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Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...      Home login  
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 normaldude
Joined: 3/8/2006
Msg: 2
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...Page 1 of 33    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33)
amazing that they wouldnt have foolproof systems to make sure this never happened but then again they dont.....and never will.

as usual the price of gas will go up... the area will be heavily damaged, tourism, fishermen, many species....

it all ties back to GETTING THE HELL OFF OIL. It is toxic in every way. It detroys the planet in multiple ways, fuels terrorism, fuels destructive government policys, keeps horrible dictators in power, makes slaves out of consumers....creates wars... and on and on.
 JohnEDeep
Joined: 7/9/2007
Msg: 3
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 4/30/2010 12:35:56 PM

What are your views and thougts on this disaster

First thought...how's that 'Drill, Baby, Drill' plan working out?


how will it effect the economy

The news is reporting a 10 Billion dollar hit to just the shrimping industry. Then we have severe impact to the tourism and hospitality industry, other fishing, wildlife...the list goes on.


how will it effect the enviroment

Not well, obviously. Check out the afteraffects of Exxon's little mishap. There's still oil soaked into the beaches there. Those sea otters aren't very cute when they're dead.


What will become of BP , were is Tony Haywood ?

Who cares? They've been getting rich for years, and now the bill is due. I don't care if the cleanup bankrupts them, or any oil company that trashes our shores.


your views on offshore oil drilling

It'll always be an industry fraught with peril, and the only way to avoid such eco-disaster is to not drill. Like that'll happen. Our leadership has failed us for decades by not mandating alternative, cleaner energy sources. It's a choice, and we seem to always choose the cheap, easy route.


how long will it take before the spill can be capped

3 months is the current best estimate. I sincerely hope they do much better than that.

It's been years since I lived near a beach, but I have fond memories of the pristine, sugary sand of the Gulf coast. I also remember scrubbing my feet with gasoline to remove the tarry residue of other spills. Ahh, memories...

Good Luck, Gulf Coast.
 Confident-Realist
Joined: 2/8/2004
Msg: 7
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 4/30/2010 7:53:14 PM
I think it's not about "drill baby drill", although it makes idiots like Palin look like jack-a$$es when you hear the word "clean" said over and over again in their past stump speeches to justify it and that Democrats are idiots for being hesitant about it. I am for opening up and allowing companies for off-shore drilling, personally, if regulations are set up nice and tight on them (which they aren't).

The problem is not about not drilling -- it's about REGULATIONS. The coal miners died, a couple handfuls of guys died on the oil rig and TONS of oil dumped into the ocean...

BP made arguments about "voluntary" regulations -- meaning self-imposed, and the govt allowed it... took their word for it, didn't want to be seen as meddling. We know BP didn't want this kinda outcome of course, but the problem is -- for the same reason capitalism does work, when it comes to regulations that can affect one's budget, self-imposed regulations DO NOT.

Some folks are paranoid about the black-helicopter govt after Bush's phone-records watch, and the raising of taxes on the wealthy for next year's tax payments (like the 90s; notice I said next year; your income taxes paid this year were not raised; lowest in a long long while).

Point is, regulations can get out of control, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Regulations regarding damaging coastlines and risk of lives -- those need to be enforced. If Brazil or China can do it -- come on.

Hopefully the right doesn't keep whining and spreading fear about regulations just because they come from the govt... and we can at least do some oil drilling for the long haul (so by the time we get alternatives mainstream and kicking ass, we'll have our own stuff dealing with the oil side of things).
 Bluesman2008
Joined: 4/2/2008
Msg: 9
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/2/2010 9:36:16 PM
I read somewhere that BP execs lobbied hell out of the government to keep from making emergency shutoff valves mandatory on their rigs (as other countries HAVE intsalled them). So, IMHO, the government AND BP are equally at fault.

If don't come down hard on the oil AND coal industry, we going to have continued deaths in the mines and oil spills in the oceans.
 stargazer1000
Joined: 1/16/2008
Msg: 10
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/3/2010 5:25:37 AM

if this does turn in to a major disaster the biggest oil spill in US history does anyone have any idea how long it takes for the oil to stop contaminating the ecology of the area ?


They're STILL finding oil contamination from the Exxon Valdez and that was a fixed amount of oil from a tanker. This well is continuing to spill oil and will do so until they cap it off. Apparently that's going to be a couple of MONTHS away.

