American-British Relations Take a Direct Hit from BP Debacle

oil spill gulf mexicoAnti British Rhetoric Placing the two Nations on a Collision Course

As the White House starts crunching the numbers behind the costs of BP’s Gulf of Mexico debacle, the projected costs – and future debt of BP – begins to become clearer, placing Washington and London on a collision course.

In the US, the spill has caused BP to become public enemy number one, and a target of the White House. Meanwhile, in the UK, BP is increasingly perceived as the victim. “It was an accident that took place, and BP is paying a very, very heavy price indeed,” said London mayor, Boris Johnson who also called the position held by the US  “anti-British rhetoric” and “name-calling.”

British commentators are outraged that in their denunciations of BP, president Obama as well as other American politicians have repeatedly and purposefully referred to BP as British Petroleum, even though it shed that name years ago and is now a multi-national company, and almost as American as it is British.

To understand British zeal in protecting BP, one must understand that BP dividends provides income for millions of retirees in the UK, and the 40% plunge in share price, as well as a possible dividend delay could cost millions their income.

“When you consider the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP, it starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten on the air-waves,” said Johnson.

In a clear shift in tone from supporting the US position completely, British prime minister, David Cameron, has also leapt to BP’s defense last night, emphasizing the “economic value” BP brings to the US. But he seems to be preaching to the choir, as the White House seems to be well aware of the value lost, and have crossed a new line in their determination to take action against BP. The White House seems ready to not only hold BP responsible for the direct costs of the spill, but also for the lost wages of all employees affected by the administration’s six-month ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Caricature by DonkeyHotey

Beyond the billions of dollars this measure alone represents, it also represents the administration’s willingness to stretch the definition of the damage caused by the spill. The possibilities for similar claims are endless, such as pursuing BP for lost tax revenues the US will not earn on all drilling operations shut down by the ban.

This tension was emphasized in a direct letter to POTUS Obama by John Napier, the chairman of Royal & SunAlliance, the UK insurer. The letter accuses Obama of “double standards” in dealing with American and British companies, calling the criticism of BP “somewhat prejudicial and personal,” and saying that “there is a sense here that these attacks are being made because BP is British.”

The White House dismissed the accusations of being too harsh on BP, or that it was risking relations with the UK. “If anything, we have been called guilty for not being overly dramatic, for not showing flashes of anger,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Political pundits are well aware that Obama can turn into the main political casualty of the spill. And it is clear that the White House understands the BP spill can turn into this administration’s Katrina, that is why they are ready to increase the pressure on BP and say they are ready to find “ass to kick.”

This post was written by Tal Ater of Green Any Site. Green Any Site makes sure retailers donate a percentage of any money you spend online to green causes. It’s free, there’s nothing to install, and it takes just a click each time you buy something.

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