Gulf of Mexico oilspill spreads all the way to Capitol Hill

Energy Matters0


The rig that suffered the catastrophic blowout was owned and operated not by BP but by Transocean, the world’s largest specialist, which may have lulled investors’ fears. When the legal bills are finally settled, that may limit the financial impact on BP. But the company, in the regulatory wording, is the “responsible party” for the field (it owns 65%) and that could be a key factor in the inevitable blame game.

Unfortunately for BP, its political stock in the US can hardly be described as high. As recently as last October, a US government agency declared that BP still had “systemic” safety issues at Texas City, the refinery where 15 people were killed and 170 injured in 2005. Relations with the relevant agency are said to have improved since then but it’s not the best starting point for BP.

As far as we know, its reaction to the latest incident has satisfied US officials. With 76 vessels trying to contain the spill, the company’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has called the scale of the response “truly unprecedented”. That helped to create the impression that BP was ahead of the game. But news that the rate of leakage from the well could be five times worse than feared, and that the slick is reaching shore, has prompted the City to rethink. President Obama was only stating a fact when he said that BP is “ultimately responsible” for the cost of the spill and clean-up, but it was a reminder to BP’s investors that oil is always political.