It’s time for Obama and the U.S administration in general to adopt a more levelheaded approach to BP and the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
It may well be the case that there were serious lapses in safety protocols on the rig, leading to the explosion that has released hundreds and thousands of barrels of crude into the gulf. However this is not known and is currently the subject of an internal enquiry by BP. It will no doubt eventually become the subject of independent scrutiny and, probably, criminal investigation when the inevitable litigation machine cranks into full swing.
Unfortunately the American public appears to have prejudged BP in this matter and the U.S administration is way too happy to pander to this prejudice.
Witness the appalling behaviour of the members of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee during their six hour interrogation of BP CEO Tony Hayward.
Barely a question was asked without snide and sarcastic rhetoric to accompany it and the congressmen present were clearly more interested in playing to the gallery than seeking clarification of BP’s position.
The media and Capitol Hill have bulldozed even the normally sanguine Barack Obama into using “butt kicking” language in reference to the company, and it seems every one is taking this dubious lead from him.
The brute fact is that a massive environmental disaster is still in progress in the gulf. It is not in anyone’s interest, let alone BP’s for this to continue and it is clear that BP is piling as much resource as it can into solving the problem. Shouting and screaming may make the ineffectual U.S politicians feel better, but it will not save one centimetre of coastline, a feat that only the technical expertise of the oil industry has any hope of achieving.
The White House may feel powerless in this situation, and on a practical nuts and bolts level it surely is. Obama has achieved what he could reasonably expect to achieve with the 20 Billion USD escrow fund for compensation from BP. But now is the time to work with the company to facilitate its efforts to solve the problem, and ensure that it is still a viable respected company going forward.
Americans love to make Brits the bad guy, a casual survey of U.S television drama will tell you that. It is probably part of the reason the Congress committee felt so comfortable blatantly insulting Tony Hayward the way they did. It is also possible that they mistook his natural British reserve for “stonewalling”, when in fact he was just honestly presenting the limits of the available information in a factual way. Whatever, they’re not helping the situation. At some point they will have to wake up to the fact that 40% of the company is in U.S shareholder’s hands and that a damaged BP will not play well with their financial situation any more than it will in Britain.
Obama must work now, not to undermine confidence in BP, but to encourage and support their effort in front of the American population. Also while he’s at it, when BP finally succeed in their efforts to stop the leak, make reparation and limit the damage he needs to give them the credit for it. Unfortunately at the moment it seems he is taking the populist line and giving the responsibility to God. If he is going to give some deity the credit for making it better, he should be giving it the blame for causing the disaster in the first place. He should know better than this.
"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"