Drill Baby Drill?

6 05 2010

People have been asking me all week why I haven’t written about the oil spill, and my answer was that I just didn’t know what to say.  I don’t have enough command of the issue to joke about it, and while I would love to just take up the popular liberal stance on the issue and write a diatribe about how disgusting offshore drilling is (See?!  See what happens when you don’t listen to us?), I would just be regurgitating other people’s opinions.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone really enjoys the idea of sticking a big machine in the water to pump oil out of the ground, especially after what happened in Alaska.  Obviously, if we didn’t have to do it, that would be preferable.  And I’m not saying we necessarily do have to do it– but I wanted to learn about the economic aspects of offshore drilling before committing my didactic opinion to the web.

At the beginning of this week, I found myself volunteering to write about the spill for HuffPost, only from the perspective of the fishermen and shrimpers who have essentially lost their jobs.  I conducted a bunch of interviews with men in coastal Louisiana whose livelihoods depend on the ability to fish in the Gulf.  I thought maybe it would give me a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the issue, since I’m constantly surrounded by like-minded liberals in D.C.  Here’s the article I ended up writing on the subject:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/05/gulf-coast-fishermen-join_n_564642.html

For those of you who won’t click on it, I wrote about a fisherman and a shrimper, Scott Leger and Rowdy Schouest, who have basically been financially screwed by the oil spill.  They talk about how huge numbers of fish and shrimp are going to die, and the 15,000 boats will all be congregating in one little lake to fish for the remaining bunch that survived.  Both of them have families they’re trying to support, and both of them are really afraid of the consequences this spill will have for the seafood industry and the Gulf Coast environment in general.  But here are the final two paragraphs of the article, which may surprise you:

Despite the huge hit the seafood industry has taken as a result of the oil spill, Schouest says a decision to stop Gulf Coast drilling would be even more detrimental to those who depend on it for a second income.

“We all rely on that oil revenue,” he said. “When there’s a bad season, we go work for the oil field. They were the only ones in this economy that were continuing to build. If it wouldn’t have been for the oil field after Katrina, we wouldn’t have had jobs through that rough winter. If you stop drilling, the oil spill wins.”

“If you stop drilling, the oil spill wins.”  This is obviously a very problematic comment, but the point is, there are some major economic consequences of discontinuing offshore drilling for a whole lot of people, and there’s also the whole “foreign dependence” issue, which I don’t know enough about to elaborate on.

My personal preference would obviously be to stop drilling if we could entirely switch over to clean energy.  But I don’t think the issue is so cut-and-dry.  I think it’s always easy for financially stable people to rail on about how to save the environment, but I want to hear a few suggestions about how to save the environment without canceling out the incomes of millions of struggling people.  Any takers?

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16 responses

6 05 2010
bros

how about not letting the industry write their own rules, for one? from npr, the thoroughly contemptible Halliburton is probably at the root of this with their shoddy cementing.

excerpt from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126536457

“Cementing contributed to half of the 39 U.S. blowouts between 1992 and 2006, according to a report that Danenberger co-authored in 2007. After that, the government pushed to change cementing standards, but let the industry write them. A cementing job done by Halliburton is also implicated in an Australian oil rig disaster last year that gushed oil into the Timor Sea for 74 days.”

my guess is that with most dangerous industries whose fallout impacts millions of people, it has to begin with stricter standards, and laws not written by oil lobbyists. similarly, they should not be getting out of punitive damages, like they are trying to argue. (if they clean it up they arent liable for anything else). if we had better industry safety standards and clear unavoidable and potentially crippling punishments, I dont think halliburton would be doing their shitty cement jobs with BP’s sign-off.

6 05 2010
skooter

“if we had better industry safety standards and clear unavoidable and potentially crippling punishments, I dont think halliburton would be doing their shitty cement jobs with BP’s sign-off.”

