Saturday, January 05, 2013

Aren't Oceans and Gulfs Meant to Be Where Companies Dump Whatever They Want?

Joel Achenbach. A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Face to Kill the BP Oil Gusher. New York: Simon and Shuster, 2011.

A 2010 explosion at a Gulf of Mexico oil rig killed 11 people. Several fail safe procedures designed to prevent oil from escaping into the water did not work A massive environmental disaster resulted while increased while experts determined how to stop the oil from continuing gushing out.

For readers interested in public policy, this book shows how the Obama Administration tried to handle both public relations to show the President was on top of the situation as well as engaging in a frantic search for ideas to stop the leaking oil while the crisis remained unresolved.

The Coast Guard is praised for acting as needed. They responded to their duties without concern for public relations nor possible political fallout.

The author observes this was a problem of modern engineering. We need to better comparably assess risks with benefits. We used to be better prepared to know how to act when risks occur and crises result. We need to guarantee that back-up plans will work.

When a crisis occurs, accept what the true damage is. Avoiding the truth won’t change reality. Keep “fixers” such as engineers away from the politicians, media, and public relations aspects and let them do their jobs. The author advises to use the Coast Guard’s “Thad Allen Rule: under-promise and over-deliver.” The author advises seeking critical thinking on complex technological problems from various sources As Achenbach writes, “call in the nerds as well as the cowboys.”


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