BP and the Climategate Inquiry

Four weeks ago, how many of you knew that BP was the largest oil and gas producer in the United States – larger than ExxonMobil? Put up your hands. Nobody? I didn’t either.

How many of you had seen BP’s green advertisements – “beyond petroleum”, wind turbines turning lazily in a summer breeze – sort of a corporate equivalent of gambolling in a meadow in slow motion? All of you? Thought so.

Recent events have obviously placed BP into the public eye – with questions now being asked about their green lobbying.

What has this to do with Climategate inquiries?

David Eyton, BP Group Vice President, Research & Technology, is a member of the Muir Russell panel. Only one submission (mine) criticized his presence on the Muir Russell panel. There was total radio silence from climate scientists. Why was this perpetually outraged community so silent? More on this later.

Eyton’s bio is particularly interesting in the present circumstances.

David joined BP in 1982 from Cambridge University with an Engineering degree. During his early career, he held a number of Petroleum Engineering, Commercial and Business Management positions. In 1996, he was named General Manager of BP’s North West Shelf interest in Australia. David later managed Wytch Farm in the UK and then BP’s Gas Businesses in Trinidad. In September 2001, he became Lord John Browne’s Executive Assistant in the company’s London headquarters. Following that assignment, David was Vice President of Deepwater Developments in the Gulf of Mexico and prior to his current role was BP’s Exploration and Production Group Vice President for Technology.

That’s right — Vice President, Deepwater Developments Gulf of Mexico. BP’s Deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations are what make it the largest oil producer in the United States. A big and important job, to say the least. So what’s our David doing making little analyses of CRU emails for the Muir Russell inquiry? See minutes here. Definitely a dig-here.

It’s interesting to re-examine Eyton’s prior publications both in the context of the BP well blow out and the Muir Rusell inquiry.

In 2005, Eyton published The journey to deepwater operatorship, which I’ve placed online here. Eyton’s reflections show a clear awareness of the new and difficult technical problems of operating in the deep and ultra-deep:

Deepwater GoM may be one of the most prolific new basins in the world, but it is still a frontier province. … And in addition, we have to cope with extreme natural environments, the “ultra-deep” in terms of both reservoir and water depths, complex seabed geotechnics and severe metocean conditions in the form of both loop currents and hurricanes.

These are new challenges for the industry, and challenges which are being addressed at an ever-increasing pace. We find ourselves designing floating systems for 10 000 ft of water depth before the lessons of working in 6000 ft have been fully identified. And these new challenges are not just depth-related. Failure mechanisms, such as fatigue, driven by vortex-induced vibration (VIV) and vessel motion, are time-dependent and may take years to become apparent. The same is true of equipment reliability. We know the premium associated with hardware reliability is high, but at this stage, operators still have a limited failure database for forecasting the required levels of intervention in ever-deeper and more remote environments.

Eyton counselled:

In particular, be rigorous in front end loading, and very clear about the scale and nature of the “size of the step” you are seeking to take. Recognize that what may initially appear to be an incremental change can often turn out to be much more profound. Develop multiple contingency plans. And be prepared to work closely with suppliers to drive up reliability and reduce risk.

Eyton’s presentation is noted in a near-contemporary July 2005 conference. The paragraph immediately following Eyton’s presentation described a 1628 design failure arising from the left hand not reconciling with the right hand:

The Swedish warship Vasa, with a fast keel and the finest guns, suffered from design changes that caused the ship to sink within 1 nautical mile of the start of her maiden voyage in 1628. Last-minute design modifications ordered by the king without consulting expert partners caused the costly vessel to go under. Panel Moderator Sandeep Khurana, Senior Specialist with J.P. Kenny Inc., invited operators and contractors to examine oil and gas industry collaboration through lenses of the same color. Deepwater fields are becoming more complex and challenging, and average field size is falling slightly, so there is a real need for innovation in contracting to bring projects through to success. “Investments are high and failure is not an option, so how do we collaborate?” asked Khurana. “Is a commercial arrangement the path to perfect collaboration? Are there inherent conflicts in the way we perceive our roles and rewards? How do operator/contractor objectives mesh?”

Questions that seem timely when BP, Transocean and Haliburton try to blame the other. The author of this analogy, Don Vardeman,
Kerr-McGee Vice President Marine Engineering, pointed out that the same barriers to collaboration on large project developments exist today as they did in 1628, listed these impediments to successful collaboration:

• Imitation rather than real understanding of ideas.
• Goal confusion.
• Obsession with speed.
• Failure to incorporate test feedback.
• Communication barriers.
• Poor organizational memory or knowledge transfer.
• Meddling by top management.

In 2008, as noted above, Eyton was appointed Group Vice President, Research & Technology.

He attended the first meeting of the Muir Russell inquiry on Feb 4, 2010.

A few days later (Feb 9, 2010), he attended the Carbon Mitigation Initiative Ninth Annual Meeting Conference at Princeton – a BP sponsored program – where he presented the BP Review of 2009. Michael Oppenheimer, who appeared opposite me in my CNN appearance on Campbell Brown, is shown as a key figure in the Initiative. A variety of BP executives attended the conference; also in attendance were Daniel Schrag, Director of the Center for the Environment, Harvard University, Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund and a number of other notables.

Due to this prior commitment, Eyton missed the press conference unveiling the Muir Russell inquiry on Feb 11. His attendance at the Muir Russell meeting of Feb 25 is noted, together with the item that UEA had not received money from BP in recent years (though they had contributed generously to Geoffrey Boulton’s Royal Society of Edinburgh, which was conducting the inquiry).