– Right, because Halliburton employees, whose livelihoods depend on their workmanship, go out there and are like “Man, I’m tired of doing this right. Let’s screw this one up! Maybe we’ll even get lucky and destroy the gulf.” and BP tells them to go for it. Utterly ridiculous.

Who exactly would you have write the rules/standards? That’s like saying you would have somebody write rules regarding medical procedures who has never been to medical school. It just doesn’t make sense. “The federal government doesn’t own any drilling rigs. Everyone with the expertise to do these things is in private industry. No one in the federal government has ever built a containment dome. No one in the federal government has ever attempted to use undersea dispersants, or designed the “BOP on top of the BOP” solution that is being considered.” You have to have experts in the field to design regulations and implement policy that is both effective and sensible, not Washington bureaucrats who would never dream of stepping foot on one of these rigs and living the life of a rough neck for even a little while.

Also, punitive damages and actual damages are two different things. If they clean it up, that doesn’t mean they aren’t liable for the actual damages that the thousands and thousands of gulf coast residents will be due for the blows to their livelihoods. Punitive damages add to that, a legal spanking if you will, to remind them we won’t tolerate this type of behavior. You don’t think they will have taken enough of a hit from the billion+ dollar clean up effort or all the bad press they’re getting from this thing? If actual damages set people right, what is the need for punitive? Simply because it’s the American way?

Another point, before jumping on your high horse about Halliburton, why don’t you educate yourself about exactly what cementing is, and avoid regurgitating NPR like you or they know what they’re talking about. Living in Louisiana, I have a highly vested interest in everything going on in the gulf right now, following the updates from the people actually in the field throughout the day. Nobody knows what happened out there, and the sad truth is we may never know. I’ve heard relief valves. I’ve heard cementing. I’ve heard human error. The point is nobody knows. So for you and NPR to take the statistics you have and jump to these conclusions is asinine. “Cementing contributed to half of the U.S. blowouts….” So if half of auto accidents after 12:30am are caused my drunk drivers, are we assume that EVERY driver that gets in a wreck is drunk? Its faulty reasoning. Yes, “Halliburton did the cementing on this well. No one knows if cementing was the problem. Halliburton was cementing wells before Dick Cheney was born. There are thousands of men and women, who have engineered well cementing for decades and all over the world for Halliburton. They are fine people who had nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq. They are just good engineers who make difficult things happen well. IF the cementing turns out to have been part of the problem, it won’t have a single thing to do with all the reasons you hate Halliburton.”

Lastly, if you’re going to post an article, read it. “Still, experts say that even if cementing contributed, it was only one of a series of failures that resulted in an explosion that killed 11 people and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.” Yet you say Halliburton is at the root of this. Use some common sense. Your article says some 20 hours before the accident, Halliburton was pumping cement into the well. Have you ever been around cement drying on a hot summer day? How long does it take? Can we expect cement a mile down and under the ocean to dry faster? I think not. Your article says oil was not supposed to be flowing yet.

Nobody wanted this to happen, specifically BP and “evil old” Halliburton. But speculation and uninformed gesticulating isn’t solving or helping anything.

6 05 2010
bros

It wasn’t my article skooter. I suppose we should let execs from Goldman continue writing wall street regulations and working at the SEC since that is working out so well, right? It makes perfect sense to let the oil lobbyists write the rules. your logic is so stupid it’s not even worth arguing about.

also, I happen to have been born and raised in alaska, in a town where my friends and family were directly affected by exxon’s negligence, and where the environmental and economic reverberations are STILL apparent, 20 years later. After it happened, I didn’t feel like giving exxon a blow job, nor BP, so I’ll let you continue at that task. Punitive damages should be applied in instances of gross negligence, and not as a legal spanking. it should be big enough to hurt, a real ass raping, if you will, so they don’t forget.

take your issue up with NPR and with Danberger’s report if you think its reasoning is flawed, not with me. I suppose you get most of your news from Fox and the Drudge report. it’s enough for me to hear that halliburton’s cement work was blamed in another ecological disaster. BTW: “Cementing contributed to half of the U.S. blowouts….” So if half of auto accidents after 12:30am are caused my drunk drivers, are we assume that EVERY driver that gets in a wreck is drunk? Its faulty reasoning.”
what the hell kind of GD statement is this? this makes 0 sense.

