Home > Green Planet, Politics > BP Living in an Alternate Reality

BP Living in an Alternate Reality

Firstly, I would like to apologize for brushing the oil spill to second-class status amidst the Euro/Eurozone blowup.  As a trader I sometimes overindulge myself in the happenings in front of my eyes, rather than thinking of the far more consequential and significant issues taking fold around the world.  The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is unfortunately a catastrophic disaster from both an environmental and human perspective.  This is not a second-class issue of our day and in many respects the essence of this issue cuts at the heart of the crisis in Europe: the seeking of short-term solutions to long-term problems.  Oil expropriation is our past, efficient energy our future.

Robert Reich wrote an excellent piece on his blog bashing the “Beyond Petroleum” ad campaign for what it is: a marketing ploy without any substantive action.  BP has a spotted track record (to put it nicely) with its concern for both human and environmental safety issues and basically no track record when it comes to promoting alternative energy (although their flashy, fancy, futuristic gas stations do look sleek, sexy and um futuristic).  I think an important point can be drawn from BP’s ad campaign.  The company had an awful image in the United States and was able to expand its earnings power on account of outwardly displaying an environmentally conscious image.  What this tells me is that people actually do want alternative energy.  There is real DEMAND and earnings that can go along with moving into the alternative energy space.  Yet what BP did is rather ingenuous in some respects (the greedy short-sighted respect).  Rather than really take positive steps they made people THINK they took positive steps and spent their time collecting the cash.

People do really want to move “beyond petroleum” but those with the capital are not ready to make that investment.  I think one of the primary reasons behind this is that were a company like BP to sincerely invest in alternative energy, they would proactively be seeking a way to undercut demand for their primary product (oil) and ultimately their source of wealth (oil).   The movement to alternative energy will have to result in a transfer of wealth from those who own the “old” resource (oil) to those who own the “new” (technology).  The technology is there; however, it is just a capital intensive process to get the ball rolling.  With energy efficiency we need global consensus and cooperation in order to move forward in a cost-effective and efficient manner.  Without it, those who act will suffer from the free rider problem in which those who do not act share equally in the improvements.  As it stands now, our country is one of the biggest impediments to a global consensus on alternative energy and sadly, and likely as a result of our global stance, we are not the leader in technology in this area–China is.

It is nearly impossible to achieve longer-term gains without taking on some kind of shorter-term expense.  The people who argue about the “costs” of energy efficiency in the short-run have a vested interest in preventing the long-run transition from taking place.  Never has that been clearer than the “Beyond Petroleum” bullshit leaking out of BP’s own ruptured public relations pipeline.

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