At the March 20 meeting, Eyton was said to have presented an analysis of emails – to be published on completion – I don’t know how someone with as big a job as Eyton would be able to do the sort of thorough job of analyzing the emails that he would expect of an engineer for a BP offshore exploration rig. Eyton attended the April 1 Muir Russell telecon meeting, at which a David Walker materializes as a staffer for the first time (joining Mike Granatt of Luther Pendragon communications and William Hardie of Roy Soc Ediburgh).

On April 19, Eyton was scheduled to deliver a speech in Stanford on governance but was grounded by the Iceland ash. The speech is online here.

Eyton’s speech on governance distilled some important lessons from BP’s operations that Muir Russell (and Eyton) have flouted in their conduct of the Muir Russell inquiry. Eyton discussed the problems of resolving disputes in a community concluding that: unless citizens feel some kind of ownership in the project, you are not going to be successful.

In some instances, the challenges are so great that we form independent advisory committees, also known as ‘blue ribbon’ panels.

For example, in Azerbaijan, we had to build a pipeline from Baku to Tbilisi through Georgia and Turkey at a time when there were quite a few tensions there. We listened to and learned from a wide range of international, national and local stakeholders. The independent panel, under Jan Leschly’s chairmanship, advised us on the things that might not naturally occur to us, including the effects on the local community and political, economic and social conditions. We also sought advice from scientists who had a thorough understanding of that country’s geology. Today the pipeline is carrying one million barrels per day to the Mediterranean.

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. 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.

Unless citizens feel some kind of ownership….

Despite these wise words about governance, the Muir Russell has done exactly the opposite. Despite Muir Russell’s undertaking to exclude panelists with ties to the university or to the climate science debate, Geoffrey Boulton was appointed. Graham Stringer pointed out the panel’s lack of balance, but Muir Russell repudiated the point. Stringer observed: “I think you might find more credibility to your report if you have reputable scientists from both sides. It is a political issue really.” Stringer’s point here is the same point that Eyton had previously made – but ignored in his capacity as a Muir Russell panelist.

The lack of representation is made worse by the failure of the Muir Russell inquiry (or other inquiries) to make the slightest effort to talk to key critics and Climategate targets. The Oxburgh “inquiry” was even worse – breaking every governance rule described in Eyton’s speech.

Given that Eyton is BP Group Vice President for Research & Technology – especially one with prior direct experience in the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater, one would expect Eyton to be visible in the present controversy. But I’ve only seen one mention so far, Platt’s reporting a May 17 statement by Eyton to a conference in Australia. (I guess Eyton was taking a break from analyzing CRU emails.)

In my February submission, I had opposed Eyton’s membership on this panel precisely because of his oil company connections. Now I’m rather looking forward to seeing BP’s position on using a “trick … to hide the decline”. If similar language crops in BP’s correspondence about the Gulf of Mexico deepwater, I doubt whether US regulators would be quite as blase as climate scientists.


  1. Fred
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

    Most interesting.

    Makes the engineering, ecological & geotechnical issues associated with the Oil Sands production seem quite trivial, almost like child’s play in comparison.

  2. TA
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:32 PM | Permalink

    I must admit to being a little confused. You ask questions about why someone in David’s position would go onto the Muir Russel panel, and why climate scientists would not object. I give up: why? Have you answered these questions and I just missed it?

    Steve- I guess that I didn’t answer the question. Left as an exercise for readers.

    • don
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 11:59 PM | Permalink

      Well, real climate scientists are always impugning the motives of those dilettante deniers for their alleged oil industry connections. I assume Steve was raising that epistemology issue and the irony of selective false consciousness over their failure to object.

      • Rron Cram
        Posted May 22, 2010 at 8:43 AM | Permalink

        It is interesting that a discussion of motives keeps coming up lately when it used to be a banned topic.

  3. Craig Loehle
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:42 PM | Permalink

    The answer is simple: if oil spills, it is a physical harm and people take it seriously. If scientists distort the process of science with advocacy by hiding the decline or exaggerating the number of homeless by a factor of 100 or claiming that tiny amounts of food preservatives are killing us, it is considered an abstract debate, even if it leads to awful policy choices. One direct harm, one indirect. Totally different response.

    • Posted May 25, 2010 at 10:00 PM | Permalink

      BP was required to report all oil production numbers in the North Sea. No hiding of information there, because the UK put it into law and made it all public. One can look at the size distribution of oil reservoirs in the North Sea and immediately understand how much oil is there and how long it will last.

      On the other hand, the USA is governed by a bunch of corrupt corporatists who make it impossible to deduce oil reserve numbers. Of course BP follows the letter of the law here, which is miniscule accounting.

      “Hiding the decline” is a huge topic in oil depletion circles. It takes a great deal of effort to unravel the decline of oil production. The climategate “hide the decline” is trivial in comparison.

      We know that CO2 will cause climate change, trivial to prove, not so easy to show that oil depletion will hit just as quickly.

  4. L Nettles
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:55 PM | Permalink

    I’m sure a high level employee of a petroleum company that likes to call itself Beyond Petroleum can be perfectly objective on climate science much more so than the remaining 5 billion or so of the remaining population of the planet who don’t have anything invested in the “solutions” to AGW.

  5. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

    This thread seems a little political for this blog, but it is interesting. I sold my small BP investment at a loss shortly after the oil spill. But Craig Loehle’s point had escaped me entirely. I think he’s right. No, I’m not at this blog because I support big oil. The investment is a diversification issue. BP seemed a secure investment. That has changed.

