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Opinion: Let’s be reasonable about BP

Bleeding BP dry is foolish. A bankrupt BP will not be able to clean up much of anything.

Mississippi family plays on beach
Members of the Duplantier family and friends play on Waveland Beach on July 16, 2010 in Waveland, Mississippi. The beach had been closed due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but it appeared to be re-opened. Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, meets with Obama in Washington this week to discuss BP role in the oil spill. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

BOSTON — During his visit to Washington this week Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, will be trying to cut a little slack for BP with President Barack Obama.

Some Britons have complained that Obama still refers to “British Petroleum,” when the London-based company changed its name to just the initials some time ago. They see it as being anti-British to keep using the old name.

This is pure sophistry and should not be taken seriously. David Cameron would be wise not to bring it up.

But he will be talking about BP, trying to calm the American witch hunt that has resulted in excessive excoriation.

BP has indeed been careless about safety in the past, and should bear responsibility for the worst environmental disaster in our time. As Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey said: BP does not stand for “be prepared.”

But BP has taken that responsibility and committed itself to capping the broken well head and cleaning up to the tune of $20 billion and rising.

Both Cameron and Obama realize that a bankrupt BP will not be in a position to clean up anything in the Gulf, pay for damages, or support the countless and faultless pensioners, in this country, in Britain and around the world, whose incomes and well-being should count for something in their calculations.

The administration’s raging against BP is not going to get the oil to stop flowing or get it cleaned up any faster. It is rank populism for political purposes and is not something the president of the United States, or Congress, should provoke.

There has to be some reasonable limit put on what BP is asked to do. I heard on NPR that the oil company would be asked to pick up the bill for psychiatric problems that Gulf residents might encounter. This is getting dangerously close to simply opening up BP’s veins in order to bleed it to death.