BP has just put a new cap on its leaking oil well in the Gulf Of Mexico. It’s not clear yet whether this latest attempt to halt the flow of oil will work. The US government has been uncompromising in its punishment of BP. The clean-up has cost the company $3.5bn so far, and the Obama administration has forced it to set aside another $20bn to pay for further clean-up, compensation and other costs.
When an American company is the guilty party, though, US attitudes are rather different. Yesterday, protestors in India demanded the extradition from America of Warren Anderson. Mr Anderson was the boss of US company Union Carbide when cyanide gas leaked from its plant in Bhopal in 1984, and the Indian authorities have a warrant out for his arrest. The US has resisted all their efforts.
While the BP accident killed 11 people, Bhopal cost the lives of at least 3,800 in the immediate aftermath, while up to 20,000 more may have perished since, and perhaps another 120,000 are still suffering ill effects – making this probably the deadliest industrial accident in history.
So how many billions in compensation did Union Carbide pay? Er, no billions actually - just $470 million.
(See also my blogs of June 9 and Aug 1, 2009; March 17, April 24, May 1, June 7 and 9, 2010.)