BP's market cap is $100 billion and falling daily. The direct costs of the Gulf disaster have been estimated at $12 to 30 billion
. But this is not a fair measure of the damage that the spill has caused. Damage to the ocean ecosystem will continue for decades. Even if you discount the moral imperative for environmental stewardship, humans remain dependent in myriad ways on the oceans. $30 billion must be considered a fraction of the eventual cost to humans, and the value to our planet is beyond dollar estimate.
It follows that radical (read: expensive) measures should be deployed immediately to gather oil from the surface of the water, corral it, get it out of the ocean. A good fraction of the oil could be burned or recovered in this way, at a cost that is justified by the total environmental impact. This remedy is not being pursued by BP only because BP has correctly perceived that it is not cost-effective for BP as a corporation.
In fact, BP has been a model of corporate responsibility since the April 20 accident, and long before. That is to say, BP has vigorously pursued the pecuniary interests of its shareholders, as it is bound by law and by its corporate charter to do. It is a mistake to find fault with BP, because corporations operate without conscience, indeed without feelings of any sort. It is absurd to speak of BP's moral responsibility, and CEO Tony Hayward's recent displays of contrition
must be considered as astute gestures for public relations.
The proper remedy before the accident would have been government regulation. It was the wholesale dissolution of health, safety and environmental regulations begun in the 1980s and continued with a vengeance under Bush II that created the conditions for this disaster. Re-regulation is the proper long-term response.
The remedy now is for the Federal government immediately to seize the assets of BP, and use them in partial payment for a cleanup effort commensurate with the extent of the damage. BP must be nationalized. People's World articleRobert Reich blog
|The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.