This is sickening! And if it is found that sufficient safety measures weren't taken, then heads should roll! In the meantime, look forward to some nicely expensive prices for gas this summer.
 desertrhino
Joined: 11/30/2007
Msg: 12
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/4/2010 5:34:07 PM
If it turns out that Halliburton poured a crappy collar/cap on the wellhead, a cutoff valve wouldn't have helped, since the whole shebang most likely just blew off/apart.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 13
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/4/2010 5:59:20 PM

What are your views and thougts on this disaster

It's tragic. Absolutely tragic.

There's some solace in the fact that this accident will cost BP (and hopefully Transocean) hundreds of millions if not billions to resolve. It'll encourage them and other companies to take measures to prevent such an accident from happening again.




how will it effect the economy

It's not going to have a positive effect. We lost an oil drill, we lost a few lives, we're going to have to spend thousands of manhours cleaning up the spill, and of course, we're losing oil. But in the scheme of the economy, this is barely a blip on the radar.

The direct economic costs here are minor compared to the ecological costs, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, this accident will likely inspire people to make irrational decisions in the political sphere. That will likely have costs to our economy. We'll see.




how will it effect the enviroment

In the short run, badly. In the long run, good I hope.

With the ubiquity of imaging technology today, we are going to see the environmental costs of this accident. And because of the internet, we won't forget them. Consequently, it will make oil more expensive to sell. There will only be a tiny impact on the price of oil - this incident's impact is miniscule compared to overall supply - but it will have a significant impact on the value of oil. We'll value it less because we will see it as costing more. And as a result, it will make alternatives more viable.

This accident obviously can't replace technological advancement, economic restructuring, and price adjustments. But I do see it has contributing in a small way to the step we inevitably will have to take. And that's finding a viable alternative to oil. I hope it will make that step a bit smaller for mankind to make.






What will become of BP

BP will lose a ton of money cleaning up the spill. They'll also lose mindshare in the hearts of consumers. Which will cost them more, only time will tell.

Unfortunately, BP is also probably going to be at the forefront of an explosion of passionate and irrational political measures. And these, I fear, will cost far more than the oil spill itself.

Remember, there are no winners here. This entire accident is one giant cost. And with the exception of some wildlife, BP will bare the greatest portion of it.

Unless politicians are themselves designing useful safety equipment, unless they themselves are reaching into their own pockets to pay for shutoff valves, unless they themselves are flying out to monitor other oil drills, there is absolutely nothing they can do to help prevent this from happening again. They should organize to clean up the spill, the courts should hold those responsible for the spill accountable for the costs - including the environmental, in my opinion - and that is it.

It is false to believe people who wear suits in Washington DC - who don't know the first thing about drilling oil - can put ink on a piece of paper to make positive change in areas like this. The most important and only thing they can do to help is to make sure ALL of the costs of the accident are born by those responsible. These costs will be seen by the companies in the industry and it will PAY them to develop and use (if they aren't already) the most efficient means to avoid having to pay them. These means will be different for the different companies' circumstances and the different equipment between - and within - each of them.

Ink on paper will not aid that process in any way. It can only hamper it.. by mandating one-size-fits-all legislation, by increasing costs, and by giving legal authority to so-called regulators who, whether or not you'll admit it, do not have more ability or technical knowledge to drill oil or control costs at their disposal than do these companies.

Make those accountable responsible for the true cost of this accident. The companies will take care of the rest.






your views on offshore oil drilling

I support it. Measured in any meaningful way, it is over 99% safe.

And it saves lives.

In today's world, food prices are a function of energy prices. Offshore drilling reduces the price of oil and thereby adds downward pressure of food prices. That may not be the best thing in the world for North Americaners And Europeans. But for people in the third world, many of whom rely on low-cost imported food, there is no doubt that low prices helps feed them and their children.





how long will it take before the spill can be capped

Unfortunately, it is going to be a while. From what I've read, it will take months.

But luckily, I've found out the oil is leaking at a much slower rate than I had expected. From the estimates I've seen, it's leaking 5-30 thousand barrels per day. At that rate it will take from between about 2 to 7 months for this leak to spill as much oil as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Although this is by no means good, I had thought it was much worse. Always helpful to keep things in perspective.
 CountIbli
Joined: 6/1/2005
Msg: 14
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/4/2010 9:18:44 PM


Although this is by no means good, I had thought it was much worse. Always helpful to keep things in perspective.


