The Great Debate UK
By Rob Cox and Christopher Swann
Eventually, BP will definitively stop the flow of oil from its deepwater mishap in the Gulf of Mexico. That's when the autopsy will begin in earnest. But if the information dribbling into the public domain proves correct, the British energy giant will be a weakened creature -- so weak it will be vulnerable to a takeover.
Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil are almost certainly running the numbers. Governments ought to be plotting their strategy, too.
The fiasco in the Gulf, which killed 11 workers, has shone a fresh light on BP's poor safety track record. The current fiasco is the company's third American offense in recent years -- coming shortly after the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion, which killed 15 workers, and the 2006 Prudhoe Bay spill, which leaked more than 200,000 gallons into Alaskan waters.
The rap sheet reflects poorly on management and furthers the impression of a corner-cutting culture that Chief Executive Tony Hayward had, until recently, been widely credited with improving. The BP board's response has equally been tepid, with little public support offered to management or guidance provided to shareholders.