Given the high price of petroleum, however, BP can pay the fine with no difficulty (it is allowed to pay it over five years, or less than $1 billion a year. The company’s profits in 2011 were were $40 billion. The fine was so slight that BP stock rose slightly on the news.
Meanwhile the actual damage that the oil spill did to the environment was almost certainly man tens of billions more than any payouts BP has been forced to engage in. Not only is the monetary damage, in harm to fishing and tourism, substantial, but the damage to quality of life and to marine life and fisheries is unacceptably high.