Don't worry. Rush says that we don't have to clean it up because the ocean will do that itself.
 wvwaterfall
Joined: 1/17/2007
Msg: 15
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/4/2010 9:31:00 PM


Don't worry. Rush says that we don't have to clean it up because the ocean will do that itself.


True enough, but not in our lifetimes.

Heck, for that matter, the planet will purge itself of us if we abuse it enough. I'm not saying we've done that yet, but we certainly have demonstrated our ability to point in that direction.

I have to say that this spill has raised serious concerns for me about BP. Not too long ago they had a major pipeline problem in Alaska that was shown to be caused by very poor maintenance, and now this.

I used to think BP was the most environmentally progressive of the oil companies, as oxymoronic as that may sound. They have aggressively promoted solar, were the first oil company to publicy acknowledge the human role in global warming, and did a major PR campaign asserting their name stood for 'Beyond Petroleum'.

Indeed, when I was working full time on environmental policy, I attended an event full of oil and gas experts where a BP engineer gave a climate change presentation that long predated Al Gore's movie debut and did a far better job of making the case for anthropogenic climate change. He took a lot of heat from his peers, but stood his ground and parried every contrarian argument.

So I started making a point to make most of my gas purchases from BP, with Shell my second choice, and Exxon avoided unless I had no other option.

I didn't shun Exxon simply because of the Valdez disaster, but because to this day Exxon has not done the cleanup they were ordered to do, and they more than any other oil company have actively funded the climate change denial cottage industry.

How aggressively BP works to stop this leak and clean up their mess will weigh heavily in my purchasing decisions, but for now at least, Shell has moved up to the top of my "least worst" personal rating list.

Dave
 HeyJenny
Joined: 11/13/2008
Msg: 18
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/5/2010 5:02:30 PM
I will type more later but please start by listening to this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Mwv45ozZo This is part one of two

This is the worst enviromental disaster that our country will have ,according to sources. Is this broadcast on the news the depths of this problem (pun intended)
This may not get capped for 90 days !! The solutions are as (or more) dangerous than the disaster itself. This is not an oil spill, it is an oil flow.

This will effect everything, our food sources, shipping, oil prices ,enviromental disaster over a huge area, people losing their incomes over this and more. It is a complete disaster.

I've been thinking about a back-up location and now I know where it isn't going to be!!
 stargazer1000
Joined: 1/16/2008
Msg: 19
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/5/2010 5:14:52 PM

Rush says that we don't have to clean it up because the ocean will do that itself.


Rush Limbaugh is a fat-mouthed, obnoxious moron who should just shut the eff up.

Rush is one of the best rock bands ever to come out of Canada.
 flyguy51
Joined: 8/11/2005
Msg: 20
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/5/2010 10:22:03 PM
I think this is the latest in a string of mega-corporate inspired mishaps that reflects a somewhat corrupt system. We often argue in the paradigms of free market vs. large government intrusion. The US, on paper, avoids the extremes in that regard, but the real-world result is an unholy mix of the two: relatively free, profitable corporations that fund an increasingly expanding government in their favor, and the government becoming merely a token means of oversight. Furthermore, this corporate-controlled government acts not only as a prime customer, but as a taxpayer-funded safety net for when one or several of these big corporations fvck up. This is evidenced mostly in the areas of national defense, insurance, immigration, energy, and finance. It is not free market vs. government intrusion; it is more like a symbiotic circle-jerk.

Politicians proclaim to the people, "These irresponsible parties must PAY!" Behind closed doors, they tell their corporate sponsors, "Not really. We'll make some more token laws with the same lax enforcement. Just help me get reelected." In other words, we have the best politicians that corporate money can buy.

Rush Limbaugh is a fat-mouthed, obnoxious moron who should just shut the eff up.

Rush is one of the best rock bands ever to come out of Canada.

That sums it up quite nicely.
 nipoleon
Joined: 12/27/2005
Msg: 21
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/6/2010 1:13:47 AM
And remember.... They've got nuclear power all figured out too.
 HeyJenny
Joined: 11/13/2008
Msg: 24
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/6/2010 3:47:00 PM
I've included part of this article which basically says that a $500,ooo "acoustic switch" which can shut off wells remotely and could have shut this well off wasn't required by law because of Bush. From what I understand it was required by the Clinton administration but don't quote me as I haven't seen the proof.

