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Fossil Fuel Industry Hangs BP Out to Dry

BP History of Safety Violations chart

BP is nothing like the rest of the fossil fuel industry. At least, that's what other oil companies would like us to believe. The American Energy Alliance (AEA) came out swinging this week against BP with Save U.S. Energy Jobs, an initiative that aims to preserve the offshore oil and gas industry by emphasizing just how much the Gulf oil disaster is the direct result of shoddy oversight from BP.

The AEA, a conservative nonprofit associated with the oil company-sponsored Institute for Energy Research, lambasted BP in a press release for Save U.S. Energy Jobs:

Save U.S. Energy Jobs will also help educate voters about the unfortunate divergence in safety and health approaches between BP and the remainder of the industry. The record shows that BP has operated outside industry-accepted, standard operating procedures. To tarnish an entire industry because of the continuing incompetence of one company is not only wholly unfair, it is a misrepresentation of the facts. The numbers speak for themselves – 760 'egregious, willful' safety violations administered to BP by OSHA compared to Sunoco's eight, two for Conoco-Phillips and CITGO and one for ExxonMobil, the industry's safety leader. Other companies maintained these impeccable records while drilling over 50,000 wells safely in federal waters. This is not an industry problem. This is a BP problem.

BP's problem should not be blamed on the entire industry, the AEA believes, because other oil companies act more responsibly. And since other oil companies are so much more responsible, "reactionary" energy policies that affect the whole industry should be avoided.

The AEA is correct on one count: BP's safety record is far worse than any other oil company—so much so that Scott West, the former special agent-in-charge at the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, predicted that the Gulf oil disaster was a botched BP job before he knew which oil company was responsible.

But this doesn't change the fact that many oil companies are exploring untested—and possibly dangerous—deepwater drilling technology. Rex Tillerson, Exxon's CEO, admitted in a Congressional panel last month that the potential for future deepwater disasters exists "because we’re not well equipped to handle them, and that’s just a fact of the enormity of what we’re dealing with." A pristine safety record is somewhat comforting, but it still doesn't make sense to drill without preparations for potential consequences.

In any case, the AEA's attempt to create enthusiasm for its project is off to a slow start. The Save U.S. Jobs Facebook page has just 5 fans, and the initiative's Twitter account has 36 followers, including such oil enthusiasts as "USASupportsBP," "MPGPetroleum," and "PetroEd." BP may be an outlier in oil company safety, but the industry as a whole will have a hard time distinguishing itself at this point in the Gulf oil disaster.

[Save U.S. Energy Jobs]

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Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.