The Making of an Oil Spill

While E.J. Dionne announces that the BP oil leak shows the dangers of "disempowered government," Sheldon Richman paints a more nuanced picture:

[T]his is not just a simple matter of regulation. More fundamentally it's a matter of ownership. The government has proclaimed itself the owner of the offshore positions where oil companies drill. In a free market those positions would be homesteaded and managed privately with full liability. In the absence of a free market and private property, built-in incentives that protect the public are diminished if not eliminated. Bureaucrats and "political capitalists" are not as reliable as companies facing bankruptcy in a fully freed market....

Regulators and the industries they oversee develop mutually beneficial relationships that would appall those who idealize regulators as watchdogs. The rules that emerge from those relationships tend to foster more monopolistic industries.

It took the Deepwater Horizon tragedy to bring out the fact that a single federal agency, the Minerals Management Service, is "responsible for both policing the oil industry and acting as its partner in drilling activities," writes the New York Times. "Decades of law and custom have joined government and the oil industry in the pursuit of petroleum and profit. The Minerals Management Service brings in an average of $13 billion a year. Under federal law, even in the case of a major accident, the company responsible for the oil well acts in concert with government in cleanup activities."

The coziness between government and the oil industry is also apparent in the cap on liability for damages -- a paltry $75 million -- from offshore oil spills (not including cleanup costs). The interesting question is whether BP’s dubious conduct would have been different without the cap. [BP chief executive Tony] Hayward, the Wall Street Journal reports, "admitted the U.K.-based oil giant had not had the technology available to stop the leak, and said in hindsight it was ‘probably true’ that BP should have done more to prepare for an emergency of this kind." Transocean, owner and operator of the rig, is petitioning to limit its own liability to $26.7 million. (Moral hazard matters, but the story is complicated. Oil spills have been decreasing, and no energy development is without its risks.)

Unfortunately, the loudest criticism Obama has received over the BP leak has focused on his efforts to contain the crisis, not the systemic problems that helped produce it (problems which, not coincidentally, tar Republicans as well as Democrats). The president's response to the spill has certainly had its problems, but some people -- I'm looking at you, Karl Rove -- are taking that line of attack too far. As Clive Crook recently wrote, "The notion that the government should be directing, as opposed to merely supervising, the effort to stop the leak -- BP should be pushed aside; bring in the military -- is absurd. So far as that side of the operations goes, all that matters is who has more technical expertise: the company or the administration? (If your house was burning down, would you want the White House directing the fire crews, or maybe calling in air strikes, as a sign of how seriously Obama takes your problem?)" In this sense, at least, the oil spill is not Obama's Katrina: The worst thing about Bush's reaction to the hurricane was how centralized and militarized it was.

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  • ||

    I'm still not clear how mankind can manage to get the shit outta the ground, but can't suck it up off the surface of the ocean. But hey, I'm no oilologist. (petrologist?)

    the loudest criticism Obama has received over the BP leak has focused on his efforts to contain the crisis, not the systemic problems that helped produce it

    American SOP. *sigh*

  • matt||

    The oil is leaking from the seabed some 5000 ft deep. considering the flowrate through bed pressures like those found at the bottom of the sea, where only little robots can go, the oil probably disperses across a diameter several times its originating depth before it even reaches the surface. to make matters worse, the surfacing locations change quickly and constantly due to tidal patterns and currents. when the oil finally reaches the surface, some of it spreads very fast, blown by wind across the surface of the water. there's no way to contain oil at the surface like that. nor is there any proven way to contain it at the bottom. deepwater drilling should have never been allowed in the first place, period. it's only due to extreme luckiness that these deepwater rigs havent had several more major spills beyond the few they've had since the practice started. the technology involved is still highly experimental.

  • ||

    So it's an area problem. We'd need vast swarms of collector robots to have any sort of effectiveness.

    I'm on it.

  • ||

    You can't have private property rights in the middle of the ocean. Not sure what Sheldon is thinking here. You can have surface rights, but beyond that, you're dealing in a Commons space that screams out for regulatory oversight.

    Is there a serious model out there for private property rights for oceanic drilling that doesn't have government oversight as part of the mix?

  • WTF||

    Why can't you own specified portions of the ocean bottom?

