Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


It's sneaky of President Obama to be harping on about the Britishness of BP, but when you're desperate to divert blame from yourself any old scapegoat will do.  BP itself- keen to promote itself as a Goliath sans frontieres- stopped calling itself British a while back.  Is this ironic? Maybe in an Alanis Morisette sort of a way.

A lot of the anger has been directed at the presentational skills of the BP high ups. Its chairman went on holiday after the rig blew up, its Brit on the ground made that unfortunate remark about wanting his life back. It's not as if either of them could have done anything to make things better- but they could have tried to seem a little less wrapped up in themselves.  In a world ruled by the media appearances go an long, long way- and seeming to give a shit is as almost as good as actually giving a shit.

Our man Cameron is mainly concerned about how the demands on BP are going to hit British pensioners- who have invested in the company- and how maybe next time round they won't vote for him. My sympathy is limited. Investment is a risky business and the higher the returns the less stable they're likely to be. My father was a Lloyds name and when Lloyds had an annus horribilis in the 90s  he suddenly found he was liable to pay out rather than rake in.  He could have sidestepped his obligations, but he didn't. He said he'd taken the divvies when times were good and it was only fair he should take the hard knocks too.

We want the oil- but the oil is running out- so we go looking for it in more and more inaccessible places. Everyone concerned must have known that it was a risky business to exploit the deepwater fields- and everyone concerned had their fingers crossed. It's cheap and unhelpful to say we're all to blame, but there's a level at which it's true.  We want the oil and we want it now- and we collectively turn our eyes away from the costs. The Gulf oil spill isn't the first such disaster. I was reading that it's dwarfed by what we've allowed to happen in the Niger delta. Thing is the shouts of indignation from West Africa don't carry very far. Only when there's a fuck-up in a place where the relatively privileged live are we obliged to pay attention.

I read the other day that BP has been thinking- recently- of rebranding itself as Beyond Petroleum. I hope that's true. If there's any good thing about all this it's that we've been reminded- dramatically- that our stocks of oil are running low and will soon run out- and we really need to be thinking very hard about how we're going to power our civilisation when they do.

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