Browne – Destroyer of the Gulf of Mexico and British University Teaching 21

If you read through the official report on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, you will find that it was Lord Browne who created the corporate atmosphere that led directly to the disaster with his low cost, high risk approach:

Returning to London in 1989, he reorganized BP’s exploration arm; Browne slashed expenditures, established a rigid—if not ruthless—performance ethic, and refocused on high-risk but potentially high-reward opportunities. Upon becoming chief executive in 1995, he directed a major part of BP’s upstream focus to the deepwater Gulf. In the deals he negotiated to acquire Amoco and ARCO, BP emerged with a greatly expanded portfolio of Gulf leases and assets.

There is an exact parallel between Browne’s tenure at BP and Fred Goodwin’s at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Massive risks taken for short term reward, costs slashed, huge mergers to add incredible fake book value, but in fact no proper management or integration of these assets. Unlike Goodwin, Browne had got out to count his cash before the inevitable result of the high risk, low cost, massive growth culture which he had instituted, brought the company crashing down.

Presumably it was his reputation for cost-slashing that led New Labour to appoint Browne to recommend on the future of university tuition fees. It annoys me immensely that people so readily forget that it was indeed New Labour who first introduced tuition fees for English students, who appointed Browne, and were committed to accepting his conclusions.

In a rational world a chancer (literally) like Browne would not be allowed anywhere near something as fundamental to society as the future of academia. But we live in an age where the political class of all main parties has fundamentally failed the people. And as three quarters of English universities have now confirmed they will be charging fees of £9,000 a year, we are in a system where the government will no longer be paying nett for any university tuition, only for research. As research grant allocation is competitive, academics have to concentrate on this, and we will see a continuation of the trend whereby undergraduates get very little tutor contact for all that money and debt.

It is heartrending. The system of free education which changed my whole life, has been destroyed. And my generation did the destorying.

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21 thoughts on “Browne – Destroyer of the Gulf of Mexico and British University Teaching

  • geomannie

    Comment on Browne and BP makes me think about the current governments involvement in Libya. Britain has nailed its colours to the mast and if no regime change occurs, desite our meddling, the huge contracts signed by BP, and the huge money they have spent, will become as worthless as Libyan desert sand.

    There is a commercial aspect to this war we are suppporting. Lets not forget it.

  • mark_golding

    The public schoolboys have taken over and are destroying the future prospects of generations to come. OK, so the poorest will get help, fine if it happens – but those in the "middle" with more than £16K family income (and that's hardly middle class) will find them choosing between education and food.

    And the Bullingdon bar-stewards march on across the backs of the nation. A crash and clash is inevitable – I'm off to the allotment.

  • canspeccy

    "In a rational world a chancer (literally) like Browne would not be allowed anywhere near something as fundamental to society as the future of academia."

    I'd agree, except with the last word, for which I would substitute "energy production." Academia is basically finished now, if by academia we are talking post-secondary education. There is no economic payoff for most people who go to the expense of a university degree. In fact, the return to those graduating today will almost certainly prove to be highly negative. Moreover, knowledge is no longer under the control of the academics. Want to know something? just Google it. Want to learn the details? Use your public library. This is the new age of the autodidact.

    Energy production is much different, as is all of big business. There the scope for horrendous public harm is limitless, as Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Corp has just demonstrated. Talk about chancers! Who in their right mind puts nuclear reactors on a major fault line and in a tsunami flood plain? And then, when these obsolete and highly unsafe reactors have reached the end of their planned life, announce a plan to extend their life by ten years, while in the meantime storing hundreds of tons on highly toxic radioactive waste on top of the reactors. Christ, they created a doomsday machine.

    But this is how business execs are motivated. If big fat bonuses can be obtained over an exec's approximately five year career at the top of a large corporation can be achieved at a one in a hundred risk of destroying (a) the company and all shareholder value, (b) the whole world, what will a psychopathic CEO do? Take the risk, obviously.

