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  1. Wealth
May 22, 2010

BP: Too Slick by Half?

By Spear's

The BP executives have now become the most loved-to-hate characters on Saturday Night Live skits.

Hindsight, they say, is always 20/20. So BP must be wishing they had some rose-tinted glasses right about now. 

Not only is their giant oil leak straining “the special relationship” between the US and Britain, it is also the starting point for the most popular dark joke doing the rounds of the internet: their own ad campaign. “BP: We’re bringing oil to American shores,” they proclaimed just a few months ago. 

Well, as their oil now makes its way to an already embattled Louisiana coastline and a treasured marine preserve en route to the Florida Keys and Miami, I can only imagine they might want to find a new ad campaign, if not an altogether new Madison Avenue firm.

While UK papers have oh-so-gently reported on the regrettable spill, what has truly grated on these shores is BP’s propensity for ad campaign-style spin. 

Americans are so angry about it, that the British BP executives daily seen sweating across US TV screens as they prevaricate and obfuscate their way through congressional hearings, have now become the most loved-to-hate characters on Saturday Night Live skits. “We’re trying the dolphins with mops strategy,” said the spoof character. “That’s where we round up dolphins and tie mops to their fins. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll go to the back-up plan. That’s where we all call it a day and go to the new Jennifer Lopez movie, The Back-Up Plan.“

Thirty-two days into the as-yet-unstemmed disaster, BP executives have now taken to saying that the quantity of oil pouring into the sea is irrelevant, and in fact a “distraction” from the efforts to stop it. Really? Try telling that to the millions of people out of jobs, whether in fishing or tourism, because of the damage from the spill. Now the unemployed fishermen Obama forced BP to hire to do the cleanup are coming down with health problems from the dispersants used in the cleanup.

Something stinks, and it ain’t just the oil.

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It turns out that BP is using a dispersant that although approved by the FDA is actually banned in their home country of Britain and is extremely toxic to sea life: Correxit. There are other less toxic dispersants, so why did BP go for the banned-in-Britain option? Easy: they own shares and sit on the board of the manufacturer of Correxit. Only because the media has exposed this fact to an irate American public is BP now “looking at alternatives.”

Brits would be burned in effigy here if it weren’t that Americans had so many other people to be angry with on their own soil. It turns out the government agencies who should have insisted on better safety measures, checked the infrastructure, insisted on viable rescue plans for a worst-case scenario or licensed dispersants have all dropped the ball — and not through some accidental oversight, but because they were all too busy getting back-handed perks from the big oil they’re meant to be monitoring. 

The GOP (as the Republican party is known) licked their lips in delight, saying that the BP spill would be “Obama’s Katrina.” Reasonable Americans were outraged at this politicizing of national tragedy and it backfired. And just to further prove that the GOP is now the party of ridicule and chaos, Tea Bagger Senatorial candidate Rand Paul called Obama’s criticism of BP “unAmerican,” leaving blushing fellow Republicans scrambling to explain what he meant.

Obama, meanwhile has gauged the American mood right and is putting together a panel of experts to investigate what went wrong and recommend broad systemic reform that will make heads roll. He is putting an end to conflict of interest in this tragic farce by wisely choosing experts who are not in the current administration, since the administration could hardly investigate itself with any credibility.

Brits should thank their lucky stars, because if there weren’t so much blame to go around on both sides of the Pond, there would be a louder outcry for the BP executives to join the fish floating on the surface of the sea. 

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