- Money Morning Australia

Why the Oil Spill isn’t BP’s Fault

Written on 17 June 2010 by Kris Sayce

There’s nothing the mainstream press enjoys more than an environmental disaster.

And paradoxically, there’s nothing the green lobby gets a bigger kick from than an environmental disaster.

But the real disaster isn’t the oil spill it’s the fact that eleven people were killed when the oil rig exploded in late April.

Not that you hear too much about that.

You see, as terrible as it may seem, and as incomprehensible as the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico is – up to 162,000 barrels equivalent per day – the long term effect of the oil spill is likely to be, well, hardly noticeable.

Sure, you’ve seen the protests about the impact on wildlife and oil washing up on the beaches. And sure, there have been plenty of references to the Exxon Valdez in 1989, which according to our friends at Wikipedia resulted in the deaths of “100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds.”

We’ll agree, that’s a lot of birds. Although, when you put it in perspective, even the top-of-the-range number would have only resulted in a decline of the world bird population by 0.00025%.

And even the population of the formerly endangered bald eagle was barely dinted by the Exxon Valdez. According to the same Wikipedia reference, 247 bald eagles died following the incident.

If we assume they died as a direct result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill it still only reduced the total bald eagle population of the Alaska/British Columbia region by about 0.35%, given that population numbers in that region in the early 1990s were forecast to be between 60,000 and 80,000 individual birds.

In other words would would have taken a disaster 243 times larger than the Exxon Valdez to wipe out the entire bald eagle population.

So the miniscule impact on wildlife following that event hardly warrants the use of the term “ecological disaster.”

Ecological annoyance would probably be more accurate.

Look, I’m not saying that you can just go around killing things and then say, “Oh, but it’s only 0.0000000001% of the total population, it doesn’t matter.” What I am saying is this…

First of all, there’s a tendency by the mainstream media to fall for the environmental propaganda too easily. All they need is a couple of videos of a budgie covered in oil and a distressed rock drenched in the same for it to make front page news.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, whenever such a “disaster” as this happens it’s invariably the case that the blame is apportioned to the wrong person or organisation.

As you’ll have noticed, the evildoer tag has been attached to BP, with the CEO Tony Hayward being cast as the Dick Dastardly of the corporate world.

But as is usually the case, the real cause of the problem has been overlooked. You see, it’s not BP that is ultimately to blame, even though the oil has come from their oil rig. And it’s not entirely the fault of the legislation passed in the US during the 1980s that limited the liability of oil companies to just USD$75 million if a spill occurred.

No, the ultimate cause of the problem is something as basic as a lack of private property rights.

Yep, that’s right, a lack of private property rights over gulfs, oceans and shorelines is the direct and ultimate cause of the BP oil “disaster” and the Exxon Valdez oil “disaster”, and any other oil disaster you can think of.

A few weeks ago Daily Reckoning editor Dan Denning referred to a term known as tragedy of the commons.

The gist of the argument is that property that is either owned communally or by no-one in particular is cared for less than property that is freely owned by a private individual or organisation.

You can see that in almost every instance in society. In most cases where property is privately owned and where the owner values the property, it is better taken care of than property that is publicly owned.

Which is exactly the reason why the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred.

A lack of private property rights over seas and oceans naturally means that individuals and organisations are less careful about what they do in it or to it.

As an aside, take for example the case of the young American lass who was trying to sail around the world and had to be rescued in the Indian Ocean at a cost of $300,000 to the Australian taxpayer.

Do you really think that if the oceans were privately owned the owner would allow a 16 year old to sail through unassisted, without paying a fee to do so, without insurance should an accident occur, or without paying the private owner an insurance fee in the event of a rescue being needed? Something not too dissimilar to the fees you pay to the RACV or NRMA I suppose!

Anyway, when nobody owns something then there’s no recourse for compensation should you do any harm to it. Even if it’s publicly owned property the quest for compensation will be less rigorous than if it’s privately owned property.