Anyone remember Sarah Palin's "Drill, Baby Drill? Had she and others gotten their way in Alaska this could have also happened there. Regardless of where it happened to our country , it was for the most part , a preventable tradegy.

The point is that a switch that cost pennies compared to what the oil industry is worth ,wasn't there and could have prevented the oil flow that is happening now.


Sex, Lies and Oil Spills
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
May 6, 2010

Published by The Huffington Post.

A common spin in the right wing coverage of BP's oil spill is a gleeful suggestion that the gulf blowout is Obama's Katrina.

In truth, culpability for the disaster can more accurately be laid at the Bush Administration's doorstep. For eight years, George Bush's presidency infected the oil industry's oversight agency, the Minerals Management Service, with a septic culture of corruption from which it has yet to recover. Oil patch alumnae in the White House encouraged agency personnel to engineer weakened safeguards that directly contributed to the gulf catastrophe.
The absence of an acoustical regulator--a remotely triggered dead man's switch that might have closed off BP's gushing pipe at its sea floor wellhead when the manual switch failed (the fire and explosion on the drilling platform may have prevented the dying workers from pushing the button)--was directly attributable to industry pandering by the Bush team. Acoustic switches are required by law for all offshore rigs off Brazil and in Norway's North Sea operations. BP uses the device voluntarily in Britain's North Sea and elsewhere in the world as do other big players like Holland's Shell and France's Total. In 2000, the Minerals Management Service while weighing a comprehensive rulemaking for drilling safety, deemed the acoustic mechanism "essential" and proposed to mandate the mechanism on all gulf rigs.

Then, between January and March of 2001, incoming Vice President****Cheney conducted secret meetings with over 100 oil industry officials allowing them to draft a wish list of industry demands to be implemented by the oil friendly administration. Cheney also used that time to re-staff the Minerals Management Service with oil industry toadies including a cabal of his Wyoming carbon cronies. In 2003, newly reconstituted Minerals Management Service genuflected to the oil cartel by recommending the removal of the proposed requirement for acoustic switches. The Minerals Management Service's 2003 study concluded that "acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly."

The acoustic trigger costs about $500,000. Estimated costs of the oil spill to Gulf Coast residents are now upward of $14 billion to gulf state communities. Bush's 2005 energy bill officially dropped the requirement for the acoustic switch off devices explaining that the industry's existing practices are "failsafe."
 Island home
Joined: 7/5/2009
Msg: 25
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/6/2010 6:26:43 PM
Im wondering about how it will effect the price/supply of fish

Maybe when the Catholics have nothing to eat on Friday's the religious lobbyists will come up with the answer.
 sweetest
Joined: 10/8/2007
Msg: 27
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 7:33:19 AM

I read somewhere that BP execs lobbied hell out of the government to keep from making emergency shutoff valves mandatory on their rigs....

^^^Holy crap. How could a corporation involved in what is by all rights a very high-risk operation send people to work in the middle of nowhere, have no emergency shut off valve? How could lobbyists articulate a position against having one??? I mean really, who the heck insures this type of business model??? Don't tell me...the insurers also have their guy...
 HeyJenny
Joined: 11/13/2008
Msg: 28
The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 11:55:15 AM
Read my message 24/ article about the switch

It costs 500,000 dollars for that remote "acoustic switch" Bush pandered to the oil companies and said" yes, whatever u want, u don't want to pay for the switch, then we won't require one."

Search acoustic switch for oil rigs ,( or something like that) you'll find out more info.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 29
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 1:35:23 PM
Krebby

Measured in terms of barrels of oil pumped, shipped, and safely delivered to their destinations on land vs barrels of oil that end up in the sea. If you measure that way, then yes, offshore drilling is over 99% safe.

What you cited is not meaningful. If a gigantic rig operates for years without a single accident, but a tiny rig has a minor spill during one day of operation (out of 365 in a year and many years of operation) that is hardly a reason to deem said rigs as only 50% safe, which is all you could determine from your post.


