The Gulf Oil Spill: Winners And Losers

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MediaPost breaks down the winners and losers of the BP oil spill (aside from the obvious and incredibly substantial negative environmental and economic impacts). NGOs have an opportunity to engage the public on the issue due to fear and an increased awareness of the issue. The fallout is also likely to generate support for renewables and clean energy as alternatives to offshore drilling. In addition, MediaPost argues that the spill has made it even more difficult to pass (and get public support for) climate change legislation.

Posted May 20, 2010
By Greg Menken, MediaPost

"Crisis Management" has become a discipline
all its own, with companies spending millions of dollars on public
relations and marketing to manage their way through crisis. However, no
crisis occurs in a vacuum. While BP bears the brunt of the Gulf oil
spill disaster, the event impacts stakeholders across the spectrum of
industry, government and advocacy. In the aftermath of the ongoing
disaster, there will be winners and losers.


  • Not-for-profits. Since the spill, many environmental
    groups have tapped into our fear for the environment to increase
    exposure, membership, and donations. The National Resource Defense
    Council's Facebook community has grown by 19% while the Sierra Club has
    reported record hits to its site.

it's a politician scaring you about the other candidate or a charity
hitting you in the face with an image of a starving child, fear
motivates. Non-profits rightly incorporate disasters into their
communications and marketing strategies to capitalize quickly before the
fear dissipates. For example, Oceana's site opens with a petition you
can sign to end offshore drilling, followed by the headline "Deepwater
Drilling Disaster." With the spill, the organization is likely to
generate new revenue and advance its political agenda.

  • Cleantech. If ever there were ever a case to be made
    for increased public and private investment in cleantech, the time is
    now. Any legitimate source of energy that doesn't come with the risk of
    polluting the seaboard of half a continent should be extremely
    compelling, even to skeptics at this point.

From wind to solar to ethanol, cleantech companies across the spectrum
should be weighing in on the spill to showcase the promise of a safer
energy future. Industry associations should gather their resources to
coordinate a sustained and broad marketing campaign taking oil drilling
head on to garner public support and generate demand for clean sources
of energy.


  • The Obama Administration.
    Conservative observers have called
    the spill "Obama's Katrina." I wouldn't go that far but I do believe the
    Administration made numerous communications errors from the onset. The
    spill was not seen as a priority for the federal government, which
    seemed quick to accept BP's initial spill (under)estimates.

"Big Oil" already has a poor public image, so the Administration
should have been aggressive in demonstrating that it would not trust BP
to assess and contain the damage. I'm a big fan of Ronald Reagan's quip,
"Trust, but verify." The Administration missed the opportunity to take a
leadership role and get tough with Big Oil, and it has been playing
catch up ever since.

  • Climate Change
    Legislation. Despite a revised Senate bill introduced last week by Sens.
    John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, many believe the bill is dead. The spill
    fractured a coalition that had been built around the allowance of
    expanded offshore drilling in exchange for other pro-environmental
    measures. That coalition has now fallen apart as anti- and pro-drilling
    interests have grown farther apart.

Environmental groups and many Democrats are calling for a total freeze
on deepwater drilling, while industry and Republicans feel that goes too
far and shuts off a major source of American energy and jobs. For the
bill to succeed, Senate leaders must communicate to their constituents
that America will be even worse off if we allow the disaster to further
delay a new comprehensive national energy policy.

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