Nothing Has Changed – Our Government Is Still Too Close To BP


You know, it’s one thing for me to say that BP put profits over safety in the Deepwater Horizon rig design. I believe that to be true, but my chief experience with Big Oil companies is suing them, not drilling wells. But it’s an entirely different thing when the guy who runs Shell comes right out and says BP went for the cheap option – and that Shell would never have done it.

The story is being widely reported everywhere but is a business sensation in Europe. Here’s how the UK’s Daily Mail put it: “Peter Voser said his company would never have made the mistakes that led to the death of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and the biggest environmental disaster in US history. ‘Shell clearly would have drilled this well in a different way and would have had more options to prevent the accident from happening,’ he said.”

That at least hints at one of the major oil industry rifts we’ve seen from time to time. While many tend to judge the entire industry by BP, others insist that the former British Petroleum is actually a bit of a rogue company, falling well short of the safety and engineering standards everyone else follows. When you’re looking for expert witnesses on that issue, Mr. Voser seems to have the experience to make that case.

The Daily Mail reported that “Voser also took aim at BP’s internal investigation into the causes of the explosion and the design BP chose for the well. The Macondo well included a number of cheaper options – something US politicians said reflected a tendency for BP to put profits before safety. Voser said that there are lessons to be learned for the whole industry.”

What? You’re telling me that the “beyond petroleum” stuff was just a bunch of feel-good PR bullshit? That BP would put money ahead of safety? Sarcasm aside, let me point out that nothing has really changed; the federal regulators and the Coast Guard are still too close to the company, and we continue to allow BP to pack up and abandon the Gulf. And it was our government that declared mission accomplished with the “vast majority” of the oil gone.

Along with the policy implications of all this, you just have to feel a wave of shared grief for those 11 families realizing their loss may have come because of BP’s lust for profit.

The Daily Mail story:

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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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