On April 19, 2010 – the day before the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, Muir Russell panellist David Eyton, BP Group Vice President, Research & Technology (and formerly VP Gulf of Mexico Deepwater), gave a speech at Stanford on the problems and responsibilities of corporate governance – a speech that contains much sensible advice, not least of which is that “unless citizens feel some kind of ownership in the project, you are not going to be successful.” Unfortunately, Eyton did not practice what he preached in his capacity as a Muir Russell panelist.
It has obviously seemed a little odd all along that Eyton concerned himself with emails at the University of East Anglia. In his Stanford speech, Eyton said that his job was “to ensure that BP has the technology it needs to contribute to the world’s energy demands”, proceeding then to describe the “technical risk” “managed” by BP, describing the development of “a whole new generation of high pressure well equipment, subsea wellheads, flexible flowlines and equipment on the platform had to be researched, developed, tested and installed at a cost of many billions of dollars.”
It certainly wasn’t obvious that someone with these important responsibilities should be spending his time parsing CRU emails. Eyton began his Stanford speech (deliver in absentia due to the Iceland air flight interruption) as follows;
I apologize to those of you who expect oilmen to look like Daniel-Day Lewis. This is about as rough as I get.
Eyton’s patron, Tony Hayward, might well have delivered a similar apologia.
It seems even stranger that Eyton didn’t absent himself from the inquiry after the blowout. One would have thought that BP would want all hands on deck and that Eyton could have gracefully excused himself from the email inquiry. If he had nothing better to do, he could have washed pelicans. In any event, Eyton stuck with the Email Inquiry and it seems fair enough to measure the performance of the inquiry according to standards of governance espoused by Eyton himself.
Eyton observed that one of the lessons learned by BP in its many years of operating in foreign countries was that sometimes the challenges were so great that they formed “independent advisory committees, also known as ‘blue ribbon’ panels.”
the fourth lesson we’ve learned is that no matter how much you think you know, you never know everything: you have to have the humility to ask for help… In some instances, the challenges are so great that we form independent advisory committees, also known as ‘blue ribbon’ panels.
Eyton pointed to success of one such panel in West Papua (a country plagued by shall-we-say tribalism), where BP wanted to move a village in order to build a plant. They formed an independent panel chaired by a former US Senator, that included local community leaders.
The same thing happened in West Papua, where we had to move a village in order to be able to build the plant. That is an extremely difficult thing to do well. This time, the independent panel was chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell and included local community leaders.
Eyton reported that the inclusiveness of the panel resulted in a win-win situation, The moral that Eyton drew from the experience was that “unless citizens feel some kind of ownership in the project, you are not going to be successful.”
All parties worked together not just to move part of the village, but to rebuild it better. The project is operational today, and the local residents seem happy with the results. The lesson is: unless citizens feel some kind of ownership in the project, you are not going to be successful.
The Climategate controversies are also unfortunately marred by what Judy Curry calls “tribalism”. (I don’t entirely agree with Judy’s follow-on anthropological classifications; sometime I’ll try my own anthropology.)
If David Eyton applied his own standards of governance to the Climategate inquiry, he would have been obliged to ensure that the panel included representation from the relevant communities. Obviously Muir Russell , a Scottish “grandee” in Harrabin’s phrase, had entirely different views on inclusiveness.
At his press conference, Muir Russell was asked a few questions why his panel should be recognized as being anything other than a whitewash and answered:
We’re not going to get anywhere if this is just an ex cathedra proposition.
Saying and doing are different things. Hopefully, Muir Russell avoids the gross excesses of Lord Oxburgh, who gave nothing more than an ex cathedra proclamation, where documents and transcripts were regarded as needless “formality”. After all, the Oxburgh “inquiry” was being headed by a Lord. And not only a Lord, but a Lord of superior intellect. Questioning proclamations by a Lord of superior intellect is insolence. As were the calls for openness and transparency by the insufferable Commons Committee. Imagine the gall. Telling a Lord what to do.
But Roger Harrabin, for one, questions whether “Scottish grandee” Muir Russell doesn’t have similar attitidues. Harrabin:
The attitude of the establishment to the sceptics shines through the succession of inquiries into controversial science at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). When at the launch of the Sir Muir Russell inquiry I asked about the credibility of the review panel in the blogosphere, Sir Muir dismissed the enquiry with the flick of a wrist – he had been a senior civil servant and he had run a university, his bona fides were beyond question. …
I have been told by the review teams that they can read McIntyre’s blog if they want to learn about his views.
Muir Russell told the Commons Committee:
There will be points where we want to see people, I see that coming after we have the evidence.
If they did, they didn’t ask to see me or McKitrick or (to my knowledge) anyone critical of CRU.
In the press conference, at about minute 53, in response to an inaudible question, panelist Jim Norton said:
what we can do is be transparent about any questions that are specific about that . Either you or you accept that the process is as open and transparent and, as we discover things, they will put on the record as soon as it can be or you accuse us of covering up. So as far as I know that’s all I can say.
Muir Russell added:
I hope that the whole tenor of the process will leave everyone in the room with the impression – clear understanding – that what we are doing is designed us to be enable us to stand on ground to deal with your questions very directly because the evidence will be there. And we need to take time to make sure that we get it a level that we get it so we can probe, test and lay down as evidence … and not get glided past by general assertion or anything that just resembles a gloss.
It will be interesting to see.
Later in the day, I’ll put up a post on specific issues that I’ll be looking for in the report.