Tony Hayward receives G.O.P. apology for White House shakedown

B.P. CEO Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward squirmed in a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday, even though he received a G.O.P. apology for a White House "shakedown." Flickr photo.

Tony Hayward opened his testimony in Congress Thursday by apologizing on behalf of BP for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. But he was upstaged by another apology from a Republican for the White House “shakedown” of BP for a $20 billion dollar fund to cover damages from the oil spill. Lawmakers vented predictable wrath on the beleaguered oil company executive at the House Energy and Commerce hearing investigating the oil spill. The shakedown apology to Hayward from Texas Republican Joe Barton was also predictable upon examination of the representative’s record.

Tony Hayward sits while gusher flows

While Tony Heyward took his lumps, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reached at least 100 million gallons according to government estimates. The New York Times reports that the oil spill cap BP has been using since June 3 has collected about 15,000 barrels a day.  Scientists estimated Tuesday that the BP oil leak ranges from 35,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels a day — up from the flow rate they issued only last week, of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. It continues a pattern in which every new estimate of the flow rate has been dramatically higher than the one before.

Political posturing dominates hearing

Tony Hayward listened quietly for about 90 minutes as lawmakers made opening statements. Democrats led by California Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, harshly criticized BP for the shortcuts it took that lead to the disaster. Republicans used the televised hearing as an opportunity to criticize the Obama administration for its response to the BP oil spill. As they used the hearing to score political points with their base, Republicans accused the administration for using the hearing to put the oil industry out of business to advance its energy policies.

Joe Barton ashamed of BP “shakedown”

Before Tony Hayward could apologize, he received his own apology from Barton (video below). Barton said he was “ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or corporation does anything wrong, they are subjected to such political pressure.” He called it “a tragedy of the first proportion, that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, a $20 billion shakedown.” Reuters reports that Republicans are seeking to pick up seats from majority Democrats in November’s congressional elections. Using BP’s $20 billion oil spill damage fund to criticize the Obama administration is a politically risky stance that is bound to be unpopular in the Gulf region, where out-of-work fishermen are desperate for claims payments to survive economically.

Barton’s shakedown no surprise

Tony Hayward and a majority of Americans may have been shocked at Barton’s shakedown apology. But the Washington Post reports that for Barton, outrageous statements about energy and climate change are nothing new. Barton is the biggest recipient of oil and gas industry campaign contributions in the House of Representatives according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Some of his industry-friendly comments include:

Barton on wind energy:
“Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up?

Barton on climate change:
“I think that it’s inevitable that humanity will adapt to global warming. I also believe the longer we postpone finding ways to do it (adapt) successfully, the more expensive and unpalatable the adjustment will become. Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult.”

Barton on Co2:
“CO2 is odorless, colorless, tasteless – it’s not a threat to human health in terms of being exposed to it. We create it as we talk back and forth. So, and if you go beyond that, on a net basis, there’s ample evidence that warming generically — however it is caused — is a net benefit to mankind.”

Hayward gets his apology in edgewise

Tony Hayward finally got his chance to apologize after a protester, smeared in black, disrupted his testimony by shouting that he should be charged with a crime. After she was hustled out of the room, Hayward said he was “deeply sorry.” and that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 should have never happened. He also offered his condolences to the families and friends of the 11 people who died in the explosion of the oil rig that set the disaster in motion. Hayward has yet to face any questions from a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which recessed after his statement to allow members to vote. But he won’t be expecting any more apologies.

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