BP still in uncharted waters
It is 16 days since the explosion on the Deep Water Horizon drilling rig. So I suppose what I found most striking about the interview on this morning's Today Programme with Tony Hayward is that BP's chief executive couldn't say when the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico would be staunched - and he refused to give any guidance at all about the ultimate cost of the disaster for this £100bn British company.
Throughout the interview, his rhetoric was positively Churchillian - the leaking oil was being battled, kept at bay, by deployment in the air (a "small airforce" spraying dispersant), on the sea (a flotilla of 100 vessels endeavouring to direct the oil) and on the beaches (more than 4,000 volunteers trained up and paid $10 an hour to protect the coastline).
And he finished with the claim that BP would emerge stronger from the environmental and financial disaster. But it's not at all clear what he means by that.
As of this moment, BP certainly doesn't look a more robust organisation than prior to the accident.
Hayward attributed primary blame to the operator of the fateful rig, Transocean, which was "accountable" for the "safety and operability" of the so-called "blow-out preventer".
The big question, for Hayward, is why this this defence against leaks failed. And if you accept Hayward's analysis, that's a question for Transocean to answer, not BP.
That said, what's clear from the rhetoric of the US administration and President Obama is that the most powerful government on the planet believes that the buck stops in every sense (financial, ethical) with BP, in that the rig was being operated for the benefit of BP and its owners.
And if the blow-out preventer was so important, some will wonder why BP sub-contracted responsibility for it.
There's no doubt where markets think the liability for the mess ends up: BP's share price has fallen 14% since the explosion on 20 April, wiping some £19bn off the value of a company owned by more-or-less every pension fund in the UK.
Is £19bn a sound estimate of the long-term costs to BP, both financial and reputation?
As I mentioned, Hayward could not tell us this morning.
To be clear, the uncertainties are huge and do not lend themselves to precise measurement. But that in itself carries implications for how and where BP and other oil companies drill for oil.
First, there's the uncertainty about when the flow of leaking oil will be reduced.
Overnight, BP has closed a valve attached to the end of a broken drill pipe, from which oil had been escaping. But this is not expected to reduce the escape of oil from the well.
Over the coming weekend, it will place a "containment dome" over the leak, to "plumb" the flow in a more manageable direction - but since this evasive action will take place in deep, dark, hostile depths 1,500 metres beneath sea level, BP can't be certain whether it will succeed.
As for the drilling of a "relief well", work started on 2 May and will take three months.
To put it another way, it's anyone's guess whether the oil will be contained within days or whether this will turn out to be the world's biggest ever oil-related environmental disaster.
Which does raise an important question for the entire oil industry.
As you all know, reserves of easily extractable oil are diminishing, which is why BP and other oil companies are engaged in adventures redolent of Jules Verne and are prospecting for oil many thousands of feet below the sea.
But are the risks of drilling in these inhospitable conditions worth taking, if it's impossible to control and limit the consequences of leaks?
Given that the probability of accidents can't be reduced to zero, the priority is to minimise the consequences of accidents.
But the disaster at Deep Water Horizon seems to indicate that the technology does not exist to minimise those appalling consequences.
So governments may be re-thinking whether deepwater oil is oil worth having.