Making BP Pay

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What price should BP pay for the ongoing oil disaster?  Dan Gross, senior editor at Newsweek and Slate columnist, previews the president's news conference on the oil spill.  In his most recent column he asks for ideas of how best to punish or incentivize companies to adhere to better safety standards.  Tell us your idea!


Daniel Gross

Comments [28]

Michael from Chelsea

How do we make BP pay? Stop buying gas from them. They have filling stations all over the country. Have they had less customers since this has started? Have people been talking about boycotting them. What about internationally?

I don't think I could buy gas from them anymore. I still get a knot in my stomach if I an Exxon station is the only option where I am. I know that in the day to day workings all oil company's are the same, but avoiding Exxon stations was a little gesture I could make, in response to their actions and I know many others who feel the same. BP is the new Exxon.

May. 27 2010 11:34 PM
Jack from Brooklyn

For better or worse, public perception of what the Administration is doing about the Spill is at least as important as what they are doing 'behind the scenes.' I think people generally want to see their concern mirrored by Obama, et al.

May. 27 2010 11:45 AM
Anita Spivak from New Jersey

Whatever BP cares about the environment and the damage they are doing to various industries, they are interested in their own bottom line. It is to their financial interests to get the leak stopped as quickly as possible. To close them down would only impede their ability to clean up the mess. I doubt that the government has more expertise than they do to cope with this horrible situation.

May. 27 2010 11:42 AM
Deborah from New York City

BP, or any other oil drilling company must be required to have back-up blow-out preventers and "fire drill" plans with the "fire extinginuishing" equipment on-site and ready to deploy. The coast Guard needs ROV's and trained staff to operate them so they can properly regulate the drilling operation. I suspect that many cumulative millions of gallons of crude are spilled under the sea by all the thousands of rigs & platforms that current regulators are unable to see. The Gulf of Mexico and any other area of extensive offshore drilling must have a fleet of oil skimmers on stand-by as well as vessels equipped to measure and monitor any "spill" at its inception. BP and their Deepwater Horizon management should be charged with criminal negligence and they must pay for restoration and cleanup for at least 10 years. Yes, we are dependent on BP to stop the gusher, but Obama didn't quickly mobilize forces to PROTECT & DEFEND our coast and marshes. He didn't accept offers of equipment help from France, Japan, China, & Russia. He didn't send in NOAA scientists and vessels to independently evaluate the extent of the problem. And this is a "spill" that will be devastating for the Gulf Coast for decades.

May. 27 2010 11:11 AM
Edward from NJ

Jon Stewart on Obama's Katrina...
"No matter what happens during the Obama administration, there's the perfect Bush f^#*-up for the occasion"

May. 27 2010 11:07 AM
JP in S. Amboy

Many good ideas here. Add $500K per day penalty for retrofitting our aged power grid system and adding more solar into the grid.

May. 27 2010 11:04 AM

I blame the American People - who continue to act like spoiled, demanding, whining, irresponsible teenagers who hate their parents (the ones who provide and take care of them). Meanwhile the parents continue to try appease them to keep them quiet.

Our addiction to oil is similar. We hate our politicians and energy producers. We are constantly told that oil is going to run out and we must conserve. And we DEMAND more and cheap and right now!

Well - eventually the dysfunctionality hits us in the face. And so - here we are - in a BIG MESS. If Americans want their politicians and energy providers to take good care of them, they must rise above their convenient and lazy teenage mentality and act like adults. The fossil fuels will not last very much longer and they will be more and more difficult to get. This puts energy workers and our environment at risk. We must demand renewable energy sources and we must conserve how we use energy. We CAN DO this. GROW UP.

May. 27 2010 11:01 AM
The Truth from Becky

BP needs to PB *payback* - they should pay for the clean up and the execs who chose to cut corners on this thing should "suit up" and help! Not sure about jail time, no one every learns anything in there!

May. 27 2010 10:59 AM
alivein NJ

I am bemused by the unrealistic calls for a different reaction from the Obama administration. As anyone who has worked in the corporate world knows, the expertise lies with the perpetrator and no government would want to "federalize" the problem. Second, as we have seen in other crises there is nothing to be gained by a "McCain play," i.e., halting everything to sit in a conference room. Finally, this is an oil well that has been operating for over ten years by a company that has a history of problems. A display of outrage would not get us any closer to correcting the problem (James Carville's hysteria notwithstanding). I do agree the administration has seemed disconnected and lacking in the level of indignaiton proportinate to the disaster. That is a question of style rather than effectiveness. Nonetheless, we do measure effectiveness, to a large degree, by the sound bites. Something for the Obama officials to keep in mind.

May. 27 2010 10:53 AM
Mike from Manhattan

Corporate death penalty has been used in the 19th and early 20th C. Corporations are chartered in a particular state. The state can revoke the charter with due process and sell the assets at auction with the proceeds given back to the shareholders.

BP probably has a US division that is chartered in a state. But the action would have to avoid BP transferring the US assets to its UK home office and would have to overcome the system of legalized bribery (i.e. judicial campaign donations) that exists in most states.

May. 27 2010 10:53 AM
Edward from NJ

There's a fundamental paradox here in that, if you punish BP harshly enough, they would simply go out of business. Then who would pay for the clean up for years to come?

May. 27 2010 10:51 AM

place a tariff, or ban altogether, oil imports from BP (until damages has been cleared and compensated). Presumably this wouldwill require congressional action, and possibly be at variance with WTO principles, but it might be a tack.

