NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 23, 2010

BP's terrible safety record did not stop the company from almost receiving a safety award.  How then did a company so famous for its terrible safety record almost receive a safety award?  Because it has painted itself green and became the darling of the climate change crowd, says columnist Judith A. Klinghoffer. 

For the last decade, BP has been busily engaged in a multimillion dollar greenwashing campaign.  Changing its name from British Petroleum to just BP, the company adopted a new slogan, "Beyond Petroleum," and began a "rebranding" effort to depict itself as a public-spirited, environmentally sensitive, green energy enterprise.               

Even before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP's green image was nothing more than a scam.  While making miniscule investments in things like solar power, biofuels and carbon fuel cells that backed its PR claims, BP continued to work relentlessly to expand its oil and gas operations, says Klinghoffer: 

  • In the last decade BP, the world's second largest producer of fossil fuels, drilled (and spilled) vast quantities of oil and gas on Alaska's North Slope and in the North Sea.
  • It positioned itself to rip up Canada's tar sands to extract its dirty oil, and grabbed a 50 percent interest in Iraq's rich Rumaila oil field.
  • BP boasted the highest number of explosions and other accidents at its U.S. refineries (several of them deadly), and made the Multinational Monitor's 10 Worst Companies lists in 2000 and 2005, based on its environmental and human rights record. 

The advertising gimmicks appeared to work, says Klinghoffer.  In 2001, BP had already been chosen as the "company that does most to protect the environment" in a survey by the Financial Times.  "There appears to be near consensus," the paper reported, that BP "has made exceptional efforts to replenish environmental resources, develop alternative fuels and communicate with stakeholders."  As for the general public, a 2007 "green brands survey" found that BP was perceived as more green than any of the other petroleum companies, and also headed the list of companies that had "become more green" in the previous five years. 

Source: Judith A. Klinghoffer, "'Green' Bp Gulf Disaster Benefits China," Political Mavens, June 18, 2010. 

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