Dr. Boyce: BP Oil Spill Anniversary Defines Corporate Greed

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It’s a year after the start of the infamous BP oil spill that stole the attention of the nation for several months. One year ago today, the oil giant began the process of spilling five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killing everything in its grasp, starting with 11 oil workers who were near the initial explosion.  After taking out the workers, the spill generated an unprecedented genocide on local wildlife, killing thousands of fish, birds and other species that lived within the ocean. The BP beast also murdered local businesses that depended on the Gulf for their livelihoods, with almost none of those businesses being able to restore their full economic value.

Tourists are no longer interested in swimming in water that was so heavily polluted just a few months ago.    

There are also reports that local business people are having trouble collecting on their claims after the disaster.  Chuck Smith, one business owner who lost over half-a-million dollars in economic value from the disaster, was sent a check from BP for the princely sum of $4,000. Mr. Smith, who paid thousands to his accountant to meticulously verify all data that he sent for his BP claim, said he has no idea how BP came to the $4,000 figure, since the company did not feel compelled to provide any explanation whatsoever.

The stock holders at BP are quite happy with what’s transpired since last year. After trading below $27 in mid-May of 2010, the stock price has risen dramatically to $44.47, giving buyers from last year a huge return on their investment.  The rise in the stock price implies that in spite of the public relations damage of the massive oil spill, BP is right back to business as usual. Similar to the lopsided nature of America’s economic recovery, those at the top are getting richer, while those at the bottom are worse off than they were before.

I quietly wonder ‘Why we would assume that BP would do right by the citizens of the Gulf Coast?’ I also wonder what kind of oversight is being provided to ensure that BP fairly assesses the claims of those who’ve been harmed by the oil spill?  If the company was so quick to skirt safety regulations and risk the lives of its employees before the spill, what makes us think they would do right by the citizens and business people who were harmed in the Gulf region? The bottom line is that you can’t trust corporate America to do the right thing, unless doing the right thing becomes profitable. In this case, there is little profit in compassion, since BP only answers to its shareholders.

As usual, black people are hurting in the area as a result of all that has happened over the last five years.  The BP oil spill was a sad finale to the unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Katrina just a few years earlier. Over 100,000 people are still missing from what was the largest migration in U.S. history.  Most of those who left the area are black, and most of those not returning are also black.  New Orleans will never be the same again, since some were just waiting for an excuse to get the poor black people out of the city.

I’d like to say that many Americans won’t buy BP gasoline ever again.  But the truth is that BP understands our nation’s addiction to energy, and like the crack head who’s willing to do anything to puff on the pipe, we will eventually forget about what the company did to us and keep buying their products.  Our addiction to energy and short attention span will help BP continue to stockpile its billions so that it can afford to placate us during the next major disaster. It’s all part of a vicious and greedy cycle.

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