There is a cute little opinion piece on the FT positing that the oil industry succumbing to the same fate as the tobacco industry:
If chief executives were brought to Washington merely to be humiliated, investors would not care. But the pressure on BP to suspend dividends to shareholders and put $20bn into an escrow fund for compensation and clean-up before anyone knows what it will cost is ominous.
It has echoes of the 1998 tobacco settlement in which the industry paid $246bn to states following legal action by their attorneys-general. Only 5 per cent of that money was spent on tobacco-related initiatives, with Virginia, for example, investing in higher education, fibreoptic cables and research into energy.
Couple of things:
- i’ve not really noticed the tobacco industry suffering and fading away to oblivion. Which rather suggests the idea that the US Government was out to protect it’s citizens is misguided. What they actually saw was an opportunity to redistribute a little wealth. Ultimately that redistribution was from the smoking public to other corporations. (Umm! Corporate welfare!)
- the situation with the oil industry is even more challenging. If companies like BP aren’t given permission to drill deep water wells (and whom exactly is giving that regulatory freedom?!) then the oil supply situation is going to get extremely ragged, extremely quickly. Seeing as governments around the world, but especially the in US, have done close to nothing break societies / industries dependencies on non-renewal resources, it’s hard not to see how the oil companies don’t have them over a barrel (haha).
- to put things in perspective, each and everyday, the world burns something like 2500 times (stupid rough calculation based on the ever changing flow rate numbers and known world consumption) the oil being released by this well. (Realclimate makes the same point but uses a higher number, based on the older numbers.) In the long term, what is happening in the GoM really is a drop in the ocean… of course it doesn’t feel that way to those directly impacted by it, but that’s just because climate change doesn’t register in daily human timescales.
- the fields near the Falkland Islands, that are currently being investigated, along with several in the North Sea, are in much deeper water than the current GoM disaster. In the case of the Falklands, it’s something like twice as deep! We’re obviously desperate for oil (see afore mentioned barrel over which we are bent) and there is very little chance that governments are going to tighten regulations at this point.
This is indeed my usual jaundiced view of the world: it’s too late; we’re re-inforcing the bad behaviour; the oceans are being filled with offal and disgust. If by some miracle, someone in the US administration does stumble onto the conclusion that it’s now too dangerous to recover every last drop of oil, there are plenty of less enlightened governments (yes, i know it sounds hard to believe!) out there, that will happily take the risk. When it comes to raping the planet the race to the bottom is well and truly on!