Big Oil’s Fairy Tale

Posted on  

"Big Oil’s Fairy Tale"

I have a new Salon piece, which they headlined, “Obama’s daughter asked the wrong question:  There’s not much that Obama himself can do to ‘plug the hole.’ But he could be honest about why the spill happened.”

I’ll file this under humor, since I don’t have a special category for tragedy:

When I was shaving this morning, my daughter came up to me and asked, “Daddy, when is President Obama going to develop a coherent narrative for his administration?” OK, maybe not. She’s only 3, and her typical question is more along the lines of, “Can we play hide and seek?”

The president isn’t hiding, but I’m not certain that he is seeking, either. At the end of his buck-stops-here press conference on Thursday, he told a story about how he’d been shaving that morning when his 11-year-old daughter asked, “Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?”

It’s an odd question, since of all the things the most powerful man in the world has control over, plugging the oil leak in the Gulf isn’t one of them. The federal government simply lacks the relevant equipment to address a volcano of oil one mile below the ocean. I would have thought that the president might have explained that to his daughter at some point. Apparently not.

Sure, no father wants to tell his child that he can’t solve the biggest problem around, but the fact is that the oil companies are the only ones who do this kind of risky drilling “” and the only ones who have the technology to stop it.

But it’s also true that Big Oil has spent years deluding itself and others into thinking that this kind of spill was impossible and that preparing for one wasn’t necessary. Indeed, BP once called a blowout disaster “inconceivable.” Certainly, if you can’t conceive of a disaster, you’ll become more and more lax, more and more reckless, until one happens. You’ll cut corners on backup systems and testing. And you certainly won’t pre-build and pre-position any relevant equipment for staunching the flow. Since a disaster can’t happen, you and your allies in Congress will block all serious safeguards and demagogue all efforts to oversee the industry as “Big Government interference in the marketplace that will raise the price of gasoline for average Americans.”

The administration has made some efforts to push back against Big Oil. In February 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled 77 oil and gas lease sales on Western lands that had been approved in the last days of the Bush administration as a final gift to Big Oil. The leases were for land near pristine places like Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. As a result, Sens. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, blocked the confirmation of David Hayes, Obama’s choice to be deputy interior secretary, for two months. Hayes was on the scene on the second day of the Gulf disaster and has been a key figure helping to oversee the effort.

I suppose one can construct a scenario where the administration managed to prevent BP from drilling this well in the first place — a mere two months after taking office and while Republicans were scheming to obstruct and block its moves. Short of that, though, it’s clear that the blame for the disaster rests with BP, Big Oil, the Bush-Cheney administration (which larded the government with Big Oil stooges), and the industry’s strong-arm supporters in Congress (which enacted the voluntary, “trust us,” self-regulation we have today).

The president has failed to explain to the public how unbridled greed and self-regulation allowed the Goldman Sachses of the world to destroy the financial system, and with it the economy. Instead, people are angry at government for how it tried (and succeeded at) fixing the problem. He has failed in the same way when it comes to Big Oil.

As president, Obama bought into Big Oil’s story that new technology meant that a big blowout disaster was impossible. And so he embraced offshore drilling a few months ago and even now has been slow to stop defending it. Thus, the questions that all Americans should be asking their president isn’t whether he’s plugged the leak yet. It’s, “Why did you believe Big Oil and its right-wing allies?”

I guess the president has never told his daughter the story of how conservatives keep weakening all government regulation, how they demagogue any effort to oversee the private sector, and how when the inevitable disasters come, they blame the victim and demand to be put in charge.

But I can see why he wouldn’t tell that story to his daughter. It doesn’t end happily ever after.

Related Post:

« »

37 Responses to Big Oil’s Fairy Tale

  1. john atcheson says:

    Joe:

    You say: “Since a disaster can’t happen, you and your allies in Congress will block all serious safeguards and demagogue all efforts to oversee the industry as ‘Big Government interference in the marketplace …”

    I believe the problem is much deeper and broader than that. Republicans have been at war with government since Ronald Reagan and they have sold a couple of deadly myths that still frame the political debate in this country — the myth of the bumbling bureaucrat and the myth of the magic markets.

    In other words, big gubmint cain’t do nothin’ and uber free markets will deliver all good things by pure serendipity.

    They did this, not because they truly believed in small government (government exploded in size under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, while Clinton restrained government growth) but because they believe in weak government. Why? so their real constituency — big business — can operate without interference.

    Remember Norquist’s famous line about shrinking government until it can be drowned in a bathtub?

