That’s why, among the millions of reasons why the unfathomable mess in the Gulf of Mexico is so infuriating, I’m most outraged by the lackluster, unrepentant response of those who should be exceedingly contrite—British Petroleum (BP) executives.
As we all know by now, this company’s “mistake” has already caused irreparable damage, and (most frightening of all) the full impact is yet to be seen. It has been said that this ecological crisis could last for decades—a prophecy that perhaps is not so surprising, given the gruesome evidence we see right now: poisoned manatees and sea turtles washed ashore; pelicans unable to lift wings coated in viscous oil; a torrent of rust-colored tar balls floating onto beaches; and panicked fishermen who watch helplessly as countless gallons of crude oil spew into the Gulf waters.
We all know accidents happen. That is why many of us possess a capacity to forgive—even forget. But the reaction by BP’s senior executives has been tepid at best. It is a feeble response that, in my humble opinion, is unforgivable and unforgettable.
Not only did the oil executives try to pass the blame while testifying before the U.S. Senate—openly questioning who was truly responsible, as numerous companies were involved in drilling operations—but it also took several weeks for BP CEO Tony Hayward to issue a personal apology—a $50 million televised advertisement that left many feeling numb and affronted.
It may have been an unintended accident, but given such immeasurable risks, why wouldn’t BP—a company that has reported quarterly billion-dollar profits—have developed the technology to prevent or control a potential blowout, especially as it advanced its drilling operations into deeper waters?
Although BP contends a blowout preventer should have worked, a congressional investigation discovered this critically important device was—and had been—riddled with leaks and “lacked sufficient force” to seal off a ruptured oil well.
In his testimony, BP America President Lamar McKay admitted BP “could have raised concerns about well control” long before the tragic oil spill, vowing to investigate the company’s safety shortcomings. Too little, too late, of course, but now we are faced with a watershed moment. In this time of catastrophe, we have an opportunity to question our nation’s dependence on oil, and embrace new—and less destructive—sources of energy.