11A100 Postscript for BP by Jim Davies, 4/12/2011    

Next week it will be twelve months since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Mexican Gulf caught fire and sank, killing eleven and releasing more oil into the water than had ever escaped anywhere before. What's happened since?

Obama's team of inquisitors shook down the company for $20 billion to be placed in escrow to help those affected, and appointed Ken Feinberg to manage it. The sum contrasts with the $75 million liability cap fixed by Congress when Gulf drilling permission was granted (as if Congress has any business anyway, granting permission for the use of an ocean to which it holds no title) - so giving yet another demonstration of government's respect for its promises. So far, Mr Feinberg has managed to pay out only $3.6 billion and rumors are growing that in the absence of real victims, charlatans are lining up to claim the loot.

BP shares were slashed by 50%, but have since grown back to about 75% of their pre-spill high. Dividends were cancelled in 2010 because of the escrow payments, so shareholders across the UK and US have been hard hit.

That display of Obama's anti-business, pro-Green credentials to curry votes on his Left was well assisted by Ken Salazar, whose maledictions against the oil giant fairly curdled the blood. Just possibly, the industry is now responding with gas prices that will lose them the 2012 election. Guess who ends up paying.

BP's CEO Tony Hayward had said last May that the spill was "relatively tiny" in comparison with the size of the ocean, and was roundly scorned for it by the US media. He has been proven right, even though it took until September finally to seal the errant well. Some oil reached shore, some wild life was sadly ended, and there was much disruption to the fishing trade; but according to last week's Telegraph report, things are now back pretty well to normal after what it calls a "dramatic recovery." The company applied chemicals to the spilling oil to help bugs decompose it, and that worked; most of it broke up and fell harmless to the sea bed. Wild life is flourishing, beaches are clean, shrimp are being caught. Hayward, who was right, has been sent to Siberia; he's no longer CEO but manages BP's Russian subsidiary. Obama, who was wrong, is still President.

Had this been a zero government society, no impediment would be hindering oil companies - small as well as large - finding and extracting oil, on shore or off it. The cumbersome permit granting process would be absent, with the result that much more oil would now be flowing and prices would not be growing by 5% a month. Each would of course have borne full responsibility for its own mistakes, but any disputed compensation due would be settled by impartial courts, not by hostile politicians who never did a day's marketable work in their lives. The energy production industries - oil, coal, nuclear, renewables - would be operating with the highest possible efficiency.

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