May 30th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

Some folks don’t just want to fine, or to boycott, British Petroleum in response to the big, still-spewing gusher a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

They want the US government to take over the whole company, or at least its US-based assets. They’ve stated a petition drive at SeizeBP.org.

This is actually the company’s origin story.

In the “gathering storm” era just before WWI, Winston Churchill was running the Royal Navy. He didn’t trust Britain’s fuel supplies to the pro-German management at Shell. He lobbied the British Government to take over the Burmah Oil Co., which ran oilfields in what’s now Iran.

BP thrived when Britain came to control much of the post-WWI Mideast, including a new British colony called Iraq.

In the 1950s, when a nationalist regime in Iran seized BP’s assets there, the company allegedly became a big sponsor of the CIA-engineered coup that brought back the Shah.

Margaret Thatcher sold off the Crown’s holdings in the company, but not before it developed the North Sea oil biz and bought a big piece of the Alaska oil biz.

Now, the “Seize BP” promoters would like the US Government to take it over, at least in this country. It’s almost certainly not going to happen. (The centrist Democrats would rather criticize the oil industry than be responsible for running it.)

But if it did happen, the new entity could revive a dormant, BP-owned brand—”American Oil.”

(ADDENDUM, 6/2/10: For everyone who came to this post from a link on a libertarian or anti-regulation site, please also read the post immediately below. BP’s past sins occurred while under UK government control, but its current sins are pure private enterprise.)

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