Breaking news: You need not worry about the safety of offshore oil drilling. How do I know this? Well, let’s just say a hat tip is in order for Exxon’s new blog, Perspectives, which launched today with a post about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “This devastating chain of events is far from the industry norm,” proclaims Exxon blogger Ken Cohen, who’s also the oil giant’s vice president of public and government affairs. “We all need to understand what occurred on this occasion that did not occur on the 14,000 other deepwater wells that have been successfully drilled around the world.”
Translated into the kind of language that actual bloggers use, Cohen’s missive appears to be saying that Exxon and the world’s other upstanding oil outfits shouldn’t be punished for BP’s bad behavior. “Energy consumers around the world need the energy and natural gas resources found in offshore and deepwater regions,” he concludes, “but they expect it to be done safely and in an environmentally sensitive way.”
As of this afternoon, only one person had responded to Cohen’s post. A commenter who identified himself as “James Peppe” wrote that companies such as Exxon “play a vital role in maintaining and improving our standad of living.” He went on: “So let’s all continue working together to learn from accidents like this. . . [and] “take care to avoid making a very bad situation even worse by succumbing to the shortsighted passions of misguided political expediency.”
According to LinkedIn, Houston resident James Peppe is the senior regional manager at the National Association of Manufacturers, one of Exxon’s major political allies in Washington.
In a separate shorter post, “Welcome to ExxonMobil Perspectives,” Cohen explains that Exxon had been planning the blog “for some time” but adds that the BP disaster will be a dominant theme. “Understandably, people have questions, comments, and concerns about the tragic events unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico,” he writes. “So do we. That’s why we are making this our primary focus as we start this discussion.”
To be sure, Perspectives is far from the first time that an oil company has tried its hand at blogging. In 2008, Chevron started a blog to look at how “to meet the needs of consumers in an environmentally responsible way.” And more recently, BP has taken out Google ads based on oil spill search terms that links to a “BP blog“—really just a webpage with updates and talking points.
Exxon, however, has generally preferred to get its message out though a host of shadowy front groups—particularly in regards to climate change denial. With the launch of Perspectives, Exxon is signaling that it sees the need to speak with the public more directly. It will be interesting to watch how the blog presses Exxon’s case against tighter regulation of offshore drilling. And how an angry public responds (or is edited out) in its comments section.