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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

Helpful Hint to the Greens: They Don’t Make Trees at BP

BP’s Accidents Put Its Celebrated CEO On the Hot Seat So reads today’s Wall Street Journal above a story about environmentally-unfriendly accidents at BP.

For those unfamiliar with it, BP has been transformed from a stodgy old oil and gas company by its impatient and intense CEO, John Browne, into a world energy powerhouse through acquisition and big bets on new drilling frontiers while—according to the Journal—“embracing the green movement years before it was cool in the executive suite.”

Call me a cynic, but as far as I can tell, Lord Browne’s “embracing the green movement” involved placing cheery ads about the company’s environment awareness in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times while replacing the old BP gas station signs with cheery new gas station signs that have a brightly colored green-and-yellow sort of sunny logo implying ecological enlightenment.

Otherwise, those gas stations appear to operate pretty much the same way they always did, by which I mean dispensing volatile fuels for combustion engines which are destroying the atmosphere of the planet.

Still, it seems the greens were so taken with Lord Browne’s slick marketing campaign and sunny new gas station signs that “Vanity Fair featured him in its recent environmental issue alongside such green darlings as Al Gore and Julia Roberts.”

Now, the Fate of the Earth got a lot of press recently when science genius Stephen Hawking told an audience in Hong Kong that earthlings better start visiting other planets near us, and soon, in order to escape ecological devastation and other possible disasters that we have already inflicted on ourselves or will be inflicted upon us.

And while I’d like to think a sudden call to action will save us from the worst, I happen to think we’ve already gone beyond the point of no return as far as global warming goes—ethanol initiatives or no ethanol initiatives—and I can’t imagine what the greens are thinking when they make the CEO of BP their corporate hero.

I have news for the greens at Vanity Fair: the “P” in “BP” stands for “Petroleum.”

BP’s goal in life—its entire reason for existing—is to extract crude oil from wells drilled in environmentally irreplaceable areas such as northern Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, transport it via oil-leaking pipelines or water-polluting tankers to pollutant-emitting refineries which operate 24/7 distilling the crude via energy-intensive, atmosphere-warming processes into a range of products that either permanently scar the land (asphalt), pollute the air (diesel, kerosene, gasoline) or destroy the atmosphere (solvents).

And to do all this in such a way that British PETROLEUM shareholders make money.

Now, it happens that today’s paper also contains a full page ad from Lord Browne’s sunny, green marketing campaign with this bold headline:

Our plans for biofuels are growing. The copy boasts of plans “to invest $500 million over the next 10 years to create the Energy Bioscience Institute, the world’s first integrated research center dedicating to applying biotechnology to the energy industry.”

$500 million sounds like a lot of money. Spread out over ten years, however, it becomes a rounding error, or perhaps an option grant for the CEO, at $50 million a year for a company that generated $32 billion in pre-tax income last year.

If the greens truly believe that, by putting up nice bright signs with green flowery buds on gas stations dispensing volatile fuels to feed combustible engines that have probably already rendered the planet fatally wounded an oil company can become some sort of environmentally “friendly” business, then we are in even worse trouble than anybody—including Stephen Hawking—could imagine.

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

© 2006 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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