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Longest-running oil spill in history releasing more than 4,500 gallons per day (washingtonpost.com)
219 points by mitchelldeacon9 on June 24, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 126 comments

>[Taylor Energy Company] claim that only one drop of oil per minute is being released from a small area covered in mud, amounting to less than three gallons each day.

.... 14 years later ...

Somewhere between 1,000 and 71,000 gallons have been leaking per day.

> Taylor Energy has disputed every outside assessment of oil flowing from the site.

Welp hopefully now that there is proof, they will get to pay for their externalities.

From http://www.taylorenergy.com/

>Taylor Energy Company LLC sold its oil and gas assets in 2008 and ceased all drilling and production operations. Taylor Energy exists today solely to respond to the MC-20 incident.

Okay nevermind. Socialize the losses, concentrate the profits, the American dream.

So the company basically went out of business. Sounds about right to me. What more could you possibly ask for?

Well, it's impossible (and unfair) to claw back revenues from shareholders at this point, but we could require active oil/gas drillers to put up gigantic deposits, held in escrow, which would be confiscated if they're unable to pay for environmental cleanup of spills they caused. If they can't afford the deposit, they can return capital to shareholders and cease operations. Of course, this will never happen "because jobs."

I've been thinking the same for companies operating nuclear power plants, they should be forced to do this, provision funds according to the scale of losses in case of accident, or factor these potential losses in the price.

Otherwise it's completely unfair to other technologies that don't yield similar environmental and social impact when they fail catastrophically.

I see your point but I think that might do more harm than good. When nuclear goes wrong it goes really wrong, but it's still way better than petroleum or coal. Discouraging nuclear is the last thing we need right now when oil companies have so little accountability for carbon emissions.

I'd like some "really wrong" examples that aren't 60 years old today.

Even Fukushima was quite clean and it was a total compounded disaster... Three Miles Island is ancient already and limited in impact.

Anything else?

I can look and find examples of improper dust and ash disposal, mining accidents, incorrect filter operations daily, on the other hand. Sometimes fatalities too, every some years.

It doesn't really seem fair that a company can return profits to its shareholders for many years while being environmentally negligent, then once it actually has to respond to environmental issues, it can just goes out of business. One, those profits are basically ill-gotten gains, and two, you are encouraging this kind of behavior by letting the people who received the profits keep them.

I'm not sure how to implement this, especially in a way that's fair, but if the company is unable to cover the environmental damage itself I think those profits out to be paying for the damage before taxpayers.

The usual solution in other industries is to require all companies in the industry to pay a percentage of revenues into a common insurance fund. Then there would be a pool of money to pay for cleanup even after bankruptcy.

Insurance is a pretty dirty word right now. Especially when they are for-profit insurance companies.

US healthcare is a great example of insurance companies causing so much complexity that people willingly chose death over going bankrupt.

If the (sunk-cost) common insurance pool pays for it, where's the incentive not to pollute? We're right back where we started with a tragedy of the commons.

For the proper incentive structure, you have to treat the money the way we treat all proceeds of crime - it's forfeit. If you buy a stolen bike, you don't get to keep it when the police come knocking. Ignorance of the crime doesn't earn you the item - it simply means you don't go to jail.

The solution is clear: prison. The CEO knew that the company caused huge environmental damage, but lied about it. I don't think it could be simpler than that.

Of course the CEO won't go to prison, as he has too much power for that.

The limited liability business concept is extremely damaging because it removes accountability for externalities and bad behavior. I myself and an owner of a limited liability company so ending this Would not be to my benefit. However the benefit has society would be massive. Shareholders and owners and directors and managers should all be held personally financially liable and there should not be a time limit to this liability. The government should be able to claw back all of the profits that Taylor energy generated.

Indeed doesn't seem fair, but that's the point for a Limited Liability Company. Who is in their right mind grant mining rights to a company that can't cover the consequences?

No one does. The mining rights are stolen by corrupt governments and then given away to cronies.

Here's your bimonthly reminder that fossil fuels also create toxic waste that lasts generations and affects huge swaths of the globe.

whoa! This seems like an awesome tool to get around paywalls.

You using a PC? The link didn't work for me on my Android for whatever reason:( Maybe it's the app I am using or something.

If one day we run out of oil, someone would go back and ask “what if we stopped all the leaks and perhaps we could have two extra days.”

