One rule for them…

I might be sitting more than 3,000 miles from Washington DC, but even from here I can detect the rank stench of hypocrisy. President Obama, not content with bashing banks, has now started on Big Oil. He wants to make BP pay every cent of claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and has intimated that he will back a bill that raises – retrospectively – the liability limit for claims from $75m to $10bn.

Now, it’s entirely possible that BP may have been negligent, or cut corners. Memories of the blast at its Texas City refinery in 2005, where its safety standards did fall short, are still fresh. But it’s also plausible that one of its subcontractors – rig operator Transocean, or well casing contractor Halliburton – was to blame. Or that the blast was simply bad luck on a spectacular scale. But Congress has, it seems, already tried and convicted the British company and is now working out the punishment.

In the rush to apportion blame and prise open BP’s chequebook, US lawmakers seem to have forgotten that their country is addicted to oil like no other on earth. Do they think that exploiting oil in challenging locations like Alaska or the deepwater Gulf of Mexico is risk-free, or that they can make it risk-free? If they want the Gulf to be a nature reserve, fine – they need to import a lot more oil from somewhere else, pay more for it, or use less of it. That would imply a huge lifestyle change. California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, this week said he would no longer back plans to drill for oil off the coast. Fine. Let’s see him explain $5 gasoline to the state’s 32 million drivers. Or are they all going to convert to wind power?

Finally, when it comes to messing up the environment, American companies have got plenty of previous. The chemicals that poisoned thousands (of people, not seagulls or shrimps) in Bhopal back in 1984 are still leaching into the ground water 26 years later. Union Carbide, the owner of the plant and now part of Dow Chemical, has only ever paid the sum it received from its insurers to compensate the victims. Stop throwing rocks, Obama – the White House is made of glass!



The FT’s Money blog is a forum for the latest news and insights from the UK’s personal finance scene. Matthew Vincent, the editor of FT Money and his team of reporters will upload their views and insights on what’s happening in the industry and how this affects people’s finances.

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Lucy Warwick-Ching is the FT’s new Money Online Editor and has been a UK Companies reporter covering tobacco, pubs and leisure companies as well as the deputy editor on House and Home.

Matthew Vincent is the FT’s Personal Finance Editor and was previously the editor of Investors Chronicle, where he also devised the award-winning online video The Market Programme, and produced the BBC-FT standalone magazine ‘How to be Better Off’. He presents the weekly FT Money Show audio podcast, and previously worked on the BBC TV programmes Short Change and Pound for Pound.

Alice Ross is deputy personal finance editor of FT Money. She specialises in pensions, investments and investment trusts. Alice joined FT Money in April 2008 - prior to that she was deputy editor at Money Management magazine.

Ellen Kelleher has been a personal finance reporter in the UK for close to four years. Before arriving in London, she worked in the FT's New York bureau where she covered the insurance sector.

Steve Lodge is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in savings.


Josephine Cumbo has written about all aspects of personal finance but currently specialises in insurance. She also covered company news for FT.com. Prior to working at the FT she was a news reporter for the ABC.

Tanya Powley is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in mortgages and the housing market. Tanya joined FT Money in November 2009 after working in Australia covering personal finance for the Australian Financial Review and its sister magazine Asset. Prior to that, Tanya wrote about mortgages for UK trade newspaper Money Marketing.

Jonathan Eley is editor of Investors Chronicle, and has been with the title for ten years. Before that he worked for newswires and trade journals in London, New York and Hong Kong.

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