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BP recruitment event taken over by Oxford climate campaigners

Thames Valley Climate Action | 16.10.2009 10:09 | Climate Chaos | Ecology | Social Struggles | Oxford

BP's flagship annual recruitment event at Oxford's Randolph Hotel was disrupted last night when members of the audience jumped on the stage and took over the event. Around 20 campaigners targeted the 6.30pm event in protest at the company's recent decision to extract oil from Canada's Tar Sands.

The campaigners stole the stage from Peter Mather, Head of BP UK, and gave a presentation of their own, which highlighted the fact that in recent months the oil giant has dropped the pretence of having moved 'Beyond Petroleum', slashing its renewables budget and closing down its alternative energy division. BP were accused of getting involved not just in 'dirty oil', but 'bloody oil' due to the devastating effect Tar Sands oil extraction is having on the environment and local indigenous communities. [1]

The presentation revealed that:

“There is no clearer demonstration of BP's determination to ignore the risks of climate change than their decision to invest in Canada's Tar Sands. Extracting oil from these sludgy deposits produces three to five times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil...The Tar Sands are the biggest industrial development in the world, are the fastest source of deforestation and have left a hole the size of Florida in the Canadian wilderness. Every day, the extraction process uses enough gas to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes for an entire year. The lakes of toxic waste sludge it produces are visible from space, and are leaching into local water supplies, causing high rates of rare cancers in indigenous communities nearby.” [2]

Following the presentation, the question and answer session was dominated by the activists in the audience, transforming BP's cosy recruitment event into a major public grilling on climate change and Tar Sands. For the final half hour of the event, the campaigners answered students' questions about BP's environmental record over wine and canapes provided by the company.

The campaigners, Oxford students supported by local group Thames Valley Climate Action [3], also unfurled a banner that read “BP: Bloody Oil” outside of the Randolph Hotel, handed out leaflets about the Tar Sands, and cornered senior BP staff for detailed one-on-one questioning at the end of the event.

Christine Ashworth, 19, said “With 300,000 people a year dying from the effects of climate change, I'm appalled that BP are not only making this problem worse, but they're trampling over the rights of indigenous people as they do it. I encourage students from all universities where BP are recruiting to take action to stop the company extracting oil from the Tar Sands.”

Laura Doughty, a local student, said “We were there to impress upon students that there are only two possible outcomes of taking a job with BP. Either we succeed in tackling climate change by rapidly phasing out fossil fuels, which means your job will quickly become obsolete, or else we fail to stop climate disaster, in which case you will be partly responsible for the loss of hundreds of millions of lives, homes and livelihoods. There are green jobs out there, but they aren't at BP – 98% of their business is oil and gas!”

ENDS


NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] BP purchased a significant stake in the Tar Sands operations in 2007. See:
 http://www.ienearth.org/cits and  http://dirtyoilsands.org
BP's involvement in the Alberta Tar Sands was highlighted at the Camp for Climate Action in London this summer, which included a protest outside the London headquarters of BP.
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8232522.stm
[2] The full text of the presentation is copied below
[3]  http://tvca.ox4.org/

THE PRESENTATION

BP are here today to sell themselves as a cutting edge company who have the right response to deal with our energy needs in the face of climate change. We're from Thames Valley Climate Action and we believe the potentially devastating consequences of climate change put a huge question mark over our future. Many of you will share our concerns and we hope you’ll make an informed choice about whether BP really do have what it takes to take us into the future.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity today. A few years ago, BP appeared to acknowledge this with a 600 million dollar green rebranding operation. But despite this rebrand, 98% of their business remained in oil and gas. Then in June this year, the “Beyond Petroluem” pretence was finally dropped when they slashed their renewables budget by half a billion pounds, closed down their alternative energy division – prompting its director to resign – and decided to invest in the dirtiest fossil fuel source on Earth – the Canadian Tar Sands. More about that in a moment.

Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute reports that to keep atmospheric CO2 concentration at a safe level, we can only afford to burn 20% of the fossil fuels we know about, and we certainly can’t afford to go looking for any more.

So if BP is asking where they can find more oil or how to make extraction techniques more viable and cost-effective, then they are asking the wrong question. The real question is: how can we
decarbonise the energy sector in the next 20 years, in line with the recommendations of the government’s independent Committee on Climate Change.
_________________________________________

Let’s just remind ourselves of what’s at stake here:

According to the Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Forum 300,000 people a year are already dying from the effects of climate change. Advancing deserts and flooding caused by sea level rises could lead to the loss of a third of the world's fertile land within your lifetime, resulting food riots, mass starvation, drought and water shortage beyond anything we have seen so far.

