BP was prevented from selling fuel anywhere in central London yesterday morning (27 July 2010), when nonviolent Greenpeace activists shut down every petrol station in the area, putting up signs reading, "Closed: moving beyond petroleum".
Greenpeace reported that fifty stations in London were immobilised by small teams of activists, but BP claimed that the number of stations affected was “up to thirty”. Campaigners used a shut-off switch to stop the flow of fuel at each location. They say that the switches were then “safely removed” and taken away to prevent the stations from re-opening.
The direct action began at around 5.30am, ahead of the formal announcement of the appointment of Bob Dudley as BP's new Chief Executive. He will replace Tony Hayward, whose resignation follows a sharp fall in the company's reputation and financial value, triggered by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"We've shut down all of BP's stations in London to give the new boss a chance to come up with a better plan,” said Greenpeace's Executive Director, John Sauven, “They're desperate for us to believe they're going ‘beyond petroleum'. Well now's the time to prove it."
He was speaking outside a petrol station in Camden, north London, where Greenpeace climbers replaced BP's logo with a new version showing the green 'sunflower' disappearing into a sea of oil.
"Forward-thinking companies around the world have realised that fossil fuels are the past and clean energy is the future,” said Sauven, “It looks like Tony Hayward didn't get the memo”.
He added, “Under Tony Hayward the company went backwards, squeezing the last drops of oil from places like the Gulf of Mexico, the tar sands of Canada and even the fragile Arctic wilderness”.
Greenpeace urged BP to “move beyond oil”.
A spokesperson for BP alleged that Greenpeace had put customers and staff at risk. He said, “It is disruptive for motorists and we will be looking at what action to take against those responsible".
He added, “At most of the stations they tried to shut down the power on the forecourts, which is vandalism”. The accusation of vandalism is likely to be thrown back at BP themselves.
BP's board announced record losses today after setting aside around $25-30bn to pay for the massive clean-up job and legal fees resulting from the huge oil spill. BP's share price has fallen by 40 per cent since the incident.
The controversy has drawn attention to the practices of BP, who the World Development Movement accuse of “fuelling climate change”. A number of Christian bodies, including the Church of England and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), have been urged to ditch their shares in BP, in some cases by their own members.
But BP still plan to extract oil from risky deepwater wells in the Arctic as well as from the tar sands of Canada. Extracting oil from tar sands is generally thought to be around three times more damaging to the climate than drilling for regular crude oil. Greenpeace point that “a spill in the Arctic wilderness could have consequences even more devastating than the current disaster”.
Greenpeace are urging Dudley – who was formerly the BP Group's Vice-President for Alternative Energy and Renewables - to “demonstrate early leadership” by announcing that the company will pull out of a trio of planned tar sands projects in Alberta which are due to be developed next year, and massively scale up the company's investment in alternative energy.
A company presentation delivered by Hayward in March this year shows that over the course of 2010, BP intended to invest $19 billion in their oil and gas business compared with less than $1 billion on all alternative technologies combined. This includes spending on controversial biofuels, as well as all renewables.
Sauven insisted today that, “The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now”.