Gulf Oil Spill: BP CEO Hayward Just Can't Help Blaming Someone Else

Last Updated Apr 29, 2010 9:00 AM EDT

BP (BP) CEO Tony Hayward's first reaction to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 men, was shock. Then anger. And then another, somewhat less noble, emotion.

"How could the hell could this happen?" were his exact words in a CNN interview that aired Wednesday (hat tip to the Houston Chronicle's energy blog). Soon enough, though, Hayward then did what any self-respecting CEO trying to preserve his company's image would do -- he blamed someone else:

The responsibility for safety on the drilling rig is Transocean. It is their rig, their equipment, their people, their systems, their safety processes.

We will deal with these issues in the fullness of time. today we're focusing on the response. But as I've said, the systems' processes on a drilling rig are the accountability of the drilling rig company.

Hayward isn't totally throwing Transocean (RIG) under the bus here., as he's technically correct. The $600 million oil rig is Transocean's. BP was leasing it from the company for some $500,000 a day. Most of the people on the rig were Transocean people.

But Hayward knows that the public wants -- and needs -- answers. Lawmakers do, too. They want someone to hold accountable and Hayward can't let BP become the primary target. BP isn't going to get out of this unharmed, by any means. But Hayward will try to lessen the damage to BP in two ways: spend the estimated $6 million a day to make sure the oil leaking from its well doesn't make it to shore; and push the "Transocean is accountable" line as often as possible.

The best case scenario for BP? When the public sees images of the clean-up effort, they think of BP -- and when they see images of the rig explosion and the subsequent oil slick, they think of Transocean. Given BP's ubiquity and Transocean's relative public anonymity, though, that's likely a pipe dream.

Photo of Deepwater Horizon rig from the U.S. Coast Guard See additional BNET Energy coverage of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion: