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See this new analysis from “Mother Jones” magazine: in

And by the way, per my earlier blog during the spill, neither the government, BP or the news media ever moved away from using “barrels,” of oil, which is an obsolete term in the industry and not comprehensible to most Americans, in favor of something we could easily relate to like “gallons.” This is gross distortion, just like BP and the U.S. governments estimates during the spill. The real rate of spill was often on the order of one million gallons of oil a day — how often did you hear that?

No wonder people lose faith in government and the news media, not to mention the criminals at BP. No truth. No justice. This nation is being degraded by these ingrates, who dangerously underestimate the populace and undermine their reputation for credibility.

From a Reuters report: “What makes the mistakes even worse, is that BP should have been well placed to mount a world-class crisis PR effort.

“The firm had almost unlimited resources. Its chairman was a media-savvy former telecoms CEO. And its head of public relations, Andrew Gowers, was a former editor of the Financial Times, and one-time Reuters reporter, with recent experience of crisis management: Gowers headed Lehman Brothers PR team during its collapse, although the rapidity and breadth of the banking meltdown was such that no amount of PR could have saved the bank.

“Yet the oil giant had a key shortcoming.

“BP’s British CEO had never held a position in the United States, its Swedish chairman had limited U.S. experience, and Gowers’ only stint working in the United States was his few months with Lehman.

“Hayward exacerbated his lack of U.S. savvy by choosing another Briton, Alan Parker, head of the UK’s largest financial PR agency, Brunswick, as his external PR adviser. It wasn’t until late May before the company appointed a heavy-hitting U.S. PR representative — Dick Cheney’s former spokeswoman, Anne Kolton.

“The lack of local knowledge hurt BP in those first few weeks. U.S. executives say that it is difficult for European executives, especially those who haven’t spent a long time working in the United States, to understand the combatative political landscape there.
“In Europe, the attitude would be much more, ‘the company is the only one who can solve the problem, so what do we need to do to help the company to get it sorted?'” said Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics.
“The company didn’t adequately gauge how much backlash there would be and how quickly it would be … that was a really bad piece of risk management,” he added.”

As former GE CEO Jack Welsh said on Morning Joe today, the President should have formed an oil industry task force early on, set them up in the Executive Office Bldg. in continuous meetings with his govt. staff to solve the Gulf problems. Joe Scarborough suggested that the White House made a political calculation early on not to “own” the issue, and judging by the continuing focus on BP’s bumbling, they might have been right politically. But it’s not helping solve the Gulf problem, and a unified command is still needed. Meanwhile, the BP CEO is seen yachting and the President golfing, while “Rome burns”. The actions are wrong, the optics are wrong, and the problem remains unsolved.

We (and Congress) find it incredible that BP and the copycat oil industry have vapid, empty crisis plans, and therefore they weren’t at all prepared for the Gulf spill at one mile down. Obviously, neither was our government, at any level, prepared. Well, just how prepared do you think government at all levels, or private industry, is to come to grips with a nuclear disaster, whether it is an accident or caused? I guess, not very ready, at all.

Are there practical plans for protecting people and things from needless contamination? Are there realistic plans to deal with social and business disruption, hungry and injured people and animals, financial stability, communications coordination, government continuity, command and control, and timely, passionate reparations? Are our institutions investing in nuclear safety to protect our society at a level commensurate with our production of nuclear weapons and use of current or future nuclear energy resources? No way.

Two small, but perhaps illustrative examples from my experience as an Army staff officer in the late 60s, when the country was perhaps more top-of-mind than now on nuclear threats (from nuclear energy plant accidents, nuclear material movements, and nuclear attack):

1) As an operations officer at the HQ for the Army War College, where students — mostly colonels designated as general officer candidates — held contingency positions as alternates for Department of Defense officials, I was assigned to overview nuclear survival contingencies for their families and other staff, if the alternates had to go underground to run the military. I found the shelters for these family members and others who could not dive into the hardened nuclear command shelters, were not well maintained, did not have the requisite up-to-date food, water, medical supplies, geiger counters, etc., needed to provide a modicum of survivability. How anxious would all those colonels be to abandon their families to an unprepared fate? When I made a fuss about it with my higher ups, they ordered the supplies and sent me to training to manage that survival plan.
2) The Army then sent me to special training at a classified location in Arizona to become a Public Affairs Officer for a military nuclear emergency team, one that would be prepared to respond to nuclear accidents or threats in the NE of the U.S. It was a good course, maybe a week or so of learning procedures, practices and simulations of responding to such an emergency. Our job would be to be the military liaison for dealing with public and press relations in such a disaster. But let me be honest, could a first lieutenant (however good I was) with a week’s special liaison training hardly be expected to be qualified and prepared to deal with the enormity of a BP-level public affairs disaster across a sixth of the country?

While I’ve read that some communities have practical and tested contingency plans for nuclear recovery, and I’m sure the federal government and states, and nuclear power companies do as well, as does the military, do you think they’d be any more effective than our governments and BP has been in managing the repercussions in the Gulf to date? It is a scary prospect.

Maybe it’s time to take all our contingency planning for major risks and disasters, at all levels, a lot more seriously than we have up to now, and stop copying old documents that might have been actionable at some time in the past. If the BP crisis motivates us to do that, we’ll gain something from this mess.

Read the new Economist’s editorial on how the U.S., Obama in particular — is risking being too tough on BP. They even compare him to Russia’s Putin in kicking around private enterprise. Come on. Yes, there is risk that Obama and company, including Congress, are pandering a bit to public outrage about BP’s apparent criminal negligence in it’s lack of providing Gulf drilling safety measures and its empty contingency planning. Considering they are politicians, whose very employment is contingent on such pandering, that’s what they do. They have to be careful they don’t overstep the law in their condemnation of BP, as the Economist points out clearly. And yes, BP has ceded to demands for setting aside cash for reparations, withholding a dividend, and even sending their CEO home on furlow (so he could watch his yacht, Bob, compete off the Isle of Wight).

And is Obama and company ganging up on British pensioners and other BP shareholders who are being financially penalized to pay for all this? Sure, but they made what has turned out to be a bad investment. Americans already know about those. But is this excessive, and posing a risk to the status of private enterprise in American culture, as The Economist theorizes? Hardly. Apparently no one at BP has yet been fired over the spill, at least according to Hayward before Congress. What kind of accountability and Board responsibility is that? The spill goes on and on, and at higher levels than BP long acknowledged. Many Americans are already out of jobs. And the wildlife that have paid the ultimate price already will never be known.

The economic loss and trauma to humanity of this needless tragedy, and the repercussions that will go on beyond our lifetimes is vast and unknown in its scope and breadth. Are Obama and company risking our economy or our souls over handling this issue? I don’t think so. They should be careful, but what happens to BP, it’s reputation, it’s so-called leadership (and their boats) is of little concern to me.

Some BP sellers have been covering up the logo on their gas station signs. I feel sorry for them, and what the gas company has done to the reputations these local business people across the nation have built. They deserve reparations, too.

Our culture does a better job of managing contingencies in space than we do on our seabed. Technology must catch up with exploration. The immediate message is conservation – let’s conserve our natural resources and habitat. The omnipotence of protecting water is prominent in this equation. To protect water, we must be careful with the land and what lies above and beneath it. If there’s ever a time to see that the message is wind, solar and water power, now is it. While we desperately need to put a finger in the dyke of this spill, the lesson is that we need new strategies and practices and technologies and economics that will enable us to protect and conserve the entire dyke, for ours and future generation. As I said on a public relations industry LinkedIn site today, that’s a challenge and opportunity where public relations can make an incredible difference. The clarion call should be: it’s time to move Beyond Petroleum. Thanks for the push, BP.

Guess if I was trying to save a dying energy company, I’d try to hire away Dick Cheney’s former media spokesperson (who just might have a few contacts relevant to government and even the oil industry), who was most recently just with my new crisis PR agency. Hope she cut herself a good deal (read combat pay)…

BP Hires Dick Cheney’s Press Secretary, Anne Womack-Kolton
Under threat of receivership and criminal investigation for its destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, foreign oil giant BP has hired a former top aide for Vice President Dick Cheney to be their new spokeswoman. Anne Womack-Kolton has been hired to be “head of U.S. media relations.” A rising star in the Bush-Cheney White House since the 2000 campaign, Womack-Kolton served as Cheney’s press secretary during the 2004 election before running public affairs in the Bush Department of Energy:

“Back in 2001-02 Anne Womack-Kolton defended Cheney’s secret energy task force,” Daily Kos contributor RL Miller writes. Cheney’s energy group met with several BP representatives, including a private meeting between Cheney and BP CEO John Browne. In 2007 Browne retired from BP “after lying to a court about his relationship with another man.”
With its stock spiralling, BP hired her away from the Brunswick Group, the international communications and crisis management firm which BP has been paying to “craft its public response to the spill.” Womack-Kolton joined the Brunswick Group in 2007 to manage “high stakes communications surrounding public affairs issues and political risk management for domestic and global corporate clients.”

…think I’d recommend immediately establishing a Presidential HQ facility at the coast in Louisanna, and have Obama start spending half his time there and in the field and at sea in the Gulf, leading the charge, surrounded by his “generals” and spending time among the workers and public. There’s not much he can do in DC that he couldn’t do there, and the “optics” as they call the PR value of such things, would be considerable, especially since he is being criticized for being remote, and also as such a field White House hasn’t been done before, or at least in recent memory.

Again, as for BP, he should freeze their U.S. assets so they can’t be moved offshore, possibly draft their U.S. employees for the “duration” and make this a government operation. True, he might be risking his Presidency, but he’s doing that, by default, already.

The environmental damage is not transitory. It will get much worse, no matter what happens. The damage will persist for many years.

BP should be nationalized now (the U.S. company) and their U.S. assets put under control so they can’t all be moved out of reach to Swiss or UK banks, if that isn’t the case already. Draft their U.S. employees. Use their expertise and people and money to solve the problem and reimburse those effected. We need BP drafted into a lifelock with the U.S. Who cares if BP survives — they are only a company. We’re talking about saving people and animals and fish and birds, and compensating for losses to the maximum long-term extent, beyond the scope of precedent of anything short of war reparations. Again, where is the spine and decisiveness of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court on this?

I’ve been saying this for weeks. Doesn’t anyone care? Doesn’t anyone listen? Too me, the public perception that BP is “cooperating” so closely with the U.S. government, including holding joint press conferences in the Pentagon, suggests that the U.S. is compromised by BP and the UK. Let’s get it right — BP is an environmental criminal. And since when does the criminal stand beside the police chief in press conferences? Compare this reality with the concept that a UK company somehow caused an atomic energy release in the U.S. Would we hold them accountable in a death grip of control and justice that would have repercussions for decades? Of course.

What about resulting risks to our international relationships and the rights of private enterprise? How much does that matter when and as long as life is at stake on this scale?

November 2022

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