BP just can’t stop funding denial


If you looked in the dictionary to define the word “denial,” there’s a pretty darn chance you’d find a picture of the BP logo right next to the entry. For nearly five years, the British oil giant has managed to maintain a state of practically blissful unawareness about why it’s massive Deepwater Horizon rig exploded with lethal force, how much oil was really spewing forth from the damaged wellhead, the extent of the ensuing oil slick or — most importantly — the extent of ecological harm that was done to the Gulf of Mexico and the millions who live on or near the coast.

Instead of meeting its financial obligations, BP has wasted months and years trying to undo the payouts that it once agreed to. When solid scientific research — often paid for by BP, no doubt under duress — is released to the public about the true impact of the spill, the Big Oil icon creates its own websites in a futile effort to undermine it. The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on teams of lawyers and public-relations spin doctors, convinced that it’s a better strategy to try to clean its soiled image than to do the hard work of actually cleaning up the Gulf.

Indeed, BP has a lot in common with climate-change deniers — the base of the American Republican Party, including many of the men and women that the party sends to Congress, or is now putting forward for the White House in the 2016 election. Like their counterparts across the pond, America’s global-warming ostriches not only seek to ignore the settled science — that more than 95 percent of the world’s climate experts agree that man-made pollution is heating the planet — but finance specious “research” aimed to bamboozle the everyday voter.

So it’s not surprising that BP and the climate-change denial crowd have now found common cause:

One of America’s most powerful and outspoken opponents of climate change regulation received election campaign contributions that can be traced back to senior BP staff, including chief executive Bob Dudley.

Jim Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma who has tirelessly campaigned against calls for a carbon tax and challenges the overwhelming consensus on climate change, received $10,000 (£6,700) from BP’s Political Action Committee (PAC).

Following his re-election, Inhofe became chair of the Senate’s environment and public works committee in January, and then a month later featured in news bulletins throwing a snowball across the Senate floor.

Before tossing it, the senator said: “In case we have forgotten – because we keep hearing that 2014 is the warmest year on record – it is very, very cold outside. Very unseasonal.”

The BP PAC is funded by contributions from senior US executives and company staffers who sent in contributions to the PAC totalling more than $1m between 2010 and 2014. Over the same period the committee paid out $655,000 to candidates, with more than 40 incumbent senators benefiting.

The irony, as noted by The Guardian, in reporting the large donation, is that BP’s stated policy is to take the threat of climate change seriously and to work to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This isn’t the first time that BP has said one thing and done something else — nor will it be the last.

The nexus of Big Oil, big money and American politicians is really pretty much at the root of everything that we talk about here on the blog. These contributions lead to state lawmakers blocking dumped-on citizens from seeking justice in the courts, to regulators who consistently side with the interests of big business and against the everyday people, to our difficultly in preventing ill-advised projects like the Keystone XL pipeline or offshore drilling in the Arctic that are killing the environment both in the short term and for future generations.

But money’s nefarious impact on the climate-change debate may be the worst of all. We can’t toss future generations into the incinerator of global warming, just for a pile of political gold. In addition to sounder environmental policies, America needs real campaign finance reform to thwart the influence of Big Oil.

Read more about how BP political money flows to climate denier Sen. James Inhofe: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/22/climate-sceptic-us-politician-jim-inhofe-bp-political-action-committee

To read more about my battle to get BP to tell the truth about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, check out my book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America: http://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice

© Smith Stag, LLC 2015 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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