The BP Crisis - A marketing blunder or a public policy oversight?

Updated: October 31, 2010

What quickly became apparent to the American people was the potential for loss of business for private and public entities all along the Gulf of Mexico. Although a prospect that did not seem likely when BP started drilling at that location, a change in presidential administrations should have alerted BP to a change in public policy towards environmental disasters.

Clearly, the election of Barak Obama should have signaled a renewed interest in public policy around energy, conservation and environmental and America's energy partners. For all intents and purposes, BP appeared unmoved by the election of President Obama and had not sought an analysis of risk in their American operations that might attract attention.

At the ouset, BP handled the explosion and leak like an occupational or industrial accident and did not engage the media or American authorities sufficiently to understand the storm of outrage that was to ensue.

Much of the blame for handling a problem seemed to fall on the American Government, yet public administration experts have always written that government is not particularly poised to solve problems that have fuzzy borders of authority such as local, state and federal responsibilities. Nor is the Federal Government prone to solve problems with strictly public policy because of the blind spot that public policy has in overlooking socioeconomic causes or outcomes of a crisis or problem. In the case of the oil leak, indecision by the state and federal government at the earliest stages created "finger pointing" that eventually led to public discourse on who should act rather than acting.

The tepid BP response during that first week intimates that it did not understand the response from American state and Federal authorities and that a near paralysis existed. A full scale BP response to the oil leak on its own at the outset might have cost BP billion dollars on the front end but it would have saved its brand name and a multi-billion dollar price tag on the back end.

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