Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oil on Troubled Waters - Not in my Backyard?

The vast oil outpourings from the undersea oilwell pipeline off Florida USA have lead to some equally vast recriminatory political outpourings from President Obama downwards. The whole disaster seems far away when viewed from my small island in the North Sea/Eastern Atlantic but scientific questions about whether undersea currents might sweep some of the hideous mess Northwards and Eastwards into Europe's side of the pond makes for further reflection.

The oil pouring into the seas off America is an ecological disaster although how permanent a disaster remains to be seen as nature can more resilient and adaptable than expected. The reports of politicians playing the blame game even to the extent (if my interpretation of what is being said is correct) of threatening to change the law retrospectively to scapegoat BP rather than let the process of American Law in force at the date of the disaster take its normal course strikes me as being a crass hypocrasy.

BP makes vast profits from oil its is true but these profits come from the same market forces that the world's politcians these days mainly support. Individuals want gas and oil and are prepared to pay for it; governments want revenues and impose large taxes on it and BP's shareholders want dividends all of which provide the incentive for the company to deliver right down to the individual car owner's petrol tank. It seems to me that all these interests in oil and incentives created by society the world over driving companies like BP into questing further and harder into ever deeper and more dangerous waters for oil, also create a collective responsibility for some of the the unintended consequences of what really is the global lust for oil and oil derived products.

BP and other oil companies may be at the base of the pyrimid of oil lust but that does not remove those at the apex from a share of the responsibility for the polluting aftermath. The Bishops of England and Wales publication in 1996 entitled The Common Good essentially emphasised that no man is an island but that we are all interdependent and the need to recognise that individual actions impinge on humanity's general welfare. In other words the actions of one (that is by any individual human being) at the apex will filter down and react at the base; for example greed or corruption by someone at the top will increase poverty and lawlessness for us all collectively at the base. In much the same way lust for oil at the top will increase pressure on the oil companies to claw out the earth's oil to feed the lust. Individuals at the top who fail to rein in their personal uses of oil, share the consequences of the actions of companies at the base whose strivings to feed individuals' oil lusts, by extracting more oil, lead to hideous pollution.

Obviously if there has been criminal neglect by an oil company like BP at the base those responsible must face the consequences but any politiking such as changing the law retropsectively; playing the blame game even before why what has happened and which of the several companies concerned failed to do what, have been fully investigated, hypocritcally deflects those of us at the top of the apex from recognising that personal life style choices such as owning individual oil consuming comforts like motor cars, have their own negative impacts on the world we all share.


  1. Decided to maintain interest and increase knowledge in the plights of BP and those who live by the land and from the sea being polluted so dreadfully, by investing in a few BP shares today at c. 473p each.

  2. Took c. 10% profit and sold BP. shares on Friday following a negative BBC Radio 4 programme on the state of some other deep sea oil rigs.

    The brief period during which my SIPP held the shares proved a worthwhile educational incentive as regards this dreadful ongoing tragedy.

    Investment-wise the apparent failure just announced, of the BP topkill method of plugging the leak, may mean selling the shares on Friday was luckily timed.


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