Don’t Cry For Me, Joe Barton

Poor British Petroleum

What do you give to a corporation that has cut corners, ignored warnings, skimped on safety and relied on old and inadequate spill cleanup technology when you think that the President of the White House is being mean to them? If you are Joe Barton, Republican from Texas, you give them sympathies and apologies for a government that expects said corporation to take responsibility for its recklessness.

Okay, accidents happen. We understand that. We get it. There are no guarantees that risky oil-extraction ventures in mile-deep water, drilling 13,000 feet through rock, will not have some occasional problems. It ain’t easy to get oil out of there. We are even aware that we need the oil.

Despite the promise of limitless energy available through alternate sources, a transition to a solar and wind economy is many decades away. You and I and our other readers can cut down on our electric usage with the right kinds of bulbs and judicious usage of air conditioning. We can drive fuel efficient cars and take fewer trips. We can use public transportation when possible. We can shop for goods that use less plastic and plastic packaging. We can make these little efforts to cut down on the need for oil. As consumers we can make a small, conscious dent in the demand and thirst for oil, but as consumers we are not going to be able to do enough to reduce demand so that offshore drilling is not necessary.

Given the dangers and risk of drilling, and given the steady demand for petroleum energy and petroleum-based products, I feel no sympathy at this point for the British Petroleum Corporation. They are not suffering. Nor do I feel compelled to “like” them on Facebook. This is a company that recklessly engaged in practices to speed the process of drilling and extraction in an area of the ocean that should be approached with great caution.

Now we have a bunch of oil spreading around the Gulf of Mexico, pluming deep and spreading wide and killing birds, fish, mammals, crustaceans, krill and jobs.

Representative Joe Barton, who along with Minnesota’s native daughter Michele Bachmann has felt the strings of sympathy tugging his heart for BP, apologized for Obama’s strong-arm tactics in getting BP to agree to a 20 billion dollar fund to recompense those who have been financially damaged by the leaking oil. While he has since unapologized and said that absolutely BP needs to be held responsible for their mess, he only did so to stem a political embarrassment. He does feel sorry for them. He weeps for them and the troubles they have faced.

He weeps for BP as they accept deposits from continuing contracts from the United States Military. BP is not going to disappear under the weight of excessive demands from the United States government for money. From the article (originally published at

In 2009, according to the Defense Energy Support Center, the military awarded $22.5 billion in energy contracts. More than $16 billion of that went to purchasing bulk fuel. Some 10 top petroleum suppliers got the lion’s share, more than $11.5 billion, among them big names like Shell, Exxon Mobil and Valero. The largest contractor, however, was BP, which received more than $2.2 billion — almost 12% of all petroleum-contract dollars awarded by the Pentagon for the year.

Does anyone else notice the amount of oil that is used to protect our energy dependence?

They are going to come out okay, financially, despite their track record of safety violations. Consider that they are extracting, recovering and selling oil from the spill, to the tune of 15,000 barrels per day:

It couldn’t be worse, could it? In the Gulf, BP now claims to be retrieving 15,000 barrels of oil a day from the busted pipe 5,000 feet down. That’s three times the total amount of oil it claimed, bare weeks ago, was coming out of that pipe. A government panel of experts now suggests that the real figure could be up to 60,000 barrels or 2.5 million gallons a day, the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez spill every four days — and some independent experts think the figure could actually be closer to 100,000 barrels a day.

I don’t think we need to cry for poor British Petroleum getting fleeced by the government. I think that we need to be tougher with them, to make an example of them so that we scare all of the deep-sea oil extraction concerns. It needs to be more expensive to cut corners than to do this the proper way if we are stuck with offshore drilling.

Don’t cry for BP, Joe Barton. They’ll be okay, even if they get shaken down.

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13 Responses to “Don’t Cry For Me, Joe Barton”

  1. June 18th, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Here’s a petition people can sign:

  2. June 18th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Alden says:

    Mike, BP hasn’t been British Petroleum for some time. They became BP Amoco when they merged with Amoco (American Oil Co.), and BP after they acquired Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO).

    Barton’s comments aside, Obama overstepped when he asserted American rights to money which had already been committed to others (which included a large number of British retirees whose pension is funded by BP’s dividends). I think the British people deserve an apology; for whatever reason, there’s a lot of anti-Brit sentiment in the country right now, and Obama certainly didn’t help.

    Certainly BP is liable for the cleanup costs. No one is arguing that (Barton even clarified this later). However, Obama was acting very much like the hated American Cowboy when he made it clear he viewed America as more important than anyone else.

    Now, don’t you think that BP wants to cap that leak and stop the spread of oil more than anyone? The hearings yesterday showed more than anything that American politicians don’t have a clue about how to work with others. All they were concerned about was looking and acting tough, so maybe someone would vote for them again.

    The key to problem solving is to stop pointing fingers at each other, and focus attention on solving the problem (see Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury). There’s plenty of time to point fingers later.

    Perhaps it’s time now to take another look at the 13 countries who offered us oil skimming boats and other assistance. We could have had ships out there within 3-4 days (The Netherlands had ships ready to go), but we turned the offers down. What’s up with that?

    The initial accident was a disaster. What’s happened after that is even worse.

  3. June 18th, 2010 at 10:44 am

    NewEnglandBob says:

    Not only did I sign the petition but I added a call for Barton’s resignation or impeachment as an un-patriotic traitor to the American people.

  4. June 18th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    BP hasn’t been British Petroleum for some time.

    Irrelevant. That’s still what the initials stand for.

    …British retirees whose pension is funded by BP’s dividends…

    British pensions, like American pensions, are funded by dedicated, diversified asset holdings. BP’s scheme is currently overfunded for its liabilities. No poor pensioners will starve over this.

    …there’s a lot of anti-Brit sentiment in the country right now…


    Obama overstepped…Obama certainly didn’t help…Obama was acting very much like the hated American Cowboy…All they were concerned about was looking and acting tough…The key to problem solving is to stop pointing fingers at each other


    Now, don’t you think that BP wants to cap that leak and stop the spread of oil more than anyone?

    No. Have you paid any attention to marine researchers lately? Give it a try. BP’s priority is to stop the hemorrhage of goodwill they’re experiencing.

    Perhaps it’s time now to take another look at the 13 countries who offered us oil skimming boats and other assistance.

    You’re talking about the ones that are already there? Do try to be careful about believing anything you hear on Fox News.

    The initial accident was a disaster. What’s happened after that is even worse.

    Agreed. Don’t add to it.

  5. June 18th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Mike Haubrich, FCD says:

    Alden, if BP (I am aware of the whole merger thing) were more concerned about cleanup than reputation they would have stayed away from the dispersants and would have used effective booms. Effective booms have been available for 20 years, and they know it because they are in use in Alaska.

    This was an accident, but not really. It is an accident like one caused by a drunk driver. They used shortcuts, they violated safety rules. I am not singling out BP as a bad guy, because there are many other oil extracting companies who have not been sticking to the rules and regs either (of course, we all know that if left alone corporations would voluntarily police themselves because of Ayn Rand’s “market altruism.”)

    You are also being disingenuous about “blame” in blaming Obama for the response.

  6. June 18th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Spanish Inquisitor says:

    It seems to me that these transnational corporations, some with yearly income in excess of the GNP of many countries, are nationality neutral. They hold no allegiance to any country. So why get worked up about where their registered place of business is? It doesn’t matter whether they are British, Spanish or Ukrainian. They are responsible for what they have wrought.

    As for Barton and his ilk, what exactly do they want? One day they are castigating Obama for not doing anything, the next they are castigating him for doing something. My head is spinning. If he was able to extract 20 billion out of them without 10 years of expensive litigation, shouldn’t we be thanking him? I think it’s a brilliant coup.

    Now that speech he gave the other night?…what a waste of breath.

  7. June 18th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    IE6 No More says:

    Mike: IE6 is not a supported browser.

  8. June 18th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Mike Haubrich, FCD says:

    Tell my employer about IE6. We can’t upgrade, we are locked into it for a reason that only our IT department can explain, and they can’t explain it.

  9. June 18th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Mike Haubrich, FCD says:

    Span – that is what I think is funny about the conservatives. One day he should commandeer boats and do the Red Adair thing, the next he should stop listening to pointy headed experts, and the third he should just let BP handle the cleanup and decide how to recompense the Gulfians.

  10. June 19th, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Heather says:

    Maybe other oil companies also take shortcuts. But BP is the only one with over seven hundred violations to the other companies’ single-digit violations each.

    And while I have no animosity for the Brits – that’s part of my own heritage – I have just one word for the pensioners who fear loss of income: Enron! OK, maybe one more: Worldcom.

    Learn to diversify your portfolios, folks.

    Waste of breath? What a perfect description for Joe Barton. Oh, I know that wasn’t the juxtaposition, but the shoe does fit. The congressional hearings were a perfect time to find out who supports corporate greed and who supports sensible regulations, the environment, corporate responsibility….

    Maybe the best we can say about Joe Barton is he stays bought. Well, for a few hours anyway. Does anyone want to lay bets on whether he’ll apologize for that?

  11. June 19th, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Greg Laden says:

    There are a lot of countries in which the head of a company who fucked up this badly would be tossed in prison or charged with crimes by this point. The BP execs are fully aware of the fact that you can get away with whatever you want by paying off enough members of congress while your lawyers stall in and out of the courts, and they have the money to do this.

    Very tough action to enforce existing regulations and advance new ones will help, and that is needed.

    Obama is actually being a bit of a whimp, not a cowboy. A real cowboy would have already called George Bush on the carpet for this. It was his regulatory framework (the one he let virtually dissolve over an eight year period) that is the reason this is happening (along with BP’s greed)

    OK, and now, for my own purposes, here is a test of the blockqquotes:

    This is text inside of a pair of HTML blockquote tags, so it should look like it is in a blockquote.

  12. June 19th, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Blockquote fail. Whoa, I just looked at the CSS. Tell me again why CSS is a good idea?

    In my day, a block quote was a blockquote.

  13. June 21st, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Ben Zvan says:

    CSS lets you change the look of an entire site in an afternoon. It also makes it easier to fix things when your beta testers don’t notice problems until you’ve moved the code to production. 🙂

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