This is exactly the retarded debate I wished to avoid by qualifying "meaningful" in my post. That was obviously more than you could handle though.

 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 30
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 1:55:44 PM

There has to be some type of device that would turn off the oil surge at the source............... How about some tech company inventing one, and making a fortune.......

You could call that device a "remotely operated valve"........

Where do you suggest this device be placed? The pipe is a full mile down into the ocean bed, and likely goes another mile down. There is no point source. The source is probably another mile long.

I think the old axiom applies here: "Anything's possible when you don't know what you're talking about."
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 32
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 3:20:40 PM

They "ground" similarly manufactured airplanes to address whatever safety concerns arise from their investigation of the crash.

And that usually is a mistake, since most plane crashes are due to maintenance issues. The Concord was eternally grounded because of this logic, and senselessly so. It was a great plane with a solid design that had one mishap early in its service and was damned forever because of it, costing the airline industry (and its customers) a good design and the industry's pockets millions (if not billions) in unusable investment. These costs get passed on to the consumer, remember.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 34
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 4:11:25 PM

BTW, where did you come up with that 99% figure?

Very simply. By comparing the amount of oil produced from sea drills vs the amount that has been spilled by them.






For that, you have to focus on number of sites, and how many sites malfunctioned for some reason or another

...and the extent of the malfunctions. How can you ignore this???

If you just measure malfunctions without extent of damages, you have zero ability to determine relativity and thus meaning is lost.






You don't measure shuttle spacecraft safety by how many miles they travel, you measure by whether the craft is able to accomplish the mission. If they can't, you ground the project until the problem is found and fixed.

Exactly! The "mission" of oil drills is to extract oil from the oceanic deposits so that they can be delivered to land for refinement, distribution, and use.

Measured in that way, they are extremely effective and safe.






By your logic, because airline travel is over 99% safe, we should pay no heed to what causes that one or two, or three crashes that occurs now and then.

How, in any way, does my "logic" suggest that? In fact, my original post stated the exact opposite. That this accident would encourage the industry to pay MORE attention and allocate more resources to preventing these kinds of accidents, not less.






By your logic, because airline travel is over 99% safe, we should pay no heed to what causes that one or two, or three crashes that occurs now and then. But airlines don't operate that way. They "ground" similarly manufactured airplanes to address whatever safety concerns arise from their investigation of the crash.

I hope you're not implying that all businesses and all industries should use the same criteria to make decisions. "If they do it, we ought'a do it."

Who am I kiddin, that's exactly what you, the business professor is implying.

The reason airlines ground their fleet after a crash caused ty an ahem, **unknown** reason, is because their management has used various criteria to deem that to be the most profitable decision. Its rather costly to inspect an airplane for faulty equipment that is sky high and traveling hundreds of miles per hour.

The operative idea here is "to address [the] safety concerns". A BP can address safety concerns without "grounding" all of their drills and thereby greatly increasing the price of oil, the price of food, and resulting in a steep decline in the well-being of our most struggling citizens and a starving of likely thousands of people who are dependent on low-cost food.

But I guess that's what the business professor wants. I, for one, am glad you're not making these business decisions : )







I won't respond to your usual 2 year old tendency to use words like "retarded."

Ha! And insulting my parents and resorting to mindless belittlement is "mature"? You fricken hypocrite.


Maybe one of these days you'll learn that it's a lost cause following me around like a school girl in these various threads. You just end up undermining yourself.
 wvwaterfall
Joined: 1/17/2007
Msg: 35
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 5:22:37 PM


Measured in that way, they are extremely effective and safe.


Yup, most of the oil pumped gets where it's supposed to go. Guess that's all that matters.

But....

Just within the inland navigatable waterways, EPA estimates we have nearly an EXXON Valdez equivalent amount of spills and damages EACH YEAR:


EPA BOSCEM was used to estimate the costs of oil spills in navigable inland waterways in the EPA Jurisdiction Oil Spill Database, based on the characteristics of each spill. The data set included 42,860 spills of at least 50 gallons that occurred during the years 1980 through 2002. Each spill was classified by the input criteria of oil type and volume and general location-
FSS 2004: Etkin, Damage Cost Modeling 5
specific characteristics to determine the appropriate cost modifiers. The response, socioeconomic, environmental, and total costs were also adjusted for regional/urban area consumer price index and annual inflationary differences. All costs were adjusted to 2002 dollars. An assumption of increasing response effectiveness was also incorporated into the calculations. The costs for oil spills in inland navigable waterways for the years 1980 through 2002 are shown in Table 9. Over the 23-year period, estimated total costs for inland navigable waterway oil spills was $63.2 billion, or, on average, $2.7 billion annually. This is nearly the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez-magnitude spill event over the inland waterways each year.
.

http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/docs/oil/fss/fss04/etkin2_04.pdf

Measured in THAT way, are you still feeling that we're so effective, safe, and economical?