It has the potential to dwarf the death count of all the twentieth century's wars, and produce 250 million climate refugees by the middle of the century. And more wars can be expected to result from the rush for resources like land and food in a deficit world. Meanwhile, a third of all species could be committed to extinction.

Climate change needs to be seen as the greatest moral issue of our age, and energy companies are major players who have a serious responsibility to address this - uncompromisingly and immediately. As the burning of fossil fuels results in CO2, there is a direct link between BP and the greatest problem humankind has ever faced. Climate change urgency has sparked a proliferation of ethical promises, but in BP's case this has been little more than a PR tool to legitimise their continued profit from fossil fuels. According to the UN, the UK is responsible for 2.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. BP is responsible for 5.6%.
_________________________________________

There is no clearer demonstration of BP's determination to ignore the risks of climate change than their decision to invest in Canada's Tar Sands. As conventional oil starts to run dry, companies like BP are scraping the bottom of the barrel by pursuing impure, hard-to-reach and even more polluting sources like the Tar Sands. Extracting oil from these sludgy deposits in the heart of Canada’s ancient forests produces three to five times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil. Tar Sands development is turning once pristine stretches of forest into desolate, post-apocalyptic landscapes and producing toxic pollution that is harming the health and quality of life of the region’s indigenous First Nation communities. The Tar Sands are the biggest industrial development in the world, are the fastest source of deforestation and have left a hole the size of Florida in the Canadian wilderness. Every day, the extraction process uses enough gas to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes for an entire year. Yes, a year's worth of gas for 3.2 million homes, every single day. The lakes of toxic waste sludge it produces are visible from space, and are leaching into local water supplies, causing high rates of rare cancers in indigenous communities nearby. Let me read you a quote from George Poitras, the former chief of the nearby Fort Chipewyan community: “We are convinced that these cancers are linked to the Tar Sands development on our doorstep. It is shortening our lives. That's why we no longer call it 'dirty oil' but 'bloody oil'. The blood of Fort Chipewyan people is on these companies' hands.”

This is what BP mean when they say they are investing in “alternative energy”. I think it's safe to say they've gone Back to Petroleum – in fact, they've gone further, into Bloody Petroleum.
_________________________________________

And it's not just the Tar Sands: BP's petroleum extraction is associated with poverty, militarization and local environmental degradation all around the world. Human Rights Watch details specific problems around BP's operations in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and in Indonesia. In Alaska BP has been fined for fraud and environmental crimes relating to oil spills. BP has no compunction
about lending legitimacy to the Indonesian occupation in West Papua, where human rights groups estimate 100,000 have been killed by government forces. A large body of evidence has linked BP to the murder of Colombian trade unionists. However much BP may claim to be a “good” oil company, their profits from oil extraction are inevitably at the expense of local populations. If you are thinking about working for BP, you’ll have to consider whether such human rights abuses are something you want to be associated with.
_________________________________________

Oil was pivotal to our post-industrial development. It has shaped our history. But oil has had its day. The simple fact is that in the face of current problems we can no longer keep burning fossil fuels – and the world is waking up to this.

As graduates with a top quality education, you have the opportunity to be at the forefront of where we go next with our planet. If you want a career in energy, that's great. But is BP really where you want to be? There are exciting up and coming companies out there with the emerging technologies that can really build our future. A career in oil and gas is a dead end. BP have gone Back to Petroleum, which means that BP Belongs in the Past.

Thames Valley Climate Action
- e-mail: oxford@climatecamp.org.uk
- Homepage: http://tvca.ox4.org

Additions

A few pictures from the action

16.10.2009 18:58

heckling
heckling

talking to the audience
talking to the audience

alternative presentation
alternative presentation

Peter Mather (head of BP UK) not happy
Peter Mather (head of BP UK) not happy

argument continues
argument continues

Protesters seizing the stage from Peter Mather, Head of BP UK!

Note that these are video stills - a short film of the action is being put together and will be available soon...

TVCA


Comments

Display the following 4 comments

  1. Couple of other nice things — Beep Beep
  2. We did something simillar — Anarcho Leeds
  3. Pure class — ... --- ...
  4. Mr BP said some outrageous things... — Badgering Petroleum
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