Sunday, July 18, 2010

The cap is on -nu?

Photo:Vlad Lazerian, Creative Commons, Flickr
In Yiddish there is the expression "nu?", which more or less translates into "so?" The question is now that the kindly folks at British Petroleum have deemed that the crisis may be in its waning days, what do we do from here? As a computer networking consultant and a writer working in New Orleans, I have no claim to any of the $20 billion slush fund appropriated by Congress and managed by Ken Feinberg. Those local fishers and other industry people affected by the downturn - and in many cases the paralysis - of their economy due to fallout from the spewing oil beneath the Gulf of Mexico are rightly entitled to petition the government for a redress of their losses. In most cases, though, only a fraction of their actual losses will be recovered. How they hold on financially and mentally during this time of trepidation will be telling. Already there are several horrible stories of people having been forced to move away to Texas or other fishing areas unaffected by the crisis in order to fend for their families. Some boat captains faced with financial ruin have taken their own lives rather than deal with the crisis head on. It is very sad and, unfortunately, these kind of pressures will continue unabated even after the spiggot of oil have been finally turned off. But the good news is that now there is some measure of hope and the beginning of the end is somewhat more now in view. The crisis began with the tragic deaths of 11 oilfield workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon. The numbers of affected families from the resulting crisis now numbers in the hundreds of thousands along the shores and stretch all the way down to Miami. So, the question is what can any of us do to help ensure this never happens again? Is a six-month moratorium on offshore oil exploration going to help stop this kind of event from recurring? Frankly, I doubt it. This was a series of breakdowns where each culpable party blamed the other with the bottom line being the only object truly being served. Had the blowout preventer manufacturer engineered their device properly, had the necessary tests been run to make sure it was working properly and had the B.P. engineers on board the rig not ignored the signs that showed fluctuations in pressure early on, none of this tragedy would have occurred and probably all of those whose lives were lost would have been saved and those whose way of life have been changed might still be productive and happy. I don't feel particularly safe now that the cap is on and the moratorium is still being sought by the government. When it all comes down to profit and loss statements, corners will be cut and, unfortunately, greed will rise to have its say. To add a moratorium to the oil exploration industry might hamper the little business that's still ongoing. If we want to shut down offshore exploration and send it off to Nigeria or other promising areas in South America, then we should consider that option. But, if we want to save the jobs and related industries that are still thriving, but barely so, then the government should proceed. That's why I'm somewhat happy, but also somewhat ambivalent. Nu?

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