  • ||

    How much of the water column above your parcel do you own? And how to you control ownership of a column of water or any of the resources that pass through that column?

  • ||

    Hey, keep your sharks out of my private water!

    LOL

  • ||

    If your sharks are coming in to my water with drilling equipment, they'll be met by my sharks. With laser beams on their heads.

  • ||

    Note to self: paint my Mining Sharks with a reflective paint.

  • ||

    Go ahead, lefty.

  • ||

    Lefty? Huh? What part of Mining Sharks is leftist? "Mining Sharks Local 709"? Least they aren't a part of the SEIU.

  • ||

    When the shark bites off your right hand as you attempt to paint it...

  • ||

    oh, duh.

  • Paul||

    Why can't you own specified portions of the ocean bottom?

    Because you can't plant a flag. No flag no country.

  • ||

    Yes you can. They do it in Alaska for fishing now, and it has dramatically improved the way fish are taken. You just specify borders using GPS.

  • Hate Potion Number Nine||

    Yeah but the water flowing through kinda moves around - if you fuck it up it'll drift off and then you can say:"hey it's not MY water - I'm not responsible!"

  • Max||

    Fuck!

  • Max||

    Just seeing if I was banned. Okay, Dion played into Welch's hand by offering him a straw man. It isn't a question of capitalism vs socialism; it's a question of a mixed economy with strong government regualtion and a definite role for the state vs a fanciful Libertopia with minimal regulation and an extremely limited role for the state. The latter is mosre like some communist utopia, except that unlike communism, it has never actually been tried.

  • Dello||

    How about the government simply requires drillers to have insurance that covers X $ per barrel they spill, based on the stated potential of the find. That way the company is on the hook to pay all the costs, and like with car insurance, the company is liable for anything the insurance doesn't pay.

  • ||

    you're dealing in a Commons space that screams out for regulatory oversight.

    You could have said that about Kansas, in 1800.

  • Zeb||

    Except people can live in Kansas. The bottom of the ocean is a whole different thing from Kansas and, as far as I can see, cannot be owned in the same way as part of Kansas. I am all for more ownership based management of ocean resources, but I don't see how it can ever be ownership in the same sense that land can be owned.

  • ||

    but I don't see how it can ever be ownership in the same sense that land can be owned.

    So it will happen in another "sense". No one is saying property rights on land is a 1 to 1 comparison to how property rights on the ocean should work. Just that, property rights have done wonders on land so why not work on applying them to the ocean?

  • ||

    I haven't been paying much attention, because I have no faith in the quality of the information available, but apparently there were known problems with the blowout valve. I would have no problem whatsoever with a mass of shareholder lawsuits which impoverished the management of BP and TransOcean*.

    *If that is in fact the company which owns and operates the drilling rig. If I'm wrong about that, "oops".

  • ||

    Same here. I'm kinda tired of the quizzical looks I'm getting because I haven't been listening to the drone of OILSPILL!OILSPILL! on CNN everyday.

    That and I lack the proper empathy for the Gulf of Mexico, I'm told.

  • Zeb||

    I too am getting tired of the constant crying about how bad this is (and then the inevitable blame capitalism crap). Yes, this is very very bad in many ways. But it is what is happening. The useful discussion to have is what to do next and how to avoid this sort of thing in the future.

  • ||

    Living down here, I can't get away from it. But for the most part, people are not angry that it happened, they are more upset that not a single person had a plan if it happened. That includes the other oil companies and the government.

    These people understand how technologically difficult this is. They also realize how important it is to our local economy. Not many people (beyond the oblivions who comment on things they have no understanding of, also known as who the media seeks out) wants drilling stopped. They understand shit happens. They just want to know why not a single person was prepared for it to happen.

  • ||

    All that sensibility goes out the window when its Mother Nature doing the damage though.

  • ||

    I don't live in New Orleans, so Katrina was just a really long and hot two weeks without power for me. But the anger in that situation was more due to one simple fact: If the levees had not failed, the city would have been fine. The people had been told by the government that the levees would protect them. And they failed in what ended up being only a moderate storm. That may be why you find less anger at the government here than you do in Washington about the BP incident: We never really expected anything more. (Also, as I typed this a pair Blackhawks flew over my office. Man those things are loud!)

  • ||

    The people had been told by the government that the levees would protect them.

