I agree that BP won't get off free, but I also think that consumers will be paying higher prices. BP will likely be paying billions in fines and clean up costs. BP will have to either raise prices or cut costs in order to meet those charges. Those costs will divert resources from ad campaigns, building new service stations, exploring for new wells, etc. Either way, this will ease competitive pressure on the other oil companies. If BP raises prices to pay for clean up, the other companies can raise their prices somewhat too, and still beat BP's prices (since they don't have to pay clean up costs). In addition, the other companies will likely be spending a lot more money upgrading and inspecting their equipment in order to avoid BP's fate. The spill will also likely make regulatory costs much higher, and prevent oil companies from exploring new territories. As a result, they will have to find more (expensive) ways to extract oil from existing sites.