I am a very careful guy. When I do something hazardous, I like to take precautions. When I spray paint something on the kitchen table, I lay down newspapers. But even if I got some overspray onto my wife’s favorite painting (and I’m not saying that I did, because this is purely hypothetical – I mean who puts a valuable painting near where people are spray painting anyway??) – I make sure that I’ve got some mineral spirits or at least a roll of paper towels.
So if I were planning on, say, tearing a hole in the earth’s crust about a mile below sea level in an ecologically sensitive area (OK, it’s off of Louisiana, not Hawaii – but I did hear that there are some turtles and birds and stuff around.) I’d have some sort of plan for a situation where drilling into a huge reservoir of liquid death might result in some kind of constant and violent oil leakage. Actually, the oil leakage was not an accident, but was exactly the intent. But something happened to the rig (the guy on the other end of the “hose”) and now it’s on the bottom of the sea. So, where’s the newspaper? Where are the paper towels? Admittedly, paper towels soaked with water become kind of weak. Even Bounty, the “quicker picker upper”, can’t hold up under those conditions, no matter what Rosie says. I’d guess the same goes for Brawny, even though it has that big tough lumberjack on the label.
I myself have been through a situation like this. Once, when changing the oil in my car, the wind suddenly gusted and blew the dripping oil past the edge of the catch pan. I quickly enacted my emergency response plan and sprang into action. I quickly slid the catch pan under the flow. I had my papers and my rags handy. I wiped it up as good as I could, and when the wife asked what the stain was, I was forced to admit that it was most definitely mashed acorns. Damned squirrels!
But surely BP had gone over all of these contingencies, and have exactly the thing they need to stop the leak, right? Because this must have always been seen as a possibility, or even a likelihood, considering what is involved. No? Nothing? A primary cut off switch? That’s it? Oh, there’s a secondary switch that can be remotely activated. Thank God! Oh, wait. One of those was not installed on this well. Because it wasn’t required. Free market regulating themselves again, I guess. It would have been $500K to install the switch for the $560M rig. That would have been .089% of the cost of the platform (an average extended warranty on an individual’s car purchase might be .03% of the car’s price.Which is much less than .089%, and your car won’t spew an oil apocalypse into the environment (well, my old Jetta did, but none of it was clean enough to be sold on the commodities market). Not to mention that BP made 1.21 jigga-dollars last year.
To my untrained eye, the cleanup and fix is going as well as Peter’s glue job on Carol Brady’s broken vase. Mom always said not to play ball in the house! BP’s CEO, to his credit, says he will not rest until the leak is fixed. Wait, no he didn’t. He said, “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” Oh, well. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Big ocean, small oil. Brilliant.