Why the American people will end up paying for the BP spill

BP LogoOil companies currently benefit from a dream law that limits their liability in accidents to $75 million. That’s right. $75 million. BP could kill all the fish in the Gulf of Mexico and they would only be liable for $75 million. Isn’t that just f**king outrageous? Last year BP struggled to make $14 billion in profit. Their $75 million in liability is just about half of a percent of the money they made in profit just last year.

That kind of sweetheart deal makes me feel bad for Wall Street banks! Seriously, why the hell are their limits to oil company liability? Why should We The People be in the business of protecting oil companies from their own failure? If they screw up, they should pay up, and if they can’t, go out of business. Isn’t that how The Market is supposed to work?

Luckily we know Republicans love markets and hate bailouts, so of course they should oppose the liability cap and get the American people off the hook for oil company catastrophes.

Democrats tried again this morning to bring up their “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act,” a measure that would raise the liability cap for major oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. And once again, that effort was shot down by Republicans—this time by the Senate’s climate-change-denier-in-chief, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe.

God dammit! When’s the last time these GOP assholes ever did something remotely good for the American people and not just American people who happened to own and operate gigantic businesses? By the way, if James Inhofe’s name is familiar, it’s probably because he’s a famous global warming denier.

Inhofe defended blocking the bill because he said it would hurt smaller oil companies that couldn’t afford the higher cap:

Big oil would love to have these caps up there so they can shut out all the independents. Now we have independents, my state of Oklahoma, and right now 63 percent of the Gulf’s natural gas and 36 percent of its oil are produced by independents.

Now I grant that Inhofe may truly be concerned about oil companies in his state to the detriment of the rest of America (it would explain his global warming denialism as well), but I’m sure it’s no coincidence his move also helps big oil companies like BP. However, leaving that aside his argument doesn’t make sense. If your oil company can’t handle the catastrophes you might unleash drilling, you shouldn’t be drilling.

P.S. Raising the liability cap to $10 billion is still not enough. It should be unlimited. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a liability cap set for me if I go start burning down forests, so why does BP get a pass?


  1. Bravo! You scooped me…I am working on a piece along these lines…..good post.

  2. Ian

    Was there ever a doubt that the people would pay for this? That’s how this country works. Business never seems to absorb all of the suffering for their mistakes. If anything, BP would just send the cost down to consumers anyways.

    I’ve seen news stories hinting that Shell might consider buying BP since its stock keeps dropping. If the top kill fails, which is seems to be doing, this might actually happen. BP might not officially exist soon.

  3. Ian

    You know, I was thinking. I typically dismiss conspiracy type theories outright, but BP’s current situation stands out. I feel like they put off trying the top kill until they could have a long weekend. I think they were pretty sure it wouldn’t work, but had a slim hope it would. I think they waited until Memorial Day weekend to buy themselves time.

    They were supposed to being attempting the top kill the weekend of May 22nd. Instead, they pushed it back until Tuesday May 25th, which then became Wednesday the 26th. Once things finally got underway we were told that the top kill seemed to be working. BP’s stock had a minor uptick. Then Memorial day weekend came around, 3 days without trading and time to try and control the damage to their image. The announcement was made that the top kill didn’t work. Now that trading has finally opened on Monday, BP’s stock sits at an almost 12% drop at the time of this writing but it is steadily falling. They lost 17% in London trading, which amounted to a $23 billion loss in market value.

    We already know BP lied about the severity of the leak. Initially, they didn’t even acknowledge there was a leak for a couple days. Then they tried to say the leak wasn’t as bad as it actually was, and they barred independent investigators from measuring the leak rate. They lied about the success of the top kill while it was going on. They said that it appeared to be working, but it clearly wasn’t going as planned. They were stopping the initial flow of fluids because it was all being sprayed out too. I feel like they have been shifting the timing of their attempts to stop the leak in order to protect themselves financially, and not actually focus primarily on stopping the leak.

    The government must demand more transparency and immediate action. Maybe the government can’t fix the leak, but they can put pressure on BP to tell us what is going on and to act as quickly as possible. We don’t need to worry about protecting BP from liability. That legislation should be brought up for future use. BP is almost definitely toast at this point and there are an incredible number of lawsuits being brought up against them.

  4. Chris

    Good logic. I don’t doubt they thought the “top kill” would fail. They know a real solution is likely months away, but they have to keep trying or the public will crucify them.