Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Bob Cavnar’s Houston Chronicle Op-Ed

Last week, the presidential oil spill commission issued its final report concluding that the blowout of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico was certainly preventable, was caused by identifiable mistakes made by BP and its contractors, and resulted from complacency and poor risk management — placing doubt on the safety culture of the oil and gas industry as a whole. The commission also pointed out that the regulatory agencies charged with oversight were outclassed by the industry and failed to keep up with rapidly developing technologies of deep-water exploration. The combination of these failures resulted in the BP disaster.

The commission’s conclusions are surprisingly astute for a panel that had no member from the oil and gas industry. Though I don’t agree with all of the panel’s conclusions as to who is to blame for the catastrophe, its recognition of systemic failures and inadequacies of both safety policy and systems were spot on. However thorough the conclusions and recommendations are, though, they are of little consequence outside the world of media and Washington politics. Because the White House ignored calls for a more inclusive commission – including not just environmentalists, academics, and politicians, but representatives from the technical disciplines and the industry itself – the conclusions and recommendations of the commission have already been dismissed by those most in need of them, members of the industry itself. No industry likes to be preached to and scolded as the oil spill commission has done in this report, no matter how well deserved. There was an alternative, though. The objective of the commission was to determine the causes of the blowout and subsequent spill, then make recommendations to prevent this kind of disaster from occurring again. The problem is that in order to initiate necessary changes, something actually has to be done. That means getting the industry itself to admit mistakes and accept changes to their way of operating. We all knew that the industry as a whole would resist changes to offshore operational and safety procedures for two reasons. The first is simple: money. The second is that the industry believes it knows better than everyone else how to drill big, deep oil wells in deep water because it’s complicated and they’ve been doing it for years. To them, no environmentalist, bureaucrat or politician is ever going to tell them what to do. In our deregulated nation, oil companies remain free to keep profit as their top priority, and set their own safety standards. That could have been different. The Obama administration missed a golden opportunity for a teachable moment in this tragedy due to its own proclivity to push the oil and gas industry away. That distance from the industry is the key reason the White House was so far behind in its response to the blowout to begin with: There was no one close at hand who knew what they were looking at or who recognized the potential scope of this disaster. You could tell in the early White House statements that the president wasn’t being well advised. In establishing the commission, the administration continued on this path, excluding any industry representation on the commission itself and hiring engineers and scientists only in staff or lower-level advisory roles. The panel itself was appointed to meet political objectives, relegating its primary objective – improving safety – to secondary importance. Because the administration made little more than a token effort to include influential industry representatives on the commission, the results are predictable. The industry will reject the report’s important conclusions and recommendations wholesale, and the new Republican-controlled House will support that rejection. Since much of the significant change must be legislated, if the industry doesn’t support that change, the House leadership will simply do the same; therefore, nothing will improve. Had there been an industry member on the commission, that member could have sold the industry, and the Congress, on making critical changes to make drilling in the deepwater safer. Clearly, it’s a missed opportunity. Read the original article at The Houston Chronicle. Bob Cavnar’s book, Disaster on the Horizon, is available now.


To Create Climate-Secure Foodscapes, Think Like a Plant

The techniques and prophetic vision for achieving food security in the face of climate change contained in Gary Paul Nabhan’s Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land may well need to be implemented across most of North America over the next half-century, and are already applicable in most of the semiarid West, Great Plains, and […] Read More

The Future Is Hopeless, So Give it Your All

The never-ending national election in the United States, the “surprise” pro-Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, climate change … the list goes on and on about how easy it can be to lose hope in the future.Like many of life’s frustrations, or overwhelmingly large topics, most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the […] Read More

How Carbon Farming Can Save the Planet

Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, but coupled with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, it offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope.Along the way carbon farming can also […] Read More

Welcome to the Lyme Wars

Lyme disease infects a minimum of 300,000 people per year in the United States and millions more throughout the rest of the world. Symptoms run from mild lethargy to severe arthritis to heart disease to incapacitating mental dysfunction. Although tests have improved over the past decade, they are still not completely reliable, and antibiotics are […] Read More

Look Under Your Feet for Global Soil-utions

For several years, Chelsea Green has been publishing books that look under our feet for solutions to some of the most vexing problems facing the planet – hunger, drought, degraded farmland and grasslands, damaged waterways, and much more. Those books focus on (mostly) one thing: Soil.  In 2016, we’ve published two more important books that […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com