Friday, June 25, 2010

Premeditated Negligence and the Profit Motive

The Planned Nightmare in the Gulf: Drive for Cost-Cutting Trumped Safety at Every Step

By: David Dayen
Friday June 25, 2010 10:14 am

NPR’s Fresh Air had a compelling show yesterday with New York Times science reporter Henry Fountain. He had a hand in several of their articles showing the negligence at work in building the Deepwater Horizon rig. When asked if a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, since blocked by a district court judge in Louisiana, is enough, Fountain had an interesting response. He said that when you look at disasters from NASA over the years like the Space Shuttle Challenger or the Apollo I mission, they usually grounded themselves for a couple years to figure out what was wrong. That showed a commitment to their astronauts and to use federal dollars toward the safest possible purpose. In the world of deepwater drilling, precisely the opposite calculus is made. It’s all about doing the same job for less money, and the consequences be damned. Here’s how Fountain summed up:

“One of the things I learned is that this particular well that had the blowout wasn’t really unusual. … But one of the things is, it really goes back to our need for oil, and not just for cars but for pretty much everything — plastics, fertilizers and society,” he says. “And the problem is, is that the easy oil has basically been gotten: the oil from land, the oil from shallow offshore wells. So going forward, we’re going to have more of these wells drilled in extreme conditions. So, in a way, there’s potential for more disaster in the future, and it seems to me that if there were ever an argument for pursuing alternative energies, the argument is being made now — in a pretty hard way, but it’s being made.” MORE...