Kevin Drum Claims "We" Haven't Learned Anything from Deepwater Horizon. What you mean, "we," Kemo Sabe?'

Kevin Drum claims that "we" haven't learned anything from the Deepwater Horizon disaster (the BP oil rig that exploded five years ago in the Gulf, killing a number of people and creating a large oil spill).

What is his evidence?  Has he looked at oil company drilling practices and found them unchanged since the disaster?  No, he does not mention any evidence based on observed drilling practices one way or another.  His sole evidence that "we" have not learned anything is that the US Government has not shut down drilling in the Gulf and has not passed any new laws.

This is almost a caricature of progressive thinking -- nothing matters except what the government does.  But presumably oil companies have been influenced by the cost of the disaster on BP.  So far BP has paid out about $30 billion (billion with a B) in reparations and restoration expenses and may be facing another $20 or so billion in fines based on a 2014 court decision.  All this ignores the loss of the platform itself, of access to the resource below the platform, and of BP's reputation.

One would presume that the prospect of losing $50+ billion would be enough to get the attention of private companies and cause them to make changes to their procedures.  I suppose it is also possible that they completely ignored this, but Drum offers no evidence one way or another.  To him, anything not done by the government is irrelevant.


  1. tmitsss:

    We learned that an oil spill in the Gulf is not as great an ecological disaster as many predicted at the outset.

  2. alanstorm:

    I have no doubt at all that Kevin hasn't learned anything from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Or anything else. for that matter.

  3. Matthew Slyfield:

    Yes, either the government's estimates of how much oil was released were way high or the environment's ability to absorb oil has been vastly underestimated.

  4. Jim Collins:

    I'd say that BP was defrauded out of 10 or more of that 30 billion dollars.

  5. skhpcola:

    Natural seeps from the seabed put as much oil in the GoM every year as did the DH accident, and they've been doing it for 1000s of years. The ecoloons ignore that, as they ignore anything that conflicts with their cult's dogma.

  6. herdgadfly:

    What we supposedly learned was that government meddling kept oil gushing from the GoM for far long too long. Once the red tape was cut the robots did their job. We also learned that those oil gobbling bacteria in the leaky gulf are very hungry indeed. Well no - we already knew that from the Bay of Campeche spill in 1979 but the drive-by-media wouldn't accept the predicted disappearance of the oil. That just could not be right because the environmentalists said the world would soon be covered by the black stuff from the very bowels of Mother Earth. Shore birds, gulls, fish, wild animals and friendly chipmunks would all choke to death.

    What the government did was to slow oil exploration to a crawl with their friendly new regulations in order that oil price creep would occur. The government has also shutdown deepwater drilling - period. And I think that government giveaways (in addition to the bribes paid by BP) exceeded Katrina spending.

  7. MJ:

    He's not the author, but that is indeed his blog. The fact that Mother Jones can substitute some bot named Tim McDonnell and it can produce the same indistinguishable pablum without anybody noticing the difference just points out how closely all of these blogs are hewing to the same script.

  8. opit:

    What I leaned was that the military response was - as usual - ignored in the rush to blame industry and ignore graft. Use of Corexit 9500 killed the microbes which would have broken down the oil while destroying the base of the food chain at toxicity 54x times that of crude alone )
    Skimmers which Kevin Kostner wants to build have always been ignored, The initial disastewr occured in such a way that precautions were not merely flouted - but completely ignored in such a way as to guarantee disaster. ..ot to mention Halliburton's consistently flawed cementing practices worldwide. The treatment of 'dialogue' is stage managed every bit as efficiently as, say, the demonization of Iran for plugging nuclear disarmament.

    Moyher Jones,Kevin Drum et al are merely useful idiots. The similarities of defusing rational assessment while appearing to issue profundities are profound.
    Iranians Are Much Talked About on Sunday Morning TV, But Never Heard From

    It's a continuing saga reflected in notices of scares and false 'science'. The stupid, it burns.

  9. TeeJaw:

    Same with the fracking debate, only government action is deemed legitimate. The anti-frackers refuse to acknowledge that those who have invested millions to drill and develop an oil or gas well have the strongest incentive to assure the project will not pollute groundwater wells.

  10. panzersage:

    We learned plenty from the Deepwater Horizon spill. One thing that we learned was the the US government had a tax of $.04/gallon on every gallon of fuel that filled cars going back decades. This money was specifically earmarked for the oil spill relief and recovery fund. When the disaster happened we learned that the government had spent every penny of the fund on anything that wasn't oil spill relief and recovery. The fund's money had not gone towards a minute of engineering or equipment. There wasn't even a piece of paper that said in case of oil spill do X. No one had any idea that the US government literally didn't even have a secretary paid for by the fund. So the only help that came was from the oil spill clean up vessels brought in by the companies.

    I am a project engineer for the oil and gas industry. Last year I just finished a multi-million dollar research and development project for a company called MWCC, standing for Marine Well Containment Company. It is an independent company funded by Anadarko, Apache, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Hess, Shell and Statoil. The entire purpose of the company is to not be needed. It has billions of dollars worth of vessels and the only purpose of the company is that if there is an oil spill or any form of trouble the company's assets will kick into gear with all the equipment, skills, and personnel to deal with the problem.

    I also worked with a company that designs shuttle valves as well as a service company. In both cases everything we do is shaped by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Where before a Blow Out Preventer test was performed once every one to two months as time allowed, now it is religiously performed and any leak or deviation from the norm is cause for failure and pulling the stack. The shuttle valves used to be test to API16D standards which said they had to go through 1,000 cycles with no problems. Now a company won't accept anything less than 5,000 and the standard is being rewritten to accept no less than 10,000 cycles, which is longer than the expected lifespan as all components are replaced every 5 years.

    Quite literally our entire industry has reacted and responded to the Deepwater Horizon disaster with new regulations, new training, new specifications, etc.

  11. guest:

    Big company policies are notoriously difficult to shift. However, as a self employed grunt in a long chain from subcontractors to BP I can attest that they do take problems seriously.

    I was on a repair job on Forties Charlie, 30 feet or so underwater, at the first cross structure. It needed repair. Oxygen is the fuel for fires (look at it that way!) and at partial pressure double atmospheric and maybe a bit higher %age, the most non-combustible stuff will suddenly burst into flames.

    Anyway, we got used to underwater fires (blasé, actually) and in the end we got the job done.

    BP could have just signed the cheques but they took the problem seriously. They sponsored a whole conference about the problem.

  12. FelineCannonball:

    Just thought it would get old if Warren didn't figure it out for the next two months.

    A little off-putting to kick a guy for something he didn't write while he was getting a bone marrow transplant. But maybe they're more personal to me.

  13. xtmar:

    Or the switch from sonic to mandatory ultra-sonic bond logs.

  14. FelineCannonball:

    No doubt. It's a lot of oil to lose and the federal fines and settlements are nothing to sneeze at. It should be a good time for engineers for a while.

    Piper Alpha caused some significant changes in industrial engineering cross-checks. Not to mention some revisions in the way insurers look at these operations.