Dave
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 36
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 7:13:34 PM
It should be pointed out that even though the Valdez incident ended up with oil in the water, it wasn't due to offshore drilling. My understanding is the ship's oil came from the Alaska pipeline. That has nothing to do with drilling off costs.

But anyways, onto your point, Dave.

I'm glad that you see some use of using dollars to calculate price in areas like these. It's helpful. Really.


But, we need to understand that there are costs and benefits to any decision along these lines. It is dishonest to point out the costs of something to determine that said thing is not good. I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but it seems it's along that line of thinking because you've made no mention of the trillions of dollars of profit the world oil industry was able to produce for us over that same period of time. Remember, their profits aren't their own. Consumers (every human, essentially) benefit far more from oil than do the oil company's stock holders and employees. On the surface, you could just say that we wouldn't buy their product unless we thought it was in our best interest to do so. But even if you don't trust free people making decisions about their own lives, a deeper analysis shows that... we get historically low-cost food (the ability to eliminate starvation), get the ability to efficiently allocate our labor to and where we want (drive a car), are able to travel to the four corners of the globe, stay warm in the winter, get to use plastic, etc.

The economic benefits of access to low-cost energy cannot overstated. Just try to think of all the countless developments that aren't directly tied to the oil industry. What never would have developed had people not been able to organize over long distances at low cost or had an easily malleable, low-cost building material not been at our disposal? We, the people, have profited immensely from the oil industry.


Is oil costly? Of course. But, what is the alternative?

Our goal shouldn't be to eliminate costs because that is an impossibility. Our goal should be to measure what the costs and benefits of an option as accurately as possible and then to base decisions on what will produce the most net benefit.


Right now, its hard to argue that oil is not the most beneficial option. It won't last forever, though. Others will come up. They have to.

That's where economic development, finance & investment, entrepreneurship, technological advancement (driven by demand, not political influence), overall capital restructuring, supply and demand, price adjustments, and good ol' risk taking come in. That process will churn through the options and produce the most viable alternative to oil and allocate the resources necessary to develop it better than any single or group of people can. And certainly better than any politician.



**Citing this because it's relevant to my point, not aiming it at you**

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."
-F. A. Hayek - The Fatal Conceit


Any political effort to determine what the alternative should be will necessarily pull resources away from the other alternatives. Is it really good if politicians raise taxes to allocate resources to cover the land in windmills when the market would've chosen solar power? In all likelihood, the alternative isn't even developed yet. Political enforcement of the adoption of an alternative energy source today will just make R&D of the best alternative artificially more expensive and will make said alternative artificially less competitive in the marketplace, thus making it take longer and more costly to adopt than it otherwise would.


I would like to conclude in saying that access to low-cost energy will be vital to discovering that alternative. Oil, ironically, will help make it easier for the human race to stop using oil.
 wvwaterfall
Joined: 1/17/2007
Msg: 37
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 8:15:32 PM

The economic benefits of access to low-cost energy cannot overstated. Just try to think of all the countless developments that aren't directly tied to the oil industry. What never would have developed had people not been able to organize over long distances at low cost or had an easily malleable, low-cost building material not been at our disposal? We, the people, have profited immensely from the oil industry.


In the short term, no question. But are those benefits sustainable?

Here's an analogy - Go to any park and toss food out to the wildlife there. Do it for years on end. Do they not benefit from all that food? Of course they do, as long as you keep giving it to them. Now suppose you tire of all that feeding, and stop doing it. What was once a stable population of wildlife that naturally kept it's population in line with available resources has thanks to your largess dramatically increased in numbers, and now has no way to feed itself.

