By Ray Fleming

PRESIDENT Obama is rightly angry with BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon rig, Transocean and Halliburton. The spectacle of them pointing fingers at each other when giving evidence in Congress last week was not acceptable.

But the BP blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico has also uncovered what the President called a “cozy relationship” between the government and the oil industry which he says must end. Amidst a maze of regulating agencies -- the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are just three of them -- regulations are routinely overlooked and permissions to drill granted without mandatory assessments and inspections. It has emerged that the BP well at the centre of the storm was one of hundreds given drilling permits recently -- it was granted exemption from the assessment process because company officials gave assurances that it carried little hazard and the regulators accepted them.

An official of NOAA said this week that the Minerals Management Service “seems to think its mission is to help the oil industry evade environmental laws”.

Having determined to find ways of making Wall Street mend its ways President Obama is now facing the need to do something similar with Big Oil. He is taking on immense tasks with institutions that are part of the American financial and industrial aristocracy. But, more than any President before him, he looks determined to succeed.