    Which was probably compounded by the fact that the engineers had said otherwise. At least, i thought i read about the Army Corps of Engineers requesting more funding to modernize/refurbish/reinforce the levees prior to katrina, but a quick check to back that recollection up says the Army Corps of Engineers is just denying responsibility for the incident, because they "did not know of this mechanism of failure prior to August 29, 2005."

    So, I dunno. Please ignore my previous dickish comment.

  • ||

    *In which case the anger was probably compounded by the fact that.....

    (that "fact" is in dispute, but i still had to fix the sentence.)

  • Paul||

    I've been reading about some of the science on oil spills in general because I was fascinated by the concept of a natural substance under the earth escaping out into the ocean. I began to wonder if an oil field ever naturally breached the surface, and what would were the environmental consequenes.

    While I couldn't find any references that an oil field ever broke to the surface (as this one has through man-made efforts), plenty of oil leaches into the ocean-- just not as a concentrated spill. According to one scientist, millions of barrels of oil leach into the oceans per year. As a natural substance, bacteria and other processes break it down.

    One scientist actually went as far as saying that the cleanup efforts do more damage than if the natural processes were allowed to break the oil down. The dispersants used cause more harm and only serve to produce cosmetic results.

    He pointed to a study of an oil spill during the Iraq war that was allowed to go unmolsted. The agencies were concerned with the oil well fires, and so a HUGE spill on a reef went completely untouched. The area was studied over the years and found to have recovered faster than other areas where spills had been systematically "cleaned".

    Food for thought.

  • mr simple||

    I'm lazy. Got any links?

  • Paul||

    Lemme see if I can find them. This was a couple of weeks ago.

  • Paul||

    Gah! I can't find the exact article. Here's one on dispersants, but all this one does is tell us that dispersants may eff up the natural breakdown.

    I'll continue to look. If I find it, I'll post it up.

  • dave b.||

    Here's one about natural oil seeps.

  • Paul||

    That's a pretty good article. Very similar to the one I had found. However, the one I had (but now can't locate) reference specifically an oil spill in the 1991 Gulf War and how it was left alone due to all the resources being spent on fighting oil fires, and how scientists viewed its recovery as compared to spills which were actively cleaned.

  • Paul||

    I just found it.

    Here's the link: http://www.thenewamerican.com/.....f-oil-leak

    Highlights:

    As federal recovery efforts escalate, scientists poised to help are frustrated at the lack of real-time data the Deepwater Horizon Response team is making available, says Dr. James J. O'Brien, professor emeritus of Meteorology and Oceanography at Florida State University. Though he understands why federal agencies like NOAA would "play it safe" with the general public, he argues scientists who specialize in pertinent areas should be more involved.

    Adding to the problem, says O'Brien, is erroneous information, such as reports the leaked oil could move toward the loop current around Florida and reach North Carolina. "There is essentially zero chance of that," he said, explaining currents are pushing the spill in the opposite direction toward Louisiana and Texas. Inaccurate reports are inflicting economic harm to the area as well, he noted, citing a recent alert about Destin beaches later proven false, but not before tourists began canceling travel plans in droves. "It's a serious problem," O'Brien warned.
    [...]
    Dr. Walter Starck, of Townsville, Australia, paints a different picture. Starck holds a Ph.D. in biological oceanography and is a marine biologist who specializes in coral reefs and fisheries. He maintains that the media overplays oil spills' effect on wildlife. "The popular image of dead and dying birds and mammals covered in sticky oil is a relatively brief event, and as sad as it may be at the time, their populations soon recover."

    He points out crude oil is an organic substance, and natural leaks are normal. Though spills caused by humans are much more concentrated and cause a temporary mess, they are also more short-lived and do not wreak the amount of environmental damage mainstream media reports claim. "The volatile components largely evaporate within a few days, and much of the heavier residue is broken down by microbial action over a few months. The heaviest residue accumulates sediment particles and sinks to the bottom where it mixes with further sediment and ends up no more harmful than pieces of the bitumen used for roads."
    [...]
    While O'Brien calls this a "singular" and "catastrophic" event, Starck remains reserved. "Right now it's a big thing. In a year or two it will become a past irritant no longer of concern." He uses a vivid analogy to support this claim, describing the largest oil spill in history during the first Persian Gulf War. In 1991, between 6 and 8 million tons of oil spilled into a shallow reef area, but nothing was done about it since workers had to deal with area oil well fires. "Follow-up studies found that within 4 months, most of the oil had been degraded naturally, and within 4 years even the most heavily affected areas had largely or completely recovered." He predicts a 95 percent recovery for the Gulf states within about four years.
  • Zeb||

    Good points. Things will get better and eventually clean themselves up.