Simply because of the lack of a profit motive and the lack of direct ownership. If oil washes ashore at a theme park located on a private beach and a public beach, odds are that the private owner will act faster to clear the mess as it could have an impact on revenues and profits.

But the public beach would have less of an incentive. The clean up process would probably need approval from committees or boards. It would need to be the “right” kind of cleaning process, not just any old process, and so on. The bureaucrats would be in their element. Looking busy doing nothing.

Then there’s the matter of private ownership of the oceans. It’s not such a crazy idea you know. It’s no crazier than private ownership of land.

Of course we’ll agree that it’s harder to erect a fence in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but that’s the beauty of technology that can simply and easily record boundaries electronically on maps. Just as national waters are recorded on maps today.

Consider the situation in the Gulf of Mexico right now if specific areas of the gulf were owned by the private sector. As an owner of a particular area you’d be keen to ensure that those using it took good care of it.

Not only because it would make it more attractive for others to do business there – eg. Other oil drillers or fishermen or tourist operators – but also because of the consequences of inappropriate actions by firms in your property could have on adjacent sea and land properties.

We’ve got no idea whether BP has been negligent with their drilling operations or not. But what we do know is, that if BP was drilling in a privately owned Gulf of Mexico, the private owner would want to be darn sure that BP was behaving itself.

The private owner would want to receive a fee from BP for the use of that particular sea area. Doubtless the owner would also want to make sure that BP had adequate insurance should anything happen.

The private owner may also provide addition services to those using it’s sea property – such as oil spill services.

After all, an oil spill by one driller would have a major impact on other companies doing business in that area of private sea – other drillers, fishermen, shipping firms, etc.

And imagine the consequence of the oil drifting into adjacent sea areas.

For the private sea owner, if one business causes other businesses to stop using that area of the sea then that’s going to be bad news for the owner.

But as another aside, what about other issues, such as piracy on the high seas? If you own a section of the ocean and you’re able to charge ships to use it, you’d be able to attract more traffic if you can demonstrate how secure your section of the ocean is. That ships can pass freely without the fear of ambush.

Anyway, getting back to the oil spill. While BP is being cast as the villain, the truth is that BP isn’t as villainous as the mainstream media, politicians and special interest groups claim.

I mean, does anyone seriously believe that BP intentionally caused the oil rig to explode, killing eleven men and releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet listen to the mainstream knuckleheads and you’d think BP couldn’t give a stuff that up to USD$11.3 million worth of oil is leaking into the Gulf each day. Could it really be true that BP doesn’t care that it’s losing so much money in potential profits?

No, of course it isn’t. BP would rather have the oil flow into a tanker rather than into the sea.

However, because of a lack of private property rights there’s no private owner putting pressure on BP to clean the mess up. In addition, there’s no private owner who could have invested in equipment or chemicals to ensure the problem didn’t spread into adjacent privately owned areas.

Or, there was no private owner to stipulate that BP should have an emergency plan in place should the worst occur.

Instead you’ve got US president Obama calling the oil spill “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” And claiming that he’s going to “kick ass” – we assume he means kicking bottoms not kicking donkeys.

But funnily enough, nearly two months after the rig exploded we’re yet to see exactly what governments or government agencies have done.

The fact is that if oceans were privately owned BP may never have been able to afford to locate a rig where it did. After all, drilling thousands of metres under the sea bed is pretty expensive and risky.

But as is usually the case, when you’ve got a government manipulating a market to encourage offshore exploration in areas that otherwise would not be economical, it will always create distortions and lead to unintended consequences.

Especially when a government passes a law limiting the liability of offshore drillers to just USD$75 million. Which – if you’ll pardon the pun – is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions the clean-up is forecast to cost.

So look, I won’t deny that perhaps BP deserves to shoulder some of the blame. But the fact remains that the biggest contributor to the current oil spill, the Exxon Valdez, and all other so-called environmental disasters is actually the basic lack of private property rights over the seas.


