Turtles Killed by the BP Oil Spill

We have covered the BP oil spill extensively over the past two years.

For companies it was one of the most dramatic lessons in the dangers of excessive risk taking and showed just how much damage can be done — to a reputation, the environment and the families of those who died in the explosion — when a company displays a “pattern of neglect and corner cutting.” We’ve looked at the risk management lessons of the spill, the events leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, how the rig’s blowout preventer failed, and how conflicts of interest hinder offshore drilling regulation.

Now — after a Greenpeace Freedom of Information Act request has finally uncovered some previously unreleased images — we look at the heart-breaking ecological damage of the spill.

Here is what is presumably a government worker cleaning up some of the dead animals that were killed by the oil that filled the Gulf of Mexico. Mother Jones has a gallery of many more explicit photos showing just how badly some endangered sea turtles were covered in crude.

Ken Feinberg on the “Two Types of Risk”

Ken Feinberg, the "claims czar," says there are two types of risk that challenge leadership.

Ken Feinberg just might have the most difficult job out there. He has worked as mediator/administrator in the wake of tragedies and natural disasters such as 9/11, the shootings at Virginia Tech, Hurricane Katrina and the Holocaust slave labor litigation. He is currently serving as the administrator for the $20 billion BP oil spill claims fund.

It is Feinberg’s job to sit with victim’s families and to sift through claims from each disaster in order to figure out how much their personal and financial loss is worth. It is a job few envy.

But through his years of experience with mediation and dispute resolution, he has learned that there are two types of risk that challenge leadership:

  1. Risk as defined by the assignment that you’ve undertaken
  2. External risk — or in other words, the external pressures on you or the stress level factored into how you perform

“You have to define risk with each situation [you’re presented],” he said. “When I pay a fisherman, I find a payment that ends their concern, but what is the likely risk that the Gulf is safe? Have I factored into that reward a good understanding of future risk to fishing in the Gulf? Inherent is the notion of a substantive definition of risk.”

In relating that knowledge to his recent tasks as administrator of the 9/11 victim’s compensation fund and the BP oil spill claims fund, he noted:

“When administering the 9/11 fund, it turned out that my evaluation of risk was poorly done — I underestimated the support of the victim’s families and the public in general. I evaluated correctly with the BP case — I’m a human pinata.”

More so than knowing and incorporating the two types of risk that challenge leadership, those in charge should also incorporate certain characteristics. The following are those Feinberg truly believes in and which he has incorporated during his challenging assignments:

  • Convey a sense of certainty
  • Be transparent — “The more sunlight I let into the room, the easier it is,” he said.
  • Consistency — no bias or favoritism
  • Flexibility — keep an open mind
  • Use sound judgement — “Give the people impacted by your decisions a say.”
  • Delegate to good people — “Staff is the key.”

Feinberg’s job is not easy, but it has taught him a lifetime worth of lessons regarding leadership, risk and fairness.

Check back over the next several days for more posts relating to the amazing speakers I was fortunate enough to hear at the Wharton Leadership Conference, including Jane Golden, executive director of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program; James Quigley, author of As One; and senior partner at Deloitte; and Colonel Jack Jacobs, NBC analyst and recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Are Oil-Eating Bacteria Cleaning Up the Gulf?

It appears that way.

So you know how BP and various others have been trying to sell us on the idea that the gargantuan oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico had somehow magically disappeared? Well, now some Berkeley scientists have confirmed that this actually may be happening, but it isn’t magic. A newly discovered microbe, a particularly gluttonous form of oil-eating bacteria that have existed for millions of years on the ocean floor, appears to have multiplied rapidly since the April 20 spill and gobbled up so much of the dispersed oil as to render the plume “undetectable.”

That is pretty amazing if this is actually going on. Nature, man. Truly remarkable.

Since scientists know science, I will cede all knowledge on the subject to the researchers doing the researching and hope to hear more good news about the Gulf cleaning itself. But, I think FSist’s take is pretty well aligned with my own.

We remain slightly skeptical, but consider our minds blown.

Blown indeed.

eat oil

Energy Company Net Income: 2007-2010

Guess which company the blue line represents?

Says CanOils Database (from which the image comes via press release):

BP stands out with its spectacular $17 billion reported loss in the second quarter, and even if we look at its underlying performance by removing the effects of non-recurring items, growth in adjusted earnings was just 15% – much lower than any of its peers. (see Normalised Net Income graph below). So not much cheer to report here.

Well, BP did at least stop the oil flow and the cemented well seems to be holding. Plus, the digging on the relief wells is not too far from completion so “bottom kill” — the long expected final solution to the leak — may be a reality soon.

I’m not sure that’s worth cheering, but a nice golf clap in probably in order.

BP Net Income