Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn’t have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.

The lack of the device, called an acoustic switch, could amplify concerns over the environmental impact of offshore drilling after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig last week.

The accident has led to one of the largest ever oil spills in U.S. water and the loss of 11 lives…

U.S. regulators don’t mandate use of the remote-control device on offshore rigs, and the Deepwater Horizon, hired by oil giant BP PLC, didn’t have one. With the remote control, a crew can attempt to trigger an underwater valve that shuts down the well even if the oil rig itself is damaged or evacuated…

Nevertheless, regulators in two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them. Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993.

The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling. The agency, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, says it decided the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.

Golly. Does that infer the Oil Patch Boys bought enough politicians and bureaucrats to stop regulation.

An acoustic trigger costs about $500,000, industry officials said. The Deepwater Horizon had a replacement cost of about $560 million, and BP says it is spending $6 million a day to battle the oil spill…

RTFA. Lots of history, lots of detail. You do the math!




  1. Phydeau says:

    Come on wingnuts, I want to hear the chant…

    DRILL BABY DRILL

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Sheesh.

  2. bobbo, whats really to learn here says:

    Very costly plant key to the revenue of this company. Highly technical. Multiple built in safeguards. Highly trained crew.

    When the best safety program possible (ok practicable or at least “actually used”) FAILS, how much comfort should anyone take regarding the same assurances regarding nuclear power?

    Contra–why hasn’t/when will France have a second think coming? I know they setttled on a uniform design. Anybody know what makes France’s system so safe==or is it?

    Something that “can” happen, “will” happen. Is the downside EVENTUALITY worth the up front illusory benefits?

    Can you think past your immediate needs? That is supposed to distinguish us from the lower animals.

  3. dusanmal says:

    It is bad practice not to have the remote switch and on that issue in general article is correct.
    However, if you have read about actual technical details of this particular accident you’d know that remote switch or not would make no difference in this particular case. Shut-off couldn’t be done because (Murphy’s law?) there was a tool in the pipe at the valve location just at the moment of explosion. And not a tool such as wrench but large pipe size piece of equipment. That is the reason why they still can’t shut the valve off and why no other method (remote or not) would work – there is large metal obstruction preventing valve from closing.

  4. Mr Ed says:

    Big Biz figured out long ago how cheap it was to buy politicians as opposed to realistic safety regulations and other things that actually benefit people.
    After buying the White House for W and packing the Supreme Court with their stooges, they finally achieved the right to “buy” the American people in elections. Since most Americans let the TV do their thinking for them, expect the next wave of the “bought-and-paid-for” to make things much worse.
    First up: make Ponzi schemes legal!
    Regulations? We don’t need no stinking regulations!

  5. Dallas says:

    Disgusting ecological disaster that must be reflected in the price of a barrel of oil.

    Must add these cost to a barrel of oil:
    * Clean up cost = $100M
    * Poor maintenance punitive = $50Billion
    * Ecological costs = $150 Billion
    * Military costs in Middle east = $1 trillion

    Money to be used to fund clean energy and support Al Gore objectives.

  6. bobbo, whats really to learn here says:

    Thanks Dallas==that really is the more proximate issue clearly set forth before us. It will be ignored.

    dusanmal–Interesting about the “process” to disable the safety features of the rig. Wonder how much the design to avoid that would have added to the cost? Bad Luck?==no just greed.

  7. B. Dog says:

    #3, That’s tough news. I guess the price of gulf shrimp will only go up.

  8. ECA says:

    Go home nothing to see..
    Just WATCH PRICES at the gas station go up…
    AS YOU PAY FOR IT..
    $3.15 regular. And counting.
    Do you think BP will have a Bad day?? NOPE!
    The boss’s will still get paid.

  9. Mac Guy says:

    1993… Hmm… Let’s see… Who was in office back then? And WHO was the VP?

    Yeah, you really think there’s a difference between Republicans and Democrats?

  10. Sarah P.'s Alter Ego says:

    Drill baby drill!

    Gaia will survive the homo sapiens, she’s purged the Earth many times before and won’t have any trouble doing so again. If we speed up the process, she won’t object.

  11. Rabble Rouser says:

    Drill baby drill, spill baby spill, burn baby burn, spoil baby spoil.
    Move to a new location and repeat.

    They greased the palms of government, and now WE THE PEOPLE have to pay. It’s about time we took corporate interests out of government.

  12. LDA says:

    “Who stopped safeguards on Gulf drilling rig?”

    The people through their Congress, Senate & President. Same as always.

    Who failed to re-introduce them? The people through their Congress, Senate & President. Same as always.