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59 Comments For This Post

  1. OREO-ruddxpin-BASHER-BUMMER Says:

    “””Why the Oil Spill isn’t BP’s Fault””””

    yeah it wasnt ,,,it was a stray Hammerhead shark nudged the top of the well to cause the leak .

    READ; it was shortcuts of normal procedures BY BP that caused this CATASTROPHIC distaster

    actually maybe it was a CONSPIRACY?

    di do di do di do di odi odo di do

  2. Steve Says:

    Most of you’re stuff is ok, but this is a load of bollocks. The fact that you’ve got engineers the week beforehand saying something’s not right, but greedy execs couldn’t care less as long as the gold I mean oil kept pumping, shows me something is fishy. BP deserves to shoulder almost all of the blame.

    And not everything in the world has to have some sort of profit incentive. I tend to disagree that if the oceans were privately owned, the owners would “ensure that those using it took good care of it.” I would argue that in this case, owners would look to extract the most value from their part of the ocean, regardless of how well it was taken care of.

    It’s a preposterous notion, how about we have private companies owning the atmosphere, there’s you’re solution to climate issues. This surely has to be a gee up.

    I agree with some of your stuff on the housing situation, but your incessant rants against “government” are tiresome. I bet you don’t whinge when the fieries put out your fire, the water you use is clean and readily available and the sporting events that our government help support go ahead. You probably hate state of origin, wondering whether it is economically viable for a club to insure the players when they belt each other, considering their medicals bills add up.

    How about we become like Iraq or Afghanisatn, I hear they’ve got small government and are a splendid places to live.

  3. Joyce Says:

    The BP oil spill is 20 times worse than the media is telling us. The media is staging the clean up for the public so they won’t get paranoid. It is like stopping a tidal wave with a broom. Don’t believe what you are seeing on television. BP is burying animals and there is a stench in the air from all of the dead animals. The local people have taken it upon themselves to try and clean up the mess themselves. There is a extremely toxic and carcinogenic chemical being used to break up the oil that is polluting the environment even more. This is an environmental nightmare. The president is saying that “we are doing everything we can” but what is being done is not enough. BP is a diabolical company. They are only interested in profit. Call your congressman and complain to the United States government and tell them to stop lying to the American public.

  4. toby hilliard Says:

    sell off the oceans?

    yeah. thats what we need.

  5. Rod Campbell-Ross Says:

    There is so much wrong with this article that it is difficult to know where to start. The law of the sea is governed by international agreement so trying to implement Kris’es suggestions might just encounter the odd hiccough if ever such a daft proposal was made. By definition “the high seas” belong to no one and that has been the case for years. It is my right to sail the seas (Which I have done – from UK to Oz) and I would not willingly give up my right to the sea. Then there are a few practical issues. If you did own a block of ocean how would you account for fish that swim from into ort out of “your” area? Where exactly would the trawler fish catch be recorded if it had been trawling for a long way?What about currents that carry in pollution? How would you enforce your tolls from passing 16 year olds? Anybody who has actually been to sea knows the idea is stupid. If we followed Kris’s principle we could always privatise the air? Trying to enforce claims for damages caused by acid rain in California against the Chinese government would probably just raise ribald laughter.

    Then there is the issue of the oil. No doubt there will be an enquiry, but it seems there were several things wrong, some with the equipment, some with procedures, some with management. BP is at fault, no doubt about that. Even if they had done things to the letter and been exemplary at following best practice, they would and should still be liable to all the people who have been damaged. The $20bn down seems like a good start, but I think it could end up being more than that, maybe even big enough to bankrupt the company.

    Most pertinently maybe we should maybe ask ourselves if drilling in 5,000 feet of water is appropriate at all. Maybe we shouldn’t produce oil in water that is deeper than the maximum depth divers can work. Sure, stopping all deep water production steepens production decline, but we are going to have to live with less oil anyway. Deep water oil probably doesn’t deliver significant net energy anyway, so its loss may not be all that keenly felt.

  6. Nick Says:

    Who is the puppet and who is the puppeteer?


