Yesterday was yet another gaffe from BP, but thankfully it was not yet another one from the company’s CEO Tony Hayward.
This time it was the company’s chairman who was speaking to the media for the first time. As he left the White House, BP’s chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said:
“We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care but that’s not the case with BP. We care about the small people.”
This kind of patronising comment has already gone down badly in the Gulf.
Douglas Brinkley, a Gulf coast historian at Rice University, replied. “It’s snotty and deeply condescending and it shows the kind of corporate arrogance that BP has been exuding ever since the Deepwater Horizon accident.”
Justin Taffinder, from New Orleans, was one of the many affected by the spill who said they were upset by Mr Svanberg’s comments.
He said, “We’re not small people. We’re human beings. They’re no greater than us. We don’t bow down to them. We don’t pray to them.”
Today is BP’s D-Day, when Tony Hayward faces a House of Congress Committee.
Hayward has apparently been practicing in front of a so-called “murder board” of a dozen-strong group of lawyers and public relations advisers who have been simulating the aggressive questions Hayward is likely to face.
Unlike the chaos in the Gulf, everything is being staged managed. Hayward is apparently being advised on every detail about the appearance — including his posture and his choice of shirt and tie.
Top among those advising him are the spin-doctor Hilary Rosen, managing partner of the Washington office of Brunswick, BP’s public relations firm.
Apparently Hayward will “attempt to spread blame for disaster.”
He is expected to say: “This is a complex accident, caused by an unprecedented combination of failures. A number of companies are involved, including BP, and it is simply too early to understand the cause.”
The trouble is that BP has been trying to shift the blame for the accident from day one. Now is the time to stop the lies, the misinformation and come clean.
The Gulf residents, the American people and the wider world need to know the answers to numerous questions, including:
• Whether there was financial pressure on BP to plug the Deepwater well, as documents show drilling was running late?
• Why was safety compromised with risky procedures on the well design, and not using enough centrilisers?
• Why were standard industry procedures abandoned such as not undertaking a cent bond log, a bottoms up or an adequate lock-down sleeve?
• Why did his own staff call Deepwater a “nightmare well”?
• Why has BP consistently lied or misinformed about the size of the spill? What it their estimate about the amount of oil that has been spilled? Some estimates now put the maximum of oil spilled at 116 million gallons. That is ten times the Exxon Valdez.
• Why has BP consistently tried to hide the damage being done in the Gulf, from banning journalists and photographers from sensitive sites, to destroying evidence?
• Why have BP’s call centres been described by people who work for them as “a diversion” to stop people getting the truth?
• Why has BP tried to downplay the ecological impact of the spill – from crass comments about small drops in the ocean to denying plumes under water.
• Why has it not adequately protected the clean-up workers?
• Why has BP been trying to manipulate the internet by buying up search engines?
Anyway those are ten questions to start with. And we would like the truth for each and every one…
And how about two more. As Janice a worker at a BP call centre, said: “We’re a diversion to stop them from really getting to the corporate office, to the big people.”
So why do BP management see themselves as the “big people” and everyone else “small”?
And how much did corporate arrogance play a part in the spill?