BP — like many other corporate behemoths — has claimed for years in its advertisements to be deeply committed to public service, in many different forms.
Nice to see them actually living up to such claims.
It must be purely as a public service that they are putting on a clinic (for the whole world, really) on how not to handle a major corporate disaster:
BP today admitted that is capturing less oil from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico than previously estimated, raising fresh questions over the success of its rescue operation.
The oil giant told the City this morning that the mile-long siphon tube inserted into the damaged well has been capturing an average of 2,010 barrels a day.
That is less than half the 5,000 barrels the company estimates is leaking into the sea every day following the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Last Thursday, BP told shareholders it was managing to siphon off around 3,000 barrels each day, while a BP spokesman in Houston told reporters that the siphon had actually been collecting 5,000 barrels of oil in a day.
Can’t say I agree with “raising fresh questions over the success of its rescue operation”. I would have gone with “raising fresh questions whether a corporation can be said to be a pathological liar, and whether BP is the most retarded corporation the world has ever seen.”
To BP’s credit, they did realize at some point that if a) they were going to claim they were collecting 5,000 barrels a day through the siphon tube, and b) huge amounts of oil could be clearly seen still spilling into the Gulf in the live video feed, then c) they couldn’t continue to pretend that the size of the spill was only 5,000 barrels a day.
So they issued a clarification, which is surely destined to become a PR classic:
BP had stuck by its first estimate that some 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day of oil was leaking from the well – despite claims from several experts the real figure was at least 10 times higher.
But BP spokesman Mark Proegler told news agency AFP on Thursday: “Now that we are collecting 5,000 barrels a day, it might be a little more than that.”
This business of declaring that they were siphoning off 5,000 barrels of oil a day does certainly raise some questions:
• We’re talking about oil flowing through a tube into tanks on a mother ship, all of it under BP’s command and control. How difficult can it be to measure the rate of flow into the tanks? How could they possibly get this wrong? How will they ever be able to explain getting it wrong? (There’s corporate stupidity, and then there’s corporate stupidity.)
• What did BP hope to gain by inflating the siphon estimate to 5,000 barrels a day? It didn’t occur to even one of their large collection of head honchos that if they inflated the siphon estimate to 5,000 barrels a day, they’d have to confess the spill rate was much higher than that?
In any case, once they had set up those two competing lies, they obviously had some kind of high-powered meeting to decide which lie to maintain, and which lie to back off from. Strangely enough, they chose to maintain the lie that absolutely nobody believes any more (even if journalists feel obliged to keep on citing it) and abandon the lie that nobody could really disprove.
So now the official siphon rate has been whittled down to just over 2,000 barrels a day. Which means they can go back to pretending that the spill rate is only 5,000 barrels a day after all. Because the premise for their grudging admission that the spill rate must be more than that has now miraculously disappeared.
Maybe one of these days all that spilled oil will also miraculously disappear?