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BP – Pumping Like Crazy at the Wrong End of the Supply Chain

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

PR your way out of this one BP. Can't get off your butts to pump petrol into old peoples cars but can pump millions of litres into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Yeah that’s right, on this side of the world we have BP petrol stations refusing to pump petrol into people's cars because it allegedly endangers their staff. Yet on the other side of the world in the Gulf of Mexico we have BP pumping oil like crazy into the ocean, skilfully bypassing the pipeline system and delivering it directly to the U.S.A. Yes of all the countries too choose from they managed to pollute the .U.S.A. No third world backwater here, these guys go to war if you piss them off.

The sad side of this new delivery innovation is it has cost the lives of 11 staff members, plan 'B' didn't work and plan 'C' hasn't been thought of yet. Well it has been but it is a work in progress. They are dropping a giant iron and concrete box over the spill at its source to help funnel the oil. It won't stop it but is will supposedly make it easier to deal with when they eventually do come up with plan 'C'.

In the beginning we in the sane world suspected something was badly wrong when it became obvious no one had much idea how much oil was gushing out, and more disturbingly no one knew how to turn it off. All the time while watching the disaster unfold, there was the nagging sense of comfort that at least these geniuses from BP were not running nuclear power stations.

Along the way we have been treated to such technical gems of information as when the smallest of the three leaks was plugged that "working with only two leaks makes tackling the spill easier than three leaks" – Duh!

Even the use of the word 'leaks' is spin of the highest order. A 'leak' to most of us is a stream of drops coming through a hole in our roof that we put a bucket under. A 'leak' is not 800,000 litres per day (latest guesstimate). That is enough to run my car for 385 years. BP can 'leak' in my direction any time.      

Unable to come up with a way of stopping the oil spill the Deepwater Horizon Incident Information Centre (clever how BP have managed to get their name off the announcements) who are coordinating the fix-it job, have managed to become precision marine biologists instead. Dismissing concerns over the impact of a burn-off of oil on wildlife in the area they announced "no populated areas are expected to be affected by the controlled burn operations and there are no anticipated impacts to marine mammals and sea turtles".

There goes that spin again "controlled burn-off". What is controlled about setting fire to an oil slick?

So let me get this straight. They don't entirely know how much oil is spilling out. They don't know how to turn it off. They are deploying a piece of equipment to assist directing the flow that has never designed to be deployed at the depth it is being sent to. The only thing they seem to be certain of is that they do not anticipate any "impact on marine mammals and sea turtles". Yes setting fire to a large oil slick has no chance of BBQing wildlife. Who would be stupid enough to think that air breathing mammals and burning oil on the surface could come into contact?

Still I guess a company that can decide that it is too dangerous to have their own trained staff pump petrol into people's cars, leaving the untrained public to DIY it, is capable of anything.

This is one of the few times in my life I am hoping the Americans put the boot in. BP made nearly US$17bn last year and can well afford to pay punitive compensation to the relatives of the dead, the cost of plugging the spill and the clean up afterwards.

The huge cost should be a reminder to all other energy companies that the real health and safety issues are found at the production end and not at the petrol pumps. Helping the elderly and disabled to fill their cars up could be a good start in the long road back to restoring BP's tarnished brand.

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