Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Corporate Games Tuesday: July 27 BP Oil Spill Update

"To put Hayward's failure down to tone-deaf PR "gaffes" is to suggest that appearances matter more than reality; that the superficial trumps substance."
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1. Oilcast

Winds and water currents are projected to remain generally favorable "through Thursday," reads NOAA's surface oil forecast. However, as NOAA (above) and its Mobile Regional weather center are predicting for our locality, winds will be light southwesterly and westerly, for the most part. They will shift to a more welcome light northerly breeze by Wednesday.

The forecast direction could be better, but it is the seasonal norm. The relatively "light" strength of the winds is favorable. By Thursday midnight, Ocean Circulation Group's latest animation shows offshore directional arrows coming at us from nearly every direction (screenshot below), albeit slowly and without much push.

2. Corporate Games.

As predicted, BP's Tony Hayward is officially out effective October "by mutual agreement," BBC News announced this morning. His reward? According to NPR this morning, a year's salary and benefits worth over $1.6 million million, an annual "pension pot" of at least $18 million which he can begin drawing at age 55, and a cushy "non-executive" job as director of its Russian joint venture.

That's more like an "up-fall" than a downfall. Everyone seems to putting it down to Hayward's "gaffes" and his failure at public relations. Rahm Emanuel, who plays Karl Rove to President Obama, even cracked this lame joke: "I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting."

This is maddening. Hayward's fundamental mistake was that he failed at his job of seeing that a major oil company went about its business competently and within the law. Instead, he was the man in overall charge of an entity that killed eleven employees, disturbed the lives and livelihoods of millions of innocent victims, and endangered all sea life in the Gulf of Mexico.

To put Hayward's failure down to tone-deaf PR "gaffes" is to suggest that appearances matter more than reality; that the superficial trumps substance. Would we love Hayward any more after April 20 if he had uttered soporific apologies and cleverly conned us with false sympathy?

Corporations do not sympathize with anyone. By law they have but one job: to make money for their shareholders.

The current Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4, may suppose that corporations are "persons" protected by our Constitution. If so, however, as Prof. Joel Balkan's work shows, they are deeply pathological 'persons' singularly interested in, and acting upon, one overriding desire. Like any other sociopath on the street, corporations want to get as much money as they can as fast as they can.

3. Hayward's Replacement.

We should bear that point in mind as Robert Dudley ascends to Hayward's job. Yesterday, instead, New York Times reporters Jad Mouawad and Clifford Krauss dutifully transcribed without comment BP Corporation's hoped-for narrative in naming Dudley:
The planned appointment of an American to run the London-based company... would underscore how vital the United States has become to BP. About one-third of the company’s oil and gas wells, refineries and other business interests.* * *
Mr. Dudley, 54, who grew up in Mississippi and spent summers fishing and swimming on the gulf, has been in charge of BP’s response to the spill for the last month. Before that, he was best known for running the company’s joint venture in Russia, where he butted heads in 2008 with BP’s business partners and the Russian government over control of the operation.
As if a bucolic childhood or American citizenship makes any difference when working for an international corporation like BP. When one is employed by a pathological entity interested in just one thing, rearing and nationality mean nothing. Dudley's job isn't to be a good neighbor. His job is to achieve the corporation's singular objective without getting caught violating the law.

Focusing, as so much of the press has been doing, on Dudley's personality and lousy PR skills diverts our attention from substance to the superficial. Wake up, people. This isn't television, it's real life.

As the Pensacola News Journal editorializes today.
[T]he environmental and economic damage caused by BP — and the recent plunge into the financial abyss led by the big banks and investment houses — should wake us all up to just how tied together we are. The idea that BP or other big companies can be safely left alone to work their market "magic" should have gone down in flames with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the incineration of the default credit swap era.
* * *
[R]egulations will never be an adequate replacement for the ac
ceptance of ethical and moral responsibility for their actions on the part of large corporations. At some point they must understand that making more money each quarter cannot be the end-all, be-all of their existence. The economy is supposed to be about people improving their lives, not cutting any moral, environmental or economic-risk corner that gets in the way of next quarter's fiscal results.
3. Boom status.

We spent yesterday checking out a number of our favorite sites to see what changes, if any, the T.S. Bonnie emergency wrought.

Some booms are back, like Project Greenshores' boom in the northeast corner of Pensacola Bay (see left) and the booms protecting Dead Man's Island in Gulf Breeze (see below).

Others yesterday morning at Bayou Texar were nowhere to be seen. On the beach, the boom was still not replaced at the entrance to Little Sabine Bay, in Lafitte Cove, and across Pensacola Pass.

4. BP Newtown.

One thing that's back in full force are all the clean-up workers. We found so many of them encamped on the beach along the road to Ft. Pickens that it looked like a new village. Call it BP Newtown.

This is the new normal, apparently. To give you a sense of it, we tried to stitch together several photos of the scene we came upon just west of the entrance to Ft. Pickens National Seashore Park.

Our editing skills are minimal and our tools are crude and ancient, so the result shows the stitching. But click on the photo above to get a sense for how the clean-up crews' tents stretch for nearly a mile along the shore, as if they had been newly platted for residential homes.

5. Tarballs Ashore.

We weren't surprised to come across vast piles of seaweed (properly, sargasso) washed up along Ft. Pickens' beaches (see below). This is expected after the vigorous surf we had last week.

Click each photo to see a close-up.


What shocked us was all the oil evidence we found embedded in and around it. Oil tarballs cling to the sargasso and wash ashore with it. Perhaps a third of the individual weedy stalks we came across on a 2-mile stroll have oil clinging to them.

Almost as frequently, we found the two -- oil and sea grass -- lying next to each other.

Oil also is visible on beached driftwood and the seemingly ubiquitous plastic bottles that litter Gulf waters.

Unweathered, gooey oil tarballs with the tell-tale orange tint were as numerous as the black weathered tarballs. This tells us that much of the oil arrived underwater or is relatively new.

On the beach, the visible tarballs ranged from about the size of a postage stamp to as wide and thick as the palm of an adult male.

About a quarter mile west of the Ft. Pickens fishing pier, we happened upon a small group of divers. As they were emerging from the water, we asked if they'd spotted any underwater oil on their dive. "Don" said he'd seen "some" including one large tarball not far from shore. He gestured with his hands to demonstrate its size (below).


That, too, looks like part of the "new normal" we on the Gulf Coast will be experiencing for a very long time to come.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The oil will be in the water for years. That is NOT normal.

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Ya it's too bad, but it isn't going away anytime soon and will continue to haunt the gulf for years. I could have happened to anyone. Just a bad situation.

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