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Protesters Disrupt BP's First Shareholder Meeting Since Oil Spill
LONDON, UK, April 14, 2011 (ENS) - Protesters clashed with security guards inside and outside BP's first annual shareholder meeting since the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, 2010, which killed 11 workers and spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Diane Wilson, an author, activist and fourth-generation shrimper from Texas, was arrested after circumventing security to enter the lobby of the Excel Centre in London's Docklands. She had smeared herself with dark syrup to represent the oil spilled by BP.

U.S. activist and author Diane Wilson is arrested outside the BP annual general meeting. (Photo credit unknown)

Before she attempted draw the attention of shareholders to her protest, Wilson told reporters the only way to stop future oil spill disasters such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico is to make corporate officers responsible and bring manslaughter charges against former BP CEO Tony Hayward.

"We've worked five generations there and now we've got a dead community," she said. "I'm angry, I've been angry a long time," said Wilson, whose latest book is entitled, "Diary of an Eco-Outlaw."

Gulf coast fishermen and women harmed by the spill, some with BP shares they had purchased to gain entry to the meeting, were turned away.

Some of the protestors outside were trade unionists dressed as an oil slick with slogans linking BP's irresponsible behavior in the Gulf of Mexico with the lockout of 400 workers at Saltend in an ongoing labor dispute. Engineering construction workers have been locked out since March 14 at the new bio-ethanol plant near Hull.

Inside the shareholders meeting, activists wearing t-shirts reading "No Tar Sands" were dragged out by security guards as they protested BP's extraction of oil from tar sands in northern Alberta. They wanted to tell shareholders that the tar sands development is harming the water, wildlife and indigenous communities of the Canadian region.

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg tried to interrupt California activist and author Antonia Juhasz as she read a statement from Keith Jones of Louisiana, father of Gordon Jones, one of the 11 men killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Then, Juhasz was permitted to read a portion of the statement. In it Jones accused BP of taking chances with the safety of his son and the other workers on the oil rig, for the sake of greed.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig blazes in the Gulf of Mexico, April 21, 2010 (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

In response, BP chief executive Bob Dudley read out the names of the 11 men who died and expressed grief at their loss.

Svanberg tried to evade sole blame for the disaster, while at the same time saying, "BP has not - and will not - shy away from its responsibilities."

"But it is important to remember that both our own investigation and the Presidential Commission found that the accident had a number of causes and involved a number of parties," he said. "Some may think that this accident related to just one company. They are wrong. As the Presidential Commission found, there are lessons for all the industry."

Svanberg told shareholders, "We are a different company from the one that held this event a year ago. We are emerging from the challenges of 2010 as a wiser and stronger company focused on realizing value through safe and sustainable operations."

Dudley, too, said BP has been changed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

"Often the response to a tragedy defines the character of an organization. And the entire management team is determined that we will emerge from this accident as a company that is safer, stronger, more sustainable and, in time, more valuable," Dudley said.

"We need to earn back your trust, and I realize this requires action, not words," Dudley said. "But whoever you are here today - supporter or sceptic - I can promise one thing. BP is changing. And BP will act with integrity, honor and respect. Whatever you think about our business, those are the qualities you should expect to see."

Shareholders questioned board members about excessive executive pay and a lack of transparency on safety improvements. They have seen BP lose a quarter of its market value, about US$55 billion, during the past year and they lost their quarterly dividend payments, which have since been restored, although at a lower level.

Oil gushes from BP's broken Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, May 11, 2010 (Photo courtesy BP)

Dudley answered financial questions, saying, "Beyond the impact of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, which led to a reported loss of $4.9 billion last year, our underlying replacement cost profit - which excludes the costs associated with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as well as other non-operating items and fair value accounting effects - was $20.5 billion and operating cash flow was $29.6 billion."

At the demand of President Barack Obama, BP has also created a $20 billion trust fund to cover the costs of the Gulf oil spill.

Both Svanberg and Dudley told shareholders that energy demand projected to soar during the next 20 years.

Svanberg said, "BP's own 2030 outlook, which I commend to you, estimates that this need will grow by some 40 percent over the next 20 years. This is equivalent to adding twice the current demand for energy in the United States to world's present consumption."

Dudley said BP's Energy Outlook 2030 projects that 93 percent of the growth will come from the emerging, non-OECD, economies.

BP chief executive Bob Dudley (Photo courtesy BP)

"The environmental implications of this are challenging and I want to state for the record that this is not what we want to happen," Dudley said. "It is a projection, not a proposition. In fact it is a wake up call."

"Let me remind you that in BP we advocate stronger policies on climate change including a widely applied carbon price and transitional incentives to help low-carbon technologies compete at scale," Dudley said.

"However, whatever course policy takes, and even if climate change is robustly addressed, fossil fuels are projected to provide most of our energy in 2030," he said.

"In the 2030 energy mix, there will likely be a greater share of gas - the cleanest hydrocarbon - and a much greater share of renewables - but the world will still need a large volume of oil - and given the maturity of many existing fields much of that oil will need to come from newer sources," Dudley told the shareholders.

"Today, for example, around seven percent of the world's oil supplies come from deep water, and we expect this will rise to nearly 10 percent by 2020," he said.

He said BP will shape its strategic direction based on these projections. "For transport fuel, this means oil and sustainable biofuels; and for heat and power, this chiefly means natural gas and wind. All of these have a significant role to play in our long-term energy future."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.



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