  7. Ron Says:

    So the Exxon Valdez killed 100,000 to 250,000 sea birds.Heck 50 cats on Tasman island can do that in 2-5 years.

  8. Nick Says:

    Ron, I have an “R” license issued and controlled by the Game Council to qualified gun owners to take care of such ferals in our state forests. I have seen, first hand, the devastation they cause to the native wildlife.

    Dogs aren’t allowed to wander the streets at night and you must carry a poop bag when you take your dog for a walk. Cats are free to roam at night and NO catlover picks up their deposits……however, cats DO make great slippers.

  9. oysterboy Says:

    It’s not just the wildlife being affected. Watch as the HUMANS in all surrounding states get sick from all that $hit blowing their way. Normally I agree with your comments Kris, but this time I think you should re sharpen your pencil.

  10. cb Says:

    lol, Nick, do you keep their tails on, or only the ears? Just wondering …..hehehe

  11. cb Says:

    Following some of the comments here, I have started to read the article, but the first few paragraphs have been plenty. This piece, it seems, just about takes the cake in Sayce-wrongheadedness. The gulf is a massive larder for millions and millions of people, and provides a livelihood for same. All of that has just been poisoned and it will take decades for the environment to heal itself and recover. And that is only for starters. The scale of this disaster is still unfoldong and still unknown. And the idea that somehow private ownership of the seas is the answer, well, it is hillarious and way off this planet. Far out.

  12. cb Says:

    JPMorgan Explains Why Gold Is A Great Bet During Deflation
    Share The Pragmatic Capitalist | Jun. 17, 2010, 5:43 AM
    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/jpmorgan-explains-why-gold-is-a-great-bet-during-deflation-2010-6#ixzz0r76a5Ygw

  13. Beauner Says:

    At the end of the day, these Corporations dont give a crap. And neither do we, unless it happens in our own backyard of course. Then we care. But…its been happening in lots of places around the world..and no one bats an eye at it!


  14. Beauner Says:

    In particular is this quote at the end of the article >

    ““We don’t have an international media to cover us, so nobody cares about it,” said Mr. Mbong, in nearby Eket. “Whatever cry we cry is not heard outside of here.”

  15. cb Says:

    This is interesting. Celente’s charge that fascism has come to America would seem to be getting more than mere theoretical grip. Consider:

    You committed no crime, but an officer is knocking on your door. More Minnesotans are surprised to find themselves being locked up over debts.


  16. cb Says:

    Very good points, Beauner. A similar analogy is the question of nuclear power. Many think that nuclear power is perfectly fine, until the proposal is to put one of those power plants right in their backyard.

  17. Peter Fraser Says:

    So PuntPal – what are your thoughts – Is Kris correct, should BP be absolved from any blame???

    I’m with Rod Campbell-Ross on this issue #2 post.

  18. bob Says:

    To say it’s ALLl BP’s fault would be wrong. Mr Obama had only a week prior to the disaster declared new areas for offshore drilling and how safe it was. BP should not have ever been allowed to drill there at all. The risk is too huge and this is the consequence.

    But today, Kris, you have showed how sick minded most of us are. “the long term effect of the oil spill is likely to be, well, hardly noticeable” my jaw hit the keypad.

    “But the real disaster isn’t the oil spill it’s the fact that eleven people were killed when the oil rig exploded in late April” my eyes hit the screen.

    Only a few hundred thousand birds? so far? i’m pretty sure 11 people out of 6 billion is a small number too. But that doesn’t bother you. The shrimp, fish, turtles, sharks, dolphins, and 50% of all living things on this earth that live in oceans are being poisoned, that doesn’t matter to you. And those people that care for it all, who wanted to stop these things from ever happening, they get a kick out of it?

    “What we need is ownership of the seas and this wouldn’t happen” is that a joke? We poison our own backyards when we see fit and we are going to take care of the seas?

    You have just showed that most of us are just pure selfish, greedy waste of space beings, with no respect for our world, our home and no respect for anything that has life. Shame on you Kris. where is your heart.

