Gulf Oil Spill

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    Thomas J. Johnson

    I think you just hit the nail on the head right there. It’s a matter of where do X and Y cross.

    The Valdez spill (257,000 barrels) cost Exxon approx. $8.5 billion in clean-up and legal fees. That’s in 1989 dollars.

    The BP mess is currently 4 times that (approx. 912,000 barrels). At an inflation rate of 76% since 1989 that would cost: 8.5Bn x .75 = 6.37Bn + 8.5Bn = 14.87Bn x 4(magnitude) = $59.5Bn expected cost for the mess where it stands today.

    There are other factors unique to this spill that did not exist in Valdez, namely the human factor. Valdez is remote where as the gulf is densely populated and is heavily dependent on tourism and other industries tied to the coast. These factors increase the cost of the spill significantly.

    Lets start with the $59.5Bn clean-up number. Lets say the real cost is closer to $100Bn, after all is said and done. The oil is still leaking and we don’t yet know how far it will spread. If it wipes out Florida’s beaches / tourist industry that will exacerbate the costs. This is a much different beast than Valdez. So, BP is in the hole $100Bn. Last year they made $17Bn, this year they expected to make $21Bn. So in round numbers you’re talking about 5-7 years of lost profit to pay for this mess.

    Is that enough to put them out of business? I don’t know, I doubt it. They could hang on… but why? Why suffer those kinds of losses when BP is just a name, an identity. Why not restructure, so that BP no longer exists? Create a new company PB&J and buy BP assets at rock bottom prices. BP goes under. PB&J is off to the races…

    As far as the loss of oil being a factor: Crude is trading at $75/barrel. So far they have lost 912,000 barrels. So, lets say they’ve lost $75Mn in crude. That is a drop in the bucket when you’re talking about $100Bn in clean-up and legal fees. So, no, at this point I don’t think they even care about the oil. There are bigger issues at hand…

    Rob Halpern

    Perhaps, but remember that they have opted to drill a mile under the ocean surface using technology that is barely up to the task. I can’t guess whether there is a deep conspiracy or not, but to go all the way down that speculative road ignores that people, even (especially !) big corporations are often just stupid.

    So maybe we have stupid people – who, due to their power believe they are smart – moved by greed and ignorance, used to working in private on their own terms, pushed by politicians and the press to make decisions quickly on matters about which no one knows anything or has any real experience.

    We’ve all seen such men at work.

    It ain’t pretty.

    And if we can see that at the center of this is powerful dumb egoistical men, it might help us respond to them and their in-actions. And who can doubt that they are trying to play this – and spin this – in whatever ways benefit them? So is the media. And the government. And the states. And the fishermen. And the people who promote solar power. And …

    None of this moves us forward, though.

    Bob Luther

    perhaps they were forced to drill in a mile deep water… were you on the board of directors that decided where to place the platform? Big government can be just as stupid. We need to find responsible ways to harvest energy. Oil is and always will be apart of this formula. Coal is “dirty”, the sun does not always shine, the winds do not always blow, nuclear is dangerous, hydrothermal is spot specific, hydroelectric kills fish, wind farms kill birds, tidal generators destroy coastal eco systems, all of these factors must be considered, and at some point we must make some sacrifices. France has no issue nuclear they are 80%+ powered by nuclear reactors (we stopped building after three mile island) Spain has no problems with building huge solar farms (good luck putting that in someones back yard) we have built dams which we later tear down to save the salmon. there is always risk and there is always compromise… which direction do you want to go and who do you want leading the charge?



    ‘Stupid’? I don’t think so. ‘Unenlightened,’ perhaps.

    I appreciate your point Rob, but I don’t think we’re dealing with generally stupid people or necessarily unenlightened people. In fact, I have more confidence in the notion that private corporations such as BP tend to attract the best and brightest in some for or another, be it workers on the deck or in executive positions. I don’t think these people are stupid. In fact, I think they may be quite coy. According to the rule of thumb known as Occams Razor, your theory would probably be coreect–But in these strange times, my feeling is that we may be being duped.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Revoke the permit? Huh? “We revoke your permit to have oil gushing from that broken pipe 5,000 feet under sea.”
    The only thing that would accomplish is letting BP walk away from it and turning the project over to the government (tax payers). This is BPs problem, they should fix it.

