"Huge tragedies have changed the trajectory of the energy business before, such as the partial core meltdown in a unit at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979," engineering giant Black & Veatch chief executive Len Rodman tells Reuters here.

"That disaster literally put a stop to nuclear power in the U.S.," Rodman said. "I'm not sure Three Mile Island was as big as what has happened" with BP's blown well that killed 11 and fouled the Gulf for hundreds of miles.

"What I worry about as an energy CEO is what effect this will have on energy policy," Rodman added. It aids electric-car advocates and other "alternative" energy interests, and undermines the "Drill Baby Drill" view of less-restricted domestic oil and gas production, and Obama's recent support for increased coastal drilling. Rodman: "This BP thing has tentacles."