When out driving yesterday, I heard a radio spot that had me shaking my head. It was for BP, basically telling us all how wonderful they are, including how they paid $23 billion to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico which is once again thriving today.
Forgetting for a moment whether everyone would agree that the Gulf was thriving (and by "everyone" I include fish and any sentient plants), you have to marvel at the gall of a company trying to portray the $23 billion it paid as showing how committed it is to the environment, rather than the reality that it was money the company was largely forced to pay as a penalty in a government settlement for its criminal acts and other medical and clean-up lawsuits.
This is made all the funnier (the polite word for "stomach-churning") when one remembers this news story from the New Orleans Times-Picayune a year ago, whose first sentence notes: "BP hopes the U.S. Justice Department will accept less than $15 billion to settle the government's civil and criminal claims for the 2010 Gulf oil spill...The amount BP is seeking is far shy of the $25 billion in fines and environmental damage claims the Justice Department wants."
The article goes on to note that "A $15 billion deal would bring BP's total bill for the spill to about $45 billion. It's already spent $23 billion on cleanup and private economic loss claims and estimates an economic and medical claims settlement will cost another $7.8 billion."
Another article by the paper states that "a March study in the journal EcoHealth by Auburn University researchers found that tar balls washing up on beaches in Mississippi and Alabama contain Vibrio vulnificus bacteria at levels 10 times higher than in nearby sand and 100 times greater than in seawater" And then affectionately continues, "Vibrio is a source of rare infections that can cause life-threatening vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and dermatitis. It is transmitted by eating contaminated seafood or through open cuts." There's so much more, contrary to "thriving" (unless by "thriving" you mean the growth of bacteria and damage for decades to come), but there's only so much the fingers can type before they would explode.
For BP to claim that it's environmentally-friendly because it paid $23 billion in a government settlement that, in a small way, might start cleaning up a small part of the environmental disaster it caused, is like a mass murderer accepting a plea bargain for 50 years in prison rather than life without parole, and then claiming this shows he supports federal housing.
So, yes, the environmentally-friendly BP is right there for you, right up with the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, Greenpeace and Al Capone.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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