    Who will probably write a bill to fix it (which actually gives more money to the oil companies and bans vegetables)? The people through their Congress, Senate & President. Same as always.

    Who voted for these corrupt clowns? The people.

  13. Glass Half Full says:

    This backup shutoff ONLY F**KING COST $500,000….on a BILLION dollar rig…and they FOUGHT that regulation? F**K YOU OIL COMPANIES and the bought off regulators! I guarantee you they spent MORE than $500,000 in lobbying the government to avoid this tiny thing. $500,000 on a system that rakes in to the tune of hundreds of millions? That does NOT impact “cost effectiveness”. Bullshit. Scumbags.

  14. Skeptic of the AOBCCS says:

    There is a lesson to be learned here folks.

    If you don’t like what happened, don’t use anything that is made with or consumes oil byproducts… starting right now. Start by turning off your computers, and walk home from work.

    No? Why not? Do you honestly believe the fault of these disasters rests solely with the oil companies?

  15. bobbo, whats really to learn here says:

    Skeptic==of what possible relevancy is the notion of fault not being “solely” the oil companies? The relevant point is that the oil companies ARE responsible and they FAILED. Fact is they are PRIMARILY and LEGALLY responsible.

    Tangential liability thereafter is of little value. Why try to derail this discussion?

    Now, a LIEberTARDIAN might post that oil companies should be free to produce oil however they wish and if the free market doesn’t like their decisions, then they shouldn’t buy their oil. Yes, I know, I said a LIEberTARDIAN might post that, but what is your excuse?

  16. Ah yes, the Minerals Management Division. A lovely group of “regulators” over there. From the memory hole:

    “WASHINGTON – Government officials handling billions of dollars in oil royalties engaged in illicit sex with employees of energy companies they were dealing with and received numerous gifts from them, federal investigators said Wednesday.”

    Kinda gives no meaning to “drill baby drill” doesn’t it?

  17. Mr. Fusion says:

    #15, Skeptic,

    No I think a better analogy would be closer to driving your big 4X4 with those 6 bolt hubs with only two nuts.

    Oil may be obtained without ruining the environment, if you are careful. If you aren’t careful, well, we have BP as one example. The Exxon Valdez is another. You know, little mistakes like allowing the Captain to be drunk when he should be navigating the ship or not using reasonable safety measures when you are drilling in mile deep water.

  18. The0ne says:

    I’m very curios to the resolution of why these 4 valves did not work at all. At this point I’m 90% sure the valves are faulty to begin with. We’ll see.

  19. The0ne says:

    Oh, link

  20. RTaylor says:

    If we’re going to treat corporations as individuals, why not have the death penalty. This makes me sick to my stomach. It will destroy the Gulf fisheries, maybe for generations. Nothing can stop it now. I’m not even going to follow it anymore. I don’t want to see the photos of the damage.

  21. Your Mother says:

    Thanks Republicans.

  22. Skeptic of the AOBCCS says:

    Re: bobbo, whats really to learn here said, “Skeptic==of what possible relevancy is the notion of fault not being “solely” the oil companies? The relevant point is that the oil companies ARE responsible and they FAILED. Fact is they are PRIMARILY and LEGALLY responsible.”

    Bobbo, the truth has made you uncomfortable I see. It makes me uncomfortable as well. BP did all that it thought was necessary to pump out that oil safely. A disaster of this magnitude is a nightmare for them. Including the cost of this disaster, ALL offshore drilling projects have been stopped until further notice.

    Bottom line, the reason they are pumping in the Gulf of Mexico is because of our dependency on the cheapest oil possible. The American public wants them to drill there because they are literally keeping affordable food on your table and until we can wean ourselves off of oil. It is everyone’s fault we are in this position.

    I don’t care if they spent a trillion dollars on safety measures…. they are drilling for oil in 5,000 feet of ocean, where earthquakes and tsunamis happen, and it was only a matter of time this event. Murphy’s Law.

    So go ahead and put all blame on the oil companies. They are ‘legally’ resonsible. So what? It will solve nothing, and prove nothing. They will eventually start drilling offshore again, once they design /start using a supposedly safer system and the price of oil climbs back to $140/ barrel to cover the costs…. because that’s where the remaining oil is now. There will be more and more offshore drilling and the risk will catch up to them by statistics… and it will happen again.

  23. Skeptic of the AOBCCS says:

    RTaylor, if you want to stop the slaughter of leopards, don’t buy a leopard skin coat.

    Whether there was human error or not, these oil companies are there because you want to maintain the status quo… cheap human comforts and luxuries. We are all guilty.

