Quote of the week

The response to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, says Little Miss Attila, is driven almost entirely by emotion:

[T]he “thinking,” if you can call it that, is that drilling is icky, and since icky drilling led to an accident, we are better off not drilling at all. (And if you don’t think it’s the ick factor, please consider the overlap between those who are scared of guns and those who are scared of petroleum development that they can see, or know about, or suspect might be going on. The difference being that they tend to avoid owning firearms, but have no compunction about filling up their tanks with fossil fuels a couple of times a week. The theory, I suppose, being that gasoline appears magically at the filling station, ready for our consumption — perhaps driven by the same benevolent forces that place meat at the butcher’s section at Ralph’s without any animals getting killed.)

And yet the same people who push for less drilling don’t seem to hold back on taking road trips, or on consuming foods that weren’t locally produced (or were locally produced — but with tractors, seeders and harvesters, and then brought to market in trucks).

My own thinking, not entirely unemotional: I hope somebody figures out from this that minimum safety requirements tend to be, well, minimal, and that spending a few extra dollars up front is far preferable to spending several million on cleanup.


  1. Brian J. »

    7 May 2010 · 12:03 pm

    I don’t know how minimum the safety requirements are, but if the minimum dictated by the government would cost $200 million on each well to prevent a $1 billion dollar tragedy from occurring, it’s not cost effective to apply the minimum to all wells.

    I haven’t seen anything that describes the costs of the current minimum or the minimum after the next band of bureaucrats or elected officials add another layer to it.

    Speaking micro level, I’ve spent several hundred dollars on car seats to protect my children from accidents. So far, I haven’t needed them, and if I never roll my SUV over, it will have been a waste of money for me to meet the minimum dictated by the government. Undoubtedly, this measure would save money in some accidents, but does the total amount spent on car seats actually come in less than treatment?

    It spreads the costs of prevention far and wide in the case of the car seats. In the case of oil wells, the costs are not spread as widely.

  2. CGHill »

    7 May 2010 · 1:06 pm

    In the case of SUVs, you have multiple methods in place: the car seats, the roof-strength standard, and (where available) electronic stability control.

    There is, apparently, a statutory liability limit ($75 million) on these wells. That helps.

  3. CGHill »

    8 May 2010 · 10:04 am

    The AP is now reporting (hat tip: Smitty) that what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion was a giant bubble of methane, ripping through everything in its path.

    Which is basically what it does in the family wagon, albeit on a smaller scale.

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