BP (formerly British Petroleum) has become one of the world’s most controversial giant corporations because of its involvement in a series of major environmental and industrial accidents. The company has been the target of intense criticism for its role in the April 2010 explosion at a drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and caused an underwater leak that has spewed millions of gallons of crude oil into the ocean, creating the most serious environmental disaster in U.S. history. This incident occurred while BP was still contending with the legal and public relations fallout from a deadly explosion at a refinery in Texas, oil spills in the Alaskan tundra, and charges of manipulating energy commodities markets.
BP got its start exploring for oil in Persia (now Iran), where, in the 1950s, it enlisted the help of the American CIA to overthrow a populist leader who had nationalized the company’s assets in the country. Over the past quarter-century BP has solidified its position as one of the premier global oil companies with a series of acquisitions in the United States: Standard Oil of Ohio (1987), Amoco (1998) and Atlantic Richfield (2000).