Teaching a child how to ride a bike always involves certain lessons.
How to pedal, how to balance yourself, how to steer.
We teach these things because they are common sense.
But we also teach—stress, actually — the most important aspect of bike riding: how to stop.
Why? Because it defies common sense not to do so. After all, it would be irresponsible and dangerous to engage in an activity which we couldn’t control.
Teaching someone how to stop a bike can’t guarantee an accident won’t happen, but it certainly lessens the likelihood.
After watching the Gulf oil spill, it’s apparent that common sense is in short supply from both oil companies and the U.S. Government.
So many aspects of British Petroleum’s unmitigated disaster have been discussed.
Why the initial explosion occurred, who is responsible, how much oil is rocketing into the sea, and how to effectively clean the oil-drenched beaches and wetlands, are all still unanswered questions.
By far, though, the issue that continues to dominate headlines, congressional hearings and kitchen tables is how to stop the gushing leak.
Virtually no progress has been made in this area — hence the description "unmitigated" disaster.
We’ve been watching the drama unfold live, as method after method is tried. Top kill and junk kill. Domes. Caps. Hats.
But here’s the kicker in the oil-recovery efforts:
While each new attempt seems to capture a bit more oil than the one prior, we keep learning that the amount of oil gushing from the well is much larger than previously thought.
By a lot.
So for every one step forward, we are taking five back.
Since we are two months into this saga, that’s quite a bit of back-tracking. And oil.
How desperate has the situation become?
Put it this way: anytime Hollywood celebrities start taking center stage in an attempt to offer real-world solutions, you know you have problems.
First it was Director James Cameron, whose oil-recovery credentials include taking a few submarine rides while filming Titanic and, possibly, being told of a magical solution by his Avatar friends from another planet. Hey, they were space miners in the movie, and we are mining oil, so Cameron is a perfect fit.
And now we have Kevin Costner, who recently testified before Congress on the spill and is now trumpeting his own oil-water separator contraption as an answer. And why not? He is uniquely qualified after spending lots of time on the ocean filming the epic flopWaterworld, in which he chased down an oil tanker, which, if you look closely, is really the Exxon Valdez.
But wholly unhelpful.
Maybe it’s time to stop masquerading with two-bit "solutions" that don’t have a prayer of succeeding and Hollywood do-gooders who just need an ego-boost.
Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and admit that there’s only one solution to this problem.
There is nothing more devastating to business than over-regulation. It stifles creativity, kills innovation and results in significant job-loss.
In too many cases, bureaucrats and politicians justify their existence by inventing costly and counter-productive new regulations, often so burdensome that American companies are forced to close their doors and move overseas.
But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be smart, commonsense regulations on companies doing business in America.
True capitalism is the best economic system the world has ever known, but without common sense protections in place —with adequate enforcement to ensure that they are actually followed—, capitalism gives way to greed and corruption very quickly. Just look at Wall Street.
The oil industry is no different.
While some regulations on deepwater offshore oil rigs are onerous and needless, to be sure, other necessary ones are often ignored. This was clearly the case with Deepwater Horizon, BP’s doomed oil rig, after it was revealed that a full year’s worth of inspections were never done over a five-year period.
Whatever the case may be regarding blame, we have to look to the future to ensure, as much as possible, that this type of disaster doesn’t happen again.
Here’s a novel idea. Start making the monthly inspections… on a monthly basis.
While that would be a good start, the fact is that the only viable solution to prevent this type of leak is the proactive drilling of relief wells, which have been used by the oil industry for nearly 100 years to stop well blowouts.
BP has been drilling two relief wells since last month; in order to be successful, both must reach the depth of 18,000 feet, where the oil reservoir begins — and they will not be in position to do so until at least August.
While nothing is 100% guaranteed, the relief wells should finally cap this ordeal.
But at what cost?
This spill is gushing more oil — every 10 days — than the entire amount spilled in America’s prior worst spill— the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Two questions come to mind:
1) How can you drill at such depths yet be utterly helpless when a crisis situation arises — a situation like, say, an oil leak? Life is full of risks, but to be clueless as to how to stop a leak is completely unacceptable.
If you can’t handle a deepwater leak, you shouldn’t be drilling. Period.
2) More important, why is it not required to drill relief wells BEFORE tapping a huge oil reservoir?
If you know that a relief well would mitigate a crisis before it got out of control, yet make a conscious decision not to proactively drill one because it isn’t "required," how smart — and how moral —would that be?
Shame on the U.S. government for not mandating that relief wells accompany primary drilling. And no, this isn’t just Obama’s fault, nor is it George W. Bush’s. All Administrations and Congresses, past and present, have failed to do the right thing when they had the chance.
And shame on BP and all oil companies that failed to think long-term; and when it comes to drilling relief wells, long term is about three months.
Had BP done that simple thing, they wouldn’t be staring at an image that will never fully recover, nor at potential bankruptcy, given that its stock has lost 50% of its value and cleanup costs and claims may exceed $40 billion.
Critics of the mandated relief-well suggestion will scoff that it is naïve, and that things aren’t so black-and-white. We’ll hear that the situation is more "complicated" than this columnist makes it out to be, and that we, the lay people, just don’t understand.
And you know what? That will signify that such a suggestion is on the right track.
Because invariably, whenever we peons are patronized with such language — usually by politicians and business executives in hot water — it means that damage-control is in full swing to cover the derrieres of those who failed to use that age-old, and too often forgotten trait, called common sense.
Imagine the "relief" we would all feel if such common sense was used in future oil drilling operations.
Voltaire was at his best when he prophetically stated, "Common sense is not so common."
He didn’t know how right he was.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances. He can be reached at [email protected]