The Spine

BP: A Scandal A Day. Will Petrochina Be The Heir To The Very Valuable Remains?

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It is just about two and a half months since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, at the same time exploding the lives of 11 workers whose names no one knowsin contrast to the two haughty executives who seem always to be taking respite from troubles in their conveniently docked boats.

The news buried in today’s Financial Times story about BP being “braced for shake-up at top” reveals that, aside from ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell (notice how these are already combines of previous companies), PetroChina seems to be preparing for an “opportunistic bid.” This will not be good for the United States or for the other democracies in that it will leave us dependent for price and supply not only on the Arabs (and the Venezuelans, for that matter) but on Chinese combines whose petro-adventures grow day-by-day. So I ask what the Obama administration knows about this. And what it is doing about it. I suspect: nothing.

The FT story puts a new twist on the leadership struggle at the BP top. It is not Carl-Henric Svanberg, the chairman of the board, who is the executive favorite. It is Tony Hayward who was pilloried in America for giving the back-of-his-hand to a congressional committee but has reaped the rewards in Britain of Svanberg’s hauteur. In any case, nothing has changed in the Gulf Of Mexico. Nothing. The oil is still gushing and the garbage still spreading. As of July 2, it does not look like a good 4th of July , not even in Florida. The legal dockets on all kinds of claims fill by the day. 

This is not the first BP oil well disaster, not even the first in the Gulf. There was, for example, the explosion at the Texas City refinery in which 15 people perished. This is described in another dispatch, “Anatomy of a Disaster,” in today’s FT. Former secretary of state James Baker, an old friend and beneficiary of big oil, chaired a company investigation in which he cooly concluded that “BP has not provided effective process safety leadership and has not adequately established process safety as a core value.” Indeed it had not...even five years later.

Admiral Thad Allen has been exceedingly scarce on the tube these last view weeks although he seems to promise an improvement in the situation sometime in August. God willing.

Among the absent are Secretary of Energy Chu and Secretary of the Interior Salazar. If they had anything to say you’d see them.

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