  6. ZT
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:59 PM | Permalink

    As Eyton eagerly noted in 2009 ‘…BP accepted the case for precautionary action on climate change in 1997…’, so presumably his views on graph manipulation are quite sophisticated and committed.

    Click to access PL102_Eyton_D.pdf

  7. EdeF
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    The US gov’t moved the oil companies out into the deep water because they didn’t want them operating on the continental shelf. In hindsight, this may have been a bad idea. Tens of thousands of wells have been successfully drilled and brought home in the Gulf on the shelf with a great safety record.
    BP seems to be playing the whole field, drilling for oil, developing alternative energy sources, giving huge campaign contributions to politicians, (BHO being their largest recipient), hanging out with the environmental lobby.
    Mr. Eyton seems at first blush to be a reasonable person to have on an inquiry team; Cambridge educated, well known in British society. I don’t know enough about his personal views on “climate change” to know if this would necessarily exclude him from the panel. Unless he was partly retired, I wonder where he would get the time to review documents, unless his presence on the panel was strictly window dressing. I would think manager of BP operations would be enough work to keep one busy for quite some time.
    I certainly wish them good luck in getting that well capped off as soon as possible. Don’t think anyone can hide the decline in oil prices this week.

    • EdeF
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

      I think Steve means that he wanted Mr. Eyton to recuse himself from the panel because he has a classical conflict of interest; his employer, an oil company, is likely to be greatly affected should AGW
      legislation be enacted. No matter which way he voted on the panel, one group or another would have been unhappy. Members of the panel needed to be further removed from the enegry industry for there to be the appearance of impartiality.

    • DMO
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

      The big companies are drilling in deep water because the reserves are out there. They haven’t been pushed off the shelf other than by competition and smaller opportunities.

  8. sleeper
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    Even simpler. Big Oil gives money to Big Climate. Big Climate invites Big Oil to the party. Schmooze- back scratch- politics.

  9. Scott Brim
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

    In the world of nuclear, we have a process for resolving a certain class of issue called an Unreviewed Safety Question (USQ).

    You have the potential for an Unreviewed Safety Question whenever you propose a change to your system design or to your to operating procedures.

    The change has to be made within the boundaries, constraints, and stipulations of your authorization basis documents.

    If some facet of the proposed change is outside the scope of your authorization basis documents, a USQ exists and it must be resolved before the proposed change can be implemented.

    Perhaps you modify the content of the proposed change to place it back within the boundaries of the authorization documents.

    Or perhaps you find that the authorization documents themselves must be revised in some way to accommodate the new designs or the new operating procedures.

    This is how the USQ process normally operates.

    However, sometimes a condition is discovered while the system is in operation that places that system outside the boundaries of its authorization basis documents.

    Perhaps a modification was made that was not properly reviewed and approved, or perhaps an operating condition has arisen which was not foreseen in the authorization basis documents.

    When this type of situation occurs, there is much consternation and then a USQ is declared. Much work and sometimes much gnashing of teeth occurs until the USQ is resolved. (It can be a truly character-building experience.)

    All along the way, every participant in the USQ process must have the appropriate credentials for the role they are playing. The review process itself is designed to reduce the potential for conflict of interest.

    It would not be too much of a stretch to predict that something like the USQ process will eventually be adopted for offshore drilling.

    • Doug Badgero
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:55 PM | Permalink

      I would just like to reiterate what Scott is saying here. He is describing the requirements of 10CFR50.59 when a “change” is made to a nuclear plant in the United States. I was qualified to perform these reviews and have done a few of them.

      A nuclear plant is required to be able to mitigate risk to the public for a certain population of “Design Basis” events. What events must be considered is based on an evaluation of risk. Risk being a combination of probability AND consequence. Humans tend to rationalize the risk as small because we consider the probability small, without adequately considering the consequence if this small probability event comes to fruition. To understand this in human nature you need only consider the attitude of the teenage driver. Being no more informed about the gulf oil spill than any other member of the public, this seems to be what happened here.

      • j ferguson
        Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:21 AM | Permalink

        This is a very good point. The present “spill’ makes clear that major spill-avoidance in the 99.9% range in terms of drilling events isn’t sufficient. A single event can be a catastrophe – assuming that the present one actually is one.

        As with nuclear power, catastrophe avoidance must be 100%. Does anyone think that the offshore drilling industry employs system safety analyses and procedures at all like those identified above?

        • Harold
          Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:54 AM | Permalink

          “As with nuclear power, catastrophe avoidance must be 100%”

          Of course, this is impossible both from a statistical view and a definitional view. I doubt everyone will agree on what a catastrophe is. In any event, if 100% avoidance of catastrophe was a societal standard, then people living where hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods may happen would be prohibited. Clearly acceptable risk tends to be decided based on emotions, not data or logic.

          “BP, Transocean and Haliburton try to blame the other”

          This was brought on by the form of the questions (ie, who is to blame), which were designed to increase the companies’ liability, forcing each company in turn to specifically avoid admitting blame. If, on the other hand, the questions had been about their understanding of the causal structure leading to the accident, which would have led to more illuminating answers.

          Good lawyers generally know the answer to their questions before asking them, so I think the congressmen asked the questions they asked to get the answers the got (and a nice spectacle they could point to and be outraged by).

          Of course, I could be wrong…

        • j ferguson
          Posted May 22, 2010 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

          I stated the 100% goal carelessly. Another way to look at it might be that even few major spills can be devastating, maybe even one. So having a goal for avoidance at anything other than 100% seems insufficient.

