By Anne Landman on May 03, 2010

BP logoBack in July, 2000, British Petroleum launched a high-profile, $200 million public relations ad campaign designed by Ogilvy & Mather to position the company as environmentally-friendly. The company introduced a new slogan, "Beyond Petroleum," and changed its 70 year-old, sheild-style logo to a new, cheerful green and yellow sunburst. To many, the "Beyond Petroleum" campaign has always been ludicrous. After all, not only did it pitch BP's smallest energy sector while ignoring its major one, but BP's investment in extractive oil operations dwarfed its investment in renewable energy. BP spent a mere $45 million in 1999 to buy a solar energy company called Solarex -- a microscopic acquisition compared to the $26.5 billion it invested to buy ARCO to expand its oil drilling portfolio. BP is also the company behind the environmentally controversial (and some would say disastrous) oil sands project in Alberta, Canada. Now, in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP's greenwashing campaign looks even less slick. The company's hypocrisy and greenwashing have risen to the surface, and are spreading uncontrollably.

Beyond Disastrous

BP rig fireThe oily environmental disaster in the Gulf has drawn closer scrutiny of BP's record, and it reveals that the company is no stranger to major accidents. Pro-Publica reports that BP has been at the center of some of the worst oil and gas-related disasters in the U.S.

In 2005, a major explosion destroyed a gasoline-filled tower at BP's Texas City, Texas refinery, killing 15 people and injuring 170 more. Investigation revealed that BP had ignored its own protocols for operating the tower, and a warning system had been disabled. BP pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and shelled out more than $50 million in fines.

About a year after the Texas City accident, around 4,800 barrels of oil leaked into the snow around a pipeline in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. BP had been warned by one of its own quality assurance specialists that they could expect a potential catastrophe from the corroded pipeline, but the company ignored the reports until it was too late.

In May, 2008, BP was one of eight big oil companies to settle a lawsuit brought by more than a hundred public water providers, who charged that the companies' activities led to widespread contamination of public groundwater sources with methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, a gasoline additive. The companies jointly paid $423 million in cash, and agreed to pay 70 percent of future cleanup costs over the next 30 years. The suit claimed the oil companies used MTBE even though they were aware of the environmental and health risks the chemical posed.

The U.S. Department of Justice has also charged BP with manipulating the market price of propane. BP agreed to pay over $300 million in fines in the case.

Spill, Baby Spill

BP greenwashingDespite, or maybe because of, its history of fatal accidents, environmental disasters, fines and public deceit, BP is still trying to greenwash its image. Its Web pages are filled with bogus statements, like "We try to work in ways that will benefit the communities and habitats where we do business -- and earn the world's respect."

While more people are starting to see through this campaign of denial, BP still has a few cheerleaders, like failed vice presidential candidate-turned-Fox News commentator Sarah Palin, who on April 30 posted a buck-up piece in support of more domestic -- and even offshore -- drilling on her Facebook page.

If they haven't already, BP's disingenuous words of support for developing low-carbon, renewable energy sources will increasingly fall on deaf ears as the country' attention remains riveted instead on the desecration of one of the nation's most beautiful and valuable natural resources: the beleaguered Gulf coast.

Comments

BP

BP's solar photovoltaic division here near Frederick, MD in the last year laid off more than 400 workers and shut down it's expansion project. Over the past 2 months they actually tore down the half finished structure. A grim reminder of the total lack of commitment to alternative energy. All of course while posting 162% profits.

They obviously have no commitment to solar energy or their employees or the U.S. economy.

I have been watching this company BP transform its image from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum for many years. Anyone who watches any television at all, has seen the adds: BP: Beyond Petroleum, The adds show wind farms in hay fields and solar photovoltaic cells on rooftops of barns in Vermont or Iowa. The very logo of British Petroleum (a.k.a. quote Beyond Petroleum) is a bright GREEN star logo. All of this was an intentional effort by British Petroleum to reinvent their image from being a British owned Petroleum company to a multinational clean energy company. I have ALWAYS been aware that BP has an amazing PR firm, for those who have been drinking cool-aid or who are too young to recognize that BP is in fact a petroleum company, they all buy into the "Beyond Petroleum" farce. The mind game BP has played on the American public is nothing short of brilliant from a corporate profit perspective, however, all through the years they have been screwing the american people and the results are only now becoming perfectly clear for ALL to see. It's time to face the fact that BP (Beyond Petroleum: Their words, not mine) is in fact a totally Petroleum based profit center. To BP I say, you have fooled the American Consumer with your bullshit adds about being a green company. It is very evident based on the fact that you no longer refer to "Beyond Petroleum" on your web page, that you are now finally aware that both myself and many other American who have kept their eyes open over the last ten years are now fully aware that you are NOT Beyond Petroleum, instead you are British Petroleum: A London based multinational OIL/Petroleum company that is much more interested in short term profits than in "saving the planet" with your uneconomical solar voltaic cells and wind power. By the way we all realize that for you as a petroleum company, the whole alternative energy scenario is a lose - lose proposition. Reason being: alternative energy is much more costly both economically and environmentally not only for the average consumer but also for the large multinational conglomerates such as British Petroleum, note that I call you British Petroleum, NOT Beyond Petroleum.

The devastating impact of this oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico just reinforces how urgent it is to accelerate the move away from dependency on petroleum for our main energy needs. Transport is a significant user of the refined products of crude oil, and we should make greater efforts, together with providing incentives, for the move towards using low carbon forms of energy in our transport system.

At least BP has been effective in setting up a $20 billion fund to pay for the widespread ecological damage, but the overall message has to be a determination to shift towards newer, cleaner and more sustainable means of powering our economies.

300 Million in penalities for manipulating the market? Hmmm... I've got an idea. Let's take the penalties that the oil companies pay for things like this and invest it into renewable energy infrastructure. Oh, oh... I have a better idea. How about we tax them and use that money to create solar/wind infrastructure. I suppose that would make too much sense. I wonder if renewable energy has any hope against these oil giants when they have budgets like $200M to convince the American public that they are doing the right things. I'm sure the gulf spill will quickly dwindle in the public eye and BP will be back to making huge profits.

Why on earth would you want to invest in the two LEAST RELIABLE renewable energy resources instead of the one that will eventually stand as THE ONLY source of energy worth using? I am speaking of course about geo-thermal electricity. It is an extremely powerful, constant and unending source of electricity and all it costs is the price of two very deep holes in the ground. Expensive, some may say? I say it's nothing compared to the cost of a nuclear reactor but they seem to have no trouble building those.

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.