Monday, May 31, 2010

BP screws America. Again. Iranians chuckle.

You know, after all this time, I figured an oil company wouldn't screw over America. Again. But what do I know? (note: lots of sarcasm there - remember, I grew up in Jersey) BP aka Beyond Petroleum aka British Petroleum has done it again. The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in US history triggered by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, is wreaking havoc on the region. The damage is mind-boggling. BP is about to start a 3rd try at containing the spill - the previous two have failed. How good were the previous plans? Well, besides failing, they sounded ridiculous as well, as the Daily Show nicely pointed out. But instead of talking about the environmental damage done by the tragedy down south, or the abysmal lack of regulations/inability of Congress to update regulations on deep sea drilling (part of the issue is we're using standards from the 1970s, back when we weren't drilling anywhere near as deep in the sea as we are now), or the obvious and ridiculous amount of control the oil industry holds on our government (BP is fighting regulations, and might succeed - seriously), I'm going to give you a short history lesson. You see, BP screwed over America even worse over fifty years ago. I wrote about this last year, but thought it was worth bringing up again. You see, BP was the main reason for Operation Ajax in 1953 aka the overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government.

The US went along with the plan, after the Dulles boys did a Red-scare number on President Eisenhower, making him think Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh was going over to the Soviet Union. But before any of that happened, BP was the issue. Called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), they basically screwed Iran out of most of their oil money. They negotiated a deal with a corrupt leader, and when more responsible Iranian leaders came into power and tried to renegotiate a fairer split of the money, AIOC/BP refused. Britain's initial request for an overthrow of the Iranian regime was denied by President Truman. Eisenhower wasn't really game, either. The US was disgusted at AIOC/BP - it was obvious the deal was unfair, and they wanted them to renegotiate. Eventually, the Dulles brothers resorted to fear of Communism (I think they really believed it, though classified records revealed since then show the threat wasn't that substantiated) to get the US to back Britain, and Mossadegh was overthrown by a team led by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (Teddy's grandson), and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was put in power. Pahlavi, of course, is better known as "The Shah", the man whose ruthless rule, which the US backed, led to a major backlash in the 1970s that eventually led to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. So yeah, that didn't go so well for America.

At the center of all this was BP/AIOC. Their unwillingness to negotiate a fairer deal with Mossadegh led to all of this. Steve Kinzer has written quite a bit about this episode, most notably in his fantastic book All the Shah's Men. Here is a recent interview he gave on the topic. So, yeah, thanks a lot, BP. You're screwing America yet again. You can bet a lot of people in Iran are chuckling as they hear more about this situation in the Gulf of Mexico. They know all too well the destruction this oil company has wrought.


EllisW said...

Your comparison between the two situations, under the broad heading of BP screwing America, is unfair and tenuous at best. The situation in 1953 was a classic situation of industry rent-seeking, whereby they sought favors that could only be provided by the heavy-handed force of the government. Whether or not BP's fears, or the US's reliance on them, were justified, BP was using the government to do an end-around on contracts and markets. As a result, yes, America got screwed. But let's apportion equal blame to the US government for not just being sucked in by BP's stories but being willing to use its force in such a manner. It takes two to covertly tango.

Conversely, BP has absolutely no motivation or self-interest in the leak currently underway in the Gulf. BP's stock has plummeted, they are expending millions of dollars a day in their attempts to stop the leak, not to mention the lost revenue of the millions of gallons they will not be selling. And that's all before the wave of civil suits starts coming at them.

If the oil lobby was as powerful as you claim it to be in the present day, this incident never would have happened. The oil industry was out-lobbied, out-maneuvered and out-politicized by environmental special interest groups who have successfully blocked drilling on land (e.g., ANWR) and closer to shore on the east coast of the US and the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling on land or closer to shore is safer; has a lower risk of incident; and because of both the physical characteristics of the drill sites (on land or 1,000 feet under water vice 5,000 feet) and the greater body of experience in those areas, in the event of an incident mitigation and recovery is much easier. BP did not want to be drilling out there- the government forced them to do so, and now we see a tragic consequence. The government has no more knowledge of such operations with which to craft regulations than BP has in responding to such catastrophes. A common thread in response to this incident is a variation of the logical fallacy "post hoc propter ergo hoc:" these days, it's "because it happened, it could have been foreseen. because it was foreseen, it could have been prevented." A variation or continuance of this is "because it could have been foreseen, regulation could have prevented it."

So to your original point, BP may be screwing America again, but no intention or mental state can be ascribed to it as in 1953. Now if BP is at risk of collapsing because of the expense of the spill, and the government offers it a "too big to fail" bailout, then you might be on to something.

fp said...

EllisW, I'm not equating the two. You're reading too far into this. This is more of a "BP is in the news, do people remember what they did before?" post. In terms of the damage they are doing today, is it intentional? No. Is it severe? Yes. They've also lied every step of the way about the severity of the spill, have fought the video feed of the spill going public, they knowingly cut corners on maintenance and safety on Deepwater Horizon, and I'd bet they employ a ridiculous team of lawyers to fight paying the costs for much of the damage they have wrought. I certainly don't see them paying anything out anytime soon, while we're stuck with the consequences.

falcon said...

Interesting that the Federal Government announced today a criminal investigation into BP. Execs jumping ship in droves. This is going to get uglier before it gets better. Alabama has just announced its shores have oil on them now too. We are at 5 states now!