Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fiddling Figures

BP, British Petroleum, is about to take another hit to its reputation.

The US Chemical Safety Board's report into a March, 2005 refinery explosion at BP's Texas City refinery that claimed 15 lives, accuses BP of complacency and disregard for inherent danger.

CSB chairman, Carolyn Merritt, told The Observer that, "...the impact of cost-sutting on safety would be central in the CSB report," and maintains there is a causal connection between relaxed maintenance and the explosion.

BP's response demonstrates PR spin at its finest. A BP spokesman said the company invested heavily in maintenance. BP's spending on its five US refineries increased on average by 10 per cent a year from 2000 to 2005. Wow, 10 per cent a year for five consecutive years. That's a pretty big increase in the maintenance budget. Isn't it?

Well, maybe it wasn't that great. "...CSB officials point to a history of cost-cutting at Texas City: from 1992 to 1998 maintenance spending fell by 41 per cent. When the figures are extended to the eight years between 1992 and 2000 the fall was 84 per cent. They add that reports commissioned by BP said clearly that funding was inadequate, but attempts to increase spending were not effective."

Kind of puts a different spin on it when you hear both sides, doesn't it?

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