    That is the issue that must be confronted and vanquished: The vital role of government in a civil society and the need to constrain corporate power.

    None of the individual battles will be won until and unless that one is.

  2. Obama’s cohererant narrative from the start has been to bridge our two political parties, and work together for bipartisan actions on all issues. This is why he has appeared ineffective on this issue. But don’t worry, he’ll solve this crisis just as he did with healthcare: he gives the other side every opportunity to redeem themselves and prove they want reform, and when they don’t, he goes in and gets it done.

  3. Byron Smith says:

    Sure, no father wants to tell his child that he can’t solve the biggest problem around
    I thought that would be climate change?

    Let’s not lose sight of the wider picture here. The BP Gulf disaster is bad, but had the oil not been applied to turtles, fish, shrimp and sea birds, it would have ended up in the atmosphere to contribute to an even bigger problem.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    The API, I Can’t Fathom, Class, and etc.

    A few things …

    Yesterday or the day before, I saw an API spokeswoman on TV. In response to a suggestion that perhaps the industry should be required to have back-up wells, ready to go, for its deep-sea wells in the Gulf, the API spokeswoman responded, “I can’t even imagine such a suggestion.”

    No joking. That’s what she said, quickly and emphatically.

    And that’s the problem: A complete lack of imagination.

    They can’t imagine that disasters sometimes happen. They can’t imagine themselves making mistakes. They can’t imagine anything “going wrong”. They can’t imagine why they should be required to put the excellent piece of equipment in place — a piece that works — rather than the less expensive piece with dead batteries and without up-to-date blueprints. They can’t imagine a requirement to have to drill back-up wells. They can’t imagine why it would be helpful (for many good reasons) to have accurate assessments of the volume of flow of the underwater gusher.

    A complete and utter failure of responsible imagination.

    (That said, I don’t think that the government, and President Obama, are showing sufficient energy and imagination either. That’s another question, but perhaps even more important at this point.)

    On a related note, when I was learning chemical engineering at U.C. Berkeley, long ago, I took a petroleum engineering course (maybe two, I can’t recall) and we learned about all the reservoir and drilling and mud stuff, in late-1970s terms anyhow. And, I worked for several years in the oil industry. In those days, and as time passed, I periodically heard (as many of us do) about the depths at which modern deep-sea wells were being drilled.

    I knew that the depths were DEEP and getting deeper.

    But, not being an expert oceanographer or submariner, I always assumed that real people could also, somehow, get down to those depths, if necessary. I always just assumed and expected that, if we could drill at a certain depth, we could certainly get people down there, with a super-duper sub.

    That was an incorrect assumption, of course. Now I realize that we have been drilling in places that no person can actually visit. Yikes!!

    I can’t begin to fathom how responsible people could possibly choose to drill holes, poking into the Earth, to get oil, puncturing huge high-pressure oil reservoirs, in places where people simply can’t get to, if necessary, in order to fix problems that may arise. I can’t fathom it!! I can imagine it, of course, but I can’t understand the sort of twisted “reasoning” or “responsibility” that would support such choices.

    What’s wrong with us, I ask?

    At this point, people should be hitting the streets, in my view, insisting that we should never again drill in places that human beings can’t even visit, if necessary, to fix things. Period. End of story. Done deal.

    And I think the President should be jumping all over this. He’s losing credibility with me. Get activated, man, and show some passion. Please. I respect him in many ways, and I wish him well, but he’s got to get activated and passionate on these matters, and show it, and become more effective, and express an agenda clearly. I see far too much “mush” and fog and not nearly enough clarity, compelling wisdom, hard-hitting reasoning, and effective action. Period. End of story. I hope he can turn the ship around.

    Stop drilling where no person can go. If we can’t see the wisdom in that sort of principle, we fully deserve what we get. I’m not joking.

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  5. Michael says:

    Obama has stacked his cabinet with Goldman Sachs and big business cronies. He has championed a health care bill that hands subscribers over to private insurance companies with no public option and a financial bailout of his bankster buddies and proposed regulatory “reform” that falls short of Glass/Seagle and leaves the risky practices in place that wrecked havoc in this country and world wide. He proposed offshore drilling without a comprehensive alternative energy plan for this country. He has expanded a reckless war in Afghanistan and he and SS Clinton are provoking Iran and supporting a right wing coup in Honduras, badgering Venezuela, and generally making fools of themselves in South America. He has defended, and in some cases expanded the Patriot Act approaches of the Bush administration and worse, he refuses to allow any meaningful prosecution of the clearly criminal regime that proceeded him.

