Are We Drawing the Wrong Lessons from the Gulf Oil Disaster?

Posted: May 3, 2010 in On Target
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MONTREAL (3 MAY 2010) – We are already hearing calls from environmentalists for a moratorium on oil drilling and exploration in coastal zones, with a definite “I told you so” attitude. Unfortunately, that would be drawing precisely the wrong lesson from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. It turns out that there are contingent risk reduction measures that BP could have put in place before the disaster. They wouldn’t necessarily have prevented the main well explosion and damage, but they would have potentially reduced the harm that is being caused.

I’m no expert on oil drilling, but it seems to me that BP, and government regulations, are at fault to some significant level. BP is apparently asking the Canadian government for a dispensation from building production wells in Canadian waters of the Beaufort Sea without drilling secondary safety wells in case of a similar accident to what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is the real lesson: risk management costs money and time and effort, but once there is a proven technology for reducing or better managing risks, then it is incumbent on decision makers to incorporate that measure into their plans, or at least consider it.

And further, assuming the Canadian government approves more exploration in the Arctic, what contingency plans, both governmental and corporate, will be in place to deal with potential risks, up to and including a major leak or spill?

Richard Martin is founder and president of Alcera Consulting Inc. He brings his military and business leadership experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2010 Richard Martin

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