I’ve documented on this blog and related ones some of the “interesting” business trips I have taken, especially outside the US. One of those took place in 1980, when my brother and I, fresh from an offshore technology exhibit at Earl’s Court, took a plane to Hamburg to meet with a prospective German representative for our company.
It was our first trip to Germany, and it was an experience. We discovered that German plumbing required the same “ticketed engineers” that worked on construction equipment to take a bath or shower. We found that the one place you didn’t want to be was in front of a workplace exit at quitting time (you get trampled in the rush.) We experienced going down the autobahn in a stick-shift Mercedes (my brother had his “official corporate photo” taken in his Mercedes tie, if that tells you anything.) And we found the food, although not France, was good.
In the middle of all of this our prospective rep and we discussed a topic of mutual interest: a hydraulic pile driving hammer suitable for driving underwater piles for offshore oil platforms. We saw it as competition to our steam hammers. But our host was confident that this new technology wouldn’t be a problem. He observed that, should there be a hydraulic hose breakage, the oil would spew out, and there would be “millions of dead fish.”
That’s pretty much what BP is facing these days with the blowout off of the Mississippi River delta, only now shellfish are thrown into the mix as the oil spill creeps towards land. Everyone knows that BP will end up footing the bill to clean the mess up, and providing the technology to make that fix happen. (I’m still wondering what gives with the blowout preventer, but I digress…) Our federal government, mindful of being criticised over the last major disaster to hit this region (Katrina,) is taking a measured response compared to past years. It’s hard to know whether this is a product of Obama’s “cool” response to just about anything or the realisation that fixing the problem is way over their heads.
Others, such as Paul Krugman at the New York Times, would like to revive the emotional hysteria that we had in the 1960’s and 1970’s at the dawn of the environmental movement. But that hysteria–which produced, among other things, a stop-and-go regime re offshore drilling–is a large part of how we got where we are in the first place, both with this disaster and with our lack of energy policy in general.
We live in a technological society, and have for a long time. Adventures such as offshore oil have assumed risks associated with them. When incidents such as this happen, it is necessary to clean them up, learn from the mistakes, and move forward. It doesn’t hurt that crude oil is a naturally occuring substance that is more amenable to biodegradation than, say, a refined product such as the hydraulic oil that our German friend referred to.
Today’s liberal thinks that he or she is “scientific” because they “believe in evolution” or whatever other litmus test they would like to apply. But the environmental movement arose as a reaction to the advancement of science and technology. It is, in reality, a religion. Now liberals dislike religions such as Christianity because of their moral strictures. But requiring people to zip their pants only affects them; turning a whole economy upside down affects everyone. The environmentalism that Mr. Krugman wants to bring back worked on the assumption that all technology was evil and had to be stopped or at least slowed to a crawl.
That’s why the environmentalists of the day would not conscion either offshore oil drilling or nuclear power. This lead to the continuation of the former on a reduced scale, the cesassion of the latter in terms of development, and the export of both the environmental impact of oil exploration and our money to other parts of the world, as if both would be better off outside of the country.
If we do bring back the environmentalism that Krugman longs for, what Wall Street wrought in 2008 with the financial collapse will look like child’s play. Before that happens, I suspect that the rest of the world will have their way at last on these shores, and then millions of dead fish will be the least of our problems.