    What is it about the President are we, who voted for him, supposed to have faith in? To me this is a completely predictable response from a man who falsely gave the nation hope but ended up only being a champion for the status quo and the further expansion of corporate control and interference in our Republic. People are sick of this. They are scared and out of work and they are losing their homes and their security and he sends troops to the border in Arizona, troops to Haiti, troops to the Middle East and only his “heartfelt” promises to the Gulf of Mexico. Give us a break, please!

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Three Principles

    1. Don’t allow any new deep-sea drilling at depths (in the ocean) that are beyond those where it’s practical and easy to get people and equipment to promptly fix problems if and when they occur. No more drilling where humans cannot possibly go. Period.

    2. Require the oil companies to drill back-up wells that are “ready to go” in case of accidents, for all current deep-sea wells that are in the ocean below a certain depth. In other words, for all wells deeper than a certain depth in the ocean, you (oil companies) have two choices: Either shut the well down, or drill a back-up well that would be “ready to go” in case of a problem with the main well. Period. If they (the company execs) don’t like the idea, they should go cry to their mums.

    3. And of course, let’s do the things necessary to rid ourselves of our addiction to oil, for these reasons and the other reasons such as climate change, energy independence, the creation of new clean-energy jobs, and so forth.

    This isn’t rocket science. Some basic principles and aims make clear sense.

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  7. Jeff in Austin says:

    Everyone ponder what John Atcheson said. The federal govt. grew during the 20th century to reign in the excesses and abuses (Progressive Era) and the failures (FDR years and now Obama years) of American capitalism. (The other huge impetus to its growth was as a result of the Cold War). Decades of the Norquist/Reagan mythology, that the free market is virtuous, the federal govt. vile, gutted the notion of a marketplace in which greed is tempered and bounded with a broader eye to civic good. Deregulation neutered the federal govt.’s ability to protect us from adulterated toys from China, socialized risk for big banks and big oil (I’m sorry, Mom and Pop oil), and elevated SCOTUS justices that have greatly expanded de jure standing to the notion of corporate citizenship. A goodly number of Senate Dems. are defenders of corporate welfare and oligarchy. One wonders if this is irreversible.

    Why this administration has passed on three golden opportunities — Wall Street’s collapse in the fall of 08, the insurance/Pharma block last year, and Big Oil now — to discredit the libertarian canard and teach a new narrative, I can’t say. But, it is a tragedy. Thanks to the original poster, and to Mr. Atcheson for their remarks.

  8. BP now uncertain about success of ‘top kill’ attempt to stop oil volcano: BP’s Suttles: we don’t think it has changed the oil flow. http://bit.ly/BPuncrt Details expected at 2300 CET press conf

  9. Windsong says:

    Beautifullly said, Jeff (#4). And I wholeheartedly agree!!

  10. Doug Bostrom says:

    How about some empirical data on regulations as they function in the real world?

    Years ago I did brief stint as a electronic technician with a wireline logging outfit, one of the two dominant players in that specialty.

    We had a lot of cool technology on hand. Trucks loaded with instrumentation controls and displays, amazingly rugged electronic and electromechanical tools that could withstand breathtaking temperature and pressure while transmitting a plethora of exacting information on formation characteristics, behavior of fluids, cement bond quality and the like. Like space missions, but in the opposite direction and going for gold instead of knowledge.

    This company was bent on producing results for customers. We charged astronomical prices for our services and were keen on justifying ourselves so as to attract more contracts. Our knowledge and focus was on operating tools swiftly and efficiently, minimizing disruptions and thus cost for rig operators while producing reliable data to help with decision making. We were not concerned with the science behind our activities except to the extent we needed to understand it in order to operate better.

    Saving money for operators was our primary mission.

    Among the devices we used was something called a “fluid travel tool.” This gadget was lowered into a well, and when it reached the depth of interest was parked and then commanded to release a quantity of radioactive iodine into the hole. Spaced a fair distance up the tool was a geiger counter. By measuring the time of appearance (if any) of counts on the geiger tube it was possible to detect whether fluid in the hole was moving inadvertently when it was not supposed to.

    The tool was necessarily contaminated as it was used, but radioactive iodine has a short half-life. Tools retrieved after use were stored in a rack and embargoed until safe to touch. That is, unless scheduling pressures meant we were running low on “safe” tools. When that happened, we simply bent the rules and picked the oldest tool off the rack. Doing otherwise would delay operations, costing our company money.

