BP’s California Double Dip

Ross Becker

There is a controversy slowly starting to boil in California. Many mainstream newspapers are just starting to report a story that has been around since last year, but its potential irony is only being understood now.

While the U.S. is fighting with British Petroleum to get compensation for those in the gulf region affected by the oil spill, the U.S. government is writing stimulus checks to British Petroleum. BP is benefiting from a $308 million dollar federal grant to help build a “clean coal” power plant near Bakersfield. So far, the U.S. Department of Energy has paid out over 13 million dollars of that grant and some of it is going into the bank accounts at BP. The power plant is planned for an alfalfa and cotton field seven miles out of town and it is surrounded by the land of farmers who have worked that part of California for generations.

California Watch website quotes some of them as saying they can't believe the government's mistake. One said, “If you're trying to get money out of them, why are you giving them money?” And the real quandary exists within environmental groups who applaud the potential of a new, “clean coal” power plant but cannot stand the fact that public money is going into the pockets of an oil company which may be responsible for the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

There are some politicians who are calling for the cancellation of the grant. There are some who are asking the other partners in the power plant project to find another partner. However, the government is defending its position and the expenditure of stimulus money to BP and the other partners saying it is part of the government's commitment to develop cleaner ways of producing power in the future.

You can add it up yourself. According to the DOE, the stimulus money helped keep the original project from being shut down last year. It saved or created 47 jobs in the Bakersfield area, with more promised in the future when construction actually begins. The small town of Tupman which sits in the shadow of the proposed plant is already planning for new stores and housing projects. The town leaders say that is what stimulus money is supposed to do.

Still, critics say there is no guarantee the plant will be built and BP could just take the development money and run. If it is built and it works it will benefit California. If BP takes the money and uses it to pay for its' mistake, some say the government will have made a huge mistake.

Categories: Becker’s Digital Notebook