Archive for July, 2010

What Would Happen if the Government ran BP?

July 26, 2010

BP’s oil leak in the Gulf has been stopped. When the leak started, due to a massive explosion of a drilling rig, BP told us that it would take 90 days to plug the leak. It took 85. When Barack Obama became president he told us that fixing the financial system was his number one goal. It took him 18 months and he still has half the job left (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are excluded from this new financial bill). The oil leak can be monitored to see if it is leaking, the financial system now has more laws whose effects can never be understood or controlled. Ironically, government scientists slowed down the final days of plugging the leak because they were afraid something might blow up, at the same time ex-president Clinton suggested we blow up the well with a nuclear bomb. Thank God he isn’t the president any more. BTW, the technology used to install a new blowout protector onto the broken one a mile down in the ocean is incredible. The engineers on the project, those that designed and fabricated the ultimate solution, and those that operating the remove control robots should get an award from the government. Instead I except you will hear moaning of the next few years about why things couldn’t have gone smoother or faster.

There Are No Heroes Anymore

July 3, 2010

The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is a defining moment for this country and I’m afraid that we are doomed. The leak started because of either bad engineering or sloppy implementation. A chain reaction of human and equipment failure ended in a drilling rig burnt to a crisp and a mile long pipe on the floor of the ocean leaking crude oil into the deep water. The final failure, the mechanical device that is designed specifically to stop the leak didn’t work. Every oil well in the world has one of these devices and they are very big and very expensive but this one, like the one 30 years ago in Mexico, didn’t close off the pipe to stop the oil. Nobody yet knows why it failed, whether it can’t close because of too much unintended pressure or debris or something broke inside, but it doesn’t matter now because nobody is trying to fix it. BP engineers have been slowly and cautiously capturing the oil coming from the leak but it seems that the designs and plans for what to do in this case are being executed on the fly. Is there a device designed to recap the well? Got to design and build it. They tried one at the beginning but knew that it would fail, and it did. Now they are scrambling. Well at least BP is scrambling.

On the other hand we have the various governments trying to handle the clean-up. The leak itself seems to be far from the capabilities of anyone in the government so that rests with BP. Obama has put the Coast Guard in charge of the clean-up. It is safe to say that an operation of this size is a bit above their pay grade but they have done well to do what they know. The problem is that they have no way of thinking big or acting big. Had Obama established an office in the Navy to coordinate efforts perhaps things would be going better. Had he convened an emergency meeting of all U.S. oil companies, drilling companies, service companies, and foreign governments and oil companies perhaps something better could have come of things. But Obama is going by the book and that means the Coast Guard is in charge of the water, the EPA is in charge of the beach, and the Army Corp of Engineers is in charge in between. What does that really mean? Nobody is in charge.

Local governments, like Lousianas, have tried to push to do more themselves, but for the most part it seems that their efforts are thwarted by Federal agencies who don’t really understand what they are doing. The EPA, you would like from the name, was established specifically to protect the environment, but no. Like all government agencies their job is to protect themselves and enforce their rules. Sometimes you have to break a rule in order to enforce the intent of the rule. For example, if you build a machine to suck up oil contaminated water and remove most but not all of the oil, returning the partially cleaned up water back to the ocean, the EPA will see that as polluting the water. That is their rule.

So who should we blame for this leak? Some say our addiction to oil. That is like saying that our need for food is the cause of farm based water pollution. How about BP. Well, BP certainly did dig this hole ill prepared for the consequence of such a disaster. But then we rely on BP and their like to provide oil, cheap oil, not to keep us safe or clean. So that means the failure here should be blamed on those that stood up and said that they would protect the environment: the government and the environmental movement. These are the people to blame. Why blame environmentalists? Because most, if not all, environmental groups are run by lawyers, lawyers who advocate for one side and do not understand that just because they may win one in court doesn’t mean that they are protecting anything but their lifestyle. Sue to stop drilling in place A and the drillers move to place B, then C, until they find some place that nobody will sue and then they can do as they wish. The methods used by environmentalists are not conducive to good public policy, they are selfish and narrow-minded. The government on the other hand is pretty much always shown to be just plain incompetent. Would you trust your health care to the EPA?  I guess we will find out.

One last comment. What I would like to see here is for someone in the Gulf Coast to stand up and take back control of their land, of their livelihood, even if the Feds tell them they cannot. I would like to see a Governor say “We will protect our beaches this even if the Feds says we cannot. We will build the berms, the barriers, the filters we need to keep our waters safe and shores clean, even if some Federal bureaucrats say we cannot. We will not sit and wait for approval, we will act. If that means that we will be arrested then let it be, I will be first.” Unfortunately there are no heroes any more.