Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

In the months after the BP oil spill, the company announced that its gaffe-prone CEO, Tony Hayward, would be replaced by Bob Dudley, an American who served as the point person in the US on the spill. Since taking over on October 1, Dudley has been too busy to talk to members of Congress about the disaster the company unleashed on the Gulf. But he wasn’t too busy today to accuse the media and other oil companies of making too much of a big deal about that 4.9 million barrels of oil they dumped.

In remarks today at the annual conference of a British business lobbying group, Dudley accused the media and the company’s rivals for “creating a climate of fear” around the spill, and for making “a great rush to judgment before the full facts could possibly be known.”

“I watched graphic projections of oil swirling around the Gulf, around Florida, across and around Bermuda to England—these appeared authoritative and inevitable,” he said. “The public fear was everywhere.”

The crux of his speech was that this was just an “accident,” BP is doing its best to clean it up and reform their ways, and, gosh darn it, we should all be a little bit nicer to them about the whole thing. “We fully accept our share of responsibility but I hope for everyone’s sake that over the next month and years we can reach a balanced and informed judgment about what happened and what we need to learn,” he said. Dudley also praised the “huge progress in cleaning up the spill” that the company has made.

Dudley affirmed that the company plans to keep drilling here. “BP will not be quitting America,” he said, arguing that companies should not let the risks outweigh the benefits:

We live in an atmosphere where many things are often exaggerated, opinion can quickly becomes polarized and it is tempting to react to events in extreme ways. The demand for information and instant conclusions is insatiable. But as business leaders we have to be wise, pragmatic and proportionate. There are difficult balances to strike, but we cannot afford to shy away from risk.

He also thanked the British government for its “stalwart support,” as compared to the criticism and investigations the company faced from many US lawmakers. “At the height of the crisis it made a big difference knowing we had such good friends at home,” he said. (His full remarks are here.)

Now, this is the same guy who, in the midst of the spill, stuck to claims that the well was only leaking at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, and accused those who said the rate was higher of “scaremongering.” We would later learn that up to 62,000 barrels of oil spilled from the well each day. And of course, the impact of the spill will remain for quite some time—it’s far from over at this point.

It’s safe to say that BP’s new CEO is just engaging in some good old-fashioned, CYA PR. It’s not that I expect anything less (or more, really). But that doesn’t mean all of us have to buy in to his delusions.

But back in reality land, fishermen reported massive stretches of weathered oil washing up off the coast of Louisiana. The Coast Guard now says it’s algae, not oil, but those who have seen it are skeptical. From the Times-Picayune:

“I’ve never seen algae that looked orange, that was sticky, smelled like oil and that stuck to the boat and had to be cleaned off with solvent,” said one captain, who like the others wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their BP contracts. “I’ll wait for the lab reports. In fact, we’re also sending some samples off.”


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.