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.
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/