Hayward does a bunk on planned speech on “responsibilities of international oil companies.”
Seems that the message may be slowly getting through to BP CEO Tony Hayward that the best way to stop his own gushing flow of toxic pollutants is to keep his mouth closed.
This morning, fresh from his weekend junket to the Isle of Man where he took part in the round-the-island yacht race sponsored by JP Morgan Asset Management group, that friend of the small people, Hayward bowed out at the last minute from his scheduled appearance as a keynote speaker at a business conference put on by the World National Oil Companies Congress in London. The theme of the seminar? What else: “The Responsibilities of International Oil Companies.”
Citing Hayward’s “heavy schedule of commitments”, but with nary a mention of his fourth-place finish in the IRC Division 0 sailing competition in the $700,000 yacht he co-owns with Britcorp magnate Sam Laidlaw, son of a former BP chairman and CEO of Britain’s natural gas and electricity utility, Centrica, and J.P. Morgan senior exec Rob Gray, formerly of the Deutsche Bank, another BP exec stood in at the last minute.
[Editorial note: in a previous version of this posting, an incorrect reference was made to another business person named Rob Gray of United Business Media in the U.K.
LOON has been advised that this reference was mistaken and wishes to correct its error and confirm that the "Rob Gray" who is currently the chief financial officer (CFO) at United Business Media, and who actually goes by "Bob," is NOT the Rob Gray referred to in this story.
The "Rob Gray" referred to in this story is currently a senior executive with JP Morgan in London, England. "Bob Gray" of United Business Media had and has no connection to the events referred to therein, although at one time, LOON is advised and we are almost loathe to mention for fear of creating additional confusion, Rob Gray of JP Morgan he did actually work with "Bob" Gray of United Business Media. One can only imagine where their telephone messages and correspondence may have ended up.
In any event, after applying for and receiving additional bandwidth for this posting, LOON has now removed the incorrect references and added clarification and wishes to apologize for the error and any consternation that this misidentification may have caused to either Rob Gray of JP Morgan or Rob Gray a.k.a. Bob Gray of United Business Media.]
But if the rambunctious crowd was expecting to be disappointed that Hayward’s understudy would prove mundane or even non-controversial, they had another thing coming.
The Times reports that a spate of media reps had registered for the otherwise lackluster affair in anticipation of an opportunity to further question Hayward about his handling of the Deepwater Horizon spill. They obviously were buoyed with a sense of optimism that U.S. congressional reps saw dashed on the rocks last week when Hayward played fast and loose with the definition of “witness” in front of the congressional energy oversight committee and at one point was accused of the co-chair, Congressman Henry Waxman of “stonewalling.”
The oil companies conference gig was obviously arranged in happier times, or presumably, when Tony had a free hour in his hectic schedule of London sightseeing and the annual flog-the-scullery-maid ritual at his mansion in Kent.
Greenpeace protesters are so predictable
Extra security had also been put on at the conference venue, the poncy Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, and as of earlier today, it was reported that members of Greenpeace had “ambushed” part of the conference proceedings with an uninvited demonstration.
The multinational corporate gathering bills itself as “the 4th annual World National Oil Companies Congress” and “the oil conference for NOC executives to meet, network and discuss the future of the industry.”
With the utmost irony, Hayward’s address was about the “Key roles and responsibilities of [International Oil Companies] IOCs in an age of uncertainty,” with sub-themes listed as “What are IOC’s global responsibilities?” and “what are the ingredients for successful partnerships?, and the capper (excuse the oil pun) being “BP’s investment strategies in an age of economic uncertainty.”
The conference itself is an overture to business and government representatives (“I say, has anyone seen the bally MMS delegate from Houston?” “In the broom closet, old boy. Doing lines with the Undersecretary of the Exchequer.”) who are keen on “Deciding the Future of the Energy Industry.” It bills itself, as such events are wont to do, as the place “where leaders of the world’s NOCs meet each other and their partners to debate and decide the future of the oil business.”