    And far more damage is done to coastal marshes in LA by dredging and flood control on the Mississippi than will be done by the oil spill.

  • ||

    Why don't you hate people who want to live below sea level.

  • wingnutx||

    There's no good reason not to hate those people.

  • Aquaman||

    Hey!

  • ||

    Get some real powers. Or else get one of your fish to make me a mixed drink, and KEEP THE SALTWATER OUT OF IT!

  • ||

    *why do you (*sigh*)

  • ||

    This is essentially the same as arguing that the market, left to its own, will take care of everything. But I've gotta hand it to libertarians for their ideological consistency. Nature is the market.

    "Oil is an organic substance."
    LOL.

  • l0b0t||

    While the Gulf does have a remarkable capacity for recovery (IXTOC-1 spewed 30,000 barrels per day into the Gulf for 9 months in 1979-80 and the cleanup was finished by 1984 or so.), a large part of the problem going forward is the dead zone. 8000+ sq.mi. at the Mississippi River delta, that many years of indiscriminate dumping in the river have rendered absolutely devoid of life. Many of the bacteria that would normally feast upon the oil are dead.

  • matt||

    oil seeps out of hundreds of "oil seeps" every day off the california coast, there's a large concentration of them near santa barbara and ive read some of the studies the university there does on them

    seeps are scattered all over the ocean bed, and less commonly on land, (as there isn't a heavy ocean pressing on most geologic seeps). in either case the output of most individual seeps ranges from a fraction of a barrel to single-digit barrels per day, not enough to damage the environment, and older seeps often have their own tiny, specialized biome around the vent opening.

  • ||

    The problem I have with corporate entities is not limited liability for the owners, it is a system of corporate governance which has evolved to completely insulate managers from any personal responsibility or adverse consequences, no matter how incompetent they are, or how much self-dealing they engage in.

  • ||

    Capitalism Vs Corporatism?

  • ||

    with a side order of "but the Free Market has already failed us" nonsense.

  • ||

    Yup. It's a very hard problem to solve though. How do you pool capital and properly assess culpability to the managers of that capital? The corporate model as yet to solve that issue adequately.

  • ||

    The corporate model as yet to solve that issue adequately.

    Well thank god we've got The Right People in charge, because they'll figure it out quicksmart! Lazy fuckin evil bastard corporations.

  • ||

    Calling out the defects in the corporate model, particularly in regards to liability and management, does not make one a lover of the state.

  • ||

    Fair enough. Just pointing out the most popular reaction.

  • ||

    The WSJ has done some great coverage of what actually happened on the rig. Yesterday they talked about how the Transocean people and the BP people got into a shouting match over BP's order to start pumping out drilling fluid which ultimately lead to the blow out. Today there is this gem

    "In the minutes after a cascade of gas explosions crippled the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, confusion reigned on the drilling platform. Flames were spreading rapidly, power was out, and terrified workers were leaping into the dark, oil-coated sea. Capt. Curt Kuchta, the vessel's commander, huddled on the bridge with about 10 other managers and crew members.

    Andrea Fleytas, a 23-year-old worker who helped operate the rig's sophisticated navigation machinery, suddenly noticed a glaring oversight: No one had issued a distress signal to the outside world, she recalls in an interview. Ms. Fleytas grabbed the radio and began calling over a signal monitored by the Coast Guard and other vessels.

    "Mayday, Mayday. This is Deepwater Horizon. We have an uncontrollable fire."

    When Capt. Kuchta realized what she had done, he reprimanded her, she says.

    "I didn't give you authority to do that," he said, according to Ms. Fleytas, who says she responded: "I'm sorry."

    Part Two of a Journal investigation finds the doomed oil rig was unprepared for disaster, hobbled by a complex chain of command and a balky decision-making structure.

