‘Top Kill’ — Iranian Thrill?

Per WSJ News Alert:

Before taking questions at a midday news conference, the president said the U.S. is suspending the exploration of two regions off Alaska, as well as off the Gulf Coast and Virginia, and will suspend action on 33 wells currently being explored.

Is that sound a cheer coming up from Iran? You bet. 

A friend just said to me; “Assuming that the “top kill” working, how long before critics say ‘why did BP wait so long to try this approach?’  There is no winning.” 

He’s right. We have become a nation of utopians, arrogant 2nd guessers, and Lilliputians who are certain that enough rules will make everything work just right, not realizing that at some point they will just make everything grind to a halt.  And with perfect timing, Obama has decided to extend his fiats to…make everything grind to a halt.

  1. Bryan G. Stephens

    Bad things happen when we use technology. They are more than made up for by the good things.

    I was just watching “The Story of Us” on History, and they talked about a horrible high rise fire in a sewing plant. Was the answer no more tall buildings? No, the answer was a better safety code. Did that stop all deaths due to fires in buildings? Nope. Do we still have really tall buildings? Yep.

  2. Trace

    It’s nice to see you here Heather. I share your broad conclusions, but I’m not sure that the BP case is the best one for your point.

    I find the President’s populist bashing of BP and craven sucking up to the wildly unprofitable solar panel company (yesterday’s field trip) as distasteful as the next guy. But this is a market failure. BP drilled beyond its capabilities and the cost of the error is not on BP but on a globally-shared resource. We don’t yet know the cost of this debacle and we don’t yet know what happened or how preventable it might have been.

    So taking a deep breath on comparable ventures is not an unreasonable step. Sure, those companies will incorporate this experience into their planning, but I’m hard-pressed to say the regulators should not just check and be sure.

    If the conservative response is “stuff happens, deal with it,” I think it’s going to be a hard sell.

  3. Harlech

    Not to be overly flippant, but aren’t we second-guessing Obama?

  4. Aaron Miller
    Trace Urdan: BP drilled beyond its capabilities and the cost of the error is not on BP but on a globally-shared resource. …

    So taking a deep breath on comparable ventures is not an unreasonable step. · May. 27 at 2:37pm

    I agree with you that “stuff happens” is not a sufficient response. A leak like this was inevitable — no technological safeguards or safety codes can prevent errors absolutely all the time. But a problem of this magnitude, even if the cause was completely innocent (which it doesn’t appear to be), should not be passed too quickly.

    And, speaking as one who knows plenty of oilmen, I’m sure oil companies never intended to simply sweep this under the rug. They’ll do what they can to stop the leak, clean up the spill and make reasonable reparations without government whipping. BP’s choice to ignore the EPA is evidence that they’re trying to do what’s right, rather than merely appease government.

    But BP did not drill beyond its ability. There are many deep-water wells which have not leaked. Plugging the leak is just a complicated challenge for which a practice run was never possible.

  5. Trace

    That’s two excellent posts from you on the topic Aaron. You actually know something. So you officially have my proxy on this topic.

  6. Heather Higgins
    C

    Trace, I’m certainly no expert in this field, just a lay reader, but it doesn’t seem to me that BP was beyond its capabilities — it and others have been doing this with success through I’ve read 3,000 wells. Nor am i sure that that what’s proposed constitutes doing what you suggest and i agree with: “taking a deep breath on comparable ventures is not an unreasonable step.”

    The problem is two fold: on future drilling their moratorium includes all sorts of things that aren’t comparable, and will create even worse economic effect that are the last thing we need now (e.g., see Sen Landrieu’s comment that 5,000 jobs will be lost in 6 weeks from the moratorium on shallow water wells). And managerially, we have a problem of technical complexity that the government both doesn’t know quite what to do about (though it wants to look like it does — the the flip flops at the EPA about sub-surface use of dispersants), and can’t make a fast enough decision on (whether burning initially, or using berms and protecting bayou).

    The government may be here to help, but it’s not clear that that’s what it’s doing.

  7. Michael Labeit
    If the federal government allowed oil drilling within the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), within the oil shale/tar sands region in the Midwest, within ANWR in Alaska, AND allowed for the construction of oil refineries, then enterprises like BP either would not have to drill as much in deep water or wouldn’t drill in deep water at all – for two reasons: 1.) Drilling on land and in shallow water (OCS) is typically easier than drilling in deep water, i.e., the costs of production for the first two are less than the costs of production for the latter. Oil corporations, greedy as they are, will gladly opt for the first two courses of action if they are available…if… 2.) Allowing greater oil drilling on land and in shallow water as well as allowing for the construction of additional oil refineries would serve to increase the supply of oil. As the supply of oil increases, the price of oil falls. As the price of oil falls, the quantity of oil supplied will fall as well, i.e., the production of oil for sale at the lower price will fall, i.e., the need to drill in the middle of the *bleeping* ocean will be non-existent.
  8. Bryan G. Stephens

    There may be a lot of blame to go about, just as there was in the incident I mentioned above. Who in their right mind would have locked fire escapes? I am sure mistakes were made, maybe corners were cut. Hard to know for sure with the rig on the bottom of the sea.

    But, in the greater scheme, I still stand be “bad stuff happens” and there is nothing we can do about it. Expecting big daddy government to come bail us out when bad things happen is unrealistic. The POTUS is not Superman, and the Feds are not the Justice League of America. Heck, they are not even the Avengers.

    As we have become more risk averse as a society, we seem to demand someone be to blame for everything bad that happens. Thus Bush gets the blame for Katrina. Literally gets blamed for the weather, to say nothing of being bashed for the “response”. I say it is time for Americans to grow up and face that the bad stuff happens regardless of intentions. Sometimes, people screw up. No amount of government regs are going effect that. And sometimes there is nothing that can be done.

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