          One might also suppose that the means to repair any such breech be pre-considered and readily available.
          Inventing fixes to a failed blow-out preventer after the failure suggests little system failure analysis if any.

        • Harold
          Posted May 22, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

          OK, goal vs standard.

          The problem with having contingencies for deep well drilling is nobody really wants to purposely create a leaking well so different options can be tested. I don’t think the EPA would approve. So far, they’re testing variants of things that work for shallow wells. There is a simple reason why they are doing it this way – the only known, proven way of stopping a leak like this is with a nuclear detonation. Russia says it has worked really well for them, but I doubt the US government would be willing to give it a whirl.

        • timothy
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

          so why where certain safety and maintainance issue with the blow-out preventer not followed?

        • snork
          Posted May 22, 2010 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

          That was my reaction. For all the banal managementspeak coming out of Mr. Eyton, he’s completely barking up the wrong tree. This is a quality issue. Bark all you want about involving vendors and breaking down walls, etc.; that’s just tactical talk when they seem to have it wrong strategically.

          BP (and it would appear the entire oil industry) could stand to learn from the nuclear or the aerospace industry, or even from chemicals. This couldn’t have happened in one of those industries, because tactical trivia aside, the culture wouldn’t permit it.

          There’s a direct analog between this and climate science. As long as they have a culture of duct tape, **** is going to keep happening.

        • clazy8
          Posted May 26, 2010 at 8:34 PM | Permalink

          BP *is* in chemicals. However, their record in that industry has not been inspiring — see Texas City.

  10. intrepid_wanders
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:42 PM | Permalink

    Another interesting project David is involved with is the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University.

    Now that is ironic. Maybe he can sequester all that oil spill carbon back into one of those gulf wells?

  11. Frank
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    A sensible question is what agenda a BP VP would bring to the Muir committee. For the last decade, the fossil fuel industry has chosen to not publicly challenge the reliability of climate science projections or the need for reduced emission of CO2. BP wants to be in the energy business – whether that means, fossil, wind, or bio – and they must be in a position to influence how governments legislate and regulate the long-term future of their business. Even before the Gulf oil disaster, BP had serious public relations difficulties with governments and environmentalists.

    If BP was really interested in investigating the reliability of climate science, they would have recommended Steve Koonin, their chief scientist and a former professor of theoretical physics at Caltech. He is also the author of a popular book “Out of Oil” which discusses the reality of “peak oil” and surveys the physics of alternative energy sources, while making almost no mention of global warming.

  12. harrywr2
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

    Posted May 21, 2010

    “For the last decade, the fossil fuel industry has chosen to not publicly challenge the reliability of climate science projections or the need for reduced emission of CO2.”

    There is an old Middle Eastern saying, ‘when death comes to your door, introduce him to your brother’.

    The oil and gas companies will be quite happy to see coal disappear.

    • ianl8888
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

      What is little known outside of the mining industry is that the major oil companies (notably Shell & BP) invested very heavily in coal mining in the 80’s in Aus, basically on the grounds that they were experts in the energy market and “how hard could it be ?”

      They ignored the advice of their geologists and chose deposits to develop based on politics as much as geology

      The result was predictable – much lost capital on marginal deposits with very large mining difficulties. Almost all of these projects were eventually sold down at an enormous loss … and this process is still occurring

      So it is not a matter of ” .. oil and gas companies will be quite happy to see coal disappear”, but rather they will be happy to see the results of this brash, misplaced rush of blood to the head completely forgotten 🙂

      • David Watt
        Posted May 26, 2010 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

        ian18888 hasn’t quite got the whole picture on oil company involvement in coal. He is right of course that BP made some bad investments in Aus and the US, but they also made some quite good ones in e.g. South Africa and Indonesia.

        The main thing they got wrong were that they over-estimated growth in energy demand and hence thought that “peak oil” would come by 2000. In that scenario energy coal prices were projected to soar, but this never happened.

        They timed their exit badly too, getting out of coal just before it became evident what a large market for coal imports China would turn out to be.

        • ianl8888
          Posted May 26, 2010 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

          Sorry, but I was heavily involved with my colleagues in the late 70’s/early 80’s trying to advise BP on HOW to assess potential purchases of deposits

          They did indeed choose deposits more on politics than geology, and the results were absolutely predicted … one of my colleagues was actually sacked because his exploration programme unequivocally demonstrated the silliness of BP’s method of choosing – a classic example of shooting the messenger

  13. mpaul
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:01 PM | Permalink

    If BP engaged in ‘hide the decline-style’ science, would that be a ‘fudge’ or a ‘fraud’? Would you argue that such misconduct, were to be alleged against BP, should most properly be handled collegially among scientific peers?

    There are some who argue that the unintended consequence of cap and trade will be a marked increase in deaths due to starvation in the third world. If lives are lost as a result of ‘fudged’ climate data, then how would this be any different from ecosystem damage caused by potentially fudged oil exploration safety data or, for that matter, lives lost due to fudged data regarding methane levels in a coal mine? Why should these things be thought of as different?

    In my mind, the key is to determine whether Mann, BP or Massey intended to deceive in order to receive material benefits.

  14. Dave L
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    Although BP is a multinational organization, it is the largest corporation in the UK. Being a British company, its prosperity would necessitate a cordial relationship with the British Government (political parties).
    Now the official UK government policies on AGW and green technology rate about a 9.8 on a scale of 0 to 10. Just take a gander at the new coalition government’s positions on environmental issues that were recently published:


    Such being the political situation, why would anyone expect anything other than a whitewash from a British political inquiry concerning a global warming issue. For an inquiry to go against such a heavily invested government position would not bode well for the members of the inquiry committee. BP’s participation in the inquiry makes them appear to be backing the government’s positions = good PR = part of the solution, not part of the problem … or so they would wish the citizenry to think.

