Thursday, June 3, 2010

Michael Smerconish's crazy, unfactual sympathy for BP and the oil spill

Michael Smerconish isn't joining a boycott of BP -- because if the boycott succeeds, maybe BP will go out of business. And if they go out of business, who will provide the money and expertise to fix the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
I intend to drive out of my way to fill up at a BP pump.

Why? Because it's imperative that the company doesn't tap out before plugging the leak and cleaning up the tens of millions of gallons of crude oil marring the Gulf of Mexico.

If BP goes under before either of those tasks is complete - or if the company can't afford to complete them itself - the federal government will be sucked into picking up the tab. Or worse, actually taking the lead in trying to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf and mop up the mess.
Here's the thing: the mess is proving very costly to BP -- both in terms of its stock market value and in terms of how much it's spending. And yet those enormous costs pale in comparison to how much money BP still has left over. Tuesday's New York Times:
One analyst calculated that in a worst-case scenario, BP’s cleanup liability would be around $14 billion, which would account for the entire loss of all fishing and tourism revenues for coastal states closest to the spill, said Kevin Book, a managing director at ClearView Energy Partners. Even then, Mr. Book said, the market overreacted, and BP can easily handle the cleanup bill.

BP remains a formidable corporation, with the ability to withstand penalties that would easily bankrupt most companies. On April 26, a few days after the Deepwater Horizon rig that it had rented from Transocean sank, BP reported first-quarter profits of $6.2 billion. Because of its considerable profits and size, it does not buy outside insurance for such disasters.

The market drop means that while BP is not at risk of bankruptcy, the crisis could potentially turn it into a takeover target if the slide continues.
So the worst that can happen to BP right now -- aside from the unlikely scenario of the federal government deciding to take it over -- is that some other capitalist will take the company over, not that the company will go under. And honestly: Why should I care if some other Richie Rich is making profits and assuming liability for the oil spill? It's too bad Michael Smerconish didn't decide to use some actual facts in his column, instead of indulging in baseless speculation.

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