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BP tar balls taken January 9, 2014, in the Fort Pickens National Park area, along the north shore of Pensacola Pass. Tar balls, logs and mats continue to wash up across the Gulf Coast shoreline.
BP tar balls taken January 9, 2014, in the Fort Pickens National Park area, along the north shore of Pensacola Pass. Tar balls, logs and mats continue to wash ashore across the Gulf Coast shoreline. Photo by Tom Young via The Legal Examiner.
I was cutting up sweet potatoes for Christmas dinner when I first sat down to watch every episode AMC’s Breaking Bad, in order, from beginning to end. Four days later, while I was continuing to watch Walter White slip further down his self-created rabbit hole, I began to think of the meth cooking, high school teaching, father of two, as very similar to the corporation BP.

You see there has been a lot of news surrounding BP lately, mostly due to their relentless struggle to stop the settlement process that they helped to construct,  but also because of the large amounts of BP oil still coming in to my home state of Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast.

The corporation wasn’t far from thought when I began to recognize that like Walt, BP itself had an uneven start back in 1904. According to the history page on their website, William D’Arcy was “close to despair,” just like the Breaking Bad character, when he risked his life savings on the oil game.

D’Arcy too had a dream unfulfilled. He knew that far beneath the sands of Persia lay a petro colored gold mine, but time and his finances were on the brink of squeezing D’Arcy out of hope. After 6 years, a host of setbacks, and a learning curve that swung wide, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – later to be known as BP, was on the brink of extinction when fate and the light of success shined upon the English gent. The man, the site reports, “who had nearly lost everything, was richer than he had ever been in his life.”

Much like the desert sands of New Mexico, BP went to the most inhospitable parts of the world to keep producing its product, but soon faced a similar problem to White, in that “the company had plenty of oil but no one to sell it to.” At the time fewer cars were on the road, and like methamphetamine, no one could seem to get past sulphurous stench of the Persian crude. Back then coal was the fuel of the day, and this new stuff was questionable at best to suppliers and consumers alike. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Winston Churchill (read, Jesse Pinkman) and his advice to the United Kingdom to become a major investor in the company, BP might have never become the vibrant dealer that it is today.

With the UK’s involvement, it didn’t take long for a distribution network to be put in place that allowed BP to evolve and grow.

“Over the next decade, gas and electricity would largely replace kerosene for home heating, gasoline-fuelled delivery vehicles would challenge the railways for freight, and the age of the automobile would truly begin,” explains the website.

By the end of World War II and throughout the rest of the century, BP would become a major player in providing oil to rest of the world as they expanded operations in Europe, the Middle East, the North Sea, Alaska and the Gulf Coast.  

BP tar ball taken January 9, 2014, in the Fort Pickens National Park area, along the north shore of Pensacola Pass.
BP tar ball taken January 9, 2014, in the Fort Pickens National Park area, along the north shore of Pensacola Pass. Photo by Tom Young via The Legal Examiner.
Meanwhile, much like Walt’s relationship to his wife, Skyler, BP’s marriage to the governments of the world became a dance of genuine respect, abject necessity, overt blindness and bitter disappointment. By 2010, the year of the worst environmental disaster in American history – the BP Deep Water Drilling Disaster, the US government and BP had consummated their relationship through a wide range of egregious activities that had sealed the deal on the ill-fated Macondo rig.

It must have been a Hank Schrader sitting on the toilet running his fingers across the initials W.W. moment, when MMS regulators first heard the news of the well’s blow out. After all, these same folks had been taking BP on the proverbial “ride-along” for years. As noted in a 2010 NPR report featuring New York Times national correspondent, Ian Urbina, “Federal regulators responsible for the oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil and then turn them over to regulators who later traced over them in pen.” Government officials had been on fishing and hunting trips with their industry brothers-in-law, who had also provided them with illegal drugs, free meals and sporting event tickets.

Another comparison that could be made between Walter White and BP, is the purposeful and never ending stream of lies that it has taken to keep their company afloat. In November of 2012, BP pled guilty to openly deceiving the US Congress concerning the initial size and amount of crude barreling into the Gulf waters following the explosion.

Yet, like the White family, these lies are not limited to Congress or even to those still standing up to their ankles in the BP oil that continues to invade the Gulf Coast shoreline. Through cooked reports, shady relationships and BP’s now nearly four-year long  multi-million dollar advertising campaign, the corporation has misrepresented their “commitment to the Gulf,” and even to their own shareholders. In fact, the latter recently won the right to sue the company for fraud stemming from “misleading (them) before and after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill about its ability to respond to the accident.”

Perhaps the largest thread of correlation between Walt and BP lies in the production of the drug of choice to an eager addict. As world energy demands continue to sky rocket in most of the countries and cultures of the world, BP is unhampered in providing the taste of sweet and cheap energy. Their special brand has been endorsed by the UK government and by lobbying groups in the US, such as the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce, especially in response to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s imposed ban on BPs entering into new federal contracts.  

Meanwhile, few officials have stopped to notice the dirty, half starved, child-like communities who are really paying the toll for BP’s crimes and the world’s back of monkeys. Fishing communities all along the Gulf Coast continue to be damaged by low catch areas, historically high sea life mortality rates, and human health devastation brought on by the spill. Fewer still have noted BP’s long history of industrial disasters, deceit, intimidation and corporate espionage, that covers a geographic area from  the Gulf, to Colombia, to Alaska’s Northern Slope, and to the North Sea, among others.

As I continued to watch to the final climactic episode, one last thought stayed with me. Like Walter during the last season of Breaking Bad, BP has become desperate in their attempts to hold things together since the disaster. Lies for BP, like the lies of White, are floating to the top just as surely as the oil it tried to cover-up, diffuse and contain.

From the fervent filing of motions aimed at recanting a settlement they initially called "more than fair, reasonable and adequate" in US courts, to multi-media ads that point fingers at everyone from the victims, to lawyers on the Plaintiff Steering Committee, to presiding federal Judge Carl Barbier, and even to popular chef Emeril Lagasse, it is obvious that BP is in a frenzied panic to stop the bleeding.  

Unlike Breaking Bad and Walt, however, the conclusion for BP has yet to be revealed. Although if the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, is correct in his “moral of the story” explanation, perhaps justice is still a hope for those who have been injured by the BP cartel.

“I like to believe there is some comeuppance, that karma kicks in at some point, even if it takes years or decades to happen,” he once explained of the show.

Adding, “I want to believe there's a heaven, but I can't not believe there's a hell.”

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