RDN, BP, the FT… and crossed fingers

Obviously we all need to cross our fingers for BP. The oil giant needs the same luck as the seashores its oil may yet severely damage. This may, after all, be the worst such accident we have yet seen, as I said on the BBC’s Today programme. I hope I wasn’t premature in a later FT letter in suggesting that the oil giant, and its industry, will flourish however awful the outcome of this accident, and deserves to.

The other day the FT published a letter of mine which suggested that this accident would not “transform” the oil industry, as some of the paper’s writers had suggested. I meant to imply that the mainstream western industry was already serious about safety and that even if regulation and regulatory arrangements were tightened, that could at best be an improvement not a revolution.

It’s been pointed out to me that Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, himself says that there’ll be a transformation. At the same time, though, he has been criticised for pointing out that he wants to accept all the responsibility but not all the blame for the accident. Frankly, I guess that he has been taking some rather good presentational, diplomatic advice. That is: he needs to seem contrite, be responsive, show he is prepared to learn and lead, and yet at the same time convey the truth that there are complicated realities as to who caused this accident.

I don’t know how slack was the US’s regulation of BP’s operation, but I am tolerably sure that Barack Obama’s characterisation of the oil industry, BP and his own regulatory aparatus will stay unattractive and increasingly look to have been immature and opportunist.

We’ll see, of course.

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Publication date

17 May 2010