Friday, June 11, 2010

Free as a greased seabird

That’s us. There is plenty of news around about new spill estimates (higher, of course), new efforts to plug the gusher (come to think of it, there isn’t much news about that), and the effect on marine and economic environments (although journalists seem to be having trouble getting access to make photographs of the spill’s effects).

But the news that takes the cake is word that some GOP congressional members and industry groups are opposed to making British Petroleum (or the next big spiller and the next big spill) pay the freight for creating — that is the only word for it — the spill.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

Alaska’s senior senator blocked legislation Thursday that would have dramatically increased liability caps on oil companies, in the wake of one of the industry’s biggest disasters.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) objected to a voice vote request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the bill, which would have spiked the maximum liability for oil companies after an oil spill from $75 million to $10 billion. The legislation has significant support from Democrats, and the White House has indicated it backs an increase in liability caps.

And this from the Wall Street Journal:

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--A key oil-refining-industry organization is opposing a provision in a Senate bill that would quintuple a federal tax specifically used by agencies to clean up oil spills because it would increase fuel costs for consumers.

If on the one hand, we don’t want the oil companies to have to pay for spills, and on the other hand, we don’t want to fund the federal government to clean up the spills, who is going to pay?

I know! Let’s get P&J Oyster Co. to pay!

NEW ORLEANS - An early morning workday ritual — the shucking of small mountains of oysters for New Orleans restaurants — fell victim to the BP offshore oil spill Thursday at a 134-year-old French Quarter oyster house where neighbors treated the news like a death in the family.

P&J Oyster Co. is paying for the spill, by dying, just like the seabird in the picture. These are scenes that are being and will be replicated countless times all over the Gulf for many years. They are a cost of BP’s operation as much as any of its other costs for drilling rigs, pipelines, ships, refineries, and all the rest.

Not picking up your externalities, and not being forced to, is as I’ve said before, socializing the risk of an enterprise.

If the “cost to consumers” went up to raise money for cleaning up oil spills, as the petroleum industry warns in the linked article, it would make buyers of gasoline pay more of the true cost of their consumption, instead of shifting to P&J Oyster Co. That would be socializing the risk, too, but it seems a little more fair allocation of it, doesn’t it?

Ironically, liability for the damage it has done, and taxes to cover the costs of cleanup, also make the market for energy a more accurate reflection of the real cost of a gallon of gasoline.

“Free as a greased seabird” are the words of commenter Randy. The photo is from the AP.

No comments: