Its reputation is the one thing BP just can't clean up


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Outlook The BP oil that spewed from the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico might have been cleared from the region's beaches, waters and wildlife. But still it sticks to BP.

The oil giant has been embroiled in an increasingly forlorn struggle to prevent companies in a fairly broad geographical area from claiming compensation for the spill if they are unable to show that their economic losses stemmed from it.

The subtext of the claim is that BP is now being used as a sort of regional economic development fund. There may be something to that, but it was always a little naive to think that judges in the region would be willing to stem the inflow of cash.

And so it has proved. A New Orleans appeal court declined to revisit the decision made by a lower court to block BP's claim. Serves the company right, you might think, not without some justification. When executives dream up cost-cutting plans in future, this should mean they won't be tempted to scrimp on safety.

There remains the chance of a petition to the US Supreme Court. But don't hold your breath. It looks very much like BP is going to have to take its medicine, however painful that might be for its shareholders, many of whom are American.

One of the conceits of the former chief executive Lord Browne was to garb the group in green, as if it were some sort of eco-friendly energy concern. If that ever had any credibility, Deepwater Horizon blew it out of the water. So perhaps the incumbent Bob Dudley might like to consider currying a little favour in his native land with a rebrand of his own, garbing the company in stars and stripes to better reflect its shareholder base?

Does that sound cringeworthy? No more so than the commercials BP ran featuring beaches, seafood and smiling friendly faces from the Gulf Coast region. These were badged with its logo and described as "greenwashing" by its many critics.