Questions regarding the oil spill

While complaining about how the government doesn’t do what regulatory proponents claims it should, Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson mentions some numbers about how many oil wells are in operation in the Gulf of Mexico:

…the “moratorium” on drilling announced by the president does little to prevent future disasters. The ban halts exploratory drilling at only 33 deepwater operations, shutting down less than one percent of the total wells in the Gulf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Cabinet-level official appointed by Obama to rein in the oil industry, boasts that “the moratorium is not a moratorium that will affect production” – which continues at 5,106 wells in the Gulf, including 591 in deep water.

So these numbers tell us that there are a massive number of other deep-water wells are currently not making the news and never make the news, and that the well that does represents a tiny fraction of a percent of all oil wells in the gulf alone.


How much regulation (outlawing?) is necessary to prevent such an incident from occurring again? (Contrary to the preponderance of evidence, let’s assume for the sake of this question that the regulation is actually effective.)

Based on your previous answer, is the cost of that regulation worth doing?

How does the previous answer relate to other paternalistic legislation that is designed for safety concerns (speed limits, for example) in which there is a known failure rate (in the previous case, driver/passenger deaths)? Is an oil spill simply unacceptable, but people dying in cars is?

Does your previous answer depend on the negative externality associated with the oil spill, because the costs of the failure are borne by sea life and coastal residents (and news readers), whereas in the case of traffic deaths, the costs are borne by the people who chose to get into their cars in the first place?

HT: Crooks and Liars

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