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Morlock on BP: "When Things Fall Apart"


I think Marc has his finger on one of our society's bigger problems in his recent post "BP & Obama as Morlocks and Eloi."

Since Winds is partly about trying to do something constructive about such things, I offer Popular Science's "When Things Fall Apart," by a well inspector, as an initial 4th of July weekend contribution. See also the comments there, as some of them are useful contributions in their own right.


Not to be contrarian for the sake contrariness (and certainly not to minimize the scope of the disaster, here) but I thought Marc was unnecessarily pessimistic in that entry.

I thought about it quite a bit for a few days as driving to and from work, but ultimately did not have time to write a rebuttal.

Since this is a holiday weekend, maybe I'll give it another shot.

Interesting article, thank you. I’m not sure, however, that it supports Marc’s post on Morlocks and Eloi. Marc was saying that Obama was all talk and no action in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, BP was drilling lousy holes, and together their response sucked. However, Jasper Collum in his Popular Science article suggests that the men on the oil rigs are by and large pretty diligent and attentive to safety, but that something like the Deepwater Horizon spill is really unavoidable. It’s a cost of doing business.

I’m glad to see the endorsement of a safety inspector, a regulator, as a Morlock. Drilling a mile below the sea surface and through two miles of rock is also pretty Morlock. The White Housee Response to the spill, of course, is more than Eloi. As is the BP response. My understanding is that about 76 Coast Guard ships, 1,300 civilian ships, 30 airplanes, and tens of thousands of people are mobilized in the response effort.

The effects of the Exxon Valdez spill are still being felt 21 years after the fact. It seems that the BP spill will likewise adversely impact the environment and economy in the Gulf for decades.

So what is the lesson to be drawn from this? Perhaps that we need to be as careful as possible when we undertake to extract oil from difficult spots, that spills are inevitable, and that we should support ongoing regulation to cut down on these accidents as much as possible. It’s been 21 years between Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon. It seems prudent to have resources available to deal with inevitable spills. Surely we can be better prepared for the next one. In light of the enormous costs involved, maybe it makes sense to tax oil extraction to maintain a fleet of super skimmers, like we maintain aircraft carriers. It also seems a sober reminder that we should be clear eyed in embarking on sensitive areas like ANWAR or the Northern California coast, and that such decisions should not be made lightly, or based on political hubris like “drill baby, drill.”

Can't wait to read it. I did not think Marc was pessimistic at all. In fact, I thought he was pretty restrained. Again, I cannot wait to see it.

I didn't see the article as support or refutation. I saw publicizing it as a constructive corrective to the things Marc described, based on the views of someone out there doing the work and getting his hands dirty.

Roland, I think it shows a safety process that's all about process; if you fill the form, if you watch the video, if you attend the meeting...things will work.

But the core misjudgments - there were many - were the kinds of things that take place around the kind of processes this writer describes.


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