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The Oil Catastrophe | The Nation

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Mr. Klare has it upside down and backwards. The disastrous failure in the gulf is a direct result of a complete debacle with a 460-ton valve. It had four different means to shut off flow, and all failed. The horror was compounded by the decision to remove expensive drilling mud as a blockage and replace it with cheap seawater in order to complete the well. This was homicidal carelessness, after a reported pressure test failed. (This may be not true; conflicting, poorly documented events, must be sorted out.)

The fundamental root cause of the failure apparently aligns with the same breakdown in safety at Three Mile Island, Bhopal and Chernobyl and in the Challenger "accident." These man-made "accidents" occur because some authority "took off his engineering hat and put on his manager hat." This manager roasted his workers alive. He violated basic safety tenets: valves are always checked prior to putting them in service; you never ignore a failed test; you always have a certain back-up plan.

Our energy policy must be defined by reality. If valves always work one mile deep, we do one thing; if not, we must use sailing ships. If valves do not work, planes cannot fly and car brakes will fail. Our suicidal energy policy is defined by ignorant lawyers and regulators, not knowledgeable technical people. The recently canned government regulatory boss was an environmental lawyer, ignorant of the oil drilling industry. The tracks records of the SEC regulating Bernie Madoff, the NRC at Three Mile Island and the Corps of Engineers at the New Orleans levees reveal a pattern. Regulators overview disasters; they have a poor record of preventing them.

Access to oil fields such as ANWR must consider valves. I would listen to one valve engineer over a thousand politicians, regulators and pundits.