I can’t even believe you aren’t ashamed and hiding in the corner flogging yourself with a knotted rope for your idiotic defense of halliburton in 2010-unless you work for them and have been saddled with the task of trolling the internet doing google searches for halliburton oil spill and doing reverse PR for them.

6 05 2010
Jme

Comparing medical professionals to Halliburton is absurd. The problem with massive (not to mention corrupt, as the available data suggests that Halliburton is) corporations, is that there is no bottom-to-top accountability. Those individuals cementing those well were mandated to do so in a specific way by the suits in their corporate headquarters who care only about profit margin. That is their sole responsibility, as mandated by their public shareholders agreement. All of the information so far suggests that the cementing job was not done properly, as was the case with countless other wells worked on by Halliburton. The difference between those people cementing the wells and a doctor, is that when shit hits the fan, Halliburton as a corporation is blamed, not the individuals. If a doctor fucks up during a surgery, he does not get to pass the blame up to the board of directors at the hospital. The blood is literally and figuratively on his hands.

That being said, I still do not blame Hallliburton if the result of the ongoing investigations conclude that their cement job was to blame for the accident. If that does turn out to be the case, then it is the fault of our federal government for failing to properly regulate safety practices for offshore oil rigs. Federal law is very clear in stating that the only responsibility of a private company is profit maximization. Regulation of how those profits are maximized is up to the government. When our joke of a system allows for lobbyists from corrupt corporations such as Halliburton and big oil to call the shots, then the system itself has failed. Of course they want to cut costs wherever possible. Again, that is their obligation to their shareholders. For the government to allow that to happen at the expense of the environment and the livelihoods of those people affected by this disaster is despicable.

Our federal government is so bogged down by lobbyists and special interest groups that it is only capable of working in an ex-post-facto manner. Foresight has become impossible. If those in government was not too busy getting lubed up by shitty lobbyists, then they may have had time to sit and actually do their jobs – PROTECT THE INTEREST OF THE PEOPLE THE REPRESENT, NOT JUST THE SHITTY CORPORATIONS THAT FEED THEM GRAPES AND WINE WHILE GIVING THEM HANDJOBS. Someone may have thought – “Hey, I am a senator represent a gulf coast state. What are the dangers we face that could cripple our economy and leave ghost towns in their wake, and what could I do to prevent these catastrophic events from happening. Hmmmm… lets see… floods, hurricanes…. OIL SPILLS! Now that is one that we may actually be able to do something about!!! Let’s see, I am going to draft legeslation which mandates that cementing of wells is done properly. Also included will be a mandate which requires all oil rigs to have a shut off valve in the case of an explosion, just like every international offshore oil rig. It seems reasonable enough seeing as they only cost half a million dollars on top of a cost of 10s of millions to install a rig. Plus they could prevent a spill which could dump twice as much oil into one of the most fragile ecosystems in North America as the Exxon Valdez. YES! LET’S DOT IT!”

Oh and for the record – after the passage of the Oil Pollution Act of 1989 (another brilliant example of our ex-post-facto shit ass system, OPA was passes months after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Because the law was passed after the spill, they were not subject to any of the act’s rules YAY!!), whoever is found to be the responsible party in an oil spill is, in fact, responsible for both clean up costs and punitive damages. Because there is debate as to who is at fault, this will inevitably lead to years of litigation between Halliburton and BP while those affected by the spill sit and wait to be compensated. Maybe it is time for you to get a little be more informed…

6 05 2010
BS

very simply scooter, as i posted below. 0.16% of how much they make a year doesn’t really mean anything to them.

If you applied that to a person making 100k a year, that would be a fine of $160. Which is a good fine if I took your parking spot and you had me towed, but not a good fine if I burned your house down and took a shit in your mailbox.

