A rant

Sorry, I have to get this off my chest.

A visitor who has just been in the USA was telling me how angry the Americans are about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even the President, who came to power on a surge of hope and idealism, is behaving like an ambulance-chasing lawyer of the most despicable kind. Nobody comes out looking good.

I would just like you to cast your mind back to the Bhopal disaster, not very long ago. Four orders of magnitude more people were killed. The American company involved walked away from its responsibility; people have not yet been adequately compensated; and it took more than twenty years to bring anyone to book.


About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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6 Responses to A rant

  1. Bruce McNeill says:

    Hi Peter
    Yes, fair comment. When you have disasters of this magnitude do people who are affected get fully compensated in the end?

  2. Mel Nathanson says:

    Dear Peter,

    You have confused governments and corporations. BP would certainly prefer to “walk away” from the Gulf oil spill, i.e. spend as little of its shareholders’ money as possible on the cleanup, but the American government is trying to force the company to clean up its mess. Similarly, Union Carbide would like to spend very little of its shareholders’ money in Bhopal, and it was and is the Indian government’s job to try to force the company to pay what the Indian government deems appropriate. Governments have their responsibilities and corporations have different responsibilities. Fortunately, the US government is strong enough to compel BP and the other companies involved in the oil spill to clean up their mess.

    It is also a naive metric to assert that “four times as many people” died in Bhopal as on the BP drilling platform. No one yet knows the extent of the human (including death-related), ecological, and economic impact of the Gulf oil spill, and it is possible that it will be vastly greater than the damage in Bhopal.

    It seems that many Brits still think of BP as “their company,” i.e. as British Petroleum, but did not hesitate to criticize Obama when he misspoke and called the company British Petroleum instead of BP.

    • Sorry, Mel, you have mis-read “four orders of magnitude more” as “four times as many”. Something like 50000 people died in Bhopal as a result of that accident. I agree that the Gulf oil spill may indeed end up claiming more victims, but it has a long way to go.

      And, by the way, whatever else you can accuse me of, I am entirely innocent of being British.

  3. Denis Hanson says:


    absolutely; that certainly needed to be said.


    Denis Hanson

  4. Being an Indian, I am glad that you also feel for the same. I think it is as much a fault of the society as it is of the company or any other thing.

  5. Last week’s Nature has an article whose headline suggests that wicked BP are offering scientists contracts to investigate the oil spill which will gag them for three years.

    Further down we find that, first, this is almost completely untrue, and second, that scientists who sign contracts with BP may be denied Federal funding for the rest of their careers.

    Also, while taking a tough stance on this issue, the US Congress has refused to take action on restricting CO2 emissions.

    Something stinks, and it is not just spilt crude.

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