Looking Beyond Deepwater to the Horizon: Government-on-Demand Doesn't Work (Surprise!)

by Alyson Flournoy | June 02, 2010

In following the oil spill disaster, it can be hard to think beyond the control effort du jour to the bigger picture. I was riveted by the latest of BP’s seven failed efforts to stop the flow of oil, hoping it would succeed and that the underwater tornado of oil devastating the Gulf, the coast, and the people whose livelihoods depend on these natural resources, would be contained, at least. And now that the top kill has failed, we’re all holding our breath for the next containment dome, hoping against all odds that this one will work.  Even if we do think a little more broadly beyond the control and response efforts, the most immediate question seems to be how to reform MMS, the agency whose oversight of BP and other oil companies was so compromised and inadequate. 

But it’s crucial that we wrench our attention away from the BP webcam, the drama of the efforts to staunch the out-of-control well, and the soap opera of MMS’s ethical failings.  We need to step back and consider the larger lessons of this disaster. The tectonic forces that brought us to this point aren’t ever going to make headlines.  And if we don’t learn what brought us to this horrible place, you can be sure we’ll be back here again soon. The fundamental lesson we need to learn is this: we don’t need smaller government and less regulation, we need effective government and ...

Socializing Risk: The New Energy Economics

by Frank Ackerman | May 26, 2010
Cross-posted from Triple Crisis. Despite talk of a moratorium, the Interior Department’s Minerals and Management Service is still granting waivers from environmental review for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, including wells in very deep water. Until last month, most of us never thought about the risk that one of those huge offshore rigs would explode in flames and then sink, causing oil to gush out uncontrollably and befoul the oceans. The odds seemed low, and still do: Aren’t ...

Assessing the Federal Response to the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe

by Joel Mintz | May 25, 2010
The recent horrific events in the Gulf of Mexico have presented immense challenges to the Obama administration and many of the federal career officials who are responsible for regulating the safety of offshore oil extraction and responding to spills like the one that continues to gush from the remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig at great volume. To their credit, a number of presidential appointees and career officials with duties regarding spill countermeasures have been working very hard to ...

What if MMS Had Followed the Law When Considering the Deepwater Horizon Permit?

by Dan Rohlf | May 19, 2010
As millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) – the agency within the U.S. Department of Interior that oversees offshore oil and gas leasing and development – mostly ignored some of the country’s most important environmental laws when it gave the green light to Deepwater Horizon and other offshore drilling. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to consult with ...

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