    Government oversight still exists regardless of the status of their drilling permit. So I’m not sure what revoking the permit would do… The problem exists, BP is responsible and the government should oversee the operation to make sure BP is doing everything possible to remedy the situation. (Holding back laughter because that is a fantasy world and the reality is far different.)

    It’s ugly, that’s all there is to it. Totally FUBARed. SNAFU. This thread is making me tired. None of us are experts. It’s all just talk. All we can do is sit back and watch the wheels turn…. or gears grind, as it may be.


    I think the answer (not that there is ONE answer), but one of many solutions perhaps may be the integration of supply and demand in terms of alternatives sources like solar, ie rooftop panels with community to community integrated power supply stations like batteries to store power for each neighborhood or community. Something to that degree seems like the most efficient land use and a logical transition from where we are now.


    I think the point was to deincentivize BP from (and this is conjecture on my part I think) trying to preserve the well instead of their first priority being protecting the asset.

    Rob Halpern

    Ah, I am not saying that all is explained by seeing BP as The Three Stooges. I am suggesting that ascribing complicated conspiracies to explain what is happening ignores the reality of real live people who are not in fact omnipotent. I have no doubt that they conspire (as I wrote), but the point is of no use to us. And talk of conspiracies, whatever else it does, serves to strengthen a dichotomy of weak little victims US vs. Big Business Them. I’d rather see us creatively respond to reality than mutter about what others are doing.

    I think all this blather is a dance around the truth that our economic/cultural foundation is now untenable and rather than face the wrenching pain of change, we are more comfortable ranting about Them.

    We are ranting while our culture burns. And from much of what I have read posted on this Forum, Landscape Architects (remember I am not one) feel that they can be leaders in planning us into a better tomorrow.
    So why aren’t we? Why discuss conspiracies, BP’s profits and TopHats instead of applying the skills we do have to do what we say we can do?

    That, it seems to me, is the elephant in the middle of this Thread. And I do know a thing or two about elephants

    Rob Halpern

    1. Oil at least will not always be a part of the mix because it exists in limited supply.
    2. If human population continues to grow and to consume at the recent rate, there can be no technology or mix that can sustain us.

    So I believe that human population control and ending the consumption culture are two huge steps (difficult steps) that cannot be avoided. And yet we are avoiding them. Now that is stupid.


    @Rob H.

    I agree for the most part with what you’re saying, but also think this is a as much if not more a socio-political problem as it is a design and engineering one. It doesn’t seem like there is much we could do if no one would be willing to implement potential solutions.

    Putting that discussion aside, I think it would be in our best interest to keep discussing the issues moving forward–alternative energy, infrastructure, population, and consumerism.

    Mike G

    A permit to drill and pump oil to supply the worlds demand should be given to responsible safe companies. They supply us with a good we need and should be rewarded for it. The reward for providing us with this product is they make enormous sums of money. With this screw up in place they are still making enormous sums of money. Sure I think we all get that BP is doing all it can to fix this. I’m sure they’re sweating bullets and trying to resolve this problem asap. But it is also thinking about how it can fix it within their political-economic playbook. Perhaps this playbook has limited their solutions to only those that protect their long term assets.
    BP still has to fix this and pay for the bill, which they will try to minimize as much as possible. No gov’t agency would be remotely close to handling this situation. Bureaucrats and regulators are not capable of this type of resolution. What they are responsible for is creating a system that prevents this from occurring, providing safety to people, and protecting our environment.
    So it happened. I am not a geo-technical engineer, and perhaps these threads are just as much idealist as they are solution oriented. I don’t think the land8 community will come up with any solutions either. What is important is that we learn to think about things in a new way and learn something along the way. Perhaps prevention, accountability, a better to find that oil gets into my gas tank instead of on Flippers fins.
    Fantasy? That is funny, I’ll tell Shamu you thought so.

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