Outside editorial: BP must walk the walk

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2006

The following editorial first appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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In its TV commercials and on its Web site, oil giant BP delights in portraying itself as a progressive, caring, environmentally hip company with a strong "green" focus. It stresses its effort to develop cleaner, renewable alternative energy sources such as biofuels. Its slogan is "Beyond petroleum."

BP, formerly British Petroleum, has proven that it can talk the talk when it comes to posturing itself as a steward of the environment and a socially conscious business.

Now it must walk the walk. Otherwise, it might become known by that familiar Texas phrase "all hat and no cattle."

BP has been embarrassingly lax in maintaining pipelines in the giant Prudhoe Bay oilfield on Alaska's North Slope. As a result, the company is being forced to replace 16 miles of lines plagued by corrosion and leaks. That means the loss of approximately 250,000 barrels of crude oil production daily, putting further upward pressure on record-high U.S. gasoline prices now exceeding $3 per gallon.

BP officials previously were embarrassed in March when approximately 250,000 gallons of thick crude oil were spilled in the Alaskan field. It was the largest oil spill ever on the North Slope tundra, according to news reports.

In the case of the pipeline corrosion in Alaska, BP has been criticized for inexplicably failing to use, on a regular basis, a device known as a "smart pig" to detect deterioration of the interior of the pipelines.

Perhaps BP now will stop being so pigheaded and instead will prove itself smart by addressing its real-world problems seriously, instead of being so focused on honing its public relations image via slick TV spots.

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