    Solution? Bring back the death penalty for criminal negligence, might help.

    And in connection with the Gulf spill, I see BP are suing TransOcean and Cameron International for the full cost of the spill, $40 billion, which seems reasonable since none of the rig safety systems worked and the blow out preventer, self-evidently failed to prevent the blow out. In other words, the kind of irresponsibility you attribute to Lord Browne was endemic in the oil industry. Amusingly, if you have a macabre sense of humor, TransOcean claimed 2010 to be it's best year for industrial safety and paid out huge bonuses to its top guys. This notwithstanding that the on the Deepwater Horizon, the "dead man switch," which disconnects the rig from the riser in the event a blowout is detected, the methane gas detectors on the rig were disabled, because the kept going off and annoying people, and the mud returns, immediately prior to the blowout, which indicated pressure surges, were not monitored. And of course all the dopey things that BP ordered were carried out by the professionals employed by TransOcean who actually operated the rig.

    • anon

      "Moreover, knowledge is no longer under the control of the academics. Want to know something? just Google it. Want to learn the details? Use your public library. This is the new age of the autodidact."

      Massive problems with this statement, you are entirely, entirely wrong about the function and influence of higher education, and the nature of auto-didacism. Who produces the materials to fuel your auto-didacism on any given subject – other auto-didacts? Or would it be the work of educated professionals actively working in those fields, who just happened to also be paid for, and trained and support in, their research by educational institutions? Your local public library is full of these kind of situations (i know mine is) – plus, the educated and trained professionals who staff them.

      I find it enormously difficult to think of many examples whereby my own auto-didactic tendencies don't, at some point, inevitably depend on the work of individuals who were supported by academia.

  • Guest

    "And my generation did the destorying."

    80% of voters have been voting for their own destruction since 1979 and will continue to do so regardless!.

  • Dick the Prick

    Nonsense! Never establish a commission without knowing the results. Browne is no-one, a lego man, an irrelevance. It's a prope shame that Libs didn't snap on tuition fees but the Commission is show business. Have a lovely Easter Craig & best to the fam

  • somebody

    Disagree Dick. He is an establishment place person with many connections.

    Current activities – Browne is currently Managing Director and Managing Partner (Europe) of Riverstone Holdings LLC. He became President of the Royal Academy of Engineering in July 2006. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006. In 1998, he was knighted[13] by Queen Elizabeth II and in 2001 named by the House of Lords Appointments Commission[14] as one of the "people's peers" taking the title Baron Browne of Madingley, of Cambridge in the County of Cambridgeshire,[15][16] and becoming a crossbencher in the House of Lords. In 2000 he was the recipient of the FIRST Responsible Capitalism Award.[17] He was appointed a Trustee of the Tate Gallery on 1 August 2007 and Chair of the Trustees in January 2009.[18]

  • somebody


    In November 2009 it was announced that Lord Browne would chair an independent review into university tuition fees which reported in October 2010.[19] In December 2009 the Review panel revealed that the average graduate premium in the UK, the increase in lifetime salary of a degree compared to 2 A levels, had fallen to just £100,000 (before debt).[20] In June 2010 he was appointed as the Government's Lead Non-Executive Director, charged with recruiting business leaders to reformed departmental boards.[21] Contrary to many mistaken reports, Lord Browne's role is not to identify or implement government budget cuts. In October 2010 it was announced that Lord Browne had been appointed chairman of the advisory board at Stanhope Capital as the asset manager gears up for international expansion. The former chief executive of BP will help advise on attracting investment from charities and endowment trusts, which at present make up a small number of the Stanhope’s total clients

    • canspeccy

      "the average graduate premium in the UK,"

      Yeah, but that's based on past experience, which has little relevance to the prospects for graduates in today's outsourced and off-shored business world.

