by Sonja Szlovicsak (Editor-in-Chief)
Will BP clean up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico? Should they?
Ethically, they should. It’s unlikely that BP shareholders would continue to invest in a company that has caused one of, if not the largest, environmental disaster in mankind’s history. Keep in mind, hurricane season is just beginning in the Gulf, so the worst is yet to come. Even if that hole was somehow plugged tomorrow, the mess will still take years to clean up.
The American government has promised to hold BP accountable for the spill and make them pay for the clean up, but considering the U.S. government’s track record on holding big corporations “accountable,” it’s likely that BP won’t be cleaning for too long.
One need not look any further than the recent Wall Street meltdown to realize that holding a major corporation accountable is mere political posturing. A few people will probably take the fall for the majority of banks that were involved in bringing the economies of the western world to their knees, but as of yet, nobody has actually gone to jail. Criminal charges that actually stick are going to be extremely unlikely in this case. While the Securities and Exchanges Commission has charged Goldman, Sachs and Co for defrauding investors, the end result will be a lot of money wasted to slap a multi-billion dollar company on the wrist.
Looking back through history, a trend becomes quite apparent: the bigger the company is, the faster their wrong-doings are forgiven. Bayer, the company that makes aspirin, was once a part of the German chemical company I.G. Farben. After World War II, I.G. Farben was split into six smaller companies because the company did naughty things like running a concentration camp and performing horrific experiments on humans.
The company also manufactured Zyklon B, the chemical used in the Nazi gas chambers. These six companies have since merged together into three major chemical companies (Bayer being the most recognizable name of the three). The directors of I.G. Farben were released from prison early for good behaviour, and many of them went right back to work sitting
on the boards of these new versions of I.G. Farben.
In other words, they got away with running a Nazi concentration camp and killing millions of people. At least the U.S.S.R. seized all bits of I.G. Farben that ended up on their end of the Europe chop-up. If we couldn’t properly punish a company, or the directors of a company, that committed crimes against humanity, what makes us think we can force an oil company to play nice and clean up after themselves?
Because, let’s face it, the U.S. Government can’t actually force BP to clean up this oil spill. Yes, the American market is very lucrative for oil companies, but so is the Chinese market, so is the Indian market, so is every other market. The U.S., and Canada for that matter, need oil, and they aren’t too picky about where it comes from. Should BP decide that the Gulf is clean enough, they could simply stop cleaning. There will be a few complaints from environmental groups, but all of that will be almost
forgotten in 10 or 15 years. Tops.
So there really is no reason to think that BP will actually be forced to see the whole clean up of the Gulf of Mexico through to the end. Once people forget about how awful the oil spill is, once there is some new disaster to be blasted across CNN, FOX, MSNBC and YouTube 24 hours a day, BP will be able to walk away from the clean up. And until we don’t need oil, there really isn’t a whole lot we can do to stop them.