America’s Oil-Spill Nationalism

LONDON – American exceptionalism, when it runs rampant, is a tsunami to be avoided. The oil company BP is discovering that right now.

The environmental disaster destroying seaside communities around the Gulf of Mexico and killing off marine life is a globally important tragedy. BP has to take its sizeable share of the blame. So, presumably, should the American companies like Transocean and Halliburton, which were part of this doomed enterprise. But their nationality seems to have let them off the hook.

BP’s corporate responsibility is huge. So, too, was that of the American companies that caused the chemical disaster at Union Carbide’s plant in Bhopal, India (which killed 3,000 initially and perhaps another 15,000 in later years), and of those that caused the Piper Alpha oil-rig accident, which killed 167 people in the North Sea in 1988. Corporate sin is not unknown in the US.

Before attacking the allegedly foreign BP, American politicians might also pause for a moment to reflect on the intimate links between politics and the oil industry in the United States. This is surely one of the biggest reasons for the lax regulation of deep-sea oil drilling.