I've heard both that BP is the only organization which can deal with the spill, and that it's unusually negligent as oil companies go.
Anyone have information about the latter?
Even if no government knows as much about oil spills as oil companies do, BP is possibly the wrong company for the job.
I can see financial and political reasons for making BP do the clean-up. It's the only way to make sure BP will be stuck with the bill, and it has a certain aesthetic simplicity.
However, everything I've heard about BP is that it tried to do everything on the cheap. This presumably includes hiring, training, and paying its experts.
I believe Americans have a naive faith in the efficacy of punishment.
Just because someone fucked up and you're angry at them, it doesn't mean they will suddenly become competent. Oh right, it's that damned anti-intellectual, "just do it" feature of the American character. The only reason people aren't doing the right thing is lack of motivation.
Motivation is important, and one of the things can do is motivate people to get the information and skills they need-- but in the case of the oil hemorrhage, I'd rather start with people who know what they're doing if such are available.
How about, "BP, you're gonna fix it. And we're gonna be right in there with you, watching you every step of the way -- at your expense, of course. And our watchers aren't going to be your bought-and-paid-for regulators, but independent engineers."
Some thoughts. BP has changed. A lot. Twenty years ago BP was fanatical about Health and Safety. Somebody decided to change that in the name of cost cutting. A little delving into that history would be very interesting.
I've heard it said that the best outfit to deal with a spill like this is Schlumberger. BP is in bed with Haliburton so that won't happen. The US government is in bed with Haliburton too of course.
The other parties to the spill; Transocean, who operated the rig, Haliburon, who did the cementing, the minority partners in the well, seem to have taken remarkably little flak for the incident.
Scuttlebutt (so take this with a grain of salt) has it that a Sclumberger team was hired to do the cement inspection before turning the rig over, and left the rig without completing the inspection as they deemed the rig too hazardous to remain unless shut down... and BP wouldn't allow it to be shut down. The next day was the day of the explosion.
-- Steve doesn't know enough about Transocean to comment, but will say that the 60 Minutes piece on the accident is hair-raising.
The rumor I read was juicier than that-- that BP refused to transport the Sclumberger team off the rig, so Sclumberger hired a helicopter. I can't remember whether the timing was reported as such as to save the team's lives.
Multiple BP employees have come forward and said that both Haliburton and Transocean employees on the rig told the BP people not to skip the safety steps they did, and were over-ruled. BP didn't listen to them because they needed to save the money, and more importantly, because both of those companies were getting paid by the hour and therefore had the incentive to go as slowly as possible, so some BP manager decided not to believe them.
BP does have the worst safety record of the major oil companies, and multiple witnesses have come forward detailing the safety steps that were skipped in the days leading up to the explosion, and no whistle blowers have come forward for the other four biggest oil companies accusing them of skipping the same steps. BP was a uniquely bad actor here.
But they're in charge of drilling the relief wells because the US government doesn't have any drilling platforms on lease, and we're not going to wait while that contract gets negotiated and signed, nor would we get a good deal having to sign such a contract in the middle of a disaster. Nor does the government have anybody on staff who has experience working on or running a drilling rig, and we're surely not going to wait while they hire and train a crew.
(Interesting hypothetical: we could rewrite the law so that one of your rivals drills the relief well if you blow up a well, and you have to pay them for it. Might create some more interesting incentives.)
That being said, there's a reason why the regional Coast Guard commander is the incident commander for cleanups like this: he and his people are on duty specifically to make sure that corners aren't getting cut. Notice that even the USCG doesn't have enough people to make sure that all of the boom is being installed correctly and then maintained, but I would be deeply surprised if Commander Allen doesn't have people on duty on those relief well drilling platforms 24x7 breathing down BP supervisors' necks.
BP isn't working by itself; from what I've heard, other firms, including most of the firms which do any deep-water drilling in the Gulf, are consulting or even contributing equipment. BP is in charge because . . . well, I honestly don't know--probably the same fallacy that got W. reelected in 2004, the idea that whoever broke it is in the best position to fix it.