Two years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP's business is booming

Two years ago today, British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded, causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Though BP reached an "estimated multibillion-dollar settlement" with lawyers representing individual and business plaintiffs in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Gulf Coast is strill struggling to recover from the disaster. Fish are dying, Louisiana's seafood industry is reeling, and Gulf Coast residents and cleanup workers continue to experience health problems tied to the spill.

After taking measures such as sacking then-CEO Tony Hayward, running an aggressive advertising campaign throughout the region, and settling on the multibillion-dollar payout, BP continues to shower the Gulf Coast with goodwill. According to Mike Utsler, president of BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, the company is still spending "millions of dollars" on the cleanup operation, and even offering guided tours of the recovery efforts.

Millions of dollars, of course, is just a drop in the bucket for BP, which Forbes recently called "one of the greatest corporate survival stories in history":

"Since last year BP has risen a remarkable 379 spots to 11th place in The Forbes Global 2000 survey. Key to the climb is a return to profitability in a big way. In 2010 BP took a $41 billion charge against earnings, giving shareholders their financial whipping all at once rather than dribbling it out over years. In 2011 BP reversed the previous year's $3.3 billion net loss, posting $26 billion in income, with promises of a further profit surge in the years ahead, thanks to high gasoline prices and a new slate of projects coming online."

One of the 15 new projects that BP plans to bring online by 2015 is its first post-spill well, Kaskida, located 250 miles southwest of New Orleans. If anything goes wrong, one hopes CEO Bob Dudley won't be as insensitive as his predecessor.



Tahrir splinters

From all over Egypt, thousands of protesters converged on Tahrir Square today to protest -- well, what, exactly?

At some level, the answer is obvious: All the Egyptians in Tahrir are opposed to the continuation of military rule under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). But after that, the reasons people filled the streets today diverged significantly. And that ideological division was expressed in physical terms as well: Egyptian blogger Zeinobia counted nine separate stages in the square, each representing a different political movement.

Islamists made up a clear majority of the crowd, but liberal and leftists group were present as well. As FP contributor Ashraf Khalil pointed out, the (huge) stage for Salafist Hazem Abo Ismail, a former presidential contender who was disqualified by Egypt's electoral commission last week, was sandwiched between the stages of leftist and youth political movements.

While many protesters had clearly come out to tout their preferred presidential candidate, the recent disqualifications have not affected some Egyptians' political loyalties. The two boys pictured above are "Hazemouna" -- supporters of Abo Ismail, despite the fact that he has been banned from contesting the upcoming election. In an effort to be ecumenical, they reassured me that my name, David, was shared by Muslims and Christians alike.

The other looming issue is the drafting of the post-Mubarak Egyptian constitution. The process was thrown into turmoil on April 10, when a Cairo court ruled that a Parliament-appointed assembly to draft the new constitution was unrepresentative of Egypt's many political currents, and that a new body had to be appointed. The military is supposed to return to its barracks by July 1, but some protesters fear that the SCAF could hijack this process to grant themselves a prominent political role in the new Egypt. Below, protesters march to Tahrir carrying signs that read "People of Egypt, play your role. People of Egypt, write your constitution."

So yes, thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir today -- but they came for many different reasons and to express many different loyalties. As the military's role in Egyptian politics becomes less visible (if not necessarily less influential), expect to see those differences increasingly come to the surface.

David Kenner