As British Petroleum’s Chief Tony Hayward sits on the hot seat before congress, more information is rapidly coming to light about questionable company decisions designed to be cost-effective at the expense of safety. Sure, accidents will happen, but in my opinion, no “what if…” questions were asked by any company executives. Clearly, no contingencies were planned or even envisioned for a catastrophic oil discharge of this magnitude. Using bizarre techniques such as firing rubber debris into a ruptured pipe has completely baffled me. It should be as simple as turning a valve, right? BP has been branded the scapegoat for this disaster and they should be. The financial responsibility to cleanup the mess and compensate all Gulf citizens effected falls on them as well. Tragically, as a result of the dysfunctional leadership of this corporation, 11 human beings were killed and thousands of square miles of ocean has been fouled by oil.
When corporate responsibility fails us, the government must step in at some point. The government agency responsible for managing the exploration and extraction of natural gas and oil is the Mineral Management Service (or MMS). So what’s their story? It appears almost the same as BP’s. Not a lot of “what if…” questions and not much in the way of contingencies and capture procedures for massive oil discharge into oceans. At this point, the oil cleanup and capturing operations should be directed by the MMS not BP, but if the MMS lacks sound procedures, what’s the point? According to Wikipedia, the MMS in 2009 offered Transocean several waivers over the environmental concerns of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other safety precautions. In September of 2009, the Deepwater Horizon rig was allowed to drill the deepest well in history at a vertical depth of 35,050 ft (10,680 m).
So what about us? As the consumers of petroleum products, what are we (myself included) doing to lessen our dependance on oil? How are we going to alter our driving habits? How will we embrace new transportation alternatives? Let’s face it, as long as the demand for oil is steady, supply efforts will continue unabated. This disaster presents a three-sided blame: the supplier (BP), the overseer (the MMS) and the consumer (us). Let’s hope to God we learn much from this tragedy and apply all its precious lessons to future energy exploration projects.