  • technicolour

    And how the fuck are teachers meant to motivate secondary students in inner city schools when the whole baloney is geared towards 'achieving grades' and 'reaching targets' rather than education for the love of it and the whole fucking point – that you could go then, no matter how poor, to uni and have a decent few years of free thought – has been bolloxed.

    Ansers plese.

  • Ruth

    Law360, New York (March 8, 2011) — Norex Petroleum Ltd. launched a suit in New York on Monday accusing two Russian billionaires, BP PLC and others of orchestrating an illegal takeover designed to strip Norex of its $500 million controlling interest in Russian oil company ZAO Yugraneft Corp.

    NOREX PETROLEUM LIMITED, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ACCESS INDUSTRIES, INC., Renova, Inc., Leonard Blavatnik, Victor Vekselberg, Alfa Group Consortium, Crown Finance Foundation, CTF Holdings, Ltd., Alfa Finance Holdings, S.A., Crown Luxembourg Holdings, S.A.R.L., Elliot Spitz, OAO TNK-BP Holding, Simon Kukes, Joseph Bakaleynik, LT Enterprises Limited, Sandwell Enterprises Limited, East-Mount Properties Limited, Aletar Company, Inc., Astons Trustees, Limited, BP P.L.C., Lord Browne of Madingley, Gilian Caine, Susan Cubbon, Robert Dudley, Simon Elmont, James Grassick, Kelland, German Khan, Alexey Kuzmitchev, Ozerla Business Corp., Valdimir Plouzhnikov, Robert Sheppard, Star Port LLC, TNK-BP Limited, Watford Limited, and TNK-BP International Ltd., Defendants-Appellees.

  • Ishmael

    Those murdering Americans have done it now. Sending drones into Libya is a war crime agaisnt a sovereign state, and a war crime agaist those murdered. The Americans can forget forever getting their hands on those 2 developments in Russia. Those developments will destroy Nato, and I for one cannot see a difference between the murderous western corrupt regimes and being occupied by the Russians. The ruling elite have most to fear.The plebs won’t know we have been invaded. Fuck you western criminals. I am now going to explain to the Russians that the U.S. have obtained intelligence on those developments, thereby forcing the Russian Military to deploy immediatly.

    During 2015 the new Russian air defence system will be complete. This is a very good system and is designed to fight Nato, and win while incurring very minimal hits from Nato weaponry. Nuclear ballistic, hypersonic cruise and the likes, on the homeland.

    Russia has watched while the Nato criminals murder and run out of cash. It knows its time is coming, and it will. For all those who died in the geopolitical game of war, whoever they are, I am sorry that we failed to stop those responsible for our destruction.

    Even if Nostradam, was right, getting the information and relaying it to those who can do something about it is extremely difficult. Did he not know that much of what is wrong is planned and implemented by those who are supposed to defend against such actions.

  • mary

    A lawyers’ paradise.

    US oil spill: Transocean ‘contributed’ to Gulf disaster Deepwater Horizon owner Transocean was drilling an oil well for BP when the explosion occurred
    A lax safety culture and poorly working kit aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig contributed to last year’s explosion, the US Coast Guard says.

    In a report on the incident, which killed 11 and caused a massive spill, the agency criticised the practices and training of rig owner Transocean.

    It said equipment was poorly maintained and alarms and automatic shutdown systems did not work properly.

    A Transocean spokesman on Friday rejected the findings

    ….On Wednesday, the first anniversary of the explosion, BP sued Transocean for $40bn (£24.37bn) in damages in an attempt to defray the oil firm’s tens of billions of dollars in liabilities associated with clean-up and compensation.

    In federal court in New Orleans, BP said safety systems on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig had failed. BP also sued the maker of the rig’s blowout preventer, alleging the device failed to stop the huge oil spill that followed the explosion.

    Transocean has also demanded court judgements against BP and other companies.

  • Ishmael

    It should say the Russian air defence system, once fully operational and combat ready will be offensive, not defensive.

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