Sunday, May 2, 2010


Very good op-ed in the NYT today that gets at the real cause of the oil spill:
Oil, however, is too complicated for simple solutions. Whether this spill turns out to be the result of a freakish accident or a cascade of negligence, the likely political outcome will be a moratorium on offshore drilling. Emotionally, I love this idea. Who wants an oil drill in his park or on his coastline? Who doesn’t want to punish Big Oil on behalf of the birds?

Moratoriums have a moral problem, though. All oil comes from someone’s backyard, and when we don’t reduce the amount of oil we consume, and refuse to drill at home, we end up getting people to drill for us in Kazakhstan, Angola and Nigeria — places without America’s strong environmental safeguards or the resources to enforce them.
We can talk all we want about stronger regulations, but the bottom line is that as long as we use it- particularly at the rate we do- there will be risks and, occasionally, disasters. The whole thing is well worth reading. In particular, some of the figures on spills in the exporting countries named are shocking. Another aspect I appreciated was that a variety of approaches to reducing the chances of petroliferous messes are offered.

But again, like so many of our technologies, there are inherent dangers in using oil. And there is no possibility that all the associated risks can be reduced to zero.

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