BP Pours Salt on the Environment’s Wounds

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If reputation could be denoted by colour, BP’s would be black, like its oil that coated the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s one of the most reviled companies in the world and even though it’s managed to survive the last few months without major scandal, the public has not forgotten the devastation caused by arrogance and negligence.

But that is of little concern to the British oil company, which has just finalised a deal with a state-owned Russian firm called Rosneft to explore the untapped fuel reserves contained within the Arctic.

BP says it has learnt its lesson very well and that environmental safety will be of paramount importance during the exploration; it cites the fact that included in the deal is the establishment of an Arctic technology centre which will focus on safety, the environment and emergency procedures.

But environmentalists aren’t convinced.

Commenting on the deal, Greenpeace spokesperson Ben Stewart said, “The Arctic is the most fragile environment in the world in which to drill for oil and there can be no confirmation yet that BP has learned the lessons for the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Any company that drills for oil in the Arctic forfeits any claim to environmental responsibility. An oil spill in the cold waters of the Arctic would be catastrophic and extremely difficult to deal with.

“BP is the last company that should be operating there.”

The World Wide Find for Nature (WWF) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) have also voiced their disgust with FoE branding BP “environmental villain number one”.

The Arctic has great biodiversity, which makes the exploration for oil and gas bad enough, but combine it with nightmarish weather conditions and you’ve got an accident waiting to happen: an accident that would be far more catastrophic than the Gulf of Mexico.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mike Childs, FoE’s head of climate change, said, “The Arctic should be a no-go for fossil fuel extraction as it’s one of the few pristine environments we have left. It’s very fragile and we should be looking at ways to protect it, not seemingly trying to find ways of wrecking it.”

In the same article Dax Lovegrove, head of business and industry relations at WWF-UK, said, “Oil spill response plans in the Arctic are even less adequate than we saw in the Gulf of Mexico. There is less infrastructure-like equipment to ring-fence oil spills and ships to skim off oil on the surface of the water.”

The move has been welcomed by some who hail BP for putting the Deep Horizon disaster behind them and focusing on new areas and bringing new technology to the industry. But it seems to environmentalists that the company is intent on doing as much harm as possible. Consider its decision to continue with a project in Alberta, Canada, during which it will extract oil from tar sands in a process notorious for its high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, Russia claims that BP’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the lessons it has learnt, are the primary reasons it choose the company for its partnership.

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