In the midst of BP’s Gulf crisis, another oil executive is in the spotlight. Former Shell Oil executive John Hofmeister has been pushing for more accountability and transparency on the part of BP and the government as he promotes a new book. He was interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he called the cleanup “ham-handed,” and he also accused BP of “gross incompetence, negligence or mismanagement,” according to Politico. In other media he lambasted BP as if he were still the president of Shell. He’s not. He’s the founder of a nonprofit called Citizens for Affordable Energy.
Hofmeister also told The Fiscal Times, “BP’s CEO is in the midst of a political firestorm and environmental tsunami. He must urgently focus on his most important responsibility, delivering performance on all fronts by concentrating his time and the priorities of his staff on the daily work of the enterprise.” Good advice. But the pot may be calling the kettle black.
While Hofmeister was earning millions as an oil executive at Shell, his company was responsible for a series of devastating leaks in Nigeria, some caused by vandalism, and a minor leak in Australia. Following Hofmeister’s retirement, Shell had a major pipeline leak into the Gulf of Mexico in 2009.
In his book, Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider, Hofmeister says, “Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with the oil industry. Myself included.”
The “hate” part of this equation may have stemmed from one of Shell’s major oil disasters: On Jan. 15, 1999, a Shell tanker in Magdalena, Argentina, crashed into another ship, leaking its contents into the lake and polluting the environment. And in January 2006, oil was dumped into the Carquinez Strait from Shell’s Martinez refinery, according to the Contra Costa Times, a Spanish language newspaper. A Shell spokesperson said then, “It’s something we wish didn’t happen and we have taken all steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Shell apologized to local boat owners and others who were affected.
Hofmeister has been on the firing line, and he knows how the game is played. He said, “The U.S. politicians will grandstand and make incredible demands based on what drives them: opinion polls and their perceived leadership of the incident. It is urgently important that BP survive this disaster as a functioning entity so that it can pay for its liabilities in the coming months and years. It does no one any good to put it out of business, into bankruptcy proceedings or chase away investors."
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