BP — the company accepting responsiblity for the current environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico began as Imperial Oil, became Anglo-Persian Oil with its discovery of vast reserves in present-day Iran, then Anglo-Iranian, then British Petroleum, and now just BP — a huge multinational company that includes two of John D. Rockefeller’s original Standard Oil companies — Amoco and Sohio. BP has a lot of America in it but remains in many ways a very British concern, which is to say plodding and bound by bureaucracy. They tend to rely too much on tradition and good luck.

I claim only modest expertise here, having for a few years written about energy and oil in particular. […]