Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill–One Year Later

As April 20 marks the one-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, plenty of media outlets are weighing in on both the environmental effects of the oil spill and the PR fallout for BP in the last 12 months. From an environmental standpoint, it appears that BP may have dodged a bullet in the crisis, as some experts report that the spill could have caused much worse damage. From a PR perspective, the commentary is mixed. BP has distributed a few billion dollars to Gulf Coast businesses hurt by the spill—yet there are several billions yet to go. The only consensus is that ex-CEO Tony Hayward was a disaster nearly equal to the spill itself.

If you were to judge the PR effort from a business performance sense, you could say that BP’s public relations effort has been a success. For a company whose stock price fell 54% several months ago, BP made a fourth-quarter profit of $5.6 billion, up 30% from the same period a year earlier. If you’re a BP executive, those numbers have to be pretty satisfying. However, if you’re a small-business owner or fisherman along the Gulf Coast who may have lost their livelihoods, the figures must be maddening. Let’s see what BP does—or doesn’t do—in the next 12 months for those most affected by the disaster. Will it get stingy with payouts? Will it stop environmental clean-up efforts? I predict yes to both of those questions. What do you think?

–Scott Van Camp