster, Exxon Mobile was ordered to pay 4.3 billion in damages. If BP's fine is anything similar, they will have a minor setback in profits, perhaps paying a quarter years worth, after taxes.

What a great racket. Rape the earth and make obscene profits, but expect occasional disaster. Pay a penance, repeat the process. Worried about your company's name? Hide dirty deeds in subsidiaries like Enron, or change the name altogether like Philip Morris to Altria. American will forget and forgive.

- Advertisement -

Worse than forgiving avarice is misreading it. What if terrorists decided to quit shoe bombs and infiltrate oilrigs? They could feign incompetence and set off a series of "accidents," leading to economic and ecological disaster. Is there is any difference between the terrorists and BP's destructive consequences? BP's mal intent is an incidental by-product of relentless greed rather than an end goal, but does that make the Gulf disaster any less egregious? The difference is intent, but judging BP's behavior, that distinction becomes fuzzy. If terrorists had caused the explosion in the Gulf, they would be tried and executed. Big Oil just gets fined.

Obviously, another token fine is not enough. Imposing a strong Carbon Tax is the best way to deal with Big Oil, crippling its economic power over time. The tax would wean America off its devastating addiction to fossil fuels and encourage rapid growth in clean energy. Without American demand, after all, BP would be absent from the Gulf entirely, multimillion gallon oil spill included.

- Advertisement -


Tim Kline is a UC Berkeley graduate and a green building design professional. He currently lives in San Diego and volunteers for Citizens Climate Lobby

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Google Content Matches:
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

What's the Difference between British Petroleum and Terrorists?

Make things in America and give the Earth a break from carbon


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
4 people are discussing this page, with 5 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

This article was written to rally people to write ... by Tim Kline on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 9:05:44 AM
of Big Oil, from direct cash payments to tax incen... by John Sanchez Jr. on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 1:20:07 PM
The people of a nation with an infrastructure desi... by John Reed on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 5:06:16 PM
is that we can nationalize only the resource, not ... by John Sanchez Jr. on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 6:45:54 PM
After GW, gave big oil, the biggest tax cuts, oil ... by marko polo on Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 7:15:43 AM