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5 Burning Questions on BP

(BP article updated to reflect Monday White House report of new well leaks)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- BP (BP) gave the world -- and the markets -- the news everyone had been waiting to hear last Thursday: The live-spill cam located deep beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico showed no oil leaking from BP's Macondo well.

Euphoria immediately set in that the three-month old environmental disaster was finally ending, yet by Monday, all was not so well with the BP well. On Monday afternoon, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the BP Macondo oil well was leaking at the top, and seepage was spotted two miles away on the seafloor. Government officials are also monitoring bubbles that can be seen using deepsea cameras.

BP tried to downplay the situation, arguing that seepage at the sea floor could come from a number of causes unrelated to the BP well itself.

The latest issues since the initial cap success signal that the cap could be coming off sooner, rather than later. However, if BP's improved siphoning system works, by BP's estimates it should be able to handle up to 80,000 barrels of oil daily.

Yet it became clear on Monday afternoon, at a press briefing by U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, that the siphoning system is not ready to go in the event of a cap breakdown, and it could be several days of oil spewing into the Gulf unimpeded. The Coast Guard admiral said that the government and BP decided to go ahead with the new cap even though the new siphon system would not be immediately ready to serve as a replacement because stopping any oil flow into the Gulf was a priority.


So now what? That was a question that people were asking last Friday, when BP shares gave up gains made on Thursday afternoon on reports of the cap success. If investors couldn't call an end to the BP oil spill after 12 weeks last Friday when the cap seemed as good as gold, what do investors do with the latest news of a new leak on Monday? Are BP shares still a bargain at under $40 and the environmental crisis finally more or less under control? Or do the new reports of a leak mean that BP is right back where it started, meaning, a toxic stock to hold?

The following are a series of key questions for investors to consider before adding the BP ticker to their buy list, and especially in light of the latest new on a new leak in the Macondo well. These questions were the same key questions last Thursda and Friday, and Monday as well. In fact, these questions reach to the critical issues in the BP oil spill which supercede the importance of the cap's day to day success, or failure.

First, let's run through some general questions about how the fluctuating good and bad news for BP's cap may or may not alter events related to the oil spill, from the level of control BP now has over the runaway well to the lack of control BP CEO Tony Hayward has over his future at the helm of British Petroleum.

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