One of the key low-tech weapons in the oil-spill response armory is the absorbent oil boom. You throw them out on the water (in a continuous chain that, in theory at least, acts as some kind of barrier). And you let them sit there till they have soaked up as much dirty filthy stuff as they can possibly absorb. And then you pack them off somewhere, presumably a BP plant dedicated to recovering the absorbed oil. (You think that’s far-fetched? They’re recovering oil from beach sand.)
It dawned on me yesterday that BP CEO Tony “I want my life back” Hayward is pretty much a walking, talking absorbent oil boom, at this point. (Though, maybe if he doesn’t create any more media storms from here on out, they won’t put him through the machines that squeeze out absorbed oil.)
It’s axiomatic that Hayward isn’t going to survive as BP’s CEO. Because of the long series of utterly stupid statements he has made, he has become a lightning rod for the outrage and anger generated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Some of Hayward’s greatest hits include:
May 4: “This was not our accident … This was not our drilling rig. This was not our equipment. It was not our people, our systems or our processes. This was Transocean’s rig. Their systems. Their people. Their equipment.”
May 14: “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.”
May 18: It is impossible to say and we will mount, as part of the aftermath, a very detailed environmental assessment but everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact will be very, very modest.
May 30: “No one wants this over more than I do… I want my life back.”
June 4: “I’ve got a pretty heavy Kevlar jacket and so far I’m unscathed … You know I’m a Brit so sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words will never break them.”
In addition to the infuriating gaffes that made him the BP executive the public loves to hate, Hayward also produced this true confession that isn’t going to help BP a whole lot when it’s lawsuit time:
“What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool-kit,” Mr Hayward said. He accepted it was “an entirely fair criticism” to say the company had not been fully prepared for a deep-water oil leak.
Then, there’s the matter of BP’s stock price having fallen to less than half its pre-spill level. On April 19, the day before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, BP’s shares closed at $59.48. Yesterday’s close was $29.20, the share having tanked more than 15% in one day. (I had nothing to do with it. Honestly.) (Edited to insert wisecrack).
Clearly, Tony Hayward isn’t going to survive. Not only has he served his company very poorly in the last few weeks, he has now attracted and absorbed simply too much scorn and fury. He’s just one big corporate liability.
He’s still there, of course, but only because what makes sense for BP’s board at this point is to let him continue to attract and soak up as much of the public’s wrath as possible before he is terminated. As long as the spill continues, public resentment will keep simmering. Also, the Florida storm of outrage has yet to boil over, but it’s coming soon. In addition, until the spill is finally contained for good, there’s the potential for a huge mishap. Much better to keep Tony Hayward there through all of this.
But the moment BP is confident the spill has been contained — maybe with a small grace period for the sake of appearances — Hayward is going to be walking.
Here’s the big irony, though, about Tony Hayward being a walking, talking absorbent oil boom. It’s because of his talking that Hayward will be walking.