6 05 2010
skooter

@ Bros: I’ll try to dumb things down for you so hopefully you can actually understand my analogies and everything else I’m saying. The amount of illogical, uninformed, self-serving rambling in your posts is mind boggling. You supposedly take facts from your articles and draw your conclusions. Yet, your facts don’t support your conclusions. (but then again, my logic is so stupid, what do I know?)

To address some of your issues:

I never said it was your article. I just asked that if you were going to post it, you actually read it (and anything else you reply to for that matter). So far you’ve mentioned Halliburton, lobbyists, and the industry making the regulations. Make up your damn mind. My response was to regulations of the industry as a whole. (I hope you can grasp this)

This is your original post, “how about not letting the industry write their own rules, for one? from npr, the thoroughly contemptible Halliburton is probably at the root of this with their shoddy cementing.”

My reply to you is not directed at letting Halliburton control oil regs. My reply, and this is @JME too, is saying that you must let industry professionals (engineers, scientists, etc [not fat cat lobbyists or upper managements]) make the regs for the industry. It makes no sense to let Washington bureaucrats, who know nothing of the ins and outs of oil exploration and production, legislate on this without any kind of industry influence and expertise. You must have somebody with legitimate knowledge of a matter make rules, not somebody like you or me, who know nothing of the actual interworkings of this stuff, and would only be regulating on desired end results.

Your article said the cementing of the well MAY have been an issue. It didn’t say that it was. And IF it was A factor, it was one of many that had to fail to cause this disaster. For you to draw that the “contemptible Halliburton” PROBABLY is responsible is simply absurd. Partially to blame, perhaps. But to say they are at root of all this (unless you mean their cementing was done on the ocean floor) is simply an illogical conclusion drawn by an obviously angry and uninformed person.

My car accident analogy (sorry that got by you there) goes like this. Halliburton was responsible for 1/2 the blowouts in a certain timeframe. And from that, you say they’re probably responsible for this one. Putting it another way: Half of the time, when X event happens, A is to blame. Which logic tells us, the other half of the time A is not to blame. But the text time X happens, you say it was probably A, with nothing to back that up. Sure it could have been A, but it’s just as likely that it wasn’t.

I still don’t understand why you think BP and/or halliburton wouldn’t be affected by this. This will affect them for years to come and will garner stricter laws. Spills like this, don’t only cost them oil, they cost PR and ungodly amounts of money. Yeh, perhaps money wise, it’s a drop in the bucket, but trust me, they don’t want this to happen just as much as we don’t and probably more. This is their perfect storm, worst nightmare, whatever you want to call it. If they have to pull out of the gulf, it’s more than a drop. It may be for different reasons, financial rather than environmental, but trust me, BP, Halliburton, other oil companies gain nothing from being lazy.

I think what I have enjoyed most of all though, is how quickly you categorize me. “I suppose you get your news from Fox and the Drudge report.” (To the depths with me if I do) What does that have to do with anything? Not that you deserve a response, but I read the news, plain and simple. I read as many sites about this as I can because each one is going to give you a different perspective and hopefully some information you’re not getting elsewhere. I try to keep an open mind about most things, because I’m fully aware there are things I don’t know everything or anything about. This is why the debates I have had with Laura actually have substance to them. They’re not mindless opinion based off of a few facts we read and jump to conclusions over. We don’t always agree on everything, but at least our discussions are educated and don’t end in anger. (see what I did there? I’m not a halliburton googling troll)

In closing, I’d just like you to know it has been fun. What with your blow jobs and anal rape, you really do paint a picture. (you stay classy San Diego). I do however apologize for asking you to make sense with your postings. It was my mistake and I take it back. Stay angry. Stay uninformed. Keep jumping to irrational conclusions. And most of all, be sure to stay loud and aggressive when making your point, because after all that’s how you really win a debate. I’ll get back to my corner now. My rope is calling.

6 05 2010
Ben

Cement “drying” is actually a hydraulic reaction that hardens due to a chemical reaction with water, ergo, underwater it will dry just as fast (if not faster) as above ground. It’s a process that takes days (certainly a LOT longer than 20 hrs) to really get to design strengths. I don’t know anything about the spill, but I do know something about cement.
Yesssssssssssssssss.

Oh, and we should definitely change all forms of energy to green, renewable, and otherwise awesome. Oh and just to be clear, oil is (relatively) unrelated to solar/wind, so I’m talking about some synthetic fuels and EVs! Regarding jobs, just look at Detroit, in place of several failed parts manufacturers are EV manufacturers and other up and coming technologies. Out with the old and in with the new!

6 05 2010
OKinAK

Skooter, have you not read about the MMS (under the Bush administration) removing the requirement for acoustic regulators because the half million dollar cost was too excessive? BP uses them in the North Sea and off the coast of Norway. If they had used one here, there would not be an uncontained spill. I don’t think there is room to defend either the MMS or BP on this one. So I would say that federal regulators do (and should) play an important role in overseeing drilling activities.

6 05 2010
BS

I am not against offshore drilling as a concept (just like I am not against nuclear energy). It is very clear that were utterly unprepared for something they should have been 100% prepared for. Their #1 plan, was to take a big metal box and throw it on top of the spill. Their best plan is the same plan I would have come up with if someone woke me up at 3 AM and asked me how to fix it. Not only that, they still have to build the metal boxes!

In China, people would get executed for gross negligence like this. But in the US, they are going to end up fight for decades to limit the liability they have and will get off paying some amount that at the end of the day is not important to them.

Their lawyers are already going around the coast trying to get people to sign off their suing rights.

As an example, the exxon valdez cost exxon 500 million dollars. This was a reduced liability that exxon fought for TWENTY YEARS. The total cost of the spill was estimated at FIVE BILLION

Exxon made $300 Billion Revenue in 2009. 500 million is 0.16% of their total yearly revenue. It will come up as a minor expense in their year end reports.

http://www.nowpublic.com/environment/exxon-valdez-oil-spill-settlement-exxon-pay-507-5-million

6 05 2010
bros

no, their #1 plan initially was the “there will be blood” plan, whereby they wanted to siphon off the spewing well by drilling another well nearby and connecting to the leaking on horizontally. I almost died when i saw that plan-and the fact that it could take months to accomplish. I thought, wait, where have I seen that? oh yeah! in the 1800’s! I drink your milkshake!

6 05 2010
District Ramblings

Honestly guys, please try to reign in the hostility. This is a forum for friendly debate, mmk?

6 05 2010
skooter

sorry

6 05 2010
bros

skooter, you should be sorry. how pathetic that on this thread, of all threads, and probably the least controversial she has ever posted, she has to say something about being civil. you are the one who inexplicably came out swinging with the personal attacks, vehemently defending halliburton, of all corporations, to the detriment of actually facing any factual information that contradicted your myopic world view on politics and journalism.

I did indeed read the npr article and countless other articles all stating the same exact thing. what planet are you on that NPR is journalistically suspect? go read the la times or the WSJ if you dont like NPR. they all say the same thing. I have been accused of being bad at math, but never reading comprehension. they aren’t in the habit of printing speculation without doing their research.

you have clearly failed analogy class. the article never said Halliburton was responsible for half of the accidents. cementing was. halliburton was not mentioned in reference to the actual count of accidents, just the Timur sea one, if you read the quoted text at all. again, those arent my statistics. they are taken from a report written by a scientist (i know Fox is afraid of those) you used one analogy in your first vitriolic post, and another one on the same topic in your second post, ostensibly in an effort to clarify, which you have not at all.