I don’t understand and perhaps I missed it... it’s only 450 feet below. Why can’t anyone stop the leak?

The platform collapsed not just because of hurricane force winds, rain, and rough seas. The platform mainly collapsed because the mud it was put down on gave way into an underwater mudslide. An earlier assessment recommended continued monitoring and evaluation of the site as attempting to mess with the site might only make things worse until we know what to do about it. As you can see from the ranges given in even this most recent report, estimates on oil flow rate out of what is left of the well is all over the place as its hard to really tell what is brewing under all the mud. Essentially, poking the mud pile might release even more of a catastrophe than what there is currently going on. This new study gives us more insight that the leak rate is probably either on the high side of initial estimates or much higher than what was previously thought.


As a note this is a report hosted by mc20response.com, which is essentially all Taylor Energy is today. It has data reported from a few different government agencies, and overall this trust is pretty much just a pile of money to go towards cleaning up the mess. Feel free to take its findings with however big of a grain of salt as you'd like.

It’s not a question of if they can. It’s a question of if they want to. Fixing it would cost money and it’s cheaper to just leave it so here we are.

Cheaper? They could be selling.

Not for enough apparently

I would mention there are a lot of natural oil leaks.

A friend of mine living in Santa Barabara has said there's a lot of 100% all-natural tar on the beaches there.


Also had one of the largest oil spills in history - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_Santa_Barbara_oil_spill

and another one recently - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugio_oil_spill

A fair bit of that tar wound up there because of human activity.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_Oil_Point_seep_field

100 to 150 barrels worth of liquid petroleum per day. 36,500 to 54,750 per year. It leaks about as much as the 1969 oil spill every 2 years. Or about as much as the Refugio oil spill every month.

I would assume the sudden influx of oil has a hugely adverse affect on wildlife, which still makes them problematic. And 2 years worth of leaks in 10 days sounds catastrophic to the local wildlife. But long term it doesn't seem like either of these spills would be a major contributor to the tar you find on beaches in the region today.

(Long time Santa Barbara resident) The tar that washes up on the beaches is natural and not from those spills.

Also, if you need to get tar off your feet after a walk on the beach, baby oil works well :)

I went to the University. Baby oil was a necessity ;)

It’s natural seeps that end up on the beaches. Santa Barbara is where they practice oil spill response because there is always natural slicks in the ocean.

Human oil extraction in the region likely reduces the amount of tar on the beach as it relives pressure from natural seeps.

An oil company even has a cap over one of the bigger natural leaks to capture the oil that would otherwise be entering the ocean.

Funny you would say that, there is an oil industry funded environmental group that proposes to pump out all the oil before it can seep out and pollute the environment.

Oil used to bubble up at the surface all around the world which should have significantly decreased after those oil deposits were drilled and emptied.

I wonder if there are any statistics on human vs. natural oil spill pollution over the last few centuries.

Climate change is natural too but humans are making both climate change and oil spills worse.

Every hour, hour after hour

work is never over.

It's really weird how, if there's one thing that a large majority of Americans seem to hate, it's forcing companies to take responsibility for negative externalities that they create by profiting off of something.

There seems to be basically no limit to how much damage the "America is open for business!!!" cheerleaders will support as long as

1. Someone is making a profit off of it.

2. It's happening in someone else's backyard (This one is sometimes optional, see the entire state of Louisiana [1] or flammable tap water in Pennsylvania and NY [2])

[1] https://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/release_geography?region=...

[2] https://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.abstract

I don't have any numbers to support this, but I'd question whether "large majority" is accurate. I think most people aren't remotely aware of the types of negative externalities caused by corporations because they struggle plenty in their day-to-day lives that they have no bandwidth to form an opinion about or, heck, even _learn about_ such things. Like if I ran a survey of random US citizens and asked "do you think a corporation, that through their own neglect did x damage to people/place/thing, should be made to pay for x damage?" I think the vast majority would respond "yes." I do agree that it's baffling that anyone would reply "no," but that is absolutely true and any number >0 in the no column is an indictment of us. And it's even more damning when elected officials in the US, the purported stewards of being informed, seem to be in the "no" camp. I'm tempted to say we've lost our way, but maybe we never had it to begin with.

