Geoff Morrell, the senior vice president of communications at BP, wants the whole country to know that the company’s negligence that led to the Deepwater Horizon oil geyser has not destroyed the Gulf of Mexico. And all of those fears about lost revenue and declining tourism along the Gulf Coast? That never happened, according to Morrell.
Politico allowed the BP executive to use its platform to spread some of the most egregious and misleading information about the health of the Gulf of Mexico that we’ve seen to date.
Granted, it is Morrell’s job as VP of communications to put a positive spin on such a negative story for BP, but his op-ed in Politico goes far beyond whitewashing the problem. Morrell has completely fabricated a story that those of us who live along the Gulf Coast spot just as easily as we can spot the BP tar balls that still wash up on our shores.
Here are a few of Morrell’s more outlandish claims from his op-ed:
Advocacy groups predicted the spill could have “generational” impacts on Gulf shrimp and that Gulf Coast tourism could suffer “up to $23 billion of losses” and take years to recover.
None of those things happened.
… the evidence to date shows the Gulf environment is rebounding and that most of the environmental impact was of short duration and in a limited geographic area.
The first claim about the shrimp shows that Morrell hasn’t picked up a newspaper since the early days of the oil spill. Reports consistently show that the oil from the spill — along with the Corexit dispersants that were pumped by the barrel into the Gulf waters — has caused severe deformities in marine life, especially in the shrimp stocks. In addition to finding shrimp with oozing sores and body deformities, a common problem occurring is that shrimp are being born without eyeballs. Morrell’s claims that “none of those things happened” is a great talking point, but the facts say otherwise.
As for Morrell’s claims that the impact was both short and limited, this, too, is a lie.
Researchers this year have determined that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has been increasing at an alarming rate since the oil spill, and the researchers attribute the expansion to the oil spill. In other words, it isn’t just a coincidence.
Furthermore, studies out of Penn State have shown that Gulf coral has suffered a significant decline since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, in areas where oil never hit. The bottom line is that the simple process of diffusion pushed the oil into every nook and cranny of the Gulf, and the effects will be felt long after Morrell has left this world.
Morrell went even further in his attempts to downplay his company’s destructive ways, and told us all that nature would take care of the oil, no problem:
Natural oil seeps release up to the equivalent of nearly six Exxon Valdez spills in the Gulf each year, and microbes in the Gulf have adapted over time to feast on oil. Several studies have shown that these voracious microbes consumed a significant amount of oil after the spill.
Another factor was the spill’s location. The spill occurred in deep water — 5,000 feet below the surface — and more than 40 miles from shore in a temperate climate. That allowed a lot of oil to dissolve, evaporate, deteriorate or be physically removed before it reached land.
Morrell isn’t completely wrong about the oil dissolving, but he does get it wrong about where it went. Just like air pollution enters the lungs of humans, dissolved oil entered the bodies of marine life. Once again, studies have shown that the dissolved oil is showing up in fish and other forms of marine life and is causing tumors, heart defects and deformities. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t out there doing harm.
Morrell ends his op-ed with a talking point that BP has been working to perfect for over a year: The people along the Gulf Coast are greedy, opportunistic folks looking to extort money from poor little BP:
BP has said consistently, for more than four years, that it would do the right thing. We meant what we said, and we’ve lived up to our word. To date, we have spent more than $27 billion on response, clean-up and claims.
But we should not be accountable for damages caused by the acts of others, or those conjured up by opportunistic advocacy groups. And we should certainly not be liable for damages that stem from problems that have plagued the Gulf for decades.
What Morrell didn’t include in his demonizing of the oil spill victims was the fact that the company has been taking out full-page ads in major newspapers all over the country to try to sell the idea that Gulf Coast residents are extortionists. He failed to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars that his company is spending simply to repair it’s damaged image. He didn’t mention that his company has repeatedly appealed the oil spill settlement simply because it failed to budget enough to pay all the victims.
Morrell’s attempt to mislead the public is pathetic, but even more pathetic is Politico’s decision to give him the space to spread his putrid lies.