Spill, Baby, Spill

When we were young, we were regularly admonished that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Except, it seems, with government.  (And many large corporations.)

In the Alice in Wonderland environment that we encounter too often in government, it is not unusual that government waits for a pound of cure to occur before embarking upon an ounce of prevention.  The former is then used to justify the latter.

The most recent example of this logic is the Deepwater Horizon incident in Louisiana.  An article in USAToday reveals that Big Oil successfully opposed attempts by the federal regulatory agency to initiate more stringent safety standards for offshore oil rigs.

Big Oil argued that additional safety standards were completely unnecessary because advanced technology had made offshore drilling extremely safe. Since it hadn’t happened recently, it wasn’t going to happen.  So don’t worry…drill, baby, drill.  How… slick  😉 …  of them.

But now that it has become “spill, baby, spill” it looks like Big Oil sold the country the equivalent of the Titanic. Fittingly, the Deepwater Horizon oil platform is now also at the bottom of the ocean.

About a year ago, a Mason-Dixon poll found that about 55% of Floridians supported offshore drilling off the Florida coast.  A poll taken since the Louisiana incident reflects a reversal of that previous poll: now, 55% oppose such offshore drilling.  Isn’t it… “interesting”… how just a bit of reality can quickly change a perspective based on theory?

I’ve witnessed that “pound of cure first” mentality on more than one occasion. A community concerned about traffic accidents because its school is adjacent to a federal highway pleaded for a traffic light at that location.  The State DOT insisted that the location failed to meet “standards” for a traffic light.  Now, if there was a fatality…. Otherwise, “no blood, no problem.”

Fortunately, the Governor’s Office decided that there was a safety problem even if there had been no fatalities.  So an ounce of prevention was installed.

As for offshore oil drilling, it appears we will have much more than a pound of cure.  Which should be more than sufficient for the federal regulatory agency to issue some more stringent safety standards.  Which even BP says now it will no longer oppose.  Not that what Big Oil says will matter anymore.

It’s not just Big Oil that’s going to get taken to the woodshed.  The Big Boss has announced that the responsible federal regulatory agency will be reorganized.  Another pound of cure…

Although BP has said it will pay for all “legitimate” claims, I think that’s the PR advisors talking.  Once the furor dies down, what is “legitimate” will be litigated for years.  Already, a number of businesses in coastal Franklin County, Florida, are preparing a lawsuit against BP for economic losses.  Businesses all along the Florida Gulf coast are talking with attorneys.  The lawsuits will be another pound of cure.

The Louisiana spill happened about two months short of 22 years since the Piper Alpha offshore drilling disaster in the North Sea.  That incident killed over 150 people.  It led to over 100 new safety recommendations, which the industry accepted.

Closer to home, the 1969 Santa Barbara offshore oil rig incident sparked a backlash that may very well repeat itself some 40 years later.  So, there may be a silver lining here.

As a Florida legislator remarked, what happened in Louisiana is a “game changer.”  Not just for the future of offshore drilling in Florida waters, but in this country.

Why is it that we often have to wait for disaster to happen before we believe it will happen? I believe that if it can happen, it will happen.  It’s just a matter of when, not whether.  Too many folks seem to believe that if it hasn’t happened recently, there’s no reason to believe it will happen.

But now it is obvious: it is not a matter of whether an oil rig disaster will happen, but when it will happen.  If you live in Nebraska, it doesn’t matter; you won’t be directly affected much.  But why should coastal state residents such as Floridians pay the price of cheaper oil for Nebraskans?

I won’t support that.  And it appears that a majority of Floridians won’t support that.

If given the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling in Florida, as proposed by Gov. Crist, I’ll vote for it.  Let some other state that wants the next offshore oil drilling disaster step up.  I suspect not many will.

Because if you won’t look out for yourself, why should Big Oil or anyone else?  I have millions of gallons of “proof” of that….


15 responses to “Spill, Baby, Spill

  1. Well here is the reason why government does not do an ounce of prevention: it’s that “we the people” won’t let them. Any attempt by government to prevent a disaster is stifled by cries of outrage. Laws and regulations stifle growth, jobs, personal freedom and individuality. Sound familiar? It takes a disaster for we the sheeple to give permission. See: Wall Street. 9/11.

  2. Now all of a sudden no one complains about having to take their shoes off in the airport security line. But before? I rest my case. The whole thing makes me crazy.

  3. I hold a different view of “lobbyist”, which has become a four-letter word similar to “Communist” or “liberal”. Lobbyists are the people we employ to pay attention to the details and fight for our interests even when our interest has flagged because there is no crisis du jour. Lobbyists ‘R Us.
    I once met a woman who was a lobbyist for the Florida Library Association, which fought tooth and nail against forcing librarians to reveal what books someone checked out. Not sure how that turned out…but I suspect that’s an issue you could get behind 🙂
    The real issue is not lobbying itself, it’s money. How much money do you think the Florida Library Association has, as opposed to say, Associated Industries of Florida. You don’t see librarians hosting a welcome session for the Legislature on opening day of Session.

    • I do not agree that lobbyists “fight for our interests.” They fight for the interests that hired them. if you agree with those interests, then they are fighting for you; otherwise, they are not.

      For example, i do not support state (or even local) funding of libraries. So when those library lobbyists are doing their thing, it is not on my behalf.

  4. Of course lobbyists fight for the people who hired them, that is pretty much the point. And I know your feelings about public libraries 🙂

  5. People just get too comfortable when nothing disastrous has happened for an extended period of time. That’s not going to change. But I’m all for an ounce of prevention wherever there’s the possibility for failure.

  6. It appears that the Deepwater Horizon disaster could have been avoided if BP personnel had simply operated the well as they knew it should function. Instead they ignored protocols and obvious warning signs (see 60 minutes). It is another example of human frailty in the pursuit of wealth. People know how to do the right thing and they do the wrong thing. That will never change I fear no matter who says what.

    Its not a matter of public opinion when this much money is at stake people will go after it.

  7. > People know how to do the right thing and they do
    > the wrong thing.

    And that’s the conundrum….

  8. And yet, having known how to do the right thing, and done the wrong thing, BP continues to operate, continues to profit while their problem endangers our shores.

    I know the idea has all kinds of ramifications, but I’d love for them to be told they’ll provide fuel at all their stations for free until the well is plugged and the clean up is complete. Then we’d finally see the number of hands on deck this deserves.

    I hope everyone remembers that where there is a BP station, there is another brand across the street.

  9. “I hope everyone remembers that where there is a BP station, there is another brand across the street.”

    Problem is BP will sell it to the station across the street and we will buy it anyway……they hold all the cards…..

    Someone will be thrown to the wolves, congress and the White house will thump their chests and the coasts will be devastated it appears.

    The only answer is like “War Games” …..not to play.

  10. Someone will be thrown to the wolves–like the captain of the Exxon Valdez was.
    And you are so right–not playing is the only option, except it isn’t an option. It’s like me not shopping at Wal-Mart. I can go to Target or Publix and get the same crap from China.

  11. True, if they get it out of the earth, someone will sell it under their brand. Sadly the most responsible will continue issuing press releases and never suffer a day.

  12. Well, you can “limit” your playing time by getting a fuel efficient vehicle!

  13. I did that! I feel sort of stupid driving it, because it isn’t nearly as sexy as the Camaro was 🙂 But maybe “fuel effcient” is the new sexy. I can only hope 🙂

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