    Part One: BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster
    An examination by The Wall Street Journal of what happened aboard the Deepwater Horizon just before and after the explosions suggests the rig was unprepared for the kind of disaster that struck and was overwhelmed when it occurred. The events on the bridge raise questions about whether the rig's leaders were prepared for handling such a fast-moving emergency and for evacuating the rig—and, more broadly, whether the U.S. has sufficient safety rules for such complex drilling operations in very deep water."

    I think this accident is about a lot more than regulations. It is about the overall culture of incompetence that we have built. How do we get to the point that a captain reprimands a subordinate for putting out a may day signal on a oil rig that has just blown up?

  • ||

    How do we get to the point that a captain reprimands a subordinate for putting out a may day signal on a oil rig that has just blown up?

    The proper forms were not filed!!!!! You cant just go around tossing out maydays and Sosses all willy nilly.

  • Paul||

    A country that breeds people to not make snap decisions without proper orders from the top commanders is doomed.

  • ||

    """How do we get to the point that a captain reprimands a subordinate for putting out a may day signal on a oil rig that has just blown up?""

    Management always gets angry when subordinates rat them out for not doing the right thing.

  • Hope N. Change||

    If your house was burning down, would you want the White House directing the fire crews?

    Fuck, yeah!

  • Barack Obama||

    I want to tax your Cadillac Fire Insurance.

  • Hope N. Change||

    You're funny, Sir! I don't live in no Cadillac, and anyway I don't got no insurance!

  • ||

    I think this accident is about a lot more than regulations. It is about the overall culture of incompetence that we have built.

    Somebody, somewhere, has to be responsible. Somebody made a decision, and somebody (probably a mob of somebodies) signed off on that decision.

    There has to be a cost for that.

  • ||

    Yes. But you are only as good as the people who make up your society. We seem to have a society run by nitwits. No amount of government regulation or freedom is going to solve for stupidity.

  • ||

    What is it, exactly, that the White House is supposed to be doing? Other than pointing fingers and demagoging, that is.

  • ||

    A couple of things.

    1. they have been in office for over a year. They bear some responsibility for the government not having a plan for this. They allowed this drilling when no one seems to have any idea what to do if there was a blow out. They bear some responsibility for that.

    2. Once the accident did occur, they were caught flat footed without a plan and didn't seem to get one very quickly. Yes, this is BP's fault. But once it happened, it does no good to blame BP and let things get worse. Figure out the blame later but do what is necessary to limit the damage now. I am not a petroleum engineer. Maybe the efforts were the most that could be done. But if not, the government does hold some responsibility for that. If they want to regulate and control everything, then they are responsible for doing something when things go wrong.

    3. There is a real perception problem. Perception is to some degree reality. One of the President's most important jobs is to instill a sense of confidence and trust in people during a disaster. To do that, he needs to show that he actually gives a shit about what is going on. Obama's behavior in this has been appalling. He has shown no interest in doing anything beyond pointing fingers and avoiding blame. That is not helpful.

  • ||

    Perception is to some degree reality.

    Some? I'm pretty sure the ratio of Reality Vs Perception turned in favor of Perception by a large margin sometime in the past 100years.

  • ||

    If they want to regulate and control everything, then they are responsible for doing something when things go wrong.

    That's why, like Tony pointed out in the other thread, we should nationalize the oil companies. Nothing could go wrong, as long as The Right People are in charge.

  • ||

    We pay billions for an EPA and a Coast Guard that are charged with responding to oil spills. Is it too much to ask that maybe someone could have thought, "he guys WTF are we going to do if one of those deep water wells in the Gulf ever has a blowout"?

  • ||

    "Hey, that's not our job!"

    "Well, actually......"

  • Mark||

    Waddya mean Obama has done nothing? He's been fundraising!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Blaming Obama is shortsighted. Even Peggy Noonan gets it:

    But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We're in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they'll probably get the big California earthquake. And they'll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: when you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well.
  • ||

    But can we blame him for his view of his role in this?

    My job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about: the spill.

    I'm sure everyone is relieved and happy that the President is thinking about the spill.

  • ||

    Sheldon Richman paints a more nuanced picture

    Nuance, schmuance. That isn't the narrative: an Evul Corprashun was drilling for evul oil while the crew was all drunk. And didn't care. Because they had strippers. Pole dancing on the drill shaft.

  • ||

    Where do I sign up?

