group of experts

What is ‘regulatory capture? Here’s a superb example:

A ‘remote dead man’s switch’ isn’t required under U.S. law but is well-known in the industry and mandated in other parts of the world where BP operates.

See? It’s that heavy iron blowout preventer that failed.

When an explosion and fire crippled the deepwater drilling rig on April 20, workers threw a switch to activate the blowout preventer, which is designed to seal the well quickly in the event of a burst of pressure.

They have continued to focus their attention on a 40-foot stack of heavy equipment 5,000 feet below the surface of the gulf, a blowout preventer, the steel-framed stack of valves, rams, housings, tanks and hydraulic tubing, painted industrial yellow and sitting atop the well in the murky water, is at the root of the disaster. It did not work, and a failsafe switch on the device also failed to function.

Still, Mr. McCormack said, “something is working there because you wouldn’t have such a relatively small flow of oil.” If the blowout preventer were completely inoperable, he said, the flow would be orders of magnitude greater.

valiant experimentation

Look, for example, at this witty little experiment.

Baba Shiv, a neuroeconomist at Stanford, supplied a group of people with an energy drink that was supposed to make them feel more alert and energetic. The bottle promised its potent brew of sugar and caffeine imparts ‘superior functionality’).

Some paid full price for the drinks, others a discount, then asked to solve word puzzles. People who paid discounted prices solved far fewer puzzles than the people who paid full price. They were convinced that the stuff on sale was much less potent, even though all the drinks were identical.

Jonah Lehrer:

When you give people bottles of wine without any price information, there is no correlation between the cost of the wine and its subjective ratings. An $8 bottle is as enjoyable as an $80 bottle.

evidence of false beliefs

Obama tax increase misperception grows, by Brendan Nyhan:

Earlier this year, I noted a post showing that 24% of Americans thought President Obama had raised taxes for most Americans and 53% believed taxes had been kept the same. The numbers, which were drawn from a CBS/New York Times poll conducted February 5-10, were even worse among Tea Party supporters — 44% thought taxes had been increased and 46% thought taxes were the same.

In reality, Obama cut taxes for 95% of working families.

Misperception is too polite a word to hide errors that damage our nation.

industrial rupture

Warning more are on the way, the Deepwater Horizon blowout was predicted in 2008.

Risking an oil spill 30 times worse than from BP’s much larger Atlantis deep water rig, get this: 85 percent of subsea components did not receive engineer approval and 95 percent of subsea welding did not receive final approval.

Yes, let’s now question the integrity of thousands of crucial welds on subsea components.

capturing leniency

Pervasive complacency:

BP is one of the most powerful corporations operating in the United States.

Its 2009 revenues of $327bn are enough to rank BP as the third-largest corporation in the country. It spends aggressively to influence US policy and regulatory oversight.

In 2009, the company spent nearly $16m on lobbying the federal government, ranking it among the 20 highest.

Seven of the 10 largest corporations in the world are oil companies.

our southern coast

A very serious breech. Already more than two dozen lawsuits. British Petroleum failed. Halliburton too? Agencies failed. Blame is necessary.

BP’s 2009 ‘impact analysis’ filed with the federal Minerals Management Service repeatedly asserted that an oil spill and serious damage to beaches, fish and mammals was unlikely or virtually impossible. To quote:

“…due to the distance to shore and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected.”

Already lawyers are  revealing that BP may not have addressed the kind of technology needed to control a spill at that depth of water.

In six- to nine-foot seas, the slick nearly tripled in just a day or so, growing from a spill the size of Rhode Island to something closer to the size of Puerto Rico.

The type of oil involved is also a major problem. Most of the oil drilled off Louisiana is a light crude. This oil is an older, heavier blend from deep under the ocean surface, and is very dense.

“If I had to pick a bad oil, I’d put this right up there.” Asphalt-like substances that make a major sticky mess, “a thick gooey mousse”.

There are three types of beaches: sandy, rocky and marshy. Florida’s sandy beaches are easier to clean. By far the hardest are marshlands, so delicate that cleaning is damage too.