    Just think of what alternative energy… like floating tethered windmills could have been built with all that money? The oil companies are in that business as well.

  24. bobbo, telling shit from shinola says:

    Skeptic==that was weak. You sound just like a nattering naybob of negativity. I did think you would have a better answer than “the people” (ie-us, you and me) are responsible. Now, I did expect some kind of nonsense, but not that childish.

    Do “we the people” want cheap energy?==Yes.
    Do “we the people” want oil produced by unsafe polluting oil rigs?===No. And even if we did, the role of the government, and even the oil companies themselves, is not to give it to us.

    In this case though, some automatic shut off valve failed to work, or a remote control valve was not designed in or whatever. One scenario makes them more liable, the other not==none of it having to do with the responsibility of “we the people” or anyone else not directly involved in the rigs operation/design.

    I suppose if I drove over to your house and punched you in the nose it would be your fault for not having provided for an effective law enforcement regime?

    There is an old expression: When everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible.

    So, I don’t detect any wayward libertarian influence in your effluence, just TARDATION on its own. Now, straighten up and never use that specious non-argument again. ((Unless it fits like why we have so many illegal aliens here and other ignoble thoughts.))

  25. sargasso says:

    By everyone’s account this disaster was unavoidable. How many other off shore oil rigs are there in this condition?

  26. bill says:

    So today I’m listening to the talking heads on money channel yelling about how they can speculate, leverage, ‘invest’ in some financial derivative that will get them some ‘fast money’!

    Wow! It’s all about ‘fast money’ isn’t it?

    You know until we bite the big one and start using something besides oil for everything we’re going to have more messes like this…

    short BP..

  27. Mextli says:

    #19 & 20 The0ne
    “I’m very curios to the resolution of why these 4 valves did not work at all.”

    Good link, thanks.

    Those BOPs are used all over the gulf and everyone sort of assumes they will take care of blowouts like this. Its the first time I have known one to fail.

    I just hope they can get it capped somehow.

  28. Skeptic of the AOBCCS says:

    bobbo with the childish retort, you have tunnel vision. You can’t see that the big picture where everyone is responsible, can apply can and does apply to this scenario. Air, water, food, oil. Your personal assault by one person on another individual is a laughable comparison, and just shows how little you understand. And here, I thought you were just ashamed to be part of the problem.

    You said:”Do “we the people” want oil produced by unsafe polluting oil rigs?===No.”

    Wrong answer. The facts speak for themselves. The various past oil disasters did absolutely nothing to slow the demand for oil. The general consensus is “we want it cheap, and we don’t care how you do it”. Just watch the complaints when gas goes up 25 cents a gallon.

    The world economy doesn’t hinge on any other single product like it does for oil. Practically everything you have or need depends on oil. You are obviously the type of person that has to deny blame when you know you are part of the problem. I’m sure that if you punish the oil companies enough over these events, then you will see $500 a barrel as they attempt the impossible.

    The ONLY safe and reasonable solution is to not drill offshore, period. Let oil prices rise to wherever they need to be, based on extracting oil safely, take a cut in quality of life for a generation, and start spending trillions on wind farms and research.

    You are so naive Bobbo, if you thing there won’t be another disaster at sea because of a better safety valve.

  29. boolez says:

    Just curious why my last comment was deleted. If anyone was offended I apologize.

  30. bobbo, telling cement from mud says:

    #30–boolez==page back until you find your draft that you never sent.

    #29–Skeptic==my goodness, what lengths you go to support AOBCCS!. That just doesn’t look snappy enough when connected to my own fixation: AOBCCSberTARDIAN. No, just no snap at all.

    Isn’t it a fact that “even cheaper than oil” relatively right now can be had with our coal reserves by the application of various technologies? I think so. Clean Air and Clean Water Acts limit the production of power from Coal. Americans see that. Oil spills out at sea rarely coming into populated sea shores are too remote to impinge peoples consciousness. In fairness then it is NOT a desire for dirty but cheap oil that drives this equation but rather desire for cheap oil without awareness of the dirt.

    Bottom line, peace loving as I am, I still should hop in my car and drive over and punch you in the nose. Dramatic demonstration of your vacuous argument. Like the Oil companies==I am responsible for what I do==not my victims/consumers. Its rare that a safety device while expensive up front doesn’t save money in the longer term. cost of cleanup–lost oil all could have paid many times over what the safety valve would have cost.

    But I see another shading to your inability to think long term. Yes, maybe AOBCCSberTARDIAN will work after all.


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