  • ||

    Your stripper skills are weak, young padawan. Go, go to the planet Skanktatoain and learn from the masters. Ask for Sheila. Return only when ready to snatch a $5 bill with your eyelashes.

  • ||

    Only morons go to strip clubs. "Gee, I'm going to pay a chick to tease me, with no hope of actually having sex. Awesome!"

  • ||

    You have to go to the Champagne Room.

  • ||

    "Gee, I'm going to pay a chick to give me handjob and it's going to cost me $200+! Awesome!"

  • ||

    No dumbass, the correct response is "THERE'S NO SEX IN THE CHAMPAGNE ROOM."

  • ||

    Its nice to know that I'm not the only pervert who doesn't see the attraction of strip clubs.

  • ||

    Amen, brother.

  • ||

    That is hot. On the oily drill shaft.

  • ||

    How unsurprising that you like oily shafts. NTTAWWT.

  • ||

    I like mine. With a stripper on it. Just to be clear.

    And thanks for pointing out you're a butt pirate.

  • ||

    You homophobic piece of shit. You disgust me.

  • ||

    AARGH! Wanna fondle me booty?

  • ||

    (abruptly fists sage, who is caught completely unaware)

  • ||

    (cough)

    I guess I won't ask if you wanna grope me doubloons.

  • ||

    Wanna fondle me booʔy?

    You goʔa say it like a cockney. ( ʔ = the glottal stop )

  • ||

    When they win back the presidency, they'll probably get the big California earthquake. And they'll probably blow it.

    Sure, but being Republicans, they'd get the blame regardless. This is just some sweet, sweet karmic justice, a levelling of playing field.

    And don't you love how Beltway Peggy only trots out the limited government truisms to chastise the Republicans?

    Show of hands:

    How many people believe that li'l Malia actually knocked on the bathroom door to ask her daddy if he had plugged the hole yet?

  • ||

    How many people believe that li'l Malia actually knocked on the bathroom door to ask her daddy if he had plugged the hole yet?

    This is...just hilarious. You are a sick man, RC.

  • ||

    Which beltway Peggy are you talking about? Noonan actually brutalized Obama today. Said the spill is the end political end of him.

  • ||

    Malia: Where you at?

    Barak: (sound of Glade spraying) In the bathroom!

    Malie: Oh man, I'll wait til you finished.

    Barak: Girl bring your ass up in here. What you talking about wait til I'm finished. I've smelt your shit for twelve years, now you can't smell mine for five minutes?

    Malia: (holds nose) I just wanted to know if you plugged the hole yet.

    Barak: I'm working on it. This thing's gonna lift me right off the seat.

  • ||

    Did I miss some news story that RC alludes to?

  • Fatty Bolger||

  • ||

    No, I meant the Malia ref.

  • ||

    Michelle: Now your father - he got game.
    Barak: Don't nobody go in the bathroom for 35, 45 minutes

  • ||

    Nice

  • Spoonman.||

    I happened to be in my parents' living room when that played, and my parents literally groaned.

  • ||

    The government doesn't have the equipment and materials on-hand to deal with this situation. And they shouldn't need to have them. They should have required BP to have them available though (whether it was onsite, or offsite and had to be transported there). BP was obviously going to do as little as possible, and the MMS should have had more safeguards in place for them. Heck, there's more review and thought put into the regulatory review of a farm pond application than MMS did for this permit.

  • ||

    Heck, there's more review and thought put into the regulatory review of a farm pond application

    Which is just peachy-keen, right?

  • ||

    "The interesting question is whether BP’s dubious conduct would have been different without the [liability] cap."

    Why wouldn't that make a difference?

    When the risk management guy talks to his insurance guy, why wouldn't they take a cap on liability into account?

    "Beyond the scope of a clean-up, how much insurance do we need?"

    That's only an interesting question to someone who doesn't know anything about running a business--to people who have and do run a business?

    That's a stupid question.

    Actually, that's an excellent example of why businesses shouldn't be regulated as a function of public opinion...

    ...because public opinion can't even tell the difference between a smart question and a dumb one like that.

    What a stupid fucking question!

  • ||

    Actually, that's an excellent example of why businesses shouldn't be regulated as a function of public opinion...

    ...because public opinion can't even tell the difference between a smart question and a dumb one like that.

