Put a Cap on Well Hell!

Ideas and Issues Louisiana Recovery

oil-spill-2Atlanta Man, I hope this works!  I don’t want another couple of months of oil in the Gulf of Mexico while relief wells are dug.  The Wall Street Journal wrote optimistically this morning that the “new” sealing cap could finally the lifesaver, and I really, really want to believe them.  The New York Times pulling a page from the Iran hostage crises runs the number of days that oil has been pouring into the Gulf.  We’re now around the 85 day mark.

The biggest problem I have believing a fix is finally here has to do with my two summers working as a roustabout in both the Gulf on Chevron rigs and in the red dirt of Oklahoma in a Skelly field.  The constant refrain and butt of every oil field worker’s jokes is engineers.  Engineers have always been the politically incorrect “Polish” of the oil fields.  They rule because to the field hand they know it all, but can’t hardly walk straight or find their right from their left.  They have the “book sense” but no common sense.  I’m sure this is unfair to engineers, but even in my two summers many decades ago, I could make a small list of the stupid things I had to do  because an petroleum engineer right out of LSU or the University of Oklahoma thought it looked good on drafting paper.

I still remember some of the jokes.  The oil hand sees an engineer walking into town, and asks him why he’s on feet, and he says he was driving out with a young woman and they parked by the side of the road, and she told him to “go to town,” so he’d been walking the last couple of hours to get to this point.  This was the general flavor.  The roustabouts would laugh forever at jokes exactly like this.

So, the irony to me as I have read the papers and the constant commentaries from the pundits on whether or not “our” confidence has been shaken in America’s technical prowess by the oil spill crises has been scratching my head and wondering who in the world out there had bought into the stories of invincible engineers and scientists?  They are invaluable, god knows, but never infallible for goodness sakes.

Nothing will ever take the place of prevention of problems rather than magical engineering solutions.  Nothing will ever take the place of redundancy rather than assuming “failsafe” measures work.

We have too much at stake in the Gulf and in a lot of other areas to simply rely on the engineers and other experts.  We need to be certain ourselves, and let the engineers “go to town” in another direction.