Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fixing A Hole

A "Top Kill" We Can Believe In
Here's a joke I made up myself:

Q. How many BP executives, smart-ass politicians, and talking head pundits does it take to contain the oil spill in the Gulf?

A. Not so many, really--all roped together, and stuffed face down at the wellhead--because their mouths are so big.

OK, not so funny maybe--I never said I was a pro jokewriter--but it is a colorful and strangely appealing image.

Let's just say I am more than a little tired of listening to all these people criticizing the President because he can't get the hole plugged, or pointing out the series of flawed plans and decisions that led to the initiation of the disaster.

The rule is: Unless you consistently opposed all forms of offshore drilling, or are up there solely to admit your errors, just shut up. That especially goes for all those Drill, Baby, Drillers, and even so-smart-so-committed-with-his-shirtsleeves-all-rolled-up, Governor Bobby Jindal. Unless you are ready to say, "I was wrong, and there will be no more drilling off the shore of Louisiana", Bobby, you've got nothing I want to hear, either.

That goes for me, too. While I was not a big proponent of offshore drilling, I had accepted it as a transitional strategy which could reduce our dependence on imports. In particular, I believed far too much that the technology was proven and understood. I was wrong.

Further, I had bought into BP's line of BS. I believed that they were thinking "beyond petroleum" as their ads used to say (they'd better not be showing them, these days), and I thought that was a good long-term business strategy. So, I'd bought some shares. Now, if they could just get out from under this immense PR drag on their stock price, their obscene profits would give it some buoyancy--mostly, shareholders don't care about any of that--and I could get out of it. And I won't be back.

The challenges of pressures at 5,000 feet underwater seem to have been severely underestimated and the risks minimized far too much. Our regulators were in the pocket of industry--not too surprising, because encouraging the drilling was part of the policy of both the current and previous administrations.

All existing deepwater drilling operations should be stopped, and no new permits granted, until we get our hands around the technology required to manage the risks and to shut off this spill. Near offshore drilling should be suspended, with each state having a chance to think twice about whether they really want it, and certain environmentally precarious areas should be permanently protected by legislation. Someday, it may be possible, safe, and still necessary (as in, we still haven't weaned ourselves off the oil), and we could allow the drilling's resumption. Until then, the best place for the oil is for it to stay in the ground, under the sea--except for those gallons we can't prevent from leaking out.

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