If Congress keeps BP from drilling new wells in the Gulf of Mexico, the company says it may not be able to keep its much advertised committment to "make this right." Also, people should stop asking BP for more. From the New York Times:
[A]s state and federal officials, individuals and businesses continue to seek additional funds beyond the minimum fines and compensation that BP must pay under the law, the company has signaled its reluctance to cooperate unless it can continue to operate in the Gulf of Mexico.
For the record, BP says it will keep its commitments for a $20 billion fund for damages and fines, $100 million for rig workers idled by the moratorium (not so many, it turns out), and $500 million to research the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The problem for BP is that if the federal government puts a crimp in production, BP will feel pain. Seriously, that's the problem. "If we are unable to keep those fields going, that is going to have a substantial impact on our cash flow," said BP America exec David Nagle tells the Times. That "makes it harder for us to fund things, fund these programs."
Nagle sounds like a kid who gets grounded and then complains to his parents that he's missing the fun on Saturday night. Yes, as the claims and penalties roll in, BP is going to feel pain. What's really wrong here is that BP won't feel nearly enough pain. The company has been among the world's most profitable for a long time. The latest Fortune 500 rankings show BP as the fourth largest corporation, with profits -- profits, not revenue -- of $16,578,000,000.
With $16.578 billion sloshing around, BP and its shareholders still cut corners as they went about the risky business of oil production. And now BP and its shareholders can use some of those billions to pay for what they've done.