David Prosser: The oil lobby secures a speedy triumph

Outlook How quickly we forget. Three months ago, the world watched with fascination and horror as a series of BP failures to cap its leaking Gulf of Mexico well saw it become public enemy number one in the US, prompting President Obama to announce a moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Yesterday, that moratorium was lifted more than a month ahead of schedule. And just as the White House was making its announcement, the European Commission published its latest thinking on regulation of the deepwater drilling operations on this side of the Atlantic. Surprise, surprise, its previous view, that a US-style moratorium was necessary, now seems to have been watered down to an instruction to member states to make their own decisions.

Those who hoped for a long-term ban on deepwater drilling were always likely to be disappointed. Discoveries of new reserves in accessible fields have almost completely come to an end, but global demand for oil has, as yet, barely been touched by the development of renewable energy. We will need to go on finding new sources of oil for a good many years yet.

Still, have the lessons of the BP disaster really been learned so quickly? How can the American government – let alone the EC – be so confident new safety rules are sufficient, even though a string of inquiries into the incident arecontinuing? It looks as if those who thought the BP disaster would prove to be a defining moment for big oil have been proved wrong.