Fun with math: BP edition [Rerun Sunday]

Sometimes the toss-away lines in news stories are the scariest ones. The item linked above includes the following, otherwise unremarked-upon sentence in its concluding paragraph:

The company has set aside $32bn (£20.5bn) to cover its liabilities arising from the disaster, which US lawyers say has affected tens of thousands of people in the Gulf, particularly those in the fishing and tourism industries.

What’s not remarked upon here is that BP has $32 billion lying around to set aside. That is, they can go about their normal business while simply bracketing that outrageously huge sum as if it were some sort of “rainy day” fund.

And that really is an outrageously huge sum. As I type these words, the US Census Bureau’s rolling population clock estimates that there are currently slightly less than 310 million people in the US. Which means that if each and every man, woman, and child in the US put $100 into a pot (and that’d have to be a very, very big pot indeed), that would still be less money than BP can “put aside” to pay for the mess it made in Gulf.

You can find a brief explanation of “Rerun Sunday” here.

The post above originally appeared on 12 August 2010.

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