  15. Anton
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:25 PM | Permalink

    I never subscribe to any conspiracy (little) stories or cartel of interests. In general they are just good stories for Hollywood or bad literature.
    BP like any other oil company cannot switch in few decades from a pure oil/gas producer/distributor to a beautiful green renewal energy corporate. Even through any political lobbying. Just get a look of their investment in RE on the last decade…. few cents compare to their turn over (less than 5% of their profits).
    Nuclear: BP clearly said no 2 years ago. And nuclear business in each country in the world will remain “a national concern” not a business for international foreign companies.
    Solar, wind: in less than 5 years we have already discovered that all developed countries industrials have to face strong competition from China or India (China first solar panel producer in the world).
    BP could have interest to be involved in any “climate business” for carbon capture or part of hydrogen production….. nothing to compare with their current profitable business.

    New energy is not an open concession to distribute like the old time of oil prospection. And no lobbying can be efficient if the final result is reached 50 years later.

    Coming back to the crucial point Steve mentioned :
    “In my February submission, I had opposed Eyton’s membership on this panel precisely because of his oil company connections.”
    We are trying to come out from one of the most dangerous moment of our history “the Republic of experts” so far from true democracy. Where few stupid politicians decided that our future will be decided by the words of “the most relevant experts in climate”. I don’t believe that somewhere exists a good way to define a balanced and enlightened organization of scientists that will avoid the same bankruptcy than the IPCC story. Because in each case we strangely ask them to tell us the truth. Science-truth ? What a strange marriage !
    And if I had to make a stupid joke, I would say that I will more trust any “CO2 producer industrial” than any expert. Why ? Because, instead of giving me an AR4 full of fears and dark future they will give me the keys to help them to keep making money with new industrial solutions. And as a (virtual) political member of a country’s administration, keys to improve my tax resources. In one word keys of growth not depreciation.
    Scientists world, even reorganized with pro and anti IPCC, is not “The Care Bears” country (I personally prefer the french/canadian translation “Bisounous/Calinours”…let’s imagine one second Steve making a little cuddle to Mann on a cloud above the rainbow….). It has to be replaced in the real world, the one where strong and costly decisions are taken, with all economical agents ….. and even with the risk to finish in front of a Court of Justice…..

  16. Noblesse Oblige
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

    I worked for 25 years as an executive for a different major oil and gas company. I can tell you that it is well known in the industry that BP is the worst operator among the majors — by far. Their safety and environmental record is abyssmal, and they seem to show no ability to learn from past mistakes. The big Alaska pipeline spill; the Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_Refinery_explosion); and the current fiasco are just three of the more visible “upsets” in recent years.

    The energy industry deals with highly concentrated forms of energy in a variety of severe, dangerous envirnments. It takes a ruthless determination and well designed organizational processes to minimize the chances of catastrophe. BP clearly has little appetite or determination for this. But it is good at playing the political game and largely gets a pass on its string of disasters with its toll of human life and imapct on the environment.

    • QBeamus
      Posted May 25, 2010 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

      I find this surprising. I advert to the fact that my experience is less than yours, and that my perspective was largely the “worm’s eye view.” But I worked for several years for Schlumberger, in the Gulf of Mexico, in deep water exploration, and BP was my favorite company to work with. They never cut corners, they were always doing things the right way, and they always took the long (and, IMO, enlightened) view. And, thinking that perhaps things had changed in the fifteen years or so since I left Schlumberger, I checked with a friend of mine who works for Weathorford (in fact, his job involves reviewing the kinds of contracts governing the sharing of liability, as in cases much like this one), and he confirms that BP still has a reputation for being an extremely cautious company.

      There’s no denying, BP has had a series of very bad accidents. One possibility is that they’ve simply been unlucky–given the small number of very bad oil industry accidents, BP’s problems might just be statistical noise. Or perhaps BP’s problems aren’t really that unusual–I haven’t done an industry audit, so I don’t know if, after careful counting, other companies would come out as bad or worse.

      In any event, between my experience with BP, specifically in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, in conjunction with what I’ve read so far, I think it’s a mistake to be blaming this one on BP. I’d be more inclined to ask why the industry standard for blowout preventers is postive rather than negative pressure. Maybe there’s a good answer, but it seems odd to me.

  17. Tony Hansen
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:32 PM | Permalink

    Greg Bourne also has had an interesting career.

    …Greg Bourne studied chemistry at the University of Western Australia under a scholarship from BP Refinery, Kwinana…..
    Seconded to the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street in 1988, he was the Special Adviser on Energy and Transport….he returned to Australia in January 1999 to become Regional President – BP Australasia the position from which he retired from BP in September 2003. Greg took up his current position as CEO WWF-Australia in October 2004.

  18. chili palmer
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

    The oil industry was invited in before anyone else. Climategate email, 4/19/2002, from Tom Wigley re IPCC Chair vote. Pachauri was choice of Saudi Arabia, oil interests lobbied intensely for him to be IPCC Chair.

  19. Ed Waage
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:55 PM | Permalink

    BP is buying their way into the renewable energy field like other large corporations and I have no problem with that.

    BP founded the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley Lab and U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a $500 million grant.

    Then Director of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab was Steven Chu, now Secretary of Dept of Energy. Chu was instrumental in getting BP to choose LBL as one of the participants in the venture.

