The Gulf of Mexico – BP oil disaster provides the best argument for why the United States government needs more graduates of state universities–where engineering and the practical sciences are integrated into the culture of everyday learning–at the very top.
Forces of nature are unimpressed by briefs wielded by Ivy League lawyers and their public relations shills both inside and outside government, no matter how clever, and no matter how persuasive is their 20-20 hindsight. Forces of nature must be timely met by engineering and scientific solutions while they can still make a difference.
Technologies exist which can abate the disastrous spread of crude oil in the Gulf. That the world’s best engineering solutions to capture the oil were not marshaled earlier is governmental incompetence of the first order, and the people of the Gulf, indeed the hemisphere, will pay for this incompetence for generations to come, no matter how creatively this disaster may be politicked.
When downtown Chicago flooded in 1992, the politicians shut up, stepped aside, and let the engineers take over. That’s one part of the Chicago Way today’s Beltway bunch still hasn’t learned.
(We should note, however, that Chicago’s City Hall did thereafter stick local businesses with the bill for the flood for years).
The problem in the Gulf is fundamentally a science and engineering problem, to which the US government is applying farcical political and lawyerly solutions. The government can layer over the problem with escrows and demand kowtowing apologies and money–but they will not be doing the three things that will really solve the problem–(1) stop the oil flow, (2) capture as much of the oil as possible at sea, and (3) clean up the rest when it hits shore.
An avalanche of political theater cannot make up for administrative inadequacy. One cannot address a physical problem, a disaster, simply with a metaphysical solution, of assigning blame.
Our government has worsened the situation by promising the impossible–to prevent, by regulation, disasters from ever happening again. Such a promise lasts only until the next station break.
Physical disasters do happen and will happen again with regularity throughout the globe. It is up to us to respond creatively to disasters, using and improvising tools to suit the purpose at hand–something we used to call “good old American know-how,” a phrase that was in use before little kids decided to be (political) change-agents instead of (scientific) problem-solvers.
Let our leaders strike as many tough poses as they may, let our un-respected Congress hold hearings in which they parade equally un-respected BP to the evening news guillotine (perhaps they deserve each other), it will avail nothing but a brief distracting edification for political true believers and a mirror for media pundits to gaze upon themselves. It does not solve the problem. Until the oil flow is stopped, until most of the oil is captured at sea, and until the rest is cleaned up, our government has failed.
Send in the engineers. . .
© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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