Thursday, May 20, 2010

 

Political Mayhem Thursday: The Oil Spill

No sooner did the Obama administration announce its support for additional deep-water drilling than a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico started spewing oil.

What is the lesson from this? Should we stop building deep-water rigs? Is it a mistake to encourage drilling at all at this point?

We don't know what environmental damage this is causing, and we may not know for decades. This oil may well have sunk to the bottom of the Gulf, in fact, where it will affect the very bottom of the food chain there. We do not know what the ultimate result will be.

Many people I know think that we simply need more oil, and this is the cost of that need. Others believe that if we force a reduction of consumption we will finally move towards a fundamental change that needs to happen.

So, what should the lesson be, if there is one? If we ever develop an energy policy, what should it be?

Comments:
Everyone always says we should reduce consumption but that's even more of a pipe dream than finding more oil (no pun intended).

Incidentally, I was really surprised to learn that something like 1.5-2 million gallons of oil are spilled into the ocean every year, just in smaller quantities (usually).

In short, I think all this talk about changing things up is just sound and fury, signifying nothing.
 
Drilling isn't necessarily the problem. Yes, if we weren't drilling offshore this wouldn't have happened, but we could say the same thing about any natural disaster. Resource gathering has risks, this was one of them.

But there were ways of minimizing it. Ways that BP didn't follow because they were cutting corners. And now that it's time for the lawsuits to flow in, supposedly the law's way of dealing with negligence, Congress and its patsies on both sides of the aisle are working to limit liability.

This could've gone two ways: either we could've let the market handle it (the nominally conservative solution) by removing liability caps and making it so expensive BP found it cheaper to comply with security regulations, or we should step up inspection and enforcement to make sure that companies comply with sensible security regulations.

But letting them not comply with regulations and then lessening the financial burden on them for screwing up only hurts everyone else and lets them walk away unscathed.
 
THE PROBLEM IS THAT WE CALL THINGS LIKE THIS "POLLUTION," BUT WE SHOULD CALL IT PROGRESS. OR JOBS. OR GROWTH.

COWS PRODUCE MORE POLLUTION THAN THIS WILL. GROWING LITTLE VEGETABLES POLLUTES MORE. AND RUSH IS RIGHT-- THAT OIL IS TOTALLY NATURAL, IT WAS IN THE GROUND. WE NEED OIL FOR OUR ECONOMY. WE WILL BE FINE WITHOUT SHRIMP, BUT WITHOUT OIL IT DOES NOT WORK.
 
I heart you, crazy all-caps guy. Though you do seem somehow slightly less crazy this time. Is it the same all-caps guy?
 
He didn't sign it with his usual tagline. Also, it is a bit restrained. I think the real ALL-CAPS GUY would not merely have agreed with Rush, but stated that the oil will help clean up the ocean because it will kill those dirty, polluting dolphins and sea turtles, making it safe for human industry once again.
 
Having property on the eastern Gulf of Mexico (Tampa Bay) this has a direct impact on the future of many Floridians. Thus far, we have some of the most pristine beaches in the country and spills such as this threaten not only the sea and bird eco systems along the shores but also the livelihoods of the coastal (non-snow bird) residents who provide services to the tourista's.

Do I think we should stop drilling in the Gulf; not necessarily. I don't think more or less drilling will result in our greedy, "me first", society to change their ways enough to reduce our need for oil. Drilling must be done safely, without the corner cutting.

The liability tied to such an accident needs to not be limited as it appears to be now. What is the incentive for the oil drilling and services companys to do it right if they don't have to pay the real cost for their mistakes. Those who live and work along the coast have to pay the cost.
 
I will not be fine with out SHRIMP. I like to eat them, along with oysters and scallops and crawfish.
 
Also an apropos topic of today: Libertarian son of famous libertarian says standard libertarian thing and gets flamed for it.

I don't get it: Rand Paul (son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul) said what is a fairly standard talking point for most libertiarns: government should not regulate private business. The proper response to segregation was to have conscientious white people stop patronizing businesses that segregate, and private businesses will fall in line.

It has its own internal logic to it; it is a perfectly valid viewpoint.

