This is essentially a repost of a comment on this article on scienceblogs:
I am a Democrat.
And right now, my party, and the people I usually agree with are making me very angry.
Post after post on scienceblogs and in the news from scientists covering the spill in the gulf are referring to the regulatory lapses of the industry as a whole. We liberals have a tendency to demonize entire industries for the sins of a few people within those industries. Apparently the scientists on scienceblogs don't realize that there are scientists working on this--engineers within BP and the other companies that are involved in putting an end to this mess. BP has nothing to gain and everything to lose by putting less than 100% into this effort, so I tend to look for the motivation of the speaker when I hear that they are not doing enough or they're doing things that are stupid. If anyone has a chance of stopping this disaster, it's the same people who had the expertise to let the genie out of the bottle in the first place. There's not much the government can do except enforce the law and stay out of the way.
As a person who has grown up around the oil industry and who has a close relative who is involved with operations safety at a company that is not BP, this whole tragedy has hit really close to home. It's made me question some deeply held beliefs about what motivates Environmentalists of the crunchy and scientific varieties, and business of the benevolent and greedy varieties. I think it's important to remember that big businesses and for that matter, the special interests that both parties respectably rail about are comprised of normal people and that for these people, big business puts food on the table and sends kids to college. These people get lost when we start talking about "big oil" as if it was some ominous monolithic concept.
Heads need to roll at BP over this, but they need to roll for the right reasons...not because BP is a monolithic evil entity that loves to destroy nature and start wars and kill puppies etc. heads need to roll because BP betrayed the people who made it possible for deep water horizon to operate. Some pencil pusher, his supervisor, and the managers above him who were too busy planning their next political maneuver to care about real world implications sold them out for a monetary drop in the bucket. It approved plans that did not include robust safety standards. It did not, apparently, run simulations on it's emergency plans--we can simulate fluid dynamics and pressure and basic physics. Judging by the crystals on the containment dome, BP did not. It cut cost corners putting lives at risk, putting a deep ocean habitat of which we know little at risk, and putting the entire fishing industry In the gulf at risk.
Accidents happen, and this is new, intensely complicated high stakes technology that is on what could be called its maiden voyage. All the more reason to do everything possible to ensure that corners are not cut and every possible safety precaution is taken. I'm not convinced BP did.
Lastly, I think those who are quick to call out the oil industry need to look in the mirror. Do you drive a car? Use plastic containers? Use electricity? That fuel comes from somewhere, and if it's not a repressive dictatorship it's increassingly difficult to access domestic sources.
We the laypeople and our politicians knew exactly the risks involved in deep sea drilling. The politicians gave it the go ahead and the politicians represent us. We also knew the fail points of the available technology and exactly where it should have been regulated. It's not like info on blowout preventers and their track record of flakiness is an industry secret. We apparently were delusional in thinking that something like this could never happen to us.
Anyway, this is a national tragedy. My heart goes out to the people who died, and I'm hoping that they will be seen as the victims of this tragedy and not part of the cause. My heart also goes out to the people from BP and the other oil companies (from what I have heard the effort to curb the spill is industry wide) who are trying everything they can to stop this. Some of them are doing this not only because it is their job but because they are horrified at the environmental and human impact. Talk about a stressful thankless job.
My heart also goes out to the fishermen and local volunteers who face financial hardship and are doing everything they can to mitigate the environmental impact.
And a final, very snarky word to Democratic Rep Ed Markey of Mass who said: "I have no confidence whatsoever in BP. I think that they do not know what they are doing. They started off talking about golf balls going in as a junk shot. People thought they would be dependent on MIT or Cal Tech instead of the PGA and golf balls. That was in the first couple of weeks. So I don't think that people should really believe what BP is saying in terms of the likelihood of anything that they're doing is going to turn out as they're predicting..."
Oh! I didn't realize we had an expert in congress! Stop, everyone! Representative Markey knows how to solve all our problems! Markey knows the oil industry, oceanography, and geology better than the best and brightest minds in the industry! Let's put him in charge!
Wait...as a person who knows nothing but always has an opinion anyway, I know another idiot mouthing off when I see one. Ed Markey, you don't have any better ideas, do you? No? Then: