Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Dirty Truth About Big Oil: British Petroleum

What is there to say about the most despised company on earth at the moment? Well, actually there is plenty to write about concerning BP's long history of negligent behavior in their oil drilling operations.

Enough ink has been spilled over the Deepwater Horizon well explosion, so I'll focus on previous BP-initiated disasters.

  • In 1965 the BP oil rig Sea Gem collapsed and capsized, killing thirteen crew members.
  • In 2005 BP's Texas City, Texas oil refinery exploded causing 15 deaths, 180 injuries and forcing thousands of residents to stay in their homes.
  • From 2006-2008 three workers were killed at the same Texas City refinery in separate accidents.
  • From 2007-2010 the Texas City and Toledo, Ohio refineries were cited for safety violations 829 times by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. BP was responsible for 97% of oil refiner safety violations during that time period.
  • In 2009 a helicopter taking home workers from BP's platform in the Miller oil field crashed 11 miles off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea, killing all 16 on board.
So it is no surprise that a company with such a spotty safety record would eventually be a part of the worst environmental disaster in United States history. It will take years, possibly decades, before the full environmental impact of the Gulf Coast oil disaster is realized. 

It is not all doom and gloom with BP however. There is a small bright spot in BP's investments in solar energy that will hopefully become a bigger part of the company's profile in the coming years as petroleum becomes out of favor with politicians and the public. 

BP Solar is the third largest producer of solar panels in the world and the company has also heavily invested in wind power as well. And while it is discouraging to see BP Solar close its Frederick, Maryland solar plant for the rapidly expanding Chinese market, it is at the same time encouraging to find out that BP is working with Wal-Mart on a pilot project to install solar panels on rooftops. If BP and Wal-Mart can get together on a massive solar power project then maybe there is hope after all.

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