From the Vault: Reason Hated BP, Back Before It Was Cool

In 2006, I wrote about BP's massive (and massively successful) greenwashing campaign. The company changes their logo to a green and yellow sunburst/flower/explosion of happiness, and BP started "thinking outside the barrel," "mobilizing Malaysians to take action on climate change," and generally pretending it wasn't still a gigantic oil company—with an already-spotty safety record. That PR push meant that when it came time for a little protesting, activists tended to choose Exxon over BP as a target every time.

But as oil continues to gush into the Gulf, all those mobilized Malaysians aren't helping BP one bit, and no one's likely to forget they're an oil company anytime soon, no matter how cute their ads were.

From the February 2006 issue:

For an example of a company apparently trying to single-handedly save the planet through expensive public relations alone, one needn't look farther than the corporate darling of serious environmentalists and greenish consumers alike: BP

BP is first among many companies that have opted to do their environmental penance in the glare of the spotlight. British Petroleum (recently rechristened BP, following KFC's model in removing unsavory words from its brand name) has been much ballyhooed for its commitment to the environment. Most of the ballyhooing is being done by BP itself.

A gas and oil company with $225 billion in revenue, BP is part of an industry that will keep environmental advocacy groups in business for as long at it exists. Yet these days BP is styling itself "Beyond Petroleum" and declaring that it's "thinking outside the barrel." BP's Environmental Team has crafted an elaborate advertising campaign and rebranding effort, recently expanded to the Web. Its goal: to convince the world that a company that sucks dead dinosaurs out of the earth, turns them into gasoline, and delivers that gas to SUVs can also be environmentally friendly enough to use a green and yellow sunburst (or is it a flower?) as its logo....

One might be forgiven for wondering how BP is managing to take in hundreds of billions in oil and gas revenue, apparently in its spare time.

The conclusion?

For the moment, the marriage of convenience between BP and environmental activists remains intact and fairly functional. But both sides recognize that they have struck a delicate balance.

Looks like Al and Tipper aren't the only green couple with a marriage on the rocks.

Read the whole thing here.

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  • ||

    No doubt dude, BP is on everyones nerves at the moment! They really screwed up this time.

    Lou
    www.anon-posting.at.tc

  • Paul||

    I'd say the current deep-sea gusher is pretty "outside the barrel".

  • EJM||

    That PR push meant that when it came time for a little protesting, activists tended to choose Exxon over BP as a target every time.

    Off-hand, I think that Chevron and Shell may currently be bigger targets than ExxonMobil.

  • ||

    I bet they'll never target Citgo...

  • ||

    British Petroleum? And here I've been thinking that BakedPenguin was responsible for all of that oil in the Gulf!

  • ||

    Oh, he is. He is.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Mwah ha ha ha ha. I am an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos? It's fair.

  • ||

    BP is one of the "investors" of a major solar project out here in the Mojave Desert. I put investors in scare quotes because the project construction is being funded almost entirely from guaranteed federal loans and stimulus money.

  • hmm||

    Instead of operating in the market and running a dirty marketing campaign to improve their image they should have spent that money on lobbying, or tried used GE's trick of getting everything backed by tax dollars and getting a nice fat tax credit.

    Jesus. The cognitive dissonance must be unbearable at times.

    Maybe a little time spent on why their safety record is poor, or why they are not responding to this well, or how better to deal with the situation and a little less time bitching about a company actually operating in the free-fucking-market to generate profit.

    Please stop using revenue numbers. They are misleading. If you're going to piss and moan about how much someone makes and their allocation of their income use net income or income from continued operations. Giant revenue numbers are just a bullshit tactic used to puff up a position. You could also mention the 12B they paid in tax.

    I'm going to have a red hand print on my forehead for at least a week from this article alone.

  • ||

    Welcome to the journalism of Katherine Mangu-Ward.

  • ||

    Revenue numbers are a better way to illustrate the size of a company's business than net income. I'm not sure why you think it's being used as a way to "piss and moan."

  • Sean Dougherty||

    I beat you to this one by a day or two. My take as a corporate publicist is that BP's focus on slogans over just being the best oil company it could be was disastrous, probably fatal, to its reputation. My post is linked above.

  • ||

    See my response below.

  • SIV||

    But the BP executive was wearing hemp panties and patchouli oil when overruling those scuzzy cajun roughnecks on the Transocean rig who wanted to shut down the well the slow expensive way.

  • Ivan||

    Reason Hated BP, Back Before It Was Cool
    Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every know and then.

  • ||

    How many blind squirrels have found you?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Well, that bulge in his pants isn't his dick.

