Monday, June 07, 2010

Off Key

Chris Ayres has a snarky commentary on Tony Hayward in today's Los Angeles Times. Ayres suggests that BP take a spare containment dome and drop it over its CEO before he does any further damage to the company's public image.

Here's what I consider to be the money passage in the piece:

Perhaps it's inevitable that any human being, no matter how skilled in communicating with the public, is going to err when faced with a calamity of the scale of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But Hayward hasn't made just one or two off-key statements. Oh no. Like the oil spill itself, the torrent of Hayward's anti-charm has been a slow-motion disaster, at first seeming almost containable, but then accumulating hour after hour, day after day, week after week, until Toxic Tony became a black stain on the Gulf Coast in his own right. If only there were a berm that could keep him out at sea, away from the population.

"This is America — come on. We're going to have lots of illegitimate claims," he sneered to one British journalist, as if the deaths of 11 oil rig workers and the injuries of 17 others in a more reasonable country would simply be considered an acceptable cost of doing business. Then came the terrifying logic of: "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." This set the bar for future Haywardisms pretty high, but the BP chief hurdled it nevertheless with his assessment that "I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest."
[Emphasis added]

I happen to think that Mr. Hayward's gaffes are actually quite helpful in a twisted and perverse sort of way. He has managed to confirm what many of us have long suspected: that for corporations deaths and injuries are to be expected and computed into the cost of doing business in the US and around the world. Rather than work to prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods, major corporations are perfectly happy to allow for them in the business plan so that profits can be maximized. That the rest of us might be unhappy with such unholy computations doesn't matter. Only the bottom line matters to the Captains of Industry.

Will Mr. Hayward, BP, and its devastating Gulf tragedy prove to be the final tipping point, motivating the rest of us to hit the streets and Congress in protest?

Probably not. Already the general population is salivating at the curiously synchronous announcements of abiotic oil and the earth's replenishing of oil fields long thought to be depleted. In other words, they are ready to climb back into their automobiles and to crank up the air conditioning for the summer. Our national leaders haven't bothered to step up and call for the end of energy wastefulness and over-reliance on the fossil fuels which will choke the life out of the planet and its inhabitants. As a result, when the dramatic pictures of oil soaked birds, dead fish, and tar balls on beaches from one end of the coast to the other fade, it will be back to business as usual.

There is some benefit to be being old. I won't have to be around to watch the further devastation. In the meantime, however, my heart hurts.

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