Its soundness is called in to question; the power of law to effect social change more rapidly than winning the hearts and minds is well-documented. Social justice is as valid an aim of law as any. The state's/local rights talk was a key feature in conservative opposition to the Civil Rights Act, much the same discussion that's being played out today on any number of issues involving governmental regulation (including the one that is the topic of this post).

Libertarianism is a political philosophy, and begins with a very first-principles approach. One of those principles is that private, rather than public, solutions are universally or nearly-universally preferred (I've even heard some libertarians argue that private, for-hire police forces are ideal).

So you can't fault a libertarian for sticking with what he believes. Rand Paul's statement is in that regard innocuous and unsurprising. It is philosophically valid, and a disagreement with that statement must not engage with it on the level of, "Oh, he's a racist!" He's very clearly not a racist; he just has a boneheaded idea of how to solve certain racial problems.

The real question people should be asking is not "is what Rand Paul said bad? Does it make him a bad person?" They should be asking, "is libertarianism a sound philosophy if it leads one to conclude that an automatic rejection of government regulation of private interests is to be avoided if there is an appropriate private means of action?"

Which leads me back in to this post: either you must have an appropriate and effective, if somewhat slower and more costly in the short term, private solution (lawsuits against BP for negligence, gross negligence and non-compliance) or a much more effective and efficient public regulation that nevertheless is more heavy-handed, and opens up the possibility of abuse by those in power. Remove both and bad stuff happens.
 
Man, Lane you had me. I was with you. I was 100% on board. And then this happened:

"a much more effective and efficient public regulation that nevertheless is more heavy-handed, and opens up the possibility of abuse by those in power."

I mean, I agree that heavy-handed regulation is an option, but the concept that it is more effective or efficient is a bit of a stretch. I assume, based on the way the government handles pretty much everything, that as we ramp up regulation it will be extremely inefficient, come at a remarkably high cost, and barely work.

But, hey, I like the positivity.

I support offshore drilling. I support it because we currently don't have a single viable, affordable energy alternative that can service the world's energy needs on a global scale. We need oil. We need more of it. Ergo, drilling for it is necessary. Someday we will have alternatives that make sense, and then we can stop. Until then, demanding that we stop drilling is sticking your head in the sand and acting like if you pretend there is no problem then it will simply go away.

And the people that say we need to make oil more expensive so it will force us to move to renewables haven't thought this through. They are usually liberals, mostly hippies, who have watched Al Gore's lecture series one too many times. Here is a question for those folks, who gets hurt the worst when the cost of oil goes up? Its not me. Gas costs $3 a gallon, I'm still buying it. $4, I'm probably good. Nope, it is the poor. So, yes, lets raise the cost of oil so we can hit the poor right where it counts, at the pump and in their bills.

We need better safety regulations, we need better enforcement, and we need less limits on liability. But we also need to accept that some of this is the cost of doing business. Lets be big enough adults to say, "this stinks, and we should try to avoid it, but you gotta crack a few eggs..."

Finally, imagine if president Bush had announced that he was lifting limits on offshore drilling. Imagine that two weeks later a giant oil spill had occurred in the gulf of mexico. Then imagine that Bush had been the largest single recepient of contributions from the company responsible for the oil spill. Now imagine the outrage on every major news outlet (save Fox), MSNBC, CNN, etc. Heck, Michael Moore would probably do one of his goofy movies about it.

Now ask yourself why Obama has gotten a free pass for all of this when all of that is true about him.

Oh, and I don't think Obama should be blamed, he had nothing to do with it. I just think it is interesting to think about why that is. Where did all the "big oil" blah, blah, blah hippies go all the sudden? Shouldn't Olbermman and Maddow be going off on Obama every night? Shouldn't Anderson Cooper be standing on the beach in Corpus looking into the camera saying, "where are you Mr. Obama? Where are you?"
 
I meant that regulations are typically more effective at getting results because if you don't follow them you get shut down immediately. That tends to spur action faster than, "if you hurt people you'll get sued."

I think both parties are laying low (and probably leaning on their associated media outlets) to keep things hush-hush because both parties are very, very deep in the energy company's pockets. Energy is big business, one of the biggest, and almost recession-proof, so politicians tread lightly because those are some sensitive toes, especially when we're in a recession with record-high unemployment. I was actually a little surprised that Obama was vociferous in his criticism of Massey, which was sort of the same type of incident. He did have some "harsh-ish" words for BP, but not nearly as strong as I would've liked.

