Yep, we feel it might be time to eat some oil-slicked crow. Back on April 29, 2009, in this space, we printed a guest post by Ayana Meade of Greenopia, which had applied its rigorous green ratings system to oil companies operating in the U.S. And guess who took the top spot as greenest of the heap? Yep, BP. Why? Greenopia cited the company behind the leaking Deepwater Horizon site for it's past investments of oil profits into alternative-fuel research, as well as for the transparency, breadth and accuracy of its environmental reporting.
Here's Greenopia's 2009 list of greenest oil companies
This list seems unfortunate now, with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill (or is that the "BP Oil Spill"?) growing every minute, menacing a fragile marine ecosystem and making tempers flare. As this detailed infographic shows, initial estimates to the damage of fisheries in the region are $2.5 billion. The area's multi-billion dollar tourism industry is also paralyzed, with summer cancellations pouring in.
It's time to reconsider BP's greeness, and not just because 9.8 to 55 million gallons of crude have spilled into the Gulf so far. Mike Mason, a former oil worker who served on numerous BP jobs in Alaska, has come forward to allege that he witnessed the company -- as well as others in the industry -- "cheating" on blowout safety tests when inspectors weren't present. "I believe that the regulation commissions up here are in the oil fields' back pocket," Mason told Countdown with Keith Olbermann. "They don't have the strength to follow through with the regulations. Pretty much they let the oil fields write the procedures in the first place."
Does that sound like transparency and accuracy of environmental reporting to you? As ProPublica recently pointed out, BP is also implicated in a 2005 refinery explosion in Texas, and a serious oil leak in an Alaskan pipeline a year later.
And what of the company's recent and much ballyhooed name change, from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum? Well, many have called it little more than clever greenwashing. BP's total six-year investment in renewable technologies in the years immediately following the name change was a mere $200 million -- the same amount it spent on that "Beyond Petroleum" ad campaign. BP's total wind and solar electrical output in 2002 was barely enough to power the city of Regina, Saskatchewan.
In fact, BP has been sliding further away from investments in renewable energy, while the New York Times reported on the company's heel dragging on Obama administration efforts to diversify our energy supply.
Lots of people are angry with BP right now, from journalists who allege that the company hasn't been disclosing everything that has been going on down on the seafloor to those who wonder why the company hasn't had more effective contingency plans. Of course, in a disaster of this scale, no one entity is to blame. There are things that probably should have been done by the federal and state governments, regulatory agencies, and a host of subcontractors on the rig, from Halliburton on down. There may have been elements of individual human error or bad luck.
But does BP deserve to remain the greenest oil company in America? Or maybe this is more reason to look harder beyond the black, messy, toxic stuff?
By the way, Greenopia did update their listing of greenest oil companies a few months ago, based on more recent data. BP was still listed at number one, although we'll see how long that lasts.
Here is our original post, written by Ayana Meade of Greenopia, on 4/29/09:
Oil: it's a dirty word in much of the green community. It's blamed for international conflicts, global warming and wildlife-killing spills. We can all agree that it's best to avoid using the cruel crude as much as possible, but if you're like many of us who still rely on fossil fuels to get around, you can at least check out Greenopia's new Oil Company Rankings Guide, and spend your dollars with more impact.
According to the guide, BP ranks as the overall greenest oil company for it's past investments of oil profits into alternative-fuel research. The company also scored high for the transparency, breadth and accuracy of its environmental reporting.
Unfortunately, it's also true that BP has been scaling back its once ballyhooed commitment to renewable energy, ever since its top leadership changed back in 2007. The New York Times and others are not bullish on BP's interest in working with an eager Obama administration to provide a more diverse mix of energy supplies.
Still, there aren't a lot of other choices when it comes to big oil. Going further down Greenopia's list are Sunoco and Shell, ranked #2 and #3, respectively. The world's largest oil company, the massively profitable Exxon Mobil, ranked 6th.
Even though it may not appear that way, your choice at the pump can make a difference to the environment. That's because there are significant differences in the impact that oil companies have, from carbon footprint for extraction, to hazardous waste produced to water used. To rate these ten companies, Greenopia used a six-part analysis method, which included greenhouse gas emissions and oil spill efficiency.
"Fossil fuels are pretty much at the top of any environmentalist's black list," said Doug Mazeffa, director of research for Greenopia. "But until alternative-fuel coalesces into large-scale market availability, cars are a vast and current fact of life and they are powered by refined crude oil. Our Greenopia consumers had a strong desire to learn where they should be buying gasoline."
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