“So far you’ve mentioned Halliburton, lobbyists, and the industry making the regulations. Make up your damn mind. ” these are the same people. period. revolving door. a major political concept you possibly have heard of. this wasnt confusion. this is my exact point. people like dick cheney work for halliburton, stay financially connected to them, and then become VP of the united states, and go to war where halliburton profits majorly. this would be an example of the fact that lobbyists and washington law makers, corporations, and industry regulators are usually the same people and are all in bed together. this isnt a revolutionary opinion. its fairly prosaic. you should be used to this given fox being nothing but a lobbying organization for the republican party and a mouthpiece for teabagging losers while ostensibly being the ‘media.’

I don’t know what it was about my post, since it wasnt directed at you to begin with, that stuck in your graw so badly, but you are definitely the one who flew off the handle and tried to portray quoting 7 lines from NPR as gross misinformation and ‘uninformed gesticulating’ (which I will assume you meant conjecturing, since it would be near impossible to assign gesticulating tendencies to a commenter in an online text environment’. you were the first to launch the personal attacks and characterizations on something not even remotely controversial, and accusing me of being angry and loud in my condemnation of halliburton. im sorry, I must have missed when they became a pitiable whipping boy deserving of protection, instead of a legitimatly contemptible organization, and the subject of countless books and exposes, this cementing thing being just the cherry on top of a storied past of criminal exploitation and negligence. I really don’t get at all what your issue is. its completely bizarre. what a dumb fight to pick, of all topics.

6 05 2010
skooter

Out of respect for Laura, this is over.

Putting all that aside, if anyone would like a first-hand account of what went on on the rig when it blew, here you go:

http://www.marklevinshow.com/Article.asp?id=1790422&spid=32364

6 05 2010
leverman

Most major accidents like this are not due to one act of negligence or one piece of equipment failing. It is rather a lot of things going wrong all at the same time, a series of unfortunate events if you will.

Halliburton has a bad name for some, partly due to its contractor status in iraq and association with Dick Cheney. This should never get confused with the thousands of Halliburton hands who support their families working 7, 14 and 28 day shifts in a very difficult environment. They are as a group very good guys who are very well qualified who work very hard.

It might be politically correct to be against drilling offshore and our dependence on oil, but is everyone ready to stop driving cars taking airplane trips and using plastics and a thousand other products made from petroleum? I kind of doubt it.

My father was a geophysicist for Shell Oil Company who was a bit of a pioneer in discovering oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. I grew up in a nice house and got to go to good schools because of that. Shell is no different than BP. The accident could have happened to any company. The oil companies themslves typiclaly do not control the drilling processes. In this case it was Transocean.

To be sure, I think for an accident like this to happen lost of people probably messed up. I listed to the very interesting tape Scooter put up, but it doe not convince me the cementing operation was done right. I do not accept the “act of god” defense. There are wells like this everywhere that experience similar pressures. The process here failed.

Was it Halliburton? Was it the Cameron blow out preventer (that wa probaly made 20 miles from my house)? Was it Transocean? Did the BP engineers mess up? Should our govt have had a regulation as some South American countries have requiring special remote switches for the BOPs? I bet legislation for that passes soon.

What needs to happen? We need to continue to drill while we wean ourselves more aggressively off of oil and find greener energy. We need to investigate this accident and put in greater safeguards. We need Congress to take a balaced approach with oil companies and encourage (or require) them with their billions of dollars of profits to invest in research and development for other energy sources.

Like Laura wrote in her article, shrimpers are upset their livelihoods are being threatened by the spill. Very few shrimpers, however, want to stop drilling. Its just too important to our region. Its important to our national security. Its important to everyone who drives a car or flies in an airplane. The most amazing thing about this incident to me is that it never happened before. It is a very dangerous industry even when its done safe.

6 05 2010
OKinAK

It actually did happen before off the coast of Mexico. It seems like an acoustic regulator would make this process somewhat failsafe. To think that we don’t need oil production during the transition away from extracted fossil fuels would be as naive as thinking that we don’t need to transition away from fossil fuels. So I agree with your position that Congress needs to take a balanced approach.

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