Tony Hayward, BP CEO
On May 10, 2010, British Petroleum’s Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hayward, was interviewed
by Michele Norris on NPR’s All Things Considered
concerning the failed attempt to cap the broken oil rig on May 8th and 9th. (listen to the interview
The part that most disturbed me about this interview was Dr. Hayward’s comparison of this accident to the Apollo 13 mission, and the Air France Flight AF447 which crashed in the ocean last June. Here is a transcript from part of the interview:
NORRIS: Mr. Hayward, this is the deepest well blowout on record. And the people are most knowledgeable in dealing with deep water wells are at the outer edge of their expertise, even when things are going well. The Coast Guard and oil industry analysts say that drilling here is almost like visiting outer space. It’s like a great unknown. So why are you drilling there if there’s so much that is not known about this territory?
Dr. HAYWARD: Well, we’re drilling because it’s a very important source of energy for the United States and the world. That is the reality. Almost 30 percent of the United States oil production today comes from the deep waters. That is where there is the opportunity to provide domestic energy security. That is where there is an opportunity to provide energy security for the world. And, of course, oil isnt all of the solution but it’s a part of the solution.
NORRIS: That opportunity obviously comes, though, with great peril. Is deepwater drilling riskier than BP believed?
Dr. HAYWARD: I think you have to go back to, you know, the track record of the industry and BP’s over the last 20 years. The industry has drilled over 5,000 wells. BP has drilled around 1,500 of those 5,000 wells, and this is the first time that we’ve had a major incident. And I think it is legitimate to draw analogies with, for example, the space program.
The space program was not canceled because of the issues around Apollo 13. It’s also legitimate to draw comparisons with the airline industry. When the Air France plane fell out of the sky coming out of Brazil, we didnt ground the airline industry. So we need to learn the lessons here. They will be learned and they will shape, I’m certain, the industry as it moves forward.
Drawing analogies between this accident and the Apollo 13 mission makes no sense at all and he uses it to distract from the severity of this incident. There were, first off, no deaths associated with the Apollo 13 mission, and second, Dr. Hayward is completely disregarding the damage the leaking oil and gas is causing to the environment and the coastline communities.
The same is true of the Air France flight. Yes, 228 people died in the accident, but Dr Hayward is saying we should not stop deep oil drilling because we did not ground the airline industry after the plane went down. This analogy illustrates how disconnected Dr. Hayward is from the severity of the oil spill. He is only seeing the deaths, and the money lost. He is not considering the vast unaccountable ecological damage the oil is causing. Moreover, the Apollo 13 mission and Flight AF447 did not lead to an economic disaster causing hundreds of people to lose their livelihood as is happening on the Gulf coast right now. Flight AF447 did not continue to reek havoc on the surrounding environments for months after the crash.
This sort of thinking is how we got into the environmental situation we are in now. People in power in these large corporations are not willing to say, “You know, this technology is not necessary, it is just too harmful.” Their focus is always on shareholder profits, never on wider ecological impacts. Our disconnection from the natural systems that keep our communities and economies alive is leading us to our own destruction.
Think about this: people talk of nuclear power as a “clean, alternative” energy source. However, what will a CEO say when a plant starts leaking radioactive material into the environment, killing everything? Will he or she say, “We didn’t stop the oil companies from drilling when they had accidents, why should we be shut down?”
Where would we be if a hundred years ago people noticed how dirty and destructive fossil fuels were and decided to try alternatives instead?