Two Ways of Looking at Shell-vs.-BP

I mentioned yesterday that Shell engineers had presented a detailed contrast between their deepwater well design and BP's, which at face value was quite damning of BP. I have been trying to find out whether and when the presentation will be made public. When it is, I will point it out, since it seems significant either way. (That is, if fair and accurate, it sharpens the case against BP. If it is turns out to be misleading, which I have no reason to suspect, that would be important in a different sense.)

In the meantime, two opposite reactions to the threshold question of whether the BP  catastrophe should be an indictment of deepwater drilling in general and justify a sweeping moratorium. First, from a reader who says Yes - and begins with a quote from the original item:

"When asked directly about the now-disputed moratorium on offshore drilling, Leimkuhler [of Shell] said: After a 737 airplane crashes, sometimes you ground all 737s until you are sure what went wrong. But you don't necessarily ground all 747s too."

Oh, I dunno. If the FAA were found to have been having sex and drug parties with the people at Boeing, and the design regs were drafted by Boeing and rubber stamped by the FAA, I kinda think we'd ground everything at Boeing until we got a handle on how corrupt the designs were.

From another reader, a different analogy with different implications:

It's irresistible to offer this observation, and please forgive me if everyone has already thought of it and heard it but me: This sounds just like Three Mile Island vs. Chernobyl. Though many in our radiation-superstitious country still lump TMI together with Chernobyl, preposterously, as roughly equivalent accidents, the fact is that TMI harmed no one, thanks to sound engineering, while the horribly designed Chernobyl turned horrendous. If it turns out that some analogous degree of engineering contrast really does apply in Shell vs. BP, I'd like to learn of it.

I hope Shell (disclosure: an Atlantic advertiser) gets its material out publicly soon.
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UPDATE: A bonus third way of looking at the moratorium. A reader writes in response to the item above:

Why is the approach a moratorium on all drilling vs. no moratorium at all on any drilling? Why not AT LEAST 100% of BP and TransOcean exploration stopped in its tracks for dangerous stupidity, like grounding all ValuJet flights after flight 592? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ValuJet_Flight_592

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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