As the oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico, new details emerge about British Petroleum’s (BP’s) aggressive marketing campaign and the methods now being used to “fix” the oil spill.
Hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical dispersant are being sprayed into the warm waters to break up surface oil, turning it into tiny droplets which will eventually settle to the bottom of the Gulf. While this might seem to be a positive and appropriate action, two issues arise as to its usage. First, the toxicity of the dispersant has been called into question precisely because its composition is “secret”. Manufacturers cite that the list of ingredients is “proprietary” and cannot be divulged. Essentially BP has polluted the Gulf with oil and can legally add an unknown chemical soup to the mix with no obligation to divulge those chemicals.
Second, the use of dispersant is somewhat controversial in itself. Instead of drifting to shore, chemicals react with the oil and cause it to become suspended in the water. After a time, it sinks to the water’s depths where it comes into more direct contact with fish and other wildlife. These dispersed droplets – the mixture of oil and chemicals – can travel much more widely than a slick, can kill fish eggs, and
can also collect on the seabed, where it becomes food for microscopic organisms at the bottom of the food chain and eventually winds up in shellfish and other organisms. The evaporation process can also concentrate the toxic compounds left behind, particularly oil-derived compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.
And while BP is questionably “washing up” the mess it made in the Gulf of Mexico, there is no question about its campaign to greenwash its reputation. BP spends millions on industry lobbying while dropping out of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) yet spends only about 7% of its billions of sharply-rising profits on the green technology so prominently displayed in all of its advertising. BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, had a freshened pay package in 2009 as well – up 41% – while BP preached its phony support for renewable energy.
Proof of BP’s hypocrisy can be found in a number of documents which show the company’s lobbying push to increase the production of fossil fuels via offshore drilling. BP affiliated with the group FreedomWorks (famous for its orchestration of tea party events) to lend behind-the-scenes pressure to expand drilling on both coasts. Documents show that in 2007 a group called “Consumer Energy Alliance” lists FreedomWorks and BP as “significant grassroots supporters” of the plan to increase drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), claiming that “expanding OCS access provides universal benefits to all sectors” (oil and natural gas).
Not exactly the environmentally-sound direction you’d expect from a company whose advertising is decorated with flowers, windmills, and the plaintive wail that it’s “beyond petroleum”. I have a new association for British Petroleum’s iconic initials: BP – Blatantly Problematic.