Chomsky would say advertising companies have put a great deal of effort into intentionally directing people’s energy into consumption and away from everything else, including basic education about the world and one’s own level of contentment.

Blaming the individual is missing the forest for the trees IMHO.

Edit: phrasing.

Agreed. When the GP comment said

> they struggle plenty in their day-to-day lives that they have no bandwidth to form an opinion about or, heck, even _learn about_ such things

It reminded me of Chomsky's anecdote about listening to the radio and hearing random people calling into the station during a sports discussion program and arguing at length with paid experts, suggesting average people are perfectly capable of doing research and building nuanced opinions on complex topics, they just choose to do that for sports/cars/technology/consumption rather than politics. Or rather, are bombarded by marketing until they forget they can choose.

I don't know what Chomsky was listening too but IME talk back radio + sports is anything but nuanced and well reasoned, it's even more emotionally charged and driven by bias (particularly confirmation bias) than normal talk back. Blaming the coach even though there was a good performance with an ordinary team, blaming a key player for a loss because the screwed up at a key moment despite an overall great game, blaming a player for doing nothing despite drawing 2 defenders to let his team run riot, the complete inability to realize that bad games happen.

I'd rather read youtube comments than listen to sports talk back.

I think your observation actually strengthens the parent comment’s point that people are more capable than they realize in researching and holding opinions on the world. Political pundits you see on cable, for instance, have largely the same credibility as the rest of us. What makes them pundits is that they’re paid for their opinion.

Edit: rereading the comments I think you may not have been trying to be contrary at all—my apologies for implying you were.

I do think there's a difference between researching and holding an opinion and researching and holding an opinion that can be used to form accurate predictions about the future. I think that one of the things that's happening to us with social networks and such is that we're realizing that it is not always the case that more and freer information leads to better decisions. People have plenty of time and opportunity to do research now. They do not have the time and opportunity to learn to do good research.

I think in this case the point is that people are capable of doing research and knowing the facts, keeping up with an ever changing topic. Who's the coach, what are the key players, what happened at the last game, who's being transferred where, strengths and weaknesses of teams and individual players, etc.

It may very well be that the conclusions people reach starting from the facts are emotionally charged, but I'd say it's better than how it happens with politics at the moment: people start from ignorance or falsehoods, and then make emotionally charged conclusions based on that.

I don't have any numbers to support this, but I'd question whether "large majority" is accurate.

Yep. Here is some data:

76% of Americans say corporations have too much power https://openmarketsinstitute.org/blogs/76-americans-say-corp...

In 1950, 60% of Americans had a favorable opinion of big business. In 2017, that number is 21%. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/learnin...

IOW, the original poster is no longer an outsider when they rag on big business. They are in the overwhelming majority. They would have been an outsider in 1950, but not today.

This also goes in cycles. Teddy Roosevelt was wildly popular when he engaged in the busting up the hated Trusts. I think what we are seeing now is a return to that era, especially after all the outsourcing, low taxes paid, etc. It does seem like big business isn't really holding up its end of the social contract.

In fact, corporations have become such a boogeyman that everything is blamed on them. If you want to see true catastrophic environment devastation, take a look at Eastern Europe before the fall. It was horrific. Everyone knew -- back then -- that the west, with it's capitalism, had much cleaner air and took better care of nature than the socialist east. I often wondered about whether that was really true, or just one of those fashions that comes and goes.

What I think now is that what matters is power. The reason why the USSR and Eastern Europe were so awfully polluted compared to the U.S. and Western Europe was that when the state said "We need to increase steel production", then that's what they did and no one could stop them. They were absolutely single minded. They burned brown coal, dumped waste into lakes. No one could question them or stop them. Some bureaucrat said, "clear this forest" -- and it was cleared. That's why the air is unbreathable in China. Some well connected official said "Build a factory here" and they did, and no one can sue them or even challenge them.

Today, the situation is different in the west. The air is cleaner, the water is cleaner. The most polluted areas would be the overpopulated areas of China and India. 90% of the plastics flowing into the ocean come from 10 rivers in China and India. These are the places with the worst air quality. 1/3 of San Francisco's air pollution comes from China. I think, before that can really change, you'll need to empower local citizens to sue and demand improved conditions. It may be hard to sue a corporation, but it's even harder to sue a state owned enterprise, or the state as well. Empowering the individual is key. Here in the west, a bit of anti-trust would help, IMO. Make these beasts smaller and less powerful.