    Meanwhile, the store of radioactive iodine we kept on hand was in need of frequent replenishment, some being used in tests and some sitting on the shelf until it had decayed too far to be usable. Regulatory oversight of this isotope was lax since it would in fact decay to a safe level after some period of time. In my particular situation, the division location– “camp” in the parlance– we worked from was equipped with a water well and septic tank. Our duly appointed, properly certified “radiation safety officer” was in the habit of disposing of surplus radioactive iodine via the expedient of flushing it down the toilet. Convenient, less of a hassle, but not legal. Our safety office had a way of “getting around” those pesky regulators, not acutely dangerous as far as we knew but hardly demonstrated as safe.

    Sloppy regulation does not work.

    We also used much harsher sources of radiation, including some very hot sources to produce what are called “neutron porosity” logs. These sources were stored in lead pigs and handling them required a mechanical tool to allow the source to be manipulated from a safe distance. Engineers knew to respect this convention, rig hands did not. It was not unusual to see horseplay while a source was on the end of its handling tool, pranks such as thrusting the source between the legs of a victim and the like. Lacking any understanding of the science behind this source, hands had no idea that just because the source was not visibly emitting radiation or exhibiting some other dramatic effect did not mean it was benign. The storied danger of the source was a myth to these people.

    Horseplay aside, regulatory oversight of the location and fate of neutron sources was tight. The company had a famous story about an engineer who left a pig with its source on the bumper of a truck and lost it. Because the NRC tracked and inventoried these sources very closely indeed– because regulatory oversight was serious and effective– the company deployed an enormous number of employees to retrace the path of the truck and thus recover the source.

    Real regulation works.

    So what’s the point of this story? The conclusions are several. First, this industry is about making money. Controlling costs is important, more important than careful consideration of the whole safety picture. Second, the operational arm of the industry has only a dim understanding of and interest in the physics behind what they’re doing. Lacking full insight, they rely on by-the-book metrics to parse what’s happening with a given project. Optimistic interpretations of book predictions encouraged by financial considerations is what appears to have led operators at the Deepwater Horizon astray. Finally, the industry as a whole scoffs at regulations and only respects those regulations that are backed by actual scrupulous attention of regulators.

    The balance of the equation describing the collision of commercial considerations against regulation of safety related activities needs to change.

  11. fj2 says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/opinion/29herbert.html

    “An Unnatural Disaster,” Bob Herbert, May 28, 2010, The New York Times

    Powerful, damaging!

    “With all due respect to the president, who is a very smart man, how is it possible . . .”

  12. Doug Bostrom says:

    Sustainable2050 says: May 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    BP’s Suttles: we don’t think it has changed the oil flow.

    This is complete bullshit!

    They sawed the f—ig riser off! Take a look at the video, there’s less restriction on the flow than ever, even a retarded person could figure that out (no you, Sustainable2050, I mean the lying moron Suttles).

    Enough, already.

  13. catman306 says:

    For the British Petroleum Corporation, Top Kill would be a very good idea.

  14. Leif says:

    Bob Herbert should replace “Americans” with “Humanity” in his article and then he would be speaking for me.
    Thank you for the link fj2

  15. dhogaza says:

    BP now uncertain about success of ‘top kill’ attempt to stop oil volcano

    They just announced failure. Now they’ll cut off the riser and try to cap the BOP.

  16. Steve Wicke says:

    While BP and others share the blame for this disaster, what about you and me. We still want our cheap gas, our cheap plastic, etc. This is about personal responsibilty and all of us are to blame. Our addiction to oil is obvious but that will all change in twenty years when the effects of peak oil kick in. Big oil and big banks will become little oil and little banks

  17. Doug Bostrom says:

    dhogaza says: May 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Now they’ll cut off the riser and try to cap the BOP.

    It was cut off quite a while ago; I took a look at 10AM PST and it was gone.

  18. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Funny Thing Happened (on my way to The New York Times): Regarding Bob Herbert’s column today, titled “An Unnatural Disaster”

    It happened again! Late last night, I read Bob Herbert’s column, titled “An Unnatural Disaster”. Right away, I submitted a brief and civil comment. The comment was submitted successfully, I got the normal automatic on-screen acknowledgement from The Times, and the comment was there on the screen, in their system, waiting for their review. This was about 10:33 PM last night, Pacific time. As always, I took a copy of the submitted comment, after submittal and showing the time and acknowledgment from The Times.