  • JB||

    These clowns constantly lobbied for federal dollars for their "green-washing".

    No wonder they gave so much money to Obama.

  • creech||

    Why is there drilling in deep water in the first place? Is that the only place there's any oil left to find?
    Had a well blown out in, say, the Permian Basin, the well would have been capped by now because the oil companies know how to do so on dry land. Let's leave the harder, and more dangerous, to drill areas until last.

  • ||

    Let's leave the harder, and more dangerous, to drill areas until last.

    Don't forget "most expensive".

    Production costs for the "people who hate us" are still nearly zero. Let's use up their oil first.

    There was some idiot on CNBC this morning bleating about how this will be The Greatest Environmental Disaster Evaaaar, and the government (PBUH) shouldn't "allow" oil companies to drill in those dangerous, difficult areas. No mention of *why* the oil companies are out there drilling in a mile of water.

  • ||

    The greenwashing BP aspired to was really rediculous and shameful. It could be argued that in the days of John Brown, BP lost its focus as an oil company and thought it was a resource PR firm. Unfortunately, no amount of PR can ensure process safety and integrity (as TC and the Alaskan Pipeline discovered). That did alot to push Brown out. Since 2006 though, BP has done a great deal under everyone's radar to fix its issues with process safety and integrity and behave like a real oil company. Unfortunately this tragic event (which I would like to remind everyone that we still do not fully understand) has set back the company and its PR during the disaster has been atrocious. That does not eliminate its many strides forward in improving safety and integrity. One can only hope that although the "chicken littles" are calling for BP's assets, that cooler heads in Washington prevail and respond according to BP's action rather than their constituents hysteria.

  • ||

    It could be argued that in the days of John Brown, BP lost its focus as an oil company and thought it was a resource PR firm. Unfortunately, no amount of PR can ensure process safety and integrity (as TC and the Alaskan Pipeline discovered). That did alot to push Brown out.

    My recollection is that Lord Browne was pushed out of the top spot at BP for presiding over a series of serious fuck-ups and safety problems.

    However, a little cursory googling only turns up references to his secret gay lover. I guess shareholders can't sue you into penury for that.

  • ||

    However, a little cursory googling only turns up references to his secret gay lover.

    Depends on which story you want to believe, that Brown's direction for the company had led them to dire straits and the shareholders feared ruin and forced him out or the majority shareholders for the company are homophobes that believed a stellar performing CEO who got outed could not effectively run a major corporation due to his limp wrist handicap...

  • ||

    It's hard to keep a firm grip on the wheel if your wrist is limp.

  • Triatomic Tortoise||

    In case, you don't know this, the well that failed was cemented by contractor Haliburton. Get the idea?

  • Jorge||

    How can you not be enraged by this spill? What kind of corporate cretins are you people? This is a perfect example of why libertarianism cannot work, because oil and other companies perpetrate horrible crimes when they go unregulated.

  • ||

    THIS is unregulated?

    I'd hate to see regulated.

  • ||

    If BP is actually made to pay for the damages that it caused (which would be libertarianism) then I think it would be much more careful in the future. Unfortuantely, I suspect the game we're playing here is corporatism, not libertarianism.

    In any case, I've seen as much harm done by regulation (3rd world starvation due to ethanol mandates? Mandates on banks to serve more low-income applicants and stop 'red-lining.' etc. And how do you measure the cost of innovations NOT invented due to excessive regulations?) to be skeptical of people covering their butts with calls for 'regulations' (which may or may not be effective at preventing similar problems in the future. It's not like BP WANTED this to happen any more than the government.) Perhaps BP was underregulated. But I'd like to see a well sourced, well informed article for that, first. I've heard rumors. But I want to be more careful than that.

  • Clint||

    @Jorge... I guess you feel that corporations should be replaced by the state? Because empty rhetoric that panders to useful idiots while leading to the environmental legacy left by the great socialist super powers is a much better alternative.

    Safety regulations were in place but were ignored... so your solution is more regulations for them to ignore? I personally think it is as simple as actually punishing those personally responsible for circumventing the safety regulations that lead to the spill- but I guess that would lose you and your ilk the chance to take advantage of the situation.

    As usual, empty promises, platitudes and double speak that have no connection to what actually happens are what the fascist/socialist cleave to. Reality is simply a side issue that can safely be ignored when it inevitably disagrees with your fantasy.

  • ||

    From the Vault: Reason Hated BP, Back Before It Was Cool

    Because that's what's important, right? Hating the right people. Not anything productive like, pointing to actual measures that could be pushed for.

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