Surveys are one thing. Votes are another. Voters have consistently voted to put oil companies in the highest seats of power for decades, because they are "pro-business".

Don't confuse people with industries. Sure, people who worked in Oil and Gas got elected -- Bush Sr. is the most recent one. People who also worked in media got elected -- Reagan.

You are going to elect a person from some industry, after all, unless you plan to elect someone with no skills or employment history. The time of electing generals like Eisenhower is past.

But the fact that, say, people elected Trump has nothing to do with people really favoring the real estate industry -- that's a very odd interpretation of what elections signify, and does not refute the survey data about people's opinions of Big Business.

I am sorry that you are not party of the enlightened minority, but a normal person would be happy that the vast majority of the public share one of their beliefs, so maybe be thankful. Alternately, you can adopt a new minority belief if needed.

It's really inconvenient to be the guy that has to tell 1000 partiers to turn down the music. If the rest of the neighborhood actually came together and told the guy how much support he has, he would be more confident and be able to make change happen - make the music stop. In our age of 15 minutes for any topic - the support just doesn't really exist.

For me personally nothing sums up our collective lack of accomplishing anything moreso than Kony 2012 [1].

So when it comes to affecting change that goes against the grain, I'm just not really all that surprised anymore.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kony_2012

You are 100% right and it has baffled me ever since I noticed it. Anyone have a hypothesis as to why this happens/is happening?

Because there is no social safety net. If you don't have a job you have to live on the street. Companies have the jobs. When the alternative is seen as living on the street, Americans see these issues with fear for their immediate well being. The environment being destroyed is a far-ish off problem. To many Americans, homeless could be a month or two of joblessness away.

What are you talking about?

EITC, SNAP, Section 8 housing, SSI, TANF, WIC, Medicaid, etc.

This site estimates over $700 billion per year spent on these programs: http://federalsafetynet.com/safety-net-programs.html

The question is about the quality of life people have when they are on such programs.

Also, it's not about how much is spent but how much people actually get. I read somewhere not too long ago that if you divided the amount of money spend on welfare programs by the number of recipients a family of three would be getting $60,000 a year. This is not the case. Welfare administration eats up the difference.

I just pointed out that $700 billion isn't nothing.

I'm well aware of the myriad of flaws in the existing programs. I certainly wasn't claiming that the $700 billion was being spent wisely but apparently that is what a number of people assumed.

Do you have any numbers to back that last sentence up? I suspect the difference between your figure and intuition is less welfare administration bloat and more that most of it is eaten up by exorbitant healthcare costs through Medicare and Medicaid.

Have you ever been on those programs? I have... what few actually accepted me.

Unemployment - Screwed around and "lost" the request in the system. I didn't have unemployment, which I am forced to pay into, for 8 weeks. Good thing I was able to get food stamps. I spent most of the time online leeching free internet, since I couldn't afford gas to drive aimlessly to places that would say 'apply online' anyways.

EITC - Once a year, during tax season. Not much of a help.

SNAP - food stamps. Yes, I was on them back in 2012 when I couldn't get any jobs. It meant that I had food.

Section 8 housing - 2 year wait minimum. I put my name on the list, and was summarily told of the homeless shelters.

SSI - I tried for disability, because my right arm is permanently injured. Rejected. Rejected. Rejected. All over a course of 8 months.

TANF - I have no children. Doesn't apply.

WIC - Women, infants, children. I'm none of those, and have no children.

Medicaid - Tried and was refused. Told to apply to HIP Healthy Indiana Plan. Wanted $$$$.


Long story short. In the US, if you aren't independently wealthy, and you lose your job, you're pretty much fucked. You'll lose your residence, cant afford gas for too much transportation, lose needed services to regain a job, your health benefits, and more.

The "social net" really isn't, except for the worst of the worst. My wife cares for them as in-home non-medical care. And then, they're on the skin of their teeth, with even a $10/mo raise in a bill causing less food budget. It terrorized many section8 housing people with the earlier shutdown precisely because the fed cuts the check to the state who cuts to the landlord. With no fed money, rents weren't being paid...

I just pointed out that $700 billion isn't nothing.

