This smart piece from Reuters makes what should be an obvious observation: The contingency plans all the offshore drillers have for skimming up a major spill rely on materiel and equipment that’s already deployed for the BP blowout. In other words, the industry doesn’t have the skimming capacity to deal with multiple major spills at the same time. (Let’s set aside the issue of how effective our current skimming capacity actually is on a deep sea blowout.)
So it adds up to this: The government won’t let oil companies drill without contingency plans for a spill. The contingency plans all rely on a skimming capacity that is at present unavailable and which in any event can only handle one spill at a time.
If you extend that logic, you end up having to shut down current deepwater production and additional exploration, which isn’t really feasible and which again highlights the point that a lot of what has passed for regulation of the industry consists of providing ourselves with the comfortable illusion that we’ve got a plan for when something goes wrong.
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