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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Drowning in Oil: BP & the Reckless Pursuit of Profit » User review

An Interesting Read but Heavy Handed

  • Jan 21, 2011
There are few people in the United States who did not watch in amazement as oil spewed from the Macondo well into the Gulf of Mexico. However, prior to Macondo blowout BP had other, less covered disasters - the explosion of the refinery in Texas City and a leak in the Alaskan pipeline. "Drowning in Oil" attempts to roll each of these events as a result of a deeper rooted issue within BP.

Loren Steffy paints a tale of a corporate culture that gives lip-service to safety while bowing down to the all-mighty dollar. While BP reminded employees the need to back into parking spaces and the importance of holding safety rails they were also making separate decisions that saved money but put lives in jeopardy. Loren Steffy does a nice job of inciting outrage making BP a giant corporate villain, but is unable to show us that BP was truly criminally negligent and not just the victim of having employees that repeatedly made bad decisions. I will admit that there is a very fine line between the two, and in the case of Texas City it is clear that the plant's safety record was atrocious and required a serious intervention.... However in the case of the Alaskan Pipeline (thinning pipes that needed to be monitored) and the Deepwater Horizon (the use of fewer centralizers and a single-pipe system) it is not as apparent.

This is especially true for the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo disaster - while there is an email record showing that BP wanted to hurry and that they were tens-of-millions of dollars over budget - my thoughts, what company would not be concerned with these types of cost over runs? Do you think Google would be *happy* or embrace a $40M overage? This does mean that their culture completely disregards safety?

My issue is that Steffy paints BP with a very broad brush in terms of the corporate culture. Clearly mistakes were made, and BP needed to be held accountable - but Steffy never offers any counter-arguments or even attempts to show the saga through a BP perspective. Never does Steffy mention the BP engineers that worked 90-straight days without a day off. Cleary that was there responsibility... but put yourself in their shoes.... Think of the weight on their shoulders. Steffy never shows the heroes within BP that helped to cap the well. Trust me - there were heroes, but their stories never makes it to the surface.

Final Verdict - "Drowning in Oil" is a very worthwhile read. It will bring (much deserved) outrage on the shear scale of the disasters (especially Texas City). However, I felt that the Steffy had too much of an agenda - I kept thinking that he was trying to write "The Jungle" of the oil industry and while I certainly feel that BP deserves to be held accountable for their actions - they do not need to be painted by a broad brush stating that they are completely callous to anything other than corporate profits.

3 Stars

---Please note - I reviewed a promotional copy of "Drowing in Oil" --------------------------

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review by . December 17, 2010
When the British Petroleum (BP) drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the ocean, I was with the majority of Americans in being angry with BP. The arrogance of the CEO and the recounting of the poor safety record of the company was retold many times and the sight of the oil washing up on the beaches and the animals coated with it were sickening. I was happy when the Obama administration reached an agreement with BP whereby the company would put $20 …
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At one time, I may have been the world's biggest baseball fan. However, now that I have a family I amin danger of falling out of the top 100. In addition to my beautiful wife and lovely daughter (and … more
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About this book


The definitive account of how BP's win-at-all-costs culture led to this era's greatest industrial catastrophe

"A carefully and powerfully written story."
Financial Times

"When an author uses a loaded word like 'reckless' in a book's title, the burden of proof is high. . . . Steffy meets the burden by demonstrating that corporate behemoth BP (formerly British Petroleum) could have prevented the 11 deaths on April 20, 2010, aboard the Deepwater Horizon. . . . The deaths and the gigantic oil spill following the sinking of Deepwater Horizon will surely become a landmark of corporate ineptness and greed for the remainder of human history, thanks in part to Steffy's remarkable account."
San Antonio Express-News

"Steffy has produced a fascinating, gripping, revealing account. . . . The book details events aboard the Deepwater Horizon in April of 2010 to start, but it digs deeper into what is revealed as a culture of cost-cutting boiling over within BP. Steffy documents years of incidents and poor management decisions, detailing the rise of key characters like John Browne and Tony Hayward alongside riveting outlines of horrifying events in Texas City and at other BP locations. . . . The book reads like fiction at times, with the author's heavily-detailed accounts of explosions and conversations creating vivid, nearly fantastical images. The tragic history of BP is all-too-real, though, as the lost lives and environmental damage certainly attest to.. . . Steffy is a thorough, ...

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ISBN-10: 0071760814
ISBN-13: 978-0071760812
Author: Loren C. Steffy
Genre: Business & Investing, Professional & Technical
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
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