I'm well aware of the myriad of flaws in the existing programs. I certainly wasn't claiming that the $700 billion was being spent wisely but apparently that is what a number of people assumed.

A couple of nice ropes aren't a net, not matter how much you spend on them.

Not quite the same as knowing you still can have decent health care if you are unemployed.

Sure, but I wasn't making any claims about healthcare. I was just stating the obvious that we spent lots of money on a safety net.

Ironic that people seem to think that those programs are worthless, but I gather want to arrange for a lot more money to be distributed by the same organization that can't seem to do anything useful with the money it is already distributing.

I'm not a fan of the affordable care act, but it seems completely obvious to me that we need to decouple health insurance from employment. I really don't understand why that wasn't a key element of health care reform.

What on Earth are you talking about? Social services are massively underfunded, despite getting a lot of funding, because the need is gigantic.

Quite a lot of that funding is just compensating for some of centuries of theft, from slaveowners of the 19th century to predatory rural banks of the 20th Century to coordinated corporate wage depression of the 21st century.

There are real social problems that need solving but framing the situation as the result of "theft" is a mischaracterization. Theft would be an "easy" situation to resolve, just give the money back. In any case, I don't think simply transferring money solves these types of problems -- it is much more difficult than that.

The organizations that support this position, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, AEI, Heritage Foundation, Heartland, Federalist Society, State Policy Network, Hudson Institute, Accuracy in Media, etc in aggregate have many billions in annual funding. Their only real goal is to sell that position to the American public.

It's not like groups on the other side, such as Sea Shepherd, which has actual giant boats sailing around the world to combat whaling or ASPCA which operates hospitals, shelters, has large stocks of medicine, a staff of veterinarians, 24-hour crisis lines, etc.

The business groups don't really do anything other than spinning and framing things to persuade the public. It's not like they're operating say, shelters for downtrodden wayward billionaires. All their money goes into campaigns for the public perception.

Besides, it's not surprising that organizations who defend wealth and property rights have out-sized power and influence in a world where legislation has made wealth and property rights the primary source of power and influence.

That's why structuring and understanding how rights, responsibilities and privileges are allocated in a society is really important.

Hangover from the cold war is my guess. The US is at the extreme compared to other western democracies on a lot of the old cold war battle lines regarding governments role in everyday life. Some examples include the generally pro private business environment and our objection to a greater social safety net including public healthcare.

Another side effect of the cold war - apathy. If the human race is going to nuke itself soon, anyway, what's the point doing things the right way, especially if that may make gas or food x% more expensive.

The fear of Armageddon is less now, but the defense mechanism takes far longer to wear off.

But the big swing to environmental protection happened right in the middle of the cold war.

The companies that profit from exploiting public resources and leaving pollution behind have the money to pay for propaganda.

I think the public backlash against BP was tremendous. The HBO documentary in 2016 was very popular, six years after the incident occurred.

Tremendous? A congressman even apologized to BP for people saying they were unhappy with the company, and the company's fines had both no effect on their business and did not compensate for even the economic loss of the people in the area.

I thought the opposite from outside the US - I thought the US lambasted (rightfully) BP which caused BP to almost go out of business - they had asset sales at the time to pay for the costs.

There were pension liquidity fears at the time due to the costs that it needed to pay. BP provides a large percentage of dividend payments on the the London Stock Exchange which pension funds rely on for paying out pensions.

The wikipedia page is quite clear on how much BP paid in damages and they were not insignificant - $42Billion had been paid into a trust fund.

To say no effect is incorrect.

Glad to see Joe Barton dishonorably not to go for reelection[0]. [0] https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/30/politics/joe-barton-re-electi...

Weren’t there some $5B ordered for civil penalties?

I worked in Houston just after the spill and heard BP was in shambles at the time.

> Weren’t there some $5B ordered for civil penalties?

Weren't there some $63B in cleanup efforts?

The fines were in addition to the cost that BP bore for cleaning up. Most of that $63B was paid by BP, in addition to all the fines.

Often we have a “backlash” but they lead to no real consequences probably because we feel so disenfranchised.

Once something bad happens the public kind of already knows there will be a fine but none of the board/shareholders will ever really be held responsible.

> I think the public backlash against BP was tremendous.

I do wonder if the backlash would've been less if it was an American company though. Or at least a less obviously "foreign" company. There did seem to also be plenty of blame to go around with local contractors etc, but they seem to have escaped the backlash - or at least had a public narrative absolving them.

