Add another $4.5 billion today to the total of still-accruing costs to BP for its massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. That’s the amount BP agreed to pay the U.S. government in its guilty plea to criminal charges connected with the deaths of 11 off-shore rig workers as well as the not-insignificant matter of lying to Congress.
The $4.5B is on top of the rapidly evaporating $20B in trust funds the oil company set aside to clean up the mess and to compensate the communities and individuals for property damages. All told, the company has booked $38.1B to cover the costs of the spill. But costs may very well exceed that figure; the settlement reached today specifically does not cover fines stipulated by the Clean Water Act that could reach as high as $20B (the Act calls for fines of $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled; multiply the upper figure in that range by five million barrels of oil spilled).
There truly aren’t many companies that could absorb such massive penalties and continue to do business. And, of course, BP’s very deep pockets are a contributing factor in the magnitude of damages assessed to the company. At some point you have to wonder, how much is enough? Still you won't find too many in the public feeling sorry for the mammoth oil company. Next to the Wall Street “banksters” who collectively deserve much of the blame for the financial credit markets meltdown that precipitated the Great Recession, BP has few peers as a poster-child for corporate malfeasance, though Bernie Madoff deserves a special Dishonorable Mention in the “individual” category.
So it is that even after BP settles all of its criminal and civil legal obligations, it must continue to make progress on the rehabilitation of its reputation. Are oil and gas customers who have stayed away from BP in the after-math of the oil spill satisfied with the fines and penalties assessed the company and in the clean-up and restitution efforts that are now largely complete?
And, finally, are they convinced that BP is a different company now, committed to doing the right thing against a triple-bottom line accounting (people, planet, profit)?
A crisis is an opportunity to demonstrate an organization’s values, or to reevaluate its values. Criminal actions that led to the oil spill and the death of the rig workers came out of a company needing to revaluate its values, as did the well-documented missteps of BP Chairman Tony Heyward, “winner” of Force for Good’s 2010 PR Disaster of the Year. Since then, the company has demonstrated a new value system that can genuinely be applauded: a dedication to the cleanup and restoration of the Gulf shores, and a humility in acknowledging its culpability and its responsibility to make things right.
Now is the 'Sputnik moment' for clean tech in the U.S., Energy Secretary Steven Chu declared in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington today.
The part of the Soviet Union is today being played by China (of course). China's clear lead in any number of clean energy technologies--advanced coal, nuclear, renewables, etc. is jarring. And the scale of China's investments in developing new technologies across the board in clean energy demonstrates a commitment to long-term leadership if not out-right domination.
Will the U.S. direct concerted policy to drive research and development in clean energy technologies that aren't currently affordable (unless you include unaccounted costs associated with oil dependency, energy insecurity and global climate change)?
Will U.S.-based companies combine creativity and perspiration, innovation and continuous improvement to move ahead of China, Inc.?
The fear and insecurity inspired by the little Sputnik satellite transformed into American will power to over-take the USSR in the race to the moon. Can we harness that same sense of urgency and national pride in a contemporary race with even bigger stakes?
The massive, still-ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is certain to cost BP dearly--billions of clean up costs and an even larger hit on the reputation of a company that prided itself on a progressive environmental vision. BP may have wanted to stand for "Beyond Petroleum" but now it stands for "Big Problem." Or perhaps as Robert Reich suggests: "Bad Petroleum."
A study by statisticians at Oregon State University concluded that in the United States, the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
As the father of four children, I take exception to that notion, just as I object to earlier views that having "excess" children is wasteful.of resources, a drag on society, etc. Each of my four sons is smart, self-confident, respectful and considerate of others. I have complete confidence that each of them will be a net positive in any measure imaginable -- doing more good than evil, creating more value than they consume and, yes, helping make the planet greener over the course of their lives.
Our children aren't like so many Canada goslings, growing up to poop all over our parks.
The so-called "cash for clunkers" program has been a great success, or a terrible waste of taxpayer money, depending on your point of view.
Hundreds of thousands of new car sales in the past two weeks came with an old clunky trade-in to qualify for the Federal program designed to jump-start auto sales while removing inefficient and and relatively dirty cars off American highways.
Rare is the opportunity for a government-funded "three-for." The program, to varying degrees, helps 1) an important sector of the economy including automakers, suppliers and dealers, 2) provide the fastest improvement in air quality by permanently retiring some of the oldest, dirtiest vehicles that even when new produced far more emissions than today's vehicles, and in many cases have deteriorated into smog-belching offenders as they have aged; 3) help address energy national security as well as global warming concerns (does that make it a "four-for?") by replacing relatively fuel-inefficient older vehicles with much more efficient 2009 and 2010 models.
If the Senate, as expected, approves another $2 billion in funding, the program will live on for several more weeks and triple the benefits originally envisioned in the $1 billion clunker bill.
So what's not to like about the program? Environmentalists would have liked to have seen stricter requirements to reward purchases only of the most fuel efficient cars. Fiscal conservatives abhor the government interfering with the market and call it an expensive hand-out for the benefit of a single sector.
Both sides have been effective in framing the debate as they see it.
George Pipas, Ford's chief sales analyst, was particularly on target with his soundbites. (Disclosure, George worked for me toward the end of my tenure with Ford, and he remains a friend.)
"I would challenge anyone to show me a one-week program that has had as much benefit to the consumer, as much benefit to the economy, and as much benefit to the environment as this prgram,' Pipas told the USA Today. In numerous interviews on the subject, Pipas stressed that the most popular cars being purchased under the program were Ford's most fuel-efficient cars, the Focus and Fusion, and its most efficient SUV, the Escape.
"Why not $4,500 for refrigerators or other businesses around my state?" countered Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Added Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): "The federal government should not be running the used car business. This is a horrible policy idea."
As an observant reader, you can tell from the rhetoric I've chosen to frame the issue on this post, and the relative weight I've given the two sides, that I am firmly in the pro-cash-for-clunkers camp. Seems like a much better use of money than we usally get for our tax dollars.
Savvy environmentalists know: Call it "global climate change " when the winter winds blow bitter cold. You can go back to the more familiar "global warming" come summer.
Right now, no one is going to get worked up over "warming." Doesn't sound so bad these days, does it?
For the first time I can ever remember, the temperature never broke zero today. And it never came close. When I left my suburban Chicago house this morning, my car said it was -11 F. Later, I was out in the bright sun at the peak "heat of the day" at 2:30 p.m. The temperature had soared to -7.
With such incredible cold and crazy amounts of snow this winter for much of the country, the "global warming" label is not nearly sinister enough to motivate massive and expensive counter-measures.
"Our environment and our economy depend on congressional action to confront the threat of climate change and secure our energy independence," said Waxman (AP)
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Don't you think President-elect Obama's very public longings for his Blackberry is one of the great unpaid product endorsements ever?
Today the story took another turn as security experts questioned whether the encryption features in RIM's Blackberry pass National Security Agency guidelines.
One other notable beneficiary of extraordinary Obama attention is the heretofore obscure breed of dog with the comical name of Labradoodle, said to be one the short list to be brought to the White House as the Obama girls' new pet. Brace yourselves for countless more "first dog" stories in the coming weeks and years.
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The heroic effort of a U.S. Airways pilot to set the jet down safely today in the Hudson River following twin-engine failure puts a spotlight on all manner of airline safety stories, not the least of which is: What can we do to discourage flocks of suicidal birds from hanging around runways?