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Ben Casselman @bencasselman
, 18 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
A very quick thread in light of today's offshore drilling announcement.…
The last president who wanted to open up more of the coast to drilling was... Obama. He made that proposal in late March, 2010.…
That, of course, came less than a month before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed almost any talk of new drilling for the next several years.
The thing I always remember about the Obama plan was that even as environmentalists decried it, most of them acknowledged, at least privately, that a full-blown disaster was unlikely.
Most of them were much more worried about small spills, the industrialization of the coast, etc. I remember this, because I was about to do a story about this, told through Mobile, Ala., when the rig blew up.
What we all learned in the wake of DWH was that we hadn't properly assessed the risks of a catastrophic accident.
Even though, in retrospect, the evidence had been there all along. In fact, near-misses had become more common as the industry pushed further offshore. @russellgold & I discussed that here:…
After the disaster, the feds blew up their regulatory structure to remove inherent conflicts of interest. Many of those rules are now being undone:…
(Sorry, "blew up" was a poor choice of words there.)
I stopped covering oil years ago, so I can't say with confidence whether those rules were effective or overly burdensome. And I take no position on the Trump admin's announcement today.
But what I learned from 2010 is that a lack of catastrophic accidents doesn't mean such accidents are impossible, or even unlikely.
And we have a tendency to assess offshore safety (and safety in general) by looking at the wrong metrics, such as injuries (which are easily measured, but not indicative of systemic problems).
The only guard against a catastrophe is to have lots of redundant safeguards, combined with a culture that takes near-misses as seriously as actual accidents.
Interestingly, one such industry has been in the news this week: commercial aviation, which Trump bragged about having no fatal accidents in 2017.
None of this is to say the oil industry doesn't take safety seriously, it does. But taking it seriously isn't enough. It also has to assess risks properly. That's where it has historically struggled.
I wrote more about risk, and what I learned from the Deepwater Horizon, for @FiveThirtyEight on the 5-year anniversary of the explosion:…
Here's hoping those lessons endure. </fin>
(And sorry, that was less quick than I intended. per usual.)
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