That's what we're doing with fossil fuel energy. These past couple of centuries we've dramatically depleted the planet's 'energy savings account' of all that stored solar energy from millions of years. Have we benefited? Certainly, so far. But cheap oil does not create any incentives for efficient use of that energy, and sooner than later we'll feel the effects of peak oil and have to tighten our belts in a hurry.

Then add in the social and environmental costs I outlined in my last post. Yes, they pale in the face of the net profits SOMEBODY made off the oil that didn't get spilled. But which lasts longer? The effects of large profits in the hands of a relatively small portion of the population, or the effects of severely damaged ecosystems, extinctions, lost livelihoods for local businesses, not to mention the impacts not included in those costs of oil related air pollution, climate change, and other negative effects even when the oil get's put to the use it's intended for.

I agree that we need to look at the big picture, and acknowledge benefits as well as costs. But we also need to be sure to be accurate in our accounting. In the extreme example we'd end up with nothing left to eat but all those dollars we made, and that's not much of a diet.

I'd argue that a slow but steady increase in energy costs is probably the only way we'll pay sufficient attention to our inevitable transition back to only using the energy naturally available to us, rather than running that energy savings account dry before contemplating serious action on alternatives.

We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but dependence on oil and other fossil fuels is a temporary and comparatively brief chapter in human history. It's time to turn the page.

Dave
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The BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf ...
Posted: 5/7/2010 9:47:09 PM

But cheap oil does not create any incentives for efficient use of that energy

This is where I start to disagree with your post. There are enormous incentives to efficiently use fuels. Greed is the primary one.

This isn't just theoretical either. We've already seen enormous improvement in the efficiency in our use of fossil fuel energy. Just consider coal-fueled power plants. They are far more efficient today than they were at any time in the past.

The same applies for any fuel-consuming industry I can think of.


What on earth are you basing this claim on?






sooner than later we'll feel the effects of peak oil and have to tighten our belts in a hurry

Most definitely. Peak oil will probably occur in my lifetime.

But the transition process will be relatively smooth from any one generation's perspective. It's false to think we're going to keep using oil to the last drop and then suddenly have find an alternative.

The only reason the switch wouldn't be smooth would be if we have and continue to make dramatically overestimations the world oil supply, if we have and continue to make dramatically underestimations of future oil demand, or if politicians get in the way and try to force a change prematurely or enforce legislation that will postpone the adoption of an alternative. The first two are highly unlikely considering the nature of market forces. The third is tbd.





The effects of large profits in the hands of a relatively small portion of the population

I'm not sure if you skipped over this part of my post, or what, but the idea that profits are made only by a relatively small number of people is one of the most misunderstood concepts in economics. The consumers of oil and those who consume the products and services that are benefited from the low cost energy that comes from oil (challenge you to think of one that isn't) are the ones who profit from oil the most. The employees and stockholders of the oil companies get a few billion dollars per year in exchange for the the trillions of dollars of value they add to the economy each year. This value is captured by billions of people. We benefit far more than they do. The profits are distributed to virtually everyone on the planet if you don't make the mistake of determining profits not on value, but only on money.






lost livelihoods for local businesses

Woah woah woah! Small, local business benefit ENORMOUSLY from cheap energy.

I don't know where you're getting this idea from.

You truly believe small business would benefit if energy cost more for them and their customers?






In the extreme example we'd end up with nothing left to eat but all those dollars we made, and that's not much of a diet.

We wouldn't. I don't think there's enough accessible oil on this planet to create that much ecological harm if we continue to use it as efficiently as we are now.

But, for the sake of argument, let's assume that we do have enough oil to wreak that kind of damage on this planet. That if we keep using oil as we are, we will destroy all living life on our world. Or at least human life.

Would we kill ourselves for it? Would we destroy our planet just to use oil?

Of course not. Greed wouldn't let us. It would literally be unprofitable to produce and use oil if it were imposing such high costs. Less costly alternatives would spout up long before things got anywhere close to that bad.. and our greed would lead us to use them because we as consumers and "they" as producers of the stuff would profit more from using the alternatives. Your scenario would require humans to behave irrationally and literally selfless. We're too selfish to kill ourselves that way.


...but let's not focus on that. Like I said earlier, I don't think there's enough accessible oil on this planet to do that kind of damage if we continue to use it as we have been. So any talk of apocalypse like that is just... irresponsible... and does nothing to help the conversation in my opinion : /
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