According to the conference website, “In an era of volatile and uncertain oil prices, where ‘resource nationalism’ is reshaping the terms of debate and where the need for critical investment in both production and refining capacity remains paramount, the need for effective communication and partnerships between NOCs and the wider energy industry has never been more apparent.”
To that end, the conference is offering delegates the chance to “get face-to-face meetings with key decision makers from the world’s NOCs, IOCs and Governments.” Under the slightly more than merely tactless theme of “the end of Easy Oil”, the brochure promises conference participants “exclusive discussion on how NOCs will tackle unconventional and challenging oil projects as well as strategic panels on E&P efficiency and risk.” Quoth the conference blurb:
You are guaranteed to leave with new ideas for your business. Strategies to access capital and attract investment, as well as perspectives on the capital and M&A markets will be offered by the leading minds from banks and NOCs. Find out how NOCs are overcoming the challenge of investing and expanding internationally. Executives from all corners of the globe will be congregating to learn, network and conduct business at the highest level. The Congress is your best opportunity of the year to meet and share ideas with your peers and to gain crucial insights that will help your business prosper into 2011 and beyond. Network with over 40 different NOCs from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East.
BP’s Vice-President Steve Westwell: “I’d ask people not to take this whole event out of context”
Subbing for the no-show Hayward was the uncannily monikered BP executive vice-president and chief of staff Steve Westwell, who oversees BP PLC’s “activities in strategy, planning, long-term policy, internal communications, media, press and investor relations, group economics and long-term research and technology.”
But after apologizing for Hayward’s failure to appear, Westwell was promptly heckled by members of the audience who were immediately branded “protesters” by the beefy security contingent and shown the door.
Said Westwell of his absentee overlord: “He is genuinely sorry he can not be with you this morning, especially since there are so many good friends taking part in the conference. But he and I hope you will understand that his schedule is under incredible pressure as a result of current events.”
Not wishing to confine his remarks to the simple task of facing down a disappointed concert crowd, Westwell then offered a semi-inspired and unspontaneous “apology,” according to The Times report, “for the pain caused to those who lost friends and family in the Deepwater explosion on 20 April when 11 people were killed and for the resulting environmental carnage.”
With his right clodhopper wedged comfortably against his palette, Westwell then dropped the other shoe directly on the collective noggins of the very victims he had just mentioned:
“We have accepted that we are a responsible party, as defined under US legislation. As such, we will do all we can to control the spill, clean up the environment and pay all legitimate claims.”
Nice to know that even the most senior flacks at BP still haven’t lost the art of apologizing in 96-point font with the right hand while qualifying away any substance to said apology with the fine-print in their left.
As Hayward and Svanberg before him had done, this upper class twit managed to accept “responsibility” on behalf of BP while simultaneously whinging that they are only responsible “as defined under U.S. legislation,” and then adding, of course, the mandatory promise to “pay all legitimate claims.”
So, listen up, Cletis and Bubba, y’all betta fergit about claimin’ that Chevy truck y’all totalled at the demo-lishun derby as oil-spill damages, cuz they ain’t a-gonna pay ye!”
In a tour de force of the bludgeon-like public relations style of his superiors, Hayward and Svanberg, Westwell then topped off his tasteless performance with a warning that the Deepwater Horizon, tragic as it is, and all that, will not put a halt to future deep-water production.
Finally, Westwell commented that “in the current heated atmosphere, words are easily taken out of context. That goes with the territory. But I’d ask people not to take this whole event out of context.” “
And with the corporation’s legal eyes fixed unerringly on the impending criminal and civil litigation, came the inevitable reiteration of the official BP take on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or, sorry, “accident”:
We must find out exactly what went wrong and prevent a repetition. But we must not let it deter us from the wider, longer-term task of providing secure, sustainable, affordable energy for people around the world.”
BP’s recently published Statistical Review of World Energy showed how deepwater production from the Gulf of Mexico made the US the world’s fastest growing oil producer last year. US production went up by 7 per cent with the Gulf accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the total.
Ghanem: Deepwater Horizon disaster “exaggerated somewhat”
Having softened up the fossil-fuel contingent with this moving testimonial about the imperative of continuing the quest for black gold, the head of the Libyan national oil company let his own loose tongue have at the muckrakers and protesters who were determined to kill the conference’s upbeat buzz.
Dr. Shokri Ghanem, who back in the day served as Muammar Gaddafi’s “prime minister” in the crazy-as-fuck oil kingdom told the conference audience that “while it is a real tragedy,” the Deepwater Horizon disaster “is also exaggerated somewhat” and that Libya had “no hestitation” in permitting BP Libya to renew its drilling operations there.
Just for historical context, need we remind anyone that this is the same lunatic who declared in 2004 that the Libyan government had nothing to do with the Lockerbie Pan Am explosion on December 21, 1988 in which 243 passengers and 16 crew members on a 747 jetliner were murdered.
At the same time, Ghanem also denied that Libya’s government had anything to do with the shooting–by a sniper inside the Libyan embassy–of a London police constable Yvonne Fletcher in 1999 during a demonstration against the Gaddafi regime, following which the persons responsible were allowed to escape under cover of diplomatic immunity.
It was not the first time Hayward and Ghanem would have shared the oil industry centre-stage. In 2007, the BP CEO signed an historic $900 million oil exploration and development contract with the Libyan government at which then PM Tony Blair stood by as an onlooker while the two oil honchos put pen to paper in front of the international media.
The deal later came under scrutiny after Libya began holding back on its performance and in the view of some used it as leverage to pressure the British government into releasing the Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person ever tried and convicted in the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing.
In August 2009 The Sunday Times reported that oil industry insiders were of the view that Al-Megrahi’s “release from prison would liberate Britain’s largest industrial company from a string of problems hampering…Libyan gas projects” and help BP overcome “a string of bureaucratic obstacles, including delays securing official permits and approvals to import equipment through Libyan customs.” According to the Times sources,“now that al-Megrahi is released, BP expects to get the go-ahead.”
There was also public controversy when the then Justice secretary Jack Straw went public with news that trade and oil agreements with the Libyan dictatorship were “an essential part of the British Government’s decision to include Megrahi in the [Prisoner Transfer Agreement] with Libya.”
Following Al-Megrahi’s return to Tripoli, President Gaddafi’s son Saif told him: “You were on the table in all commercial, oil and gas agreements that we supervised in that period. You were on the table in all British interests when it came to Libya, and I personally supervised this matter.”
Conservative member of parliament Doug Carswell was quick to condemn the arrangement as unethical. “This is further evidence that our Government has done a grubby deal with a nasty regime. It is an oil-for-terrorist deal.”
Transocean‘s Steve Newman wants back in the game
Then it was time for Steve Newman, president of Transocean, who employed the 11 workers killed on the rig on April 20th, 2010, to throw in his two cents 0.02 Swiss francs about the propriety of the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium deepwater drilling in the area.
According to Newman, if Obama and his crew wanted to, there were measure that “they could implement today that would allow the industry to go back to work tomorrow without an arbitrary six-month time limit”.
BP’s Westwell concluded his remarks with yet another oil industry homily about how when all the oil slicks have finally hit landfall and the last drops of crude have been Dawned off the last squirming pelican, the world will return to its senses once again and realize how the whole Gulf crisis has really just been a media manipulation intended to sully the otherwise mutually beneficial relationship big oil and the rest of the planet:
“Inevitably the issues often appear polarised and simplified when they’re portrayed night after night on the news. But the underlying story is more complex. To give you one small example; An oyster harvester in Louisiana who has been affected by the spill pointed out that half of his family is in the seafood business, the other half in oil and gas. They have co-existed for 50 years.”