    (I’ve gotten into the habit of doing this now and again, because of the following …)

    They didn’t run the comment. I guess they threw it into the trash bin. What I’ve found is this: The New York Times usually doesn’t run credible and penetrating comments that shed light on its own actions. They will criticize another company for doing X, or criticize the government for doing X, and when you submit a comment that factually points out that THEY do X as much as, or more than, anyone else, they don’t run the comment. The New York Times simply does not like looking in a mirror. This is not a one-time thing. It’s systemic.

    So, given that The New York Times is an amorphous thing, and given that this happened in relation to a specific person’s column today, we’ll ask that specific person: Bob Herbert, do you personally select which comments appear after your columns? If not, who does? May we have the department name and a phone number, please? Would you be kind enough to explain to us, or to your readers, why some comments are simply not allowed through, if they point out credible criticisms of The Times?

    I submitted my comment very early, well before most (and perhaps all) of the comments they actually ran. They ended up running over 150 comments, and more than one from some people. They rejected mine.

    Here is a copy of the comment I submitted:

    Bob,

    One Question: (and I hope and trust that The New York Times will not censor it)

    Do you realize, and understand, that The New York Times also bows to, and accommodates, and enables, the public-confusion agenda of (for example) ExxonMobil, restraining or bending its own coverage (of climate change, of the energy issues, of oil companies, and of ExxonMobil) in order to avoid offending ExxonMobil, one of its largest advertisers? Have you analyzed the front page and front section of the paper for the last two years, comparing ExxonMobil’s ads with the near-nonexistent coverage of ExxonMobil by The Times? Do you understand the absence of “investigative reporting” on the matter?

    Speak candidly to your readers, please: What is your candid, honest assessment of The New York Times in relation to the very concerns you are raising?

    Thank you,

    Jeff

  19. Ryan T says:

    One question, Joe, is raised by reports suggesting Top Kill hasn’t killed much:
    http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpps/news/source-bp-set-to-admit-%27top-kill%27-failed-move-to-next-plan-dpgonc-20100529-jd_7813731

    It would be interesting to know why BP is trying things in the order they are. It seems like installing a new cap would be a more precise engineering effort than trying to stuff the well with golf balls and “mud”. So is the order of operations related to cost, level or risk, or what?

  20. Leif says:

    Jeff, #18: I took the liberty of sending a copy of your excellent question to Bob Herbert’s personal email.

    Thank you for all your efforts Jeff.

    Leif

  21. Jeff Huggins says:

    Thanks Leif (Comment 20). Please let us know if he answers, and thanks very much for all of your efforts too. I often see, and read, your comments, but it’s hard to respond to everything, and most of your comments are self-explanatory anyhow. Cheers, Jeff

  22. Yogi -One says:

    We’re screwed.

    Obama isn’t going to fix it.

    I voted for Obama. I hoped for change.

    There’s been no change, and now I feel hopeless.

    Corporations 100 – citizens 0.

    Obama is on the winning team – the corporate team. Obama has helped the corporations defeat the citizens.

    We been backstabbed yet again.

    Obama is one of “Them”, the bad guys. He’s not one of us.

    Come on, don’t lie to yourself about it, people.

    [JR: Uhh, that’s silly. He’s about the most progressive President we could elect, but he turns out to be much worse at messaging than, I for one, realized. And the rest of the WH is dreadful at it. And they are half as clever as they think.

    But if you think there’s been no change, uhh, just look at where John McCain is these days. Seriously!]

  23. Leif says:

    Joe. “I’ll file this under humor, since I don’t have a special category for tragedy:”

    The way things are going you might want to start a category for tragedy. With lots of storage space.

  24. Doug Bostrom says:

    Yogi -One says: May 29, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    [synthetic soul-crushing PR]

    I hope you’re being well paid for saying that. Piece rate?

  25. Leif says:

    Instead of a cap on the pipe end I am sure someone has thought of a ” tapered needle valve” HEAVY, with a long line up pin for initial insertion. Bit of a trick being the 21″ hole is a mile away but they do have robots that might be able to help.

  26. Doug Bostrom says:

    Leif that’s a really cool idea.

  27. Doug Bostrom says:

    Further to Leif’s thoughts, what’s dense, pinheaded, already in Houston and not serving any useful role?

  28. The coherent narrative that is missing is not just a more complete recognition of the benefits of regulation of key industries but a narrative on how exactly we are going to reduce and eliminate our oil dependency. The climate bill as proposed largely postpones the aggressive actions needed to reduce our dependency rapidly. Obama has not, to date, shown a passion for either climate action or action on oil dependency, though I appreciated the vehicle efficiency standards proposal of earlier this week.

    I offer some suggestions here:

    http://greenthoughts.us/2010/05/16/oil-independence/

  29. Leif says:

    Doug Bostrom: There are other problems that I did not originally consider with my needle valve. What has happened to the drill bit or core? Has it been cut as well? Did the whole shebang drop further in the casing? For the needle valve to work I was thinking that we now had a clear 21″ pipe to work with and a clean edge, which may not be the case. Oh well, I admit that I do not understand all I know about what is going on. However, it looks like I have lots of company. More information would be nice.

    One good point, with a needle valve the flow could be slowly brought to a “stop.” You do not just stop a moving column of fluid like that. Properly sized a cap could still fit above all and the needle valve left in place.

  30. Leif says:

    Surely Doug, those folks understand the physics of stopping a fast moving column of fluid 21″ in diameter. However looking back on their attempts at a “junk shot” I am beginning to wonder. We are already working with pressures of about 18,000 psi? which in it’s self is phonemail. Bringing a column of fluid to a sudden stop could shoot those pressures to astronomical numbers. Pipe splitting numbers, especially close to the surface with little support from the surrounding earth. Easily transforming gulf balls into confetti.

  31. Doug Bostrom says:

    Leif, I’m sure there are problems with your idea but it does have the attraction of simplicity. The casing necessarily has the ability to contain the pressure, the needle could indeed be lowered slowly so as avoid blowing up the pipe with a hammer effect. But again I bet we’re missing some detail that makes it unlikely to work. Probably comes down to a matter of supporting and stabilizing such a hypothetical needle, tough when there’s nothing on the bottom to do that.

    Way outside of our envelope of competence, heh!

  32. Leif says:

    Mental gymnastics, Doug. Without access to facts…???

  33. shawn q says:

    about this oil leak in the gulf,has it occurred to anyone that when they tried to install this so-called ‘tophat’ and salvage and slow this leak,
    that ICE CRYSTALS BEGAN TO FORM AND THAT THE PIPE FROSE UP:
    DUE TO THE EXTREME PRESSURES AT 1 MILE BELOW THE WATER SURFACE,COMPRESSED GAS WILL FREEEEEZE.CAN WE NOT USE THIS ALREADY EXISTING PROCESS TO SEAL THIS LEAK,IF NOT,THEN WHY NOT SINK SOME SORT OF EXPLOSIVE NEAR THE LEAK AND SEAL IT THAT WAY.
    i realize things are easier said than done at these depths and I’m not a qualified enginier,but at this point no one else seems to be either.
    this is a horrible tragedy,lets hope some one gets a handle on the situation soon.
    good luck gulf coast people and creatures
    i wish for the best for you
    SHAWN.Q

  34. Chris Winter says:

    For all those who want to learn more about the technical side of this disaster, The Economist has a very good article in its latest issue.

    That article makes it clear that considerable planning, followed by collection of resources from all over the world (like those mud tankers), is required in dealing with this.

    However, that does not excuse BP for failing to have those resources lined up ahead of time. And they certainly could have done this latest operation weeks ago. I have no idea why they didn’t; it would let them keep the oil flowing.

  35. Chris Winter says:

    Shawn Q, those crystals don’t have any mechanical strength. They just stopped the oil from entering the pipe, sending it into the water as before. Also, being lighter than water, they lifted the dome off the seabed.

  36. David B. Benson says:

    Bring on Purgatory

  37. Ross Hunter says:

    Coming late to the discussion, but Joe that’s a nice piece of writing. I went over to Salon just to admire it. This thread turned to BP and the plug but your piece was originally about Obama and his realpolitik.

    He IS a mystery though, don’t you think? I truly believe he’s the very, very best we could hope for in a man for these times. And I believe that, as with any presidency, eight years is the true time-scale to view him in.

    But how to square his capabilities with the way he responds to all these hollywood-sized situations gripping enough for even the dimwit media to take an interest?

    Is he the canary sent into the mine, the litmus paper that shows the temper of the times and the degree to which the fix is in? Why is it that he fails to act as boldly as his temperament and rhetoric indicate that he would, if he had a level, or at least supportive, field to play on?

    I’m genuinely stumped, at this point, about our man. I should wait the eight years of course, but we live in impatient times. I’m glad you think about all this too. I hope you can supply the answers to the enigma.