    BP should pay every last cent and clean up the mess. Even if they go bankrupt otherwise there is no liability and this will go on and on until we are all poisoned . And then the birds will say ” its only a few humans”

  19. Fitch Says:

    Kris – 1 day back in pommyland and you go all Lord Kitchener on us……please!

  20. Rob Says:

    You claim that if the sea was privately owned that fees would be charged to anyone wanting to exploit it. Could you please explain how this fee would differ from a resource rent tax, other than in name? It’s just a bit confusing because here you are arguing for an additional impost on business, while you have spent the last 6 weeks deriding that exact same impost.

  21. Mike Says:

    5 Nick 06.17.10 at 8:20 pm
    Ron, I have an “R” license issued and controlled by the Game Council to qualified gun owners to take care of such ferals in our state forests. I have seen, first hand, the devastation they cause to the native wildlife.

    Dogs aren’t allowed to wander the streets at night and you must carry a poop bag when you take your dog for a walk. Cats are free to roam at night and NO catlover picks up their deposits……however, cats DO make great slippers.
    Hey Nick can you do me a favor? Put the gun in your mouth and pull the trigger. Do humanity a favor you POS.

  22. The Wolf Says:

    off topic, but worth a read…


  23. Nick Says:

    cb..@12…isn’t this the current case in Dubai and the Saudi world?
    Ex-pats are fleeing back to UK, leaving everything behind, due to the drop in real estate values leaving them in debt. The Saudi law imprisons debtors who cannot pay.

  24. PuntPal Says:

    I dont know enough about the BP issue to comment specifically – but clearly they are to blame. They engaged in reckless drilling activities without a proper back up plan if something like this happened…why did they do this?

    Tragedy of the Commons…its the same as the reason why banks lent like crazy and are doing so here, because people seem to think the Government has the duty to fix eveything, it encourages companies to be complacent. The banks didnt want the sub-prime meltdown to occur and the Oz banks dont want the crash that is coming here, but they know the downside risk has a floor under it due to Government intervention/bail outs.

    Its the same with BP, in order to fix the spill the Government will spend tax payers money. Yes Obama is talking tough and I am sure BP will pay the $20 billion, but I think Kris makes a fair point that you all ignore…

    Who honestly cares about the environment enough to make personal sacrifise to take care of it?

    PF supports Rod @ #2 – but I ask Rod, if it is your right to sail the high seas, do you have an obligation to clean the sea when somthign like this happens? Dont rights come with responsonsibilities?

    This is what cracks me up about you lefties – you are all righteous when it comes to criticising the free market ideals of Austrians and libertarians, yet you have no solutions for such problems. You think so simplistically and you use populist jargon – no wonder you all voted for Rudd.

    Rod jokes about ‘privatising air’ but isnt it my right to build a factory and polute the air??? If Seas and Air are fair game and no-one should be able to dictate how they are used, then what is to stop economic pillaging?

    Rod you talk of the law of the high seas being old…that is the problem. Old law aint always good law.

  25. Peter Fraser Says:

    PuntPal – you have missed the point completely. Do you support selling off our public beaches and subdividing the sea bed.

    Which part of the ocean are you going to buy?

    We have a wonderful tradition of publically owned beaches in Australia, unlike other countries. I’m not a leftie because I want to retain that, I think that makes me mainstream.

    Let’s sell Bondi to BP, perhaps the Great Barrier Reef to Exxon. We could all be rolling in dough soon with this great big sea bed sale.

    Roll on up and claim your stake………

    Clearly Sayce has now become an embarrassment and a liability for PPP and I wonder how long he will stay on. He could become the financial adviser for Andrew Johns.

  26. Peter Fraser Says:

    PuntPal – I had a look at Rods website – something tells me that he is a very responsible boatie who does clean up. I just don’t see him as the type to be discharging rubbish in the ocean. Do you know who started the “clean up Australia day” that is now worldwide – it was a boatie. The sailing fraternity that I have met are very responsible and conscious of their enviroment.