There was a backlash but no real consequences (the fine was pretty low compared to the cost of the cleanup). Same for Equifax. Just sit it out and it will be forgotten quickly.

"Negative externality" is a word meaning that something valuable is destroyed but it's no one's private property.

If it were property, it could have a price, and compensation of damage to it could be sought. But not everything is easy to price in a market: e.g. a national park.

Anyway, if damage is real, or a risk is real, a court could look at it. If not people themselves, an insurance company could, in some cases.

I am confused. What does your first link refer specifically to Louisiana?

Louisiana is #5 in the nation on the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (despite being 31st in the nation by size).

Related reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_Alley


How is excess carbon in the atmosphere a free market opportunity in any meaningful sense?


Could you please stop breaking the site guidelines so we don't have to ban you? I understand how irritating other people's internet comments can be, but we need you (as well as every other user) to have the self-discipline not to respond in kind or worse.



Whoever downvoted you is probably someone who doesn't think that calling people "pathetic" and other ad-hominem insults belong on Hacker News.


Under the moral principle that most three year olds learn from their parents: "Clean up your own shit".

If you build an oil platform in a known hurricane area, well, you're responsible for cleaning up when a hurricane hits your (shocker!) insufficiently prepared oil platform.

(I vaguely remember there's also a children's story about people building with the cheapest shit and not wanting to take responsibility - "Three little pigs")


This is exactly what the OP referring to when he referenced negative externalities. This problem only exists because the oil company took a risk in order to make profits. The potential risk (the negative externally) materialized. If society eats up the cost, we encourage business practices that might be a net-negative for society as a whole. If the oil company has to pay for the cleanup, the market forces can determine if drilling the way they did, where they did is economical.

If a hurricane causes an oil platform to release oil, the platform was by definition not sufficiently prepared. The bar for "sufficiently prepared" might be prohibitively high, but that should just be the cost of business.

>The bar for "sufficiently prepared" might be prohibitively high, but that should just be the cost of business.

I don't agree, and neither does centuries of established moral legal arguments adopted by developed nations.

And I'm saying I think you (and those nations' standards) are wrong. We're letting companies profit off of the environment without being responsible for cleaning up after themselves when shit goes sideways.

All designs break at some point. There is no such thing as hurricane proof. In this case the sub-surface safety valves designed to prevent oil spillage, failed. To take another industry, there are design risks when it comes to seatbelts, brakes, crumple zones, tires, fuel lines, etc, etc. Better designs for each of these safety features already exist. You can't simply wave a magic wand and ban cars with older designs. We have been making progress on all fronts when it comes to safety. I have family who has worked on oil rigs, and what we have now is a hell of a lot better than the rickety explosion-prone rigs from 60-odd years ago.

>We're letting companies profit off of the environment without being responsible for cleaning up after themselves when shit goes sideways.

That is just a hyperbole and is not grounded in reality. Ironically, in this case, the company lost the oil, lost the 'money', wasn't able to profit, and went out of business. Looks like you got what you wanted. :)

>They didn't cause the hurricane. Your moral principle is invalid here.

They caused the hole in the oil bed that the oil is gushing out of.

If the street is wet and I lose control over my car and run you down with it because of that, who is going to pay for your hospital fees?


"I work out and stay healthy."

You are aware that this is not a 100% plan for staying healthy ?

Unfortunately, a fire in one person’s yard is not likely to stay just in their yard. Even if you feel like the people who are responsible should burn to death if they don’t have their own private fire service, unfortunately, their neighbors and possibly the entire community are likely to suffer if the fire is not extinguished immediately.

So in this example it’s your fault you were walking down the street and because you work out being hit by a car won’t hurt you?

Fault is a loaded word, and is inapplicable in this context. The burden of the cost is borne by the party that society that chooses using whatever framework exists. Maybe it was "mob justice" a thousand years ago. Today, maybe its in the form of a lawsuit. Maybe its a social safety net that pays for your medical expenses.

Continuing to allow businesses to take out loans against the environment is a net negative for society as a whole if those loans are never expected to be repaid.

There are few industries that break down binary "free market or bust" logic. This happens to be one of them and you cannot apply some global, arbitrarily defined, rule of responsibility when the real world is more nuanced than that.

