Tuesday, June 1, 2010

BP Has New Plan to Distract Us From How Screwed We Are


As I reluctantly predicted last week, BP's "top kill" effort to stop the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico didn't work. The inescapable conclusion is that offshore oil drilling technology is far more advanced than offshore oil spill stopping technology.

But wait! BP has a new plan to keep us from seeing this spill as an inevitable overdose of our ongoing addiction to oil! Put down that clean energy & climate legislation and check this out:
[BP Managing Director] Bob Dudley said there was a greater chance of success with this operation than with the "top kill" procedure that was tried last week.

"This is a better chance, definitely better. We're not working with those high pressures and pumping that we weren't sure we were able to even connect up. The guys that are running the robots, this is something that they know how to do. The cutting is probably the critical piece. We may have to try a couple of blades to do it. But from an engineering sense, this is much more straightforward. 
If this plan was really so much better than the "top kill" scheme, wouldn't BP have done this a lot sooner? Of course. Because this plan has one major drawback -- it inherently has to make the gusher a lot worse before it has any chance at all of making it better:
But a potential problem exists if the dome doesn’t work: A clean cut on the riser pipe would mean even more oil coming out than before.

"Well, there will be a little bit more oil, somewhere between zero and 20 percent more," said Dudley.

"Well, 20 percent is not insignificant, if thousands and thousands of barrels of oil are pouring out of there," said [CBS News Anchor Harry] Smith. 
Maybe it's time for our national debate to shift away from the gusher itself, which has very little chance of being stopped until a relief well is drilled months from now. Maybe it's time to talk about ways to ease our need for drilling in the first place -- more efficient cars, plug-in electric vehicles, and smart growth. Because maybe, just maybe, all these plans from BP are no more than parlor tricks to make it look like BP isn't powerless to stop this spill.
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