Protect oil infrastructure, but who should pay?

Increasing security at critical energy facilities in countries like Algeria is probably a really good idea, if not to protect the lives of innocent people just trying to earn a living, but also to protect the already volatile energy markets that already fall over every time a single refinery goes offline unexpectedly (while nobody bothers to build excess capacity to deal with unscheduled downtime, since tight supplies = big profits).

But who should pay for that security? Someone I know suggested that we (American tax payers) should. Although he didn’t explain why, my guess would be to protect our national interests in a stable energy market and to protect our citizens working abroad. My first thought is, OK, but why do we have to pay for that?

Oil companies tend to be the most profitable in the world. BP, the company that owns the facility in Algeria that was attacked (and the company that basically destroyed the Gulf of Mexico) made $25.7 billion in pure profit in 2011 on $386 billion in revenue. That’s quite a bit more than the entire economic output of the country of Algeria, at $263 billion.

Additional security at overseas energy facilities is a good idea, but when we’re fighting at home to prevent cuts to social spending programs like Social Security and Medicare that involve the most precious parts of people’s lives (eating, being warm, going to a doctor), I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect BP to pay for its own security.

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