Rhetoric From the Oil Spill

I just read British Petroleum’s latest press release regarding the oil spill and trying to fix it. It provided some information, but for me the main source of interest was the absence of human agency. Almost every action described is almost the passive voice. Where there is an agent, in the grammatical sense, it is “operations,” “operations,” “preparations,” or “procedures,” murky (so to speak) plural nouns.

Also of interest is the extent to which the text sounds authoritative, scientific, and technical but at the same time suggests that persons at BP never expected a leak to occur or equipment to fail; or, if someone did press the issue at BP, higher ups ignored him or her. Strictly from a business-perspective, why not prepare for the worst?

And finally (in the last paragraph quoted here), the release mentions many payouts, but I do wonder if you have to sign something when you get a payout and if the something signed prevents you from suing later. Here’s the rhetoric itself; see what you think:

Subsea efforts continue to focus on progressing steps to stop the flow of oil from the well through interventions via the failed Deepwater Horizon blow out preventer (BOP), and to collect the flow of oil from the leak points. These efforts are being carried out in conjunction with industry experts and governmental authorities.

Operations on the top kill procedure continue. Heavy drilling fluids were pumped under pressure into the BOP starting May 26 at 1300CDT, and top kill operations continue through 2400CDT on May 27. It is estimated that the full top kill procedure could extend for another 24 to 48 hours.

If the well were successfully ‘killed’, it is expected that cementing operations would then follow. The top kill procedure has never before been attempted at these depths and its ultimate success is uncertain.

In parallel with the ongoing top kill operation, preparations have been made for the possible deployment of the lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system. [. . . .]

[. . . .] The cost of the response to date amounts to about $930 million, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs. It is too early to quantify other potential costs and liabilities associated with the incident.


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