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    Should The BP Oil Spill Be A Weapon In The Culture War?
    By Hank Campbell | June 21st 2010 02:05 PM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    The BP oil spill in the Gulf is doing unmeasurable damage to the local economy and ecology of the region.   Are government efforts geared toward making undersea oil extraction safer or cleaning up the damage done?

    Not really.   Pres. Obama's BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission instead seems primarily focused on ending America's "addiction to oil" and a disaster like this is a heel-clickingly delightful way to frame the debate to advance that agenda.  

    Given that the first order of business should be fixing the problem and cleaning it up, it is strange that 5 out of the 7 members have zero experience in either engineering or science - it's positively George Bush-ian in its anti-science agenda, except for Bush it would have been pro-oil people and for Obama it is people who hate the industry.   Neither is acceptable, though Bush's anti-science moments certainly got more attention from the science community.

    Granger Morgan, who is head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University and an Obama campaign contributor but apparently not aggressive enough for the panel, said there needs to be more technical expertise and "folks who aren't sort of already staked out" on oil issues.  Meaning they hate the industry and want to be in sound bites teeing off on Mr. Bean, or whoever the heck is running BP now.



    An environmental activist makes their living hating oil the same way the oil industry makes money loving it so the value of Frances Beinecke of the the Natural Resources Defense Council is questionable when the goal is to fix industry practices.   What are her credentials?  She is most famous for the now-debunked and never-peer-reviewed Alar apple scare 'study' which cost Washington state apple growers $125 million with its hysterical diatribes on a problem that did not exist.   Who did she blame for that fiasco?  The media, of course, not the NRDC's agenda-driven junk science.

    The commission does have a Republican, William K. Reilly, Environmental Protection Agency chief under President George H.W. Bush, so it can be called bi-partisan, and Reilly insisted on technical expertise clearly lacking on the panel itself - so he is getting information from a 66 member group of actual experts headed by Bob Bea, petroleum engineering professor at U.C. Berkeley. 

    Cherry Murray, Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, at least has engineering in her title, though her degree is in optics.  One environmental scientist, one engineer and 5 people with an anti-oil agenda are not a sign that the government is interested in fixing the problem as much as engaging in the usual political theater.

    Comments

    logicman
    Should The BP Oil Spill Be A Weapon In The Culture War?
    No!

    It is very tempting to see the Gulf blowout as a chance to promote a greener way of life, but the economic realities must be considered.

    Given the current economic model followed the world over, the first oil-producing country to stop producing oil will be the first oil-producing country to go bankrupt.

    I suggest it is time for the world's nations to deal with oil rig safety as they deal with aircraft safety.  Every oil rig on land or sea should have a 'black box' to record operations and conversations.  That black box should be remote from the rig and updated live by radio.
    Black boxes don't prevent accidents, but they allow us to know what went wrong and so reduce the chances of a similar accident.

    Copies of all test, safety and compliance-related documents should be lodged with an independent oil safety authority.  The oil safety authority should be empowered to shut down rigs in the same way that the air safety authorities can ground aircraft.

    A central international database should be kept of all oil-related accidents.  The public would be amazed to know how often an accident which happens to one oil or shipping company happens again and again to other companies - mainly, imo, because they don't share information.

    The oil industry in the 21st century needs to be BigOil 2.0®
    There should be limits on where and how deep in the ocean they are allowed to drill based upon seismic activity and also the ability to plug at that depth if things went wrong, and/or environmental impact if there was an oil leak.

    In other words, if they can't fix it when and if it breaks, then they simply shouldn't be allowed to drill there. It doesn't need a science degree to work that one out.

    Only fools would allow drilling without environmental impact probability, contingency and disaster recovery plans. It will take years to switch to alternative energy sources and in the meantime we need oil. Obama is behaving like a politician, surprise, surprise, and trying to divert attention away from the current reality which is MASSIVE oil leak, NO DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN, HUGE environmental impact and STILL NO FIX in sight.

    Hank
    I agree with you in a sense.   Prior to the 2004 election, John Kerry said gas taxes should be much higher because Europeans paid more - but when prices for gas were higher in 2004 those things came back to haunt him.    You can't claim to care about poor people and advocate higher costs for them with no benefit.

    No one in the presidential campaign disagreed about more drilling, though only Palin got ridiculed for it.   And Pelosi blaming Bush sounds a little convenient, since Democrats have controlled Congress since 2006.   

    We can't even really blame BP for this.  Some things cannot be tested numerically and this is drilling they were allowed to do by Democrats and Republicans.  BP has also been the darling of American environmentalists (Exxon is the one Americans are supposed to hate) so they had been given a free pass on drilling and global warming and basically had bad luck - it was going to happen to someone eventually.
    MarshallBarnes
    As an R&D engineer, I have had limited contact down in LA in regards to the current situation. Being able to blame BP for this should be based on the facts. Here is some reading for those interested:
    http://www.drillingahead.com/forum/topics/transocean-deepwater-horizon-1...


    http://www.metalsnews.com/Metals+News/BusinessInsider/The+Business+Insid... 9/10+Disastrous+Mistakes+BP+Made+Before+The+Deepwater+Horizon+Exploded++(BP).htm


    http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/06/08/oil.rig.warning.signs/index.html


    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/06/14/95844/text-of-letter-to-bp-ceo-ton...


    I believe these facts speak for themselves. Aside from that, I know from first hand accounts that BP had been interfering with spill clean-up operations, which is the area that my very limited involvement was concerned with. 

    As for using the spill as a weapon in the "culture war", there's an old saying - "Everything is political". That being the case, which Washington culture lives by, I'm not surprised by the events reported in the above article on the new commission. 

    Hank
    A federal judge has agreed that there is a certain amount of exaggeration being used to advance an agenda outside the core issues.
    A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama's deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
    Guess he's not getting a Supreme Court nomination any time soon.  Then again, he is not from New York anyway.
    He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don't support the blanket ban.
    Obama is not the first president to manipulate science expertise and he won't be the last - but I suspect there will be little outcry from the usual suspects.
    logicman
    A federal judge has agreed that there is a certain amount of exaggeration being used to advance an agenda outside the core issues.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?"
    Mandy_Rice-Davies