All in all, I'd say we should use these as pristine examples of why we need to clean up labor in America, remove some of the corruption, and expose just how deep the corruption runs in Washington with regard to powerful and rich multinational companies.

Also, RRL, does it surprise you that a commie is pro-labor and pro-industry in some regards? Solidarity for the workers requires workers, after all. Hippies, as you would call them, don't work. They have trust funds and marijuana.
 
Lane, no matter how many disagreements we may have had, I have never put you in the hippie category. You use too many complete sentences to be a hippie.
 
RRL at 4:23 p.m.-- I second that emotion.
 
I think it is fine to drill, but long term we cannot depend upon oil as we now do. An economy dependent upon oil is about as sustainable as one dependent upon an automotive industry.
 
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.

WHAT IS OIL MADE OF? DEAD DINOSAURS. AND PLANTS. AND STUFF.

AND WHAT ARE LIBERAL "EVOLUTIONIST" HIPPIES OBSESSED WITH FINDING? DINOSAUR BONES. AND PLANTS. AND STUFF.

THEY SAY THAT THIS STUFF IS NATURAL WHEN IT'S ALL HARD. BUT WHEN IT'S A LIQUID, THEY ARE ALL MEAN ABOUT IT. THOSE STATE-OF-MATTER SUPREMACISTS!

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT BIRDS WITH OIL ON THEM? WHAT ARE BIRDS GOOD FOR? EATING! IN WHAT FORM ARE THEY GOOD FOR EATING? FRIED! AND, OH, WHAT DO WE FRY BIRDS IN? OIL!!! IT'LL JUST MAKE THE PROCESS MORE EFFICIENT! BESIDES, IT'LL CREATE A WHOLE NEW FIELD OF JOBS SOMEHOW.

REPEAL HEALTHCARE!!!


-ALL CAPS GUY


P.S. THE THIRD COMMENTER ON THIS POST IS NOT "ALL CAPS GUY". HE IS MERELY A GUY WHO POSTS IN ALL CAPS. HIS LEFT-WING VIEWS ARE POISONING DEMOCRACY.
 
We fry birds in VEGETABLEor CANOLA OIL not CRUDE OIL. Big difference in the taste!
 
If you're not frying your vegetables in Quaker State 10W-40, why even bother?
 
we need to love our mother earth more heartily. the sadness that envelopes our mother is dark and sad. we have oppressed even the minerals, and now they leap out to attack us. the only answer is to love the minerals and let them live as they will, deep within the earth (our mother) undisturbed. then and only then will the oneness be achieved.
 
I guess it had to happen-- no-caps guy.
 
Oddly enough, I've been on an energy seminar all week.

Given that there is no immediate replacement for oil to power the range of internal combustion engines in our lives, we are bound to it for now. Bringing on the electric car more fully would be a great thing for the coal industry, the primary source of electricity that would power the car, which we can debate is better or worse than the oil industry.

The site I was most impressed by was the nuclear site. Professional, clean, exceptional commitment.

And so I'd agree with one of the directors of the Chicago council on global energy, and the CEO of Excelon (who spoke to us at the plant) that if the oil and coal industries were regulated in the same way the nuclear industry is, we might come closer to the true cost of those energy sources because they'd include externalities like the deaths and the spills and we wouldn't have nearly as many.
 
Septimus, that is an excellent point. I have some sympathies to nuclear energy, too, and the larger point about externalities is strong.

Of course, we may want to avoid replicating the Vermont experience-- they built their nuclear reactor out of wood.
 
Ha -- thanks for that link. As a pseudo-Vermonter myself, I love it. It's certainly the state that's pushing the envelope on solar (despite not having THAT much sun), and is doing some good things with biomass.

I'm sure you saw that, but in that old story it would be important to note that it was a cooling tower that was made of wood, not a reactor. There's not much dangerous in a cooling tower -- a tertiary loop that contains some slightly radioactive water (ok...that's still SLIGHTLY worrying). But if it was made from hearty Vermont timber, I'd be ok with it!
 
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