Critical Perspective


Sometimes we get a reader email that I think is valuable enough that I reprint it even though it requires some redacting. In this case, at TPM Reader ML’s request, I’ve redacted the portion of the email where he talks about his knowledge of and involvement with various aspects of drilling technology. Suffice it to say, he has a resume with a lot of relevant knowledge …

I wasn’t going to write in, but the first two responses you published made me feel that I had to. As my background [redacted] … It’s tough being an Obama supporter in the oilfield, especially in Houston.

First, BP is not tackling this mess alone. The entire drilling industry is involved, including Exxon (who has a great record when it comes to offshore drilling, not oil shipping). It’s not like only BP engineers are calling the shots, all sorts of experts are involved.

At BP’s West Houston complex, there’s a command center filled with personnel from around the industry working with BP engineers. Several drill ships are in place. Tons of workboats are on site. There are 5 or more ROVs roaming the wellhead monitoring and cleaning things up. They’re already bumping into each other because they normally work solo while tied to a ship by a mile long umbilical cable. They don’t need more ROVs down there adding to the traffic. All these efforts are reported heavily in the Houston Chronicle and, but doesn’t seem to get much for national coverage. If you only monitor the national coverage, you’d think BP is going it alone while we all sit by, but the reality is this is an industry-wide effort because we all know what’s at stake.

On having Obama “do more,” WTF is he supposed to do? Everybody seems to be calling for more fire in his belly and scary, threatening speeches. What does that accomplish? It’s like people want him to do a dramatic speech like post-9/11 about bringing the criminals to justice. It does nothing to actually plug the damn well. The government does not have the expertise to do more to stop this gusher. It’s in BPs interest to stop the gusher. All the conspiracy theories about wanting to preserve the well for future production are technically wrong and ignore that NOBODY in the industry benefits from this gusher continuing. BP wants what everybody else wants, though I’ll concede that I suspect dispersants are about killing life where it’s less easily photographed. Dispersants aside, the only conflict of interest is regarding the causes of the blowout, not the capping of the well. Fed investigations are already taking care of that part.

On the pace, I’m pissed because I thought top kill should have been the first thing they tried after the ROVs failed to close the BOP. The reason for delay was partly because it looked like a war zone down there initially due to all the debris from a mile long riser coming down with the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon. So there was cleanup to make everything accessible. Also, one issue with the top kill is that it does have some risk of making the leak worse by eroding whatever blockages exist to limit the blowout rate. It could also overpressure the wellhead to open up new leaks upstream of the current ones. My guess is they wanted a better understanding on the chance of success before taking those risks.

Anyway, here we are. I’m hoping like hell 50 gpm is enough to get this done.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of