Blogs » Politcs Plus » Profits over Safety


After watching last Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes that detailed BP's role in recent oil spill; I came away convinced it's all about the money; profits over safety. Scott Pelley (host of 60 Minutes) questioned the top computer specialist, on board the massive deep shore oil rig, Mike Williams..... Mike Williams described a weeklong of mistakes before the explosion; like an operator damaging a vital piece of equipment called an annular (gasket) when he accidentally bumped into a joystick which applied hundreds of thousands of pounds of pressure on a closed blowout preventer. This damage alone prevented a future legitimate pressure test. Later the workers found pieces of rubber in the fluid they were using, causing them to believe it came from the damaged annular. Although this finding was reported, the BP supervisors would have none of it because BP was behind schedule and everyone heard “Time is money. And this job is costing BP a million dollars a day," Williams said. Just weeks before the disaster; BP took complete control and ordered a faster pace of drilling. This action caused the bottom of the well to split open. I don't pretend to know much about the oil industry but I do know if you're working with that much pressure, all pieces of equipment that are designed to contain that pressure should be maintained and signs that show that the equipment may be defective should never be ignored. If the investigation proves negligence; the management of BP should face criminal charges and the company should be made to pay for total cost of the disaster; including the cost of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard. In light of recent disasters, BP should be barred from government contracts, permits, and drilling, for a designated period of time. Fines alone, will not a prevent a future disaster but a serious consequence for their action just might cause them to take preventive measures more seriously.

So far, about five million gallons of crude have been dumped into the gulf, 11 workers killed, and it seems like all the CEOs of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean are just interested in diverting blame. In all fairness, they are making every effort to clean up the spill but it seems like they really don't know what they're doing and it is quite obvious that they were not prepared for the worst case scenario. This disaster will leave its mark not only on our environment but on our future energy policies. I don't know why another BP, oil rig called the “Atlantis” has not been shut down because it has been reported that they have some documented engineering irregularities. This rig is operating about 100 miles farther out than the destroyed Deep Water Horizon rig was and they are drilling 7,070 feet deeper. I guess the “ounce of prevention weighs more than a pound of cure" is not being applied by the regulatory authorities.

There's plenty of blame to go around, and all the culprits should be punished accordingly but when given the opportunity to avoid a disaster; following stringent safety rules should always trump a profit. There will always be another well, another day, and more profits to seek but one spill like this will leave its mark on the environment, the livelihood of many, the crew, management, shareholders, and our future energy policies. We just had a mining disaster where profits trumped safety; how many more disasters can we tolerate where obvious safety violations were ignored?