  27. cb Says:

    Nick – Yes, I suppose America is not unique in its descent into fascism, but at least the Saudis are not pretending otherwise. The Yanks believe to have abolished debtors gaol as a practice, but in fact it is creeping back into practice under various guises. Oh, sorry, I almost forgot, they do not (officially) torture, either. Or do they?

  28. Abby Says:

    Can anybody please explain why PPP have published an apology to Chris Joye for factual errors in their articles?
    i.e. what information exactly was it that was factually incorrect?

    I’d be interested to know…

    What i do know about Joye is that he is one of Australia’s main property spruikers whose business (Rismark Int) has vested interests in perpetuating the lie that Australia’s property market is not in a bubble. Having read only a couple of Joye’s comments and articles on his blog site i can already tell that he has published misleading information (i.e. blatant lies) on his blog, for example his claims as to the ratio of property prices to average income in Australia is pure fiction.

    When will we get an apology from him for the tripe he’s been spouting about Australia’s mystical property market?? After the crash perhaps?
    IF he’s man enough to apologise that is, which i suspect he isn’t, we probably would not have to wait a very long time then…

  29. cb Says:

    PuntPal – Since BP messed up, they are responsible for fixing the mess, and for compensating those whom they damaged – morally speaking, that is. And such a law should apply with respect of individual responsibilities towards the commons. Do no harm, or damage, but if it happens, then you are on the hook for fixing it. Simple.

    Unfortunately, bad laws tend to allow, and even encourage, irresponsible behaviour toward the commons. A recent example, which is a constant irritation to me, are the laws whereby people are separately charged for the safe disposal/recycling of their used car tyres.

    This is an idiotic setup, because some people who otherwise would do the right thing end up doing the wrong thing, where they simply dump old tyres, polluting the environment. I frequently pull out entire wheels from the local waterways and in order to dispose of it properly I have to pay the money on top of my troubles that some lousy bugger was unwilling to pay. A simple change in the law, or the tyre disposal scheme that would see abolition of disposal fees would do away with a disincentive to responsible behaviour. But I am probably not saying anything new.

  30. cb Says:

    Abby – What comes to mind is the old addage :
    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Whether there is a bubble or not, is a matter of judgement, and the definition is too slippery to get a decent handle on it, anyhow. But questions of price/income ratios concern facts and there should be a clearcut case regarding the truth of the matter. Alas, the methodology adopted and selective sampling can be used to fudge the figures and make misleading views appear compelling. This is what Sayce and Danning accused Joye of, but PPP found it much cheaper to simply cave in and issue the apology, rather than risk losing a defamation case in court. Even so, Joye overcooked his own goose and kicked a nice own goal through his egomania. Just read the last para of the apology … it makes you cringe just reading it. How embarrassing, but I somehow doubt that Joye is capable of eperiencing embarrassement.

  31. PuntPal Says:

    PF – the point I am making is in response to what Kris was arguing. You can try to pigeon hole me if you want, but I am not falling for that tactic. So I wont even respond to the questions…

    I will reiterate the broader point that I think is being made by Kris. In the absence of private property rights, there is a tendancy to use things in a way that damages it in the long term, as a lot of people dont care about the protection of something that isnt theirs. Yes Government regualtion can do the trick – but as cb points out, it is often misguided and has unintended consequences.

    So private property rights and well-targeted regulation can provide a balance. Private property rights ensure someone has an invested interests in making sure resources are used properly – and Government regulation can ensure the use of those goods are also managed in the public interests.

    Putting it in terms of “do you want to sell Bondi” is straight out of the populilst handbook.

    Dont say I have missed the point because I dont address your populist and simplistic points…Kris said it best when he said this:

    “… because of a lack of private property rights there’s no private owner putting pressure on BP to clean the mess up. In addition, there’s no private owner who could have invested in equipment or chemicals to ensure the problem didn’t spread into adjacent privately owned areas.

    Or, there was no private owner