As BP's sun sinks slowly in the West, arch conspiracy-merchant Karl Denninger reckons that the $20 bn bought some kind of limitation on its liabilities. But unless that is true in a very strong legal sense, it looks a lot more like Obama is just making it up as he goes along: a new doctrine of liability for consequential losses.
Now this we expect in Russia and third-world countries. Even the big boys - Shell and, yes, the mighty Exxon that considers itself above the fray - have found themselves whacked with retrospective ‘environmental regulations’ in Russia after they’ve made the upfront investment. (Curiously, the remedy turns out to be that Gazprom relieves them of a controlling stake in the venture.)
Then again, most investors never really expect to rely on the rule of law in such places. But for a capitalist, rule of law is even more important than universal suffrage. And where, if not in the Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions, can we expect to find due process ?
No-one should argue we’d do just the same in the UK. As has rightly been pointed out, not least by the IEA, the Piper-Alpha disaster in the North Sea (prop. Occidental of the USA) resulted, not in an anti-US outcry but in a very mature response: prompt government adoption of the recommendations of the Cullen Enquiry, which elevated offshore safety onto a new plane, in the UK and worldwide.
Mr Obama – stuff happens ! It is as incongruous for a democratically-elected leader in a law-governed country to react as he did, as it would be for a priest to renounce his faith because something bad happens in the world.
Stuff happens and – guess what ? - it will happen again.