May. 27 2010 10:50 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The only way to prevent this is if the INDIVIDUALS who make these decisions pay the price, financially and/or criminally. There are too many examples where the company was held liable, but the individuals walk away with millions. Their incentives are still there for them to make the WRONG decisions.

May. 27 2010 10:49 AM
JP from Park slope

My take is that this is a "black swan" event.They did not asses the outlier risk. We have to force all drilling to have, in addition to the main well, a relief well which is being drilling currently.

The law is going in the direction of rights parity between a person and a corporation as the Supreme Court recently ruled. Let's see how far this can go with individuals @ BP clawing back pay and also criminal charges.
Also, the previous administration is culpable for eviscerating the regulatory agency. The offshore oil drilling regulation states that the President must take control of this disaster.

May. 27 2010 10:48 AM
SuzanneNYC from UWS

It was only a few days into this disaster that Republicans and various voices in the media floated the idea that this could be Obama's Katrina. And the drum beat has only ratcheted up since then. Coupled with photos of oil soaked birds and fish and non-stop poetic descriptions of the fouled shoreline -- all of which were predicted -- no wonder Obama's approval rating with regard to this has plummeted.

May. 27 2010 10:48 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

For better or worse, public perception of what the Administration is doing about the Spill is at least as important as what they are doing 'behind the scenes.' I think people generally want to see their concern mirrored by Obama, et al.

May. 27 2010 10:47 AM
Gene Detroyer from New York City

The punishment must be strong enough to keep all future drillers from making decisions that risk blow outs.

First, make BP pay for all clean-up, forever.
2. Pay all those that lose their income, their full income until they can go back to work.
3. Take BP's drilling licence away for 10-years.

Perhaps then, companies will be more careful to creating damage. They certainly will not make the correct decision because it is the right thing to do.

May. 27 2010 10:45 AM
The Truth from Becky

Stop with the cliche's this is NOT President Obama's Katrina, everytime there is a disaster of any significance, people want to say this is "Obamas Katrina" you sound ridiculous and for the others, what is it that would make you happy? What should he do, get in a wet suit and snorkle down to the leak and cap it himself?? Cmon people! Put the blame where it belongs.

May. 27 2010 10:44 AM
Sharon from Clark, NJ

BP should pay a good living wage to all the locals affected to help with wildlife rescue and clean-up for as long as it takes.

May. 27 2010 10:43 AM
Maria from Brooklyn

I think BP should pay more than the oil that flows out of the well in a year. That should be the lower bound.

What I don't understand is making Obama responsible for the leak still being there. The whole oil industry is working on this (see, and they have much more expertise than the government. Obama should be angrier? That's a silly reaction.

May. 27 2010 10:41 AM
The Truth from Becky

This is easy...BP should pay for the entire clean up...coast to coast, no question.

May. 27 2010 10:41 AM
Sue from UES

I'm a huge Obama supporter but he lost me here. This will tar (no pun intended) his presidency. The media has been speaking about this in two terms, politics and science. The science they refer to is BP. These are the wrong people that should be in charge of this nonsense.

BP is a "foreign" company. As a citizen "BP" should be extradited and imprisoned in the US. This is essentially a negligent terrorist act.

The media has once again FAILED us.

May. 27 2010 10:40 AM
oil monkey

Oil is a drug that we are completely addicted to and BP is a dealer- we need the drug, so how are we going to really punish our dealer? The only way to 'punish' them is to get off of oil.

May. 27 2010 10:39 AM
yosif from Manhattan

In terms of the dispersants, this is Obama's Katrina. Lisa Jackson should be ashamed of herself letting them spray 800,000 gallons of this largely unknown chemical into our Gulf. Youtube a video of hay soaking up oil out of water. This chemical is a great way of making a tragic event worse.

May. 27 2010 10:38 AM

Let's go to the BP execs house's, dump 500 gallons of oil all over the place, and then leave

May. 27 2010 10:37 AM

Only when it becomes more expensive to do the "wrong" thing will industry start doing the "right" thing. We could start by cutting subsidies to entice good behavior and replacing it with duties for bad behavior (ex.: ethanol instead of petroleum).

With BP, I'd think that ten times the number of barrels spilled, times the price of oil per barrel is a starting point for determining a punitive fine. BP will of course spend billions more to fight the fine, just like Exxon did. Maybe every dollar they spend appealing should be added to the punitive fine.

Remember: companies are designed to reap the greatest profit with the least minimum effort. I don't know whether BP or Transocean is to blame, mostly because we still don't know the exact sequence of events leading to the spill, and therefore can't define who's to blame. But clearly neither of them had exerted enough voluntary effort to have redundancy safeties; had they been compelled by financial "incentive", we might not have the ecological disaster we are now facing.

May. 27 2010 10:21 AM

I can't understand how all these corrective measures 'have never been done before 5000 feet down'. Don't they have some sort of 'fire drill' to try this before they need it? The lack of contingency planning and 'what if' drills is totally negligent. All these measures should be in place.

May. 27 2010 10:19 AM

I'm all in favor of BP paying as much money as possible for their unforgivable incompetence, but I really want some of their execs to face criminal charges. I'd love to see Tony Hayward become a cellmate of Jeffrey Skilling or Bernie Madoff.

May. 27 2010 09:32 AM

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