Monday, June 14, 2010

The Economics of the BP Gulf Disaster

The last three or so  paragraphs in the quote below are really fantastic. Really.

The Automatic Earth: June 10 2010: BP, Forrest Gump, Mr. Bean and the White House:

Matt Simmons knows oil. His 'Twilight in the Desert' is one of the best books on the topic, highly recommended. Simmons also knows finance; he’s, after all, an oil banker. And he insists that both the Gulf spill is in fact much worse than BP and the White House are willing to admit, and that BP's liability commitments will bankrupt it within weeks. While there will always be the notion that Simmons says what he does in order to turn a profit, I personally lend quite a bit of weight to what he's been saying since the spill started. Simmons is one of the few voices left in the drama worth listening to.

BP has now officially, as I've said was likely to happen, seamlessly moved from 'just' an environmental disaster into an economic calamity as well. Don’t underestimate the impact of this. BP is the planet's fourth largest enterprise. For one thing, this means the company has vast political influence, especially in the US and UK.

...

That should put you right in line with what will be playing out now. BP's bankruptcy looks like a foregone conclusion. That is, unless the US and UK governments step in, and do so broadly and very loudly. With both money and legal changes. The former, because BP faces far more in lawsuits and damage claims than it has in liquidity (its shares are now worth less than its assets, always an alarming sign). The latter, well, for more or less the same reason.

One party you don’t want to be when BP's bankruptcy lands square squash on the table is a Louisiana fisherman or a Florida tourist operator. British pensioners first! Sure, Obama has declared that BP is liable for all damages yada yada, but there’s a long list as we speak of Gulf Coast residents who can’t hardly squeeze a penny out of the company even now, and that’s before any serious litigation has started.

It’s all just posturing. By the time the real claims arrive, BP will likely be very deeply mired in interminable Chapter 11 and/or subsequent proceedings, and the little man will be dead broke and waiting for years to see if he may ever get a single penny for what he worked long and hard to build up, whether he’s Forrest Gump in Terrebonne Parish or Mr. Bean in Coventry.

And don’t kid yourselves, it’s not about BP, one single oil company, and it’s not about Obama or Cameron, about single politicians. With perhaps slight differences, Shell and Exxon perform within the same dismal agenda's BP does, and there's no politician left in our Western hemishpere who rises to true power and has not been pre-empted by the system he or she voluntarily chooses to function in, and who doesn't voluntarily participate in perpetuating the hologram their voters long for in order to continue their feeling of comfort, so they can sit in their oversized homes and watch pictures of dying birds on oversized plasma TV's.

And please don’t be too eager to proclaim you're different, or better than that. That’s nothing but the easy way out.

Remember, you’re not watching real life with real people, you’re watching a 24/7 theater play that has no other reason to be than to provide you with what it knows beforehand you will respond positively to. Remember that, and then look at the dying pelicans. You may be running out of chances to make it right. Is that the way you want your life to be?

 

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