    David Eyton now serves on the Governance Board of the Energy Biosciences Institute. Eyton was clearly an inappropriate choice to serve on the Muir Russell panel given his association with the Institute.

    Additionally, it is now ironic to see that Steven Chu had dispatched nuclear experts from the Dept of Energy to help solve the oil spill problem.

    Small world.

  20. Jim Brown
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 7:36 PM | Permalink

    From a retired petroleum geologist and long time lurker:

    BP’s acquisition of Arco, Amoco and Sohio interests helped build up their production in the US. Also, we should keep in mind relative sizes and perspective when we talk about “BIG OIL”. The so-called Stimulus Bill ($800B) that the US Congress passed last year was almost 3 times the market capitalization of ExxonMobil and over 6 times the market cap of BP. Maybe we should call them “little oil”

  21. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

    Blame it on Oz. In the early 1900s the Mount Morgan gold mine was the most productive in the world and several people made fortunes. One was William Knox D’Arcy, who took his money to Arabia and drilled many holes in the desert before hitting oil.

    This was the start of BP.

    Agree with ianl8888 above that BP invested heavily in Oz and lost badly. We did some joint ventures with them and they were dreamy eyed about finding only the biggest deposits ever known, as part of a corporate culture. Shell was similar.

    I’ve done some digging. Have a look in the Climategate emails with this search engine from a CA reader http://www.eastangliaemails.com/index.php

    Search for BP and you’ll find references to BP donating to AGW causes. 965750123.txt is one relevant one from year 2000. I have not been able to find a total figure, but groups like BP don’t talk much about small sums. It is possible that they are glued to providing the raw materials for future energy production and they want to stay snug with whomever enables the BP-size decisions. That’s a normal way to work. It’s how you snuggle up that separates the good from the bad from the ugly. “BP” also has a meaning – “Before Present”.

    This reinforces Steve’s point about these Inquiries – are they impartial or vested interest exercises? Maxim: Never set up an Inquiry unless you know the outcome will favour you.

  22. Posted May 21, 2010 at 9:26 PM | Permalink

    “BP aims to grow its US wind business rapidly to become one of the world’s leading developers by 2015. Already, BP and its partners have wind projects in 4 states generating renewable energy for more than 180,000 average American homes. Our target is to have commissioned over 1,000MW by the end of 2008.

    Our solar module sales were 203MW in 2009, primarily in markets such as Germany and the US where uptake is encouraged by policy-makers. We are also participating in emerging solar markets such as China, Italy and several countries in the Middle East. Sales grew by 25% in 2009, despite a challenging global market in which sales prices fell by around 40% and newly installed capacity was less than 2008.

    Through Vivergo Fuels, a partnership with DuPont and British Sugar, we’re building a biorefinery on an existing BP site in Hull. When operational, the plant will have capacity to produce 420 million litres of ethanol and 500,000 tonnes of high protein animal feed from 1 million tonnes of locally grown wheat. Vivergo Fuels could supply over 30% of UK ethanol requirements under its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

    BP Alternative Energy has invested $2.9 billion in wind, solar, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen power and biofuels since 2005 – and is set to sustain this commitment in future.”

  23. LearDog
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

    Nice backgrounder –

    Irrespective of his ties, it seems that he could bring a engineering and modern mgmt clarity to the debate. I can confidently tell you – that if any of his employees behaved in such a manner as revealed by the emails – they would have been drummed out long ago.

    Hopefully he will use his espoused framework for analysis rather than the whitewash adopted by others. If not – it will reflect upon the basis by which they operate in the GOM.

    His stakes got higher.

  24. Posted May 22, 2010 at 5:56 AM | Permalink

    OT, but BBC article suggests you might retire Climate Audit. True or no?

    • Hector M.
      Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:34 AM | Permalink

      IMHO, the fantastic job ClimateAudit did has achieved enormous effects, but the job is certainly not done. Lots of mischief and equivocation still remains out there.

  25. Ed Caryl
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

    “Trick to hide the decline”?



  26. Steve in SC
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 1:41 PM | Permalink

    Since this is totally politicized by now, how can anyone in their right mind expect anything other than a total whitewash. The outcome was pre-ordained. All that was required was some committee noise and the sounds of shuffling papers to make it appear that something was done.

  27. jim
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

    What occurs to me: since the general public is under the impression that the “sceptics” are funded by “big oil”, wouldn’t the inclusion of a BP executive give them the impression that the inquiry was “balanced”?

  28. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

    On the weak pretext that this thread involves differences in operational procedures between private enterprise and government, here is an Oz tale.

    The Government was presenting an alternative to sheep farmers for controlling the dingo population (the dingo being a wild dog).

    After years of the sheep farmers using the tried and true methods of shooting and/or trapping the predators, the Government and the Greens tree-huggers had a ‘more humane’ solution. They proposed that the animals be captured alive, the males would then be castrated and let loose again. Therefore the population would be controlled.

    At the meeting, the sheep farmers thought about this idea for a couple of minutes. Then, a farmer spokesman stood up, tipped his hat back and said, ‘Son, I don’t think you understand our problem. Those dingos ain’t fu….’ our sheep – they’re eatin’ ’em.’

    • Tony Hansen
      Posted May 23, 2010 at 4:40 PM | Permalink

      Would that be a gem gleaned from the Golden Nugget?

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

        Don’t know, Tony. It’s been around since I was in short pants.

