Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Some pretty imporant information regarding the disaster in the gulf

The WSJ reports that the flow of oil could have been cut off via the use of an acoustic trigger system that the rig in question lacked. The cost of the trigger would have been merely $500k (which you can compare to the rig's replacement cost at 560 million, or the billions that would be required for clean up of the disaster (which will probably not include billions more in undocumented externalized costs)).

William Galston of the New Republic documents some of the reasons why the rig might have lacked it. It wasn't required, and the Minerals Management Service (a division of the Interior Department) had experienced a shift in their policy recommendations between 2000 and 2003 regarding whether it should be required for every rig. If the insinuation is unclear or unpresumed, they previously advocated the requirement for each rig to be a regulation, later they thought they maybe the cost was a little too much.

I found the following particularly revelatory:

After the Bush administration took office, the MMS became a cesspool of corruption and conflicts of interest. In September 2008, Earl Devaney, Interior’s Inspector General, delivered a report to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne that has to be read to be believed. One section, headlined “A Culture of Ethical Failure,” documented the belief among numerous MMS staff that they were “exempt from the rules that govern all other employees of the Federal Government.” They adopted a “private sector approach to essentially everything they did.” This included “opting themselves out of the Ethics in Government Act.” On at least 135 occasions, they accepted gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies with whom they worked. One of the employees even had a lucrative consulting arrangement with a firm doing business with the government. And in a laconic sentence that speaks volumes, the IG reported: “When confronted by our investigators, none of the employees involved displayed remorse.”

Galston conjectures the administration's role, "What we do know is that unfettered oil drilling was to Dick Cheney’s domestic concerns what the invasion of Iraq was to his foreign policy – a core objective, implacably pursued regardless of the risks."

Thanks, guys.

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