M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2011-08
Real-Time Economic Analysis and Policy Development During the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Joseph E. Aldy
The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill posed near-term economic risks to the Gulf of Mexico region and raised questions about appropriate policies to mitigate catastrophic oil spill risks. This essay reviews the Obama Administration’s assessment of the economic vulnerabilities to the spill, the Administration’s May 12, 2010 legislative proposal focused on minimizing the adverse economic impacts to workers and small businesses in the Gulf of Mexico, and the effort to secure an agreement with BP to ensure that those harmed by the spill will receive full compensation. Then, the essay discusses several of the policy reforms advanced by the Administration to reduce the risks of future catastrophic oil spills, including the value of an industry consortium to provide deepwater well containment resources and the need to remove the arbitrary limit on liability for economic damages from offshore drilling. The essay closes with a few policy lessons learned from the spill.