More Random Musings From The Energy Patch

Todd Shriber
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I have noticed a few interesting, if not humorous factoids and headlines coming from the energy sector over the past few days, so I thought it might be interesting to address these tidbits rather than in engage in my normal commentary.

Massey Energy And BP: Interesting Similarities

That is not a complement for either company. On Tuesday, Massey Energy was one of the S&P 500 stocks in the green on news that the company is exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale or even buying another company.

Assuming that Massey (MEE) is up for sale, finding a buyer, particularly one that isn't Chinese is going to be an adventure. Like BP, Massey is afflicted with the following problems: The company is just a few months removed from a disaster of epic proportions as the fatal blast at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine was the worst coal mine accident in the U.S. in more than three decades with 29 workers perishing.

Following that, we have learned that Massey's culture of safety was probably on par with that of BP's. In other words, it was not very strong. Add to that, mine explosions and oil spills have a nasty way of getting Uncle Sam involved in your business, a prospect that would be quite unattractive to most potential suitors.

And like BP shareholders, Massey investors have suffered mightily since the April when the mine blast occurred. The shares are down 15% since then and were once down as much 40%. Finding a buyer for Massey will not be impossible, but it may not be a walk in the park either.

Chevron Mocked

Poor Chevron (CVX). The second-largest U.S. oil company obviously realizes the oil industry is in a public relations quagmire following the Gulf spill. Give Chevron some credit because it launched a new ad campaign on Monday aimed at convincing us that the company supports alternative energy and small businesses. Sounds a little like BP telling us ''BP'' stands for ''Beyond Petroleum'' not ''British Petroleum.''

Despite Chevron's well-intended efforts, the campaign was subject to a pretty funny Web spoof. A very unscientific poll on the Washington Post's Web site shows 89% of those that participated in the poll said feel-good ad campaigns will not help big oil's reputation. Do not fret if you love Chevron. Less than 30 people have responded to the poll as of this writing. You can watch the Chevron spoof (HERE).

BP Apparently Cares

On Monday, BP (BP) announced that safety performance would be sole criterion in determining employee bonuses in the current quarter. New BP CEO Bob Dudley obviously realizes that his company's safety culture was lacking prior to the Gulf of spill and I am inclined to give him credit for making good on his promise to make safety a bigger priority.

The skeptic in me notes that Dudley is not a BP outsider. He has been with the company for multiple decades and anyone that believes he was not aware of these safety issues before becoming CEO is wearing rose-colored glasses.

As a funny aside, there is an anonymous poster running around the blogosphere responding to various BP-related posts that is saying BP has taken of six Internet domains for the BP Cares URL. I am not sure if this is true or not, but type, or into your browser and you will be taken to the same Web site. The poster claims BP is doing this to stem the tide of station owners that are leaving for other brands.