British pinata and the oil spill

Out of the murky oil darkening the economic future, and shorelines, of the Gulf of Mexico comes, fittingly, dark humour

    Out of the murky oil darkening the economic future, and shorelines, of the Gulf of Mexico comes, fittingly, dark humour.

    What does BP stand for?

    Certainly not “Beyond Petroleum.”

    That’s just “greenwashing,” an American environmentalist recently told me in New Orleans.

    The American blogosphere prefers these:

    Broken Pipes.

    Blackened Pelicans.

    Beyond the Pale.

    And, as BP’s CEO Tony Hayward heads to Congress to face questions this week, there’s a new BP sobriquet, tailor-made for the $4 million-a-year man theoretically in charge of the cleanup.

    British Pi?ata.

    Expect members of Congress, all facing re-election in November and - whatever their outrage, whatever their sense of political duty - to go after Hayward like a bunch of stick-wielding birthday kids flailing at a papier-mâché sacrificial animal, full to bursting with delicious candy, and, just possibly, critical November votes.

                  There will be blood.

    The BP boss’ first challenge will be to keep his feet under the table.

    Hayward, a geologist, has been wrestling with this awful new formula for the past two months:  his ability to plug the oil leak in the Gulf has proven inversely proportional to his talent for sticking his foot deep (as in offshore-drilling deep) into his mouth.

    So, while undergoing the Congressional grilling, there can be no more saying again that “I’d like my life back,” in talking about a disaster which began with the death of eleven oil workers.

    And - please - no more denying scientists’ claims that giant undersea plumes of oil are strangling off ecosystems, by saying that can’t possibly be true because oil floats on water, and, ipso facto, there’s no need to go looking for more oil anywhere than where we can already see it.

    Stick your head in the sand like that, these days, and you’ll hit a tar ball.

    Humour aside, Hayward needs to show what BP stands for not literally, but morally. What corporate ethics does the company incarnate? What limits does he see to his company’s liability? What pledges can he make about future behaviour, based on lessons now hopefully learned?

    Gentle Reader: Any suggestions for what BP really stands for? Please add your comments…

    One thing it is decidedly not: Beyond Politics.


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