They decided to take on the risk of possibly having their rig knocked over by drilling in a dangerous place because the potential reward while it was pumping was large enough according to their calculations (do note their calculations may or may not have cynically included wondering if there are enough people who are thinking like you are) and lost that bet.

Vegas never seems concerned I thought the other team was going to win.

We actually don't need morality for this one (or much of anything).

"Although the company called the event an “act of God” that was unprecedented, the study said a similar event happened during Hurricane Camille in 1969. Eleven years later, a report commissioned by the Interior Department identified areas in the gulf that were susceptible to mudslides. Mississippi Canyon 20, the site of Taylor Energy’s platform, was one of those areas."

So they chose to build in an area susceptible to mudslides, and then their platform was knocked down by a mudslide. No morality here, just a factual observation.

I would prefer Taylor Energy to participate in the cleanup of this spill, and provide some reassurance they are working to prevent future spills, because they are willing to do so. If they are unwilling, maybe there is some other way to get the same result. I've always thought that the U.S. could just start bribing these companies to take a long vacation: just send everyone home and keep paying for them to have the quality of life they desire, without releasing toxic material into the world ocean. I think such an endeavor would be worthwhile because the photosynthesizing organisms at the ocean surface provide two thirds of the oxygen we breathe and oxygen is something everyone requires to sustain life. The industrial chemical activities in the gulf and other places have created massive dead-zones where nothing can live, let alone produce the oxygen which we all need to live. Again, no morality here, just factual, concrete observations.

I'll give a consequentialist argument:

If way make a policy of forcing oil companies to pay for damage due to leaks caused by hurricanes, then they will choose not to build oil platforms for which the expected damage caused by such leaks exceeds the expected value of using the oil.

Exactly. Instead, the corporations can extract all of the value of the oil, and we the people feel the losses of the resulting environmental damage for years. If the the expected damage exceeds the expected value, then they should not be building the platforms. In America someone eats the losses, but not them.

I don't agree with such a policy for any industry. Do you want to send developers to jail because of a bug in some medical, or otherwise critical software? There is your consequence.

If bad code causes the failure of somebody's medical equipment, then the company that released said code should absolutely be held responsible. I wouldn't go so far as to hold individual developers responsible because there should be a complex QC process in place before life-critical software makes it anywhere near market, but certainly the company as a whole, and potentially whatever executive fast-tracked the release of said software, is at fault.

Agreed. Similarly, the whole internet of shit phenomenon looks a lot like environmental pollution to me: People cutting corners and shirking responsibilities to increase profit leading to an internet environment infested by botnets and worms...

In certain cases. For example, there are some people at Equifax that should be held accountable. Doctors and perhaps civil engineers can be held liable in the US.

What is the consequence exactly?

Why are the rest of us responsible for their mistake of building a non-hurricane proof oil platform in an area known for hurricanes?

Well, we can only deal with whats reasonable. There is no such thing as a "hurricane proof" oil platform, or an "earthquake proof" home, or a "tsunami proof" boat, or a "hacker proof" operating system, or a "idiot proof" UI, or a "bullet proof" vest, etc, etc. The level of damage that nature can deliver far far far surpasses anything us puny humans can build :)

In any case, it would be interesting to see if the data shows that the level of fortification that was used was not sufficient compared to what other oil platforms in similar situations do.

It would be interesting. So interesting you might find reading the article worthwhile.

> Although the company called the event an “act of God” that was unprecedented, the study said a similar event happened during Hurricane Camille in 1969. Eleven years later, a report commissioned by the Interior Department identified areas in the gulf that were susceptible to mudslides. Mississippi Canyon 20, the site of Taylor Energy’s platform, was one of those areas.

Your comments here purporting legitimate uncertainty about whether this is an externality Taylor Energy is responsible for read very much like unnecessary FUD. This is as clear a case you can get of privatized gains and publicized losses.

>It would be interesting. So interesting you might find reading the article worthwhile.

I did not find a comparative analysis of the various oil rigs w.r.t engineering and safety. Link?

>Your comments here purporting legitimate uncertainty about whether this is an externality Taylor Energy is responsible for read very much like unnecessary FUD.

I have an open mind, unlike some. Also you can either hurl accusations, or have a dialogue and be respectful of others opinions. Pick one.

