Environmental Accidents

The modern economy is utterly dependant on the scarce and non-renewable natural resource crude oil. Unfortunately, a failure to tax the price of crude and to mandate sufficient insurance, and to exact sufficient environmental penalties has created industries like nuclear power and offshore drilling which ought to be uninsurable in a well designed marketplace.

The failure of regulation aside, British Petroleum, Transocean, and Haliburton ought to be nationalised in the United States. The combined value of the companies at USD 200B is insufficient to cover the damages that they have caused through their excessive risk-taking and poor engineering. While there has been a response to try to stop the leak, it is a global emergency that requires the most urgent of responses from the world.

The Exxon Valdez incident should have been the turning point in the late 80s where the governments of the world should have agreed to property rights and regulations for activities on the Oceans and a penalty schedule for environmental accidents. Nothing of course has ever been agreed. Within the United States, a jury demanded only a modest penalty of $5B. Exxon fought this very light penalty and eventually the Supreme Court reduced the fee to a pitiful $500 million. The Supreme Court should have increased the fee 10 times rather than decreasing it 10 times. From an environmental perspective, it was the worst ruling the Supreme Court has ever made. Congress should have quickly enacted new legislation which would have exacted proper penalties for these disasters, but they too are a complete failure along with the executive branch. Other countries should demand compensation for these disasters, particularly the latest one which affects more than just the United States.

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