    A-fuckin-men.

  • ||

    What's interesting to me is that the federal government, with all of its vaunted wisdom, authority, and resources in regards to environmental matters, is stone cold helpless in doing a damned thing to help here. Whether or not certain bureaucratic failures have contributed to delaying things, the fact is that only BP and others can seem to do anything. . .at all. Of course, some will say to throw even more billions at the government, which, of course, will not do anything to prevent or mitigate future spills.

    Without the federal government's gift of a liability cap, I bet this wouldn't be anywhere near as bad.

  • ||

    CO2, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE, CAP'N'TRADE 111ONEONEONE! THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

    But yeah, lets put the same oilspilling experts in charge of the atmosphere.

  • ||

    But, if the right people were in charge...

    Miss Birnbaum was, until Thursday morning, director of the Minerals Management Service. The MMS is a boring, and normally obscure, unit of the Department of the Interior. Unluckily for Birnbaum, the MMS’s portfolio includes keeping tabs on the safety of offshore oil platforms.

    To make matters worse for her, three days ago the inspector general’s office released a report about an MMS office in Louisiana where workers were doing crystal meth and surfing for porn on their work computers. All while taking gifts on the side from the companies they were overseeing.
  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    Birnbaum's bio (still up on the MMS website) says she's a Harvard gal.

    I've got $20 that says she's replaced by a Yalie.

  • Paul||

    To make matters worse for her, three days ago the inspector general’s office released a report about an MMS office in Louisiana where workers were doing crystal meth and surfing for porn on their work computers.

    Where do I apply?

  • Mark||

    While I certainly don't advocate putting the government in charge of getting control of the leak, leaving BP in charge seems like dragging the miraculously uninjured drunk driver out of the tangled mess of the crash he just caused and putting him in the driver's seat of the ambulance taking his victims to the hospital...

  • ||

    So bring in people from all the other oil companies to help? People who actually know something about oil? Hmmmm, i dunno, they like profit, so they're obviously not capable of saving Gaia. We need a blueribbon committee to consider the feasibility of such a radical idea.

  • ||

    Yeah. I know it is a hard problem. But it was a foreseeable problem. And maybe it is a good idea to start thinking about it before it actually happens.

  • Paul||

    leaving BP in charge seems like dragging the miraculously uninjured drunk driver out of the tangled

    I hear what you're saying but surely you must believe that BP has every interest in getting this capped as quickly as possible. Regardless of what oversight, or lack thereof can be blamed on this disaster, now that it's happened, I can guarandamtee you that the the top management of that company wants nothing more than for this well to be capped.

    However, having said that, there might be some argument as to the sense of urgency vis-a-vis the liability cap.

    If for every day they didn't get this thing capped, meant an extra half-billion or so in fines, how fast would it be capped then? We can only guess.

  • Mark||

    Looking at it from our viewpoint, capping the well would seem to be the obvious priority. BP's senior management, however, is beholden to BP's shareholders, not the public. Shareholders are interested in maximizing profit which means minimizing costs and losses.

    Not being involved in any way with the petroleum business (beyond a weekly fill up), I don't know how that reality affects BP's decisions. Ensuring BP's highest priority is capping the well -- no matter the economic cost -- would seem to me the biggest argument in favor of involving an outside organization.

  • l0b0t||

    "Shareholders are interested in maximizing profit which means minimizing costs and losses."
    And that would, of necessity, mean capping that well head so their product stops leaking all over the place and making customers hate them, no?

  • Mark||

    As I said, I don't work in the industry, so I don't know all the ins and outs. What you say seems obvious.

    But capping and clean up costs are considerable, and rush orders typically come at a premium. Is it cheaper for BP to let some oil leak rather than rush the job?

    I don't know, but it seems to me someone other than BP should be considering such things.

  • ||

    I was wondering how long Reason would keep ducking this catastrophe and, once they emerged, what kind of strange logic would be employed to uphold the dogma of free market corporatism as it destroys the commerce and freedom of millions.

    Maybe they should have just trotted out John Stossel to tell Louisiana residents to give him a break.

  • mb||

    LOL. Indeed.

  • ||

    The free market, particularly when compared to government institutions, is a proven failure in everything it does. Meanwhile, Obama has decreed this coming June as African-American Music Appreciation Month.

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