June 4th, 2010

Friday Four Cents: There’s Some Gulf in Your Oil

This is a new column we’re going to debut where we try to tackle the relevant (and not so relevant) issues of the day. Ranting and raving is a special talent of mine, similar to how others can yodel or flare their nostrils. Sometimes it just irritates the hell out of people. Sometimes I gain a few supporters for my cause. And sometimes it’s like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. Each week in the Friday Four Cents we’ll take two topics and give our two cents on them. This week, I’m using all four cents on BP and the rest of Corporate America.

Big Oil and the Money Grubbers
I know that this is a sacrilegious topic in Houston, but with the BP disaster continuously spewing oil into the gulf, I figured it was time to spit some vitriol back in their direction. Look, I’m not a tree-hugging hippie, but I don’t think it’s acceptable for oil companies to recklessly endanger the ecosystem just to turn a quick profit. We’re constantly hearing that drilling and exploration is absolutely safe and should be permitted in some of the most fragile and unique wildlife habitats. They want to drill in Alaska? Exxon Valdez anyone? I realize that it’s not the same thing, but it shows the magnitude of impact if a disaster like BP’s oil spill were to happen.

Is it too much to ask that these huge multinational corporations that are making astronomical profits take some precautions when they are out drilling for black gold? If BP, Exxon or Chevron want to drill for oil, don’t they have a responsibilty to look after the environment they are tampering with? At the very least, shouldn’t there be a plan of action in place to deal with any unforeseen obstacles or disasters? All I’ve seen from BP has been a piss poor response and a mishandling of the attempts to solve the situation. This coupled with the fact that they’ve repeatedly lowballed the impact of the leak, both in the amount of oil and the effects it will have on the US gulf, is inexcusable.

BP’s response has only added to the disaster and CEO Tony Hayward only added to fuel by saying that he “wanted his life back.” This selfishness isn’t surprising from a CEO of a multibillion dollar corporation, who will probably see a nice cushy bonus even though he has admitted the cost of the spill “will undoubtedly be severe,” but it causes me to ask the question: Who are the leaders of these companies and where did the come from? Granted, Tony Hayward is having a hellacious few months, but it’s a direct result of choices that his company made as there are reports that BP failed to install a cutoff valve in order to save money. Whatever the case may be, Tony Hayward makes a good deal of money to deal with situations like this. Is it too much to ask for a little grace under pressure?

With BP, Transocean and Halliburton, there’s been more finger pointing than an episode of the Three Stooges, and while just as inane, it’s nowhere close to being funny. If there is one thing that we’ve learned from the proliferation of Hollywood drama that makes up E’s television programming, it’s that we can forgive someone who admits a mistake and is sincere. All the misinformation and lies do nothing more than create a lack of trust. What happened to “doing the right thing?”

I was talking to a geology professor out at UH and he was telling me about the “Company Men” that they used to have out on the rigs that made sure that company protocol was followed. I think it’s a safe bet that there weren’t any Company men on this rig. There have even been reports that they were drilling deeper than the 20K feet that they were permitted to drill. When you’re structuring bonuses in order to make sure that a well gets brought in early, you’ve got to realize that you’re contributing to this issue. Would you cut corners if it meant the difference in a huge bonus or not?

I know that this might be naive, but I would just like to see some social responsibility from these companies and less concern about the bottom line. However, many of us have a hand in this as stockholders who are looking for insane profits in order to build our portfolio. Every body wants to get rich quick, but at what cost? My glasses aren’t tinted so red that I can’t see that we need the oil and gas that these companies produce, but I’m also not buying the fact that our most ingenious inventors couldn’t have found ways to decrease our dependence on oil if they were encouraged. It was simply much easier to continue with business as usual, but again the question begs to be answered: “At what cost?”

Hell, on a level that even the most superficial fake and bake should understand, the thing that bothers me about this whole debacle is the affect it has on one of my favorite places: the beach. I love the beach, but Galveston is disgusting. I’ve heard all the stories about sediment being churned and this and that, but I dont buy it. I won’t swim in that water, and now with the oil spill, whole sections of the gulf coast are being affected. Look, I don’t know anyone who wants to swim in an ocean and get covered with oil.

These companies make enough of money every time I head to the gas pump. Remember when gas was a dollar? I sure do, and it wasn’t way back when when my grandfather walked to school… uphill both ways… it was 6 or 7 years ago. I marvel at how adeptly the government and the oil companies played the U.S. citizens. They raised the cost of a gallon of gas well over three dollars and GWB was so upset and promised he would get to the bottom of it. Then they dropped the price of gas and have steadily increased it ever since. Heard any complaints lately? No, because people are just happy gas isn’t over $3 dollars. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that people can be so stupid, but, then again, sometimes it isn’t.

Would it kill Corporate America to act responsibly for a change? On the heels of banking disaster and bailout “fun” from a year ago where we began to see the obscene bonuses that Presidents and CEOs were making on companies that were going bankrupt to BP’s calamity in the gulf this has been a banner year for big business. People complain about the mess government makes of things, but these monster corporations aren’t much better. There’s some sort of groupthink that just whitewashes away people’s conscience. I’m not trying to say that capitalism is bad, but maybe this never-ending pursuit of the next almighty dollar is taking our civilization down a dark path. When is enough enough? Keep Houston Corporate, indeed!

— Marc


Cassi — Wednesday, June 9, 2010 10:31 pm

Nicely done. I think you have found a way to say what most of us have been thinking.

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