“Who Can You Trust?” is an ongoing look at some of the main players in the gulf oil-spill disaster. We analyze the media appearances and public statements of those covering, controlling, and combating the spill to determine who’s spinning for personal advantage, who’s playing to the crowd, and who (or what) we can truly count on.
Tropical Storm Alex
Force of Nature
We can definitely count on Alex to cause a major disruption in the oil spill recovery efforts. Experts are predicting that the brewing storm, which is expected to become a hurricane by midweek, won’t halt the containment efforts: it’s path is predicted to move west toward Mexico, not north toward the spill site (for now). But it will put a temporary stop to some of the controlled burns that eliminate oil from the surface of the water, as well as push more oil toward Florida beaches.
Pay attention: to the path of the storm. Some models indicate that the storm may move north, but it’s too soon to tell. There's questions about what will happen if the storm hits landfall: will it have picked up any oil or dispersant in the water, and if so, to what effect on land?
Jackson defended the EPA’s decision to allow high level of chemical dispersant to break up the oil in the ocean. “So far the data show we haven't done any damage and actually we've helped with dispersion and used a lot less of the chemical in the process," Jackson is quoted as saying. But BP continues to use dispersants at a higher level than approved by the EPA, which Jackson has not yet found a way to stop or address. Jackson’s tepid endorsement of dispersant use also comes as scientists confirm that dispersant has lead to unknown quantities of minute particles of oil, spread throughout the ocean and laced with the dispersant. In other words, the oil is now less concentrated, but harder to see, spread further and deeper than before, and laced with toxic chemicals.
Pay attention: to the conflicting reports about dispersants. Some scientists say that the smaller particles are better for the undersea wildlife, but more research needs to be done. We'll also get a sense of just how toxic the dispersant is if tropical storm Alex carries the treated water onto shore.
BP as Cash Cow
Former economic reality
Both stockholders and business owners who bet on BP are struggling to stay afloat. Stock for BP made some gains today on news that Alex shouldn’t hit the spill site, but the prices are still nowhere near their former glory. Meanwhile, local franchise owners who run BP gas stations have seen a 10 to 40 percent drop in sales as Americans avoid the brand. Even the traders who worked for BP, chasing aggressive market strategies and bringing in big bucks, are facing uncertainty: they no longer have the power or the capital they once possessed. But don’t worry too much about them. The best are getting snapped up by other trading houses.
Pay attention: to your total oil consumption, not from where you buy it. As NEWSWEEK’s Sharon Begley points out, boycotting individual gas-station brands isn't an effective way to help the environment. It may not be an effective way to punish BP, either: the franchise owners feel the most pain.
It would be difficul for Hayward to be any less visible: he's returned to London and he's no longer handling BP’s oil spill response, but Russia’s state news agency reports that Hayward will soon name his successor. BP denies the claim.
Pay attention: to the real BP players left dealing with the spill: Darryl Willis, Doug Suttles, Bob Dudley, and Carl-Henric Svanberg.