Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The perfect as the enemy of the good 

The latest oil spill story to circulate on the right asserts that we cannot lawfully use the best technology for cleaning the Gulf because the EPA's requirements, no doubt adopted in the abstract and with less regard to cost-effectiveness, or even effectiveness, than some political ideal, demand virtual perfection. The result is that we are cleaning the oil much less quickly than Europeans would in a similar situation.

If this story is true it certainly ought to provoke outrage among environmentalists, pointed questions from the non-Fox mainstream media, and -- dare we hope for this? -- a sensible and quick response from the EPA. All three are unlikely, because intellectual honesty is the rarest coin in Washington.

And, of course, it points to a fundamental problem with granular regulation: It drives unintended consequences, and government, at least in our litigious process-obsessed modern system, is not nearly nimble enough to revise its requirements in hours or days when circumstances so require.


By Blogger MTF, at Wed Jun 30, 10:54:00 AM:

Forgive me for quibbling, but this complaint has been around for months. The Dutch offered these ships almost immediately after the event.

Another in the line of "latest idiocy" might be the Taiwanese "A Whale" story, or the Coast Guard's failure to allow existing skimmers to go out to work without renewal of their life jacket inspections, or perhaps the failure to transfer more than just a small number of skimmers to the Gulf from other places in the US (where they sit unused). I think at this point the failure to buy absorbant boom story has gotten a little long in the tooth, as has the unwillingness to accept help from Mexico, Norway and the Brits story and the Kevin Costner centrifuge/separator story.

What a litany of abject failure this is turning out to be.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Wed Jun 30, 11:24:00 AM:

The government's conduct in this affair does not give one confidence in government. Apparently what all the regs do is to push bureaucrats into the "no this may not be done" mold. A given bureaucrat focuses on some particular facet of the regulations,using a given regulation as the ultimate decision maker, or better said the ultimate no-maker. Hammer, nail.

The focus is not on getting things done well or well enough, but on why things should not get done. Paralysis by regulation.

Those clowns couldn't run a Dairy Queen.  

By Blogger VC-Ron, at Wed Jun 30, 12:06:00 PM:

Welcome to the world of Federal government solutions!

Wait until you see their approach to solving health care issues.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Wed Jun 30, 12:09:00 PM:

"We're from the federal government and we're here to help."

The Deepwater leak was foreseeable, given the Pemex Ixtoc leak in the Gulf of Mexico back in 1979. That leak went on for ten months and will likely remain larger than Deepwater.

The Deepwater leak is about 150 million gallons. If you turned Yankee Stadium into a big pool it'd hold about 180 millions gallons. That's a lot -- but it suggests a problem that could and should have been mostly contained with an all hands effort. The US uses over 800 million gallons of oil every day. The Gulf is actually a big body of water, with an average depth of about a mile -- 643 quadrillion gallons -- that's 6.43 x 10 to the 17th power.

After Exxon Valdez, we enacted legislation that was suppose to deal with these things. It's proven an abject failure. There's a lesson in this.

It's not just turning down the Dutch skimmers. The EPA regulations being cited say you can't discharge back into the Gulf unless it's 99.985% pure water. Because you can't meet that standard at sea, we're actually filling container ships at sea to bring oil-soaked water back to port, which seriously compromises the effectiveness of the effort. As of June 11 -- the most recent date I could find -- we've skimmed at sea only about 2 or 3 million gallons of oil -- about five Olympic-sized swimming pools worth.

David Axelrod was just on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart ripped Axelrod over government incompetence.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Jun 30, 12:09:00 PM:

Typo corrected, fwiw.

MTF -- I did not suggest it was new news. It seems to have popped up a bit recently again, though. Thanks for making the point -- there has been more than enough time for even a government agency to respond.  

By Blogger MTF, at Wed Jun 30, 12:43:00 PM:

Sorry; I'm glad the Dutch offer is finally being accepted. It's just depressing to watch the ridiculous pace of events in the Gulf and know that a significant part of our population thinks this behavior on the part of the government is just fine.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Jun 30, 12:50:00 PM:

It's the soft bigotry of low expectations. But it is also the difference between people who live in Michael Barone's "hard America," where performance is expected and non-performance begets failure, and "soft America," where people are not really exposed to liability, accountability, or serious risk of dismissal from their jobs.  

By Anonymous sch, at Wed Jun 30, 09:05:00 PM:

Actually, word is the the Dutch EQUIPMENT has been airlifted to the
US. Putting it to work involves
some "training programs" for the
US personnel who will actually use it. Unclear how long that will take.
Prolly need a few hundred more bureaucrats to administer the training program.  

By Anonymous ignoramus, at Wed Jun 30, 11:31:00 PM:


500 x 500 feet= 250,000 square feet. x 100 feet high = 25,000,000 cubic feet x 7.48 gallons per cubic foot == 187 million gallons

... a ballpark figure.  

By Blogger MTF, at Thu Jul 01, 05:18:00 PM:

Allah has audio of Bobby Jindal practically begging on bended knee for the Feds to get up off their butts and help, and he refers to the situation as "Kafkaesque". Where are the lefties on this, and the enviros? Is no one over there sincere in their beliefs? A Democrat president can get away with surpassing incompetence in the midst of a disaster like this and no one (other than James Carville- who has been shut up completely) says boo?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 03, 11:31:00 AM:

Yes, let's have the French do it!!  

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