If its impossible then they shouldn't build it. Simple as that.

You can't just put a barbecue pit in an apartment living room, burn down the building, and then throw up your arms and proclaim it was impossible to do safely so you're absolved of responsibility.

And let me be clear. I really don't mean to say regulation is enough. My point is that no matter the regulation the responsibility is theirs. If that bankrupts the company, so be it.

You can have endless debates over what’s reasonable. However, there’s an easy way out: don’t even attempt to define it, and just make companies liable for their pollution. They will then do whatever hurricane-proofing is cost effective given that liability, which is also the most economically efficient amount.

If it can't be done safely and the cost of the cleanup exceeds the value of the operation, we shouldn't do it.

If the concern is cost of the outlier accident, then that seems exactly like the problem insurance companies solve.

Right. So there's a risk to building the platform. If the company solely had to foot the bill for any cleanup, it could make a calculation of risk factoring in potential profits, the risk of a bad event and the cost of protecting against such an event.

But they don't have to do that. They can take the rig profits, install the minimum protections under the law and know they won't have to carry the full cost of cleanup.

the moral principle of being responsible for your external costs upon society

A freak storm hits your house. Crap flies for miles around, including every single material used to build your house and everything in your house.

How much are YOU going to pay ME because of “negative externalities”?

Seriously, your comment is incendiary by making Americans look like greedy monsters.

Your house is not a business and doesn't pay out large profits every month by taking large risks that can be mitigated.

> Seriously, your comment is incendiary by making Americans look like greedy monsters.

The people involved in these decisions, and in supporting them, look like greedy monsters because that's precisely what they are. That, or ignorant stooges.


“Hurricane Ivan caused 80-foot waves that led to the walls of the canyon giving way, resulting in a mudslide that chopped down Taylor Energy’s oil platform in 2004. The event buried the broken wells under more than 100 feet of sediment.”

So, you’re smart enough to mitigate not one, but multiple 80-foot waves AND determine that the waves will cause a landslide a full 20 years AFTER you put it into production? Damn, you’re fucking brilliant - which Nobel prize winner are you?

Think before you type up a comment like that.

Thanks for implicitly conceding the point about the house analogy being inapplicable.

Also FTA:

> the study said a similar event happened during Hurricane Camille in 1969. Eleven years later, a report commissioned by the Interior Department identified areas in the gulf that were susceptible to mudslides. Mississippi Canyon 20, the site of Taylor Energy’s platform, was one of those areas.

That was years before construction of the Taylor Energy MC-20 platform began.

So, no "brilliance" is needed, just paying attention to the known information about the area, which any responsible oil company should be doing.

Taylor Energy clearly doesn't fit that category, because it hid this oil spill for six years, tried to clean it up secretly, and once discovered, repeatedly lied about the extent of the spill.

If you needed more evidence of the "greedy monster" characterization, that's it right there.

As I said, "the people involved in these decisions, and in supporting them, look like greedy monsters because that's precisely what they are. That, or ignorant stooges."

> Think before you type up a comment like that.

I'm curious what's motivating you to support such unacceptable behavior. Perhaps you react badly to the "monster" characterization because you feel attacked by it? If so, you might want to start listening to that voice of conscience, for your own mental health.


pay/privacy wall, why even bother posting this link...

If you press esc quickly after the text has loaded you can stop the pay/privacy wall from loading. It might take a couple of refreshes to get the timing right :)

I can’t find the iPhone escape key

On mobile you can quickly hit the X in the address bar as the page is loading, it accomplishes the same thing.

Nice tip! I assume the paywall is loaded by javascript?

People hate ads, people hate paywalls. We've really got to just choose one and accept it.

"up to" 4,500 gallons per day. The two new estimates in the article are 9-47 barrels per day and 19-108 barrels per day. A total of 250-700 barrels of oil per day might be flowing into the Gulf from various sources, so this is a significant fraction but not a majority.

Without changing units to make the numbers seem smaller:

> "up to" 4,500 gallons per day. The two new estimates in the article are 378-1974 gallons per day and 798-4536 gallons per day. A total of 10.5k-29.4k gallons of oil per day might be flowing into the Gulf from various sources, so this is a significant fraction but not a majority.

Either way it's a hell of a lot more than the 2-4 barrels per day claimed by Taylor Energy Company.

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