With the failure of the BP PLC (NYSE ADR: BP) "top kill" strategy, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill takes on a more serious hue, both for the Gulf of Mexico environment and for BP itself. If it indeed proves impossible to cap the oil flow before August, public anger against BP and against deep-sea drilling in general may put BP out of business and set deep-sea drilling around the United States back for years.
The business fallout from the oil spill could be widespread. As was true of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident of 1979, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill could end up causing massive damage to companies that were in no way involved with the BP tragedy. Risks of different types of operation will be reassessed, new rules will be enacted, and the energy business will change radically.
Smart investors will anticipate these changes.