Evidently, the next step is for BP to lower a box a mile underwater and then a big tube will contain the oil into a boat. OK, seems like a straightforward concept; it might work and keep working for several months, if they can get the box over the well in deep water using robots. Then the idea is that another well is drilled elsewhere in the meantime to relieve the pressure.
In the same article, Reuters reports: "Obama administration officials were reviewing the practice of granting exemptions from environmental impact studies for oil exploration projects deemed to involve little risk. The Minerals Management Service had exempted BP from a detailed environmental review of the project."
Now, I'm just not seeing how that would've caught the problem. The problem was failing to design redundant safety systems. I'm not sure how environmental impact would encourage them to be careful. Making more rules does not encourage following them. Making rules is about codifying the punishment, and we clearly do not punish people in financial leadership commensurate with their negligence.
BP is a British company, and you can check out the executive compensation, which, at about $5 million for 2009, is not extreme as these things go (Chesapeake Energy CEO made $100million in total compensation for 2009, compared to its average salary of $32k, a multiple of 3000x), and reasonably justified precisely because the head of BP does take on exhorbitant responsibility. But do we HOLD them to that responsibility? What seems to happen is that we decide, "Well, hey. Tony Hayward, CEO, you got to the position where we pay you a lot of money, you MUST be a leader, and so we respect you, and if you err in a way that causes calamity, you'll land on your feet because we NEED our leaders to land on our feet."
But we don't. We need our business leaders, the ones we aggrandize with the justification that they're taking on enormous responsibility, to behave responsibly or face the consequences. It's the leadership of the firm that sets the tone for making tradeoff decisions between community safety and shareholder profit-taking.
There's something seriously wrong with the system when making the same decisions at a far lower pay rate is more likely to get you the appropriately severe punishment. Isn't that what corruption is: Money buys a special set of rules?
On that note, Wells Fargo, paid its CEO $21 million worth of compensation. Relatedly, I just investigated buying stamps from the ATM. They do charge to sell you stamps, but they don't tell you. And they sell quantities like 18 or 36 that make it very difficult to multiply by $0.44 and realize that you're paying a premium (90 stamps for $47; that's how I realized there was a premium. For those of you who are math challenged, 100 stamps at $0.44 would cost $44, so 90 stamps would be less than that, and $47 is more than some amount that's under $44. So I knew I was going to pay a fee). Despite the fact that I needed the stamps, I couldn't bring myself to buy them; it was too disgustingly exploitative.
I must move my money, despite the amount of work it will take to set up elsewhere.