How much do we really want to know about the oil industry?

Via Kate Mackenzie at the Financial Times, a graph charting the not terribly surprising impact the Gulf oil spill has had on BP's image, once among the best in the industry:

It's from a firm called Covalence that calculates companies' ethical reputations and, on a neat mapping tool, tracks them against the amount of attention the companies are receiving in the media. (Methodology here.) From this report, a look at how different international industries have fared over the past half-decade, as the volume of information about them has generally increased:

Not only is the oil and gas industry in the basement, but it's one of the only industries whose reputation gets actively worse the more we know about it. For the largest oil and gas companies, the relationship is even starker -- spikes in attention track closely with drops in reputation.

On one level, this is probably just a measure of the very different reasons that different industries find themselves in the headlines. (When a tech company is in the news, it's because it's launching the iPad. When an oil company is in the news, it's because it has befouled a major ecosystem for a generation.) And energy companies are often particularly bad actors on the world stage.

But I suspect it's also a testament to the degree to which both the oil industry and the global public that depends on it are more comfortable when the latter knows less about how the former does its work -- the business of energy production is rarely pretty. Which is why all the unflattering attention is important: The best case for drilling domestically in the United States, rather than somewhere like Nigeria, is that the added scrutiny that operations here receive -- from the government, the media, and environmental organizations -- makes companies behave better than they do in the Niger River Delta, where oil operations are estimated to have leaked an amount comparable to the Gulf oil spill since the 1970s, and garnered a fraction of the international outrage.

U.S. Coast Guard


What do terrorists look like?

This account by an Israeli commando is getting wide play online today:

On Thursday, S. sat down with The Jerusalem Post at the Shayetet’s base in northern Israel for an exclusive interview, during which he described the dramatic events aboard the Mavi Marmara on Monday; he is being considered for a medal of valor. “When I hit the deck, I was immediately attacked by people with bats, metal pipes and axes,” S. told the Post.

“These were without a doubt terrorists. I could see the murderous rage in their eyes and that they were coming to kill us.”

Two points here. One, were they really terrorists? I don't sympathize with the agenda or the methods of the Turkish Islamists who fought with the Israeli troops, but their actions don't fit the conventional definition of terrorism -- using violence against civilians to advance political goals. Second, can you really tell if someone is a terrorist by the look in their eyes? You can certainly tell if they are angry, but I'd imagine the best terrorists are pretty good at blending into society.