        • ianl8888
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 10:30 PM | Permalink


          I posted in another concerning Koreans and cattle in Central Queensland but SMc snipped it for some whimsical reason or other

          I agree with you however, the dingo story is venerable

  29. Paul Repstock
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 1:32 AM | Permalink

    The greatest damage being caused by poor science and conflicts of interest is not in the undeserved financial rewards being reaped. But rather in the distraction from valid concerns about whether good and reasonable practices are being pursued in the course of mankind’s activities on this planet. By placing the entire field under a cloud of suspicion through questionable practices, Mann et al have basically won the day for those parties who sought to gut the foundations of environmentally sustainable policy.

    Huge mobs of scientists and lay environmentalists are now involved in chewing over the minutiae of Climate Gate and almost any study or program having to do with climate science. This is not to say that the field does not require being held accountable. Given the importance of climate to our continued survival, this is obviously a field which requires rigorous science and a high degree of integrity. However, placing more importance on legal issues than on research is a certain way to ensure that very little will be accomplished.

    I commend Mr. Macintyre for his stance in regard to this. But, even he is becoming distracted and seems to be increasingly spread too thin. The original Hockey Stick debunking was great and courageous but to now be lionized as the arbiter of almost any question on climatic influences seems unreasonable. I do not suggest that Mr. Macintyre has sought this. His, is simply a recognizable and marketable name for any venue in the field.

    Finally, what needs to be admitted is that each and every one of us is in some way acting from expediency. We cannot exist on this earth without influencing the climate. Therefore, in the interest of continuing our existence through future generations we must practice personal integrity to recognize our influences. And to mitigate and minimize these influences. The finest and most honest conservationist I ever knew was a fur trapper. That profession is now thoroughly vilified. Whether that is reasonable is moot. The point is that at the time, it was a valid industry, and this “conservationist” practiced principals that would embarrass many so called modern environmentalists.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:57 AM | Permalink

      Paul Repstock says “Given the importance of climate to our continued survival,”

      Paul, What do you see as a threat to our continued survival and what evidence do you have that it should be a threat?

      Times are moving on. One horrific prediction after another has failed and in the meanwhile, I have personally felt no change and no threat. Could it be possible it is no more serious than playing the old game of hypotheticals? If so, Mann et al have wasted scarce funds and diverted effort. There’s not much noble about that.

  30. stephen richards
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 2:29 AM | Permalink


    Funniest thing I’ve read anywhere for a very long time !! and typically oz. I worked in London with a bunch of aussies for a year or so and what a great bunch they were. Real live wires, no BS and to the point.

  31. LearDog
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:41 AM | Permalink

    snip – blog policies prohibit trying to prove or disprove AGW in a few paragraphs as the same things are said over and over.

  32. Paul Repstock
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    snip – sorry. blog policies prohibit trying to solve everything at once.

  33. Stacey
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

    Reasons to be uncheerful:-

    1 The drilling in the gulf was`supposed to be failsafe? The failsafe failed?

    2 The response by BP was at best snail pace.

    3 BP should have had systems in place to deal with such a massive failure. For example having a submersible containment vessel on station.

  34. Posted May 24, 2010 at 4:52 AM | Permalink

    It is not true that yours was the only submission to criticise Eyton’s appointment.

    A third tranche of submissions has been posted recently (perhaps today?) and there are now 88 submissions. Of the last 40 or so, almost all of them are complaining about Boulton’s position on the panel.

    Submission 72 (McClure) deals exclusively with Eyton, mentioning a climate research project at Princeton funded by BP.

    Submission 77 (Napier) also mentions BP’s funding of CRU.

    We must also recall that an unknown number of submissions (including David Holland’s) are being withheld, apparently because of legal concerns.

    The answer to your question of why most of the submissions did not comment on Eyton’s appointment is clear. The team
    “called for submissions on issues relating to its remit”
    and made it plain that
    “We will not accept a submission which is not relevant to our remit.”
    The remit did not include the composition of the panel.
    So it’s my guess that all the recently posted submissions were not considered.

  35. stephen.richards
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 7:21 AM | Permalink


    1. It was, but the failsafe failed

    2. Response was excellent but the amount of work needed was immense

    3. Impossible! Too many drilling rigs in the world and robot submersibles still have limited capability.

    If you were to argue that their decision making was not the best. I agree. Should have cut their losses and block the well immediately. 20 / 20 hind-sight.

    I have no investyments in oil or any other form of energy but did spent a lot of time as a business recovery manager.

    • Stacey
      Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

      @Stephen Richards

      Thank you for your comments on my post.

      The leak continues, therefore I cannot understand your comment that BP’s response was excellant, especially as you then say they had an immediate solution to block the well?

  36. Stephen Richards
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

    Now, this should be the result of professional mis-conduct, Mann and Jones take note§


  37. Posted May 24, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    Dear Mr McIntyre, I have translated this article into French and posted it here : http://www.contrepoints.org/BP-et-le-Climategate.html

    If you disagree with my doing so, please let me know and I will take it offline.

    In any case, feel free to use this translation for any purpose you see fit. Indeed, we would be most honoured if we could prove to be of service to you.

  38. W F Lenihan
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    The federal government’s involvement in the Gulf oil spill, before, during and after is one giant cluster f—. I suspect that the over reliance of government regulators upon BP is due to the fact that there is no one in government that has the requisite knowledge, know-how or experience for meaningful and effective regulation. These deficits are also evident in the recovery efforts.

    The use of chemical dispersants will cause long term damage and delay recovery by years if not decades. It makes for good PR, but will prove as harmful as steam cleaning of beaches in Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez spill.

    Prior experience in Mexico shows that sea life recovered substantially within two years when nothing was done other than to skim and recapture the surface oil.

    The Gulf coast residents and businesses will suffer far too long as a result of the inept government response. snip – too political —

    Steve: there’s lots of blame to go around.

  39. justbeau
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 7:52 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for catching BP being in alliance with Muir Howard and AGW crusader Michael Oppenheimer. Why on earth would a smart lad like Eyton be investing time assisting the likes of Muir Howard or Michael Oppenheimer? For their part, why would eco-activists choose to associate with a company that has caused a monumental environmental fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico?
    Oil firms must be sophisticated in terms of working with political leaders and as such need to be conveniently facile in terms of not having any of their own beliefs. They will adjust to the political issues, in any nation. For instance, BP made a big investment in Russia (near Sakhalin Island) some years ago, then got forced out by Russian “partners” with closer ties to Putin.
    Oil firms know the world needs petroleum. So they can hang out with eco-activists, because doing so does not change this fundamental economic reality in the slightest. For BP, its much better to be inside the tent, sounding supportive, than outside. Britain has been headed by the Labor Party for the past 13 years. British Petroleum knows how to play nice with Labor leaders and their eco-fantasies.
    BP can contribute lots of money that environmentalists find very helpful for their cause. Environmentalists must also like the seeming endorsement of AGW by an oil firm, since they can then say that even oil companies agree with our cause, thus our science must be sound.
    Its too bad witty cynics like George Bernard Shaw or Mark Twain are not around today, to witness BP helping Muir Howard and Oppenheimer. We are blessed to have McIntyre, who also has a droll sense of humor as an observer of human follies.

    • Mark F
      Posted May 25, 2010 at 8:58 AM | Permalink

      Shaw, Twain or my fave, Mencken…

      • justbeau
        Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:49 AM | Permalink

        Eco-activists seem happy to pal around with BP, but draw the line at reasonable questions about AGW.
        The Gulf of Mexico oil blowout is an ugly, terrible, dopey fiasco. BP was responsible for the drilling, the actions of its chosen subcontractors, and for being insufficiently prepared to stop the leak. Its an irony that this fiasco has followed so soon after Eyton helped Muir Russell.

  40. Posted May 25, 2010 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

    BP supported the Kyoto Protocol in 2001

    BP calls for ratification of Kyoto Protocol

    7 November , 2001

    The multinational BP has challenged the Australian Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. BP’s South Australia and Australasia president, Greg Bourne, has said that Australia’s economy will suffer if the nation doesn’t commit to ratifying the protocol which regulates greenhouse gas emissions.


    It is alleged that BP and Enron sent Al Gore to the Kyoto Conference to insert carbon trading into article 16.


    Enron were certainly there.

    On Aug. 4, 1997, Lay and seven other energy executives met with Clinton, Gore, Rubin and other top officials at the White House to discuss the U.S. position at the upcoming conference on global warming in Kyoto, Japan. Lay, in a memo to Enron employees, said there was broad consensus in favor of an emissions-trading system.

    Enron officials later expressed elation at the results of the Kyoto conference. An internal memo said the Kyoto agreement, if implemented, would “do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”


    International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)

    The biggest lobbying group at Copenhagen was e the International Emissions Trading Association which was created to promote carbon trading more than ten years ago.

    Its members include :-

    BP, Conoco Philips, Shell, E.ON AG (coal power stations owner, EDF (one of the largest participants in the global coal market), Gazprom (Russian oil and gas), Goldman Sachs, Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley..


    More on carbon trading here


  41. Jim Brown
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    Tomorrow’s a big day -hope it works:

  42. Lewis
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

    I know what your saying, Steve, let’s not get dragged into politics. (Except, I think BP is now being accused, as a ‘foreign’ company,of being ‘foreign’. The best engineering company that I know!) And, what is being asked, is best practice and scrupulousness. So why this blind spot, when it comes to the ‘books’ of academia in this particular area? Only an historian a couple of decades hence will perhaps really know!?

  43. Lewis
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

    It isn’t germane to talk about BP and/or it’s alleged failings in the Gulf of Mexico. What’s Steve’s post was about was the very odd ‘blind siding’ that one of it’s majour employees seemed to be employed in – the necessity for extraordinary precision in digging a well more than 10000 feet beneath the skin of this planet and then be on certain boards, panels, discussions where imprecision seems the norm. By the way, I’m sick of Google correcting my British spelling! Or is it WordPress!

  44. Posted May 26, 2010 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    The head of engineering for BP’s Gulf of Mexico operations should have been minding his knitting; not doing his political thing. Drilling at these depths and pressures is extremely technical and exacting. Too much drilling mud weight and the mud disappears into the formation; not enough and a kick of gas or oil can light you up. The fire occurred at a most critical juncture; when the production casing was being cemented. It will likely come out but it looks like the BOP(blow out prevention) device was not in place; common during the cementing process.

  45. AMac
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

    Wall St. Journal, 5/27/10 page A7
    “BP Aims to Avoid Fresh Restrictions on Drilling”
    by Elizabeth Williamson

    Aiming to blunt a regulatory and political backlash as oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, BP PLC has revved up its influence machine, relying on heavy hitters with deep Democratic roots.


    After the spill, the company brought on crisis communicator Hilary Rosen, former Democratic congressional staffer, former chief of the RIAA, and a current editor-at-large for HuffingtonPost.com. … Ms. Rosen declined to be interviewed on the record.


    Extraordinary events in the Gulf of Mexico; business as usual with respect to politics, influencing policy, and public relations.

  46. Bill
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    The Spill is not only a black eye for BP but also for the Obama administration. They both need to down play the amount of spillage. Conspiracy Theory #32

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