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Commentary: BP should bear all oil spill's costs

Should BP and other oil companies be required to pay for economic damage caused when their rigs and tankers spring giant leaks?

Most people would say yes, that businesses that take the risk of drilling five miles under the ocean should pay the consequences when things go wrong.

That's the discipline of the marketplace, after all.

Yet three times in recent weeks, Republicans in the U.S. Senate have blocked attempts to change a law that caps oil companies' economic liability at $75 million.

That amount doesn't begin to compensate for the economic damage that's already been done to fisheries, tourism, tax revenues and other drilling operations which have been halted until more is known about the cause of the BP blowout.

It's less than half of the $169 million that the oil and gas industry spent lobbying Congress last year. And it's pocket change to BP, which earned $6 billion in just the first three months of this year.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is among those cautioning against lifting the $75 million cap. He has said the danger would be raising the cap too high which he said would limit competition among drillers, leaving only giants such as BP able to afford to drill in the Gulf. Without Gulf oil, McConnell also cautioned, "you'd have $14 gasoline."

Which raises an interesting question: What is the true cost of gasoline?

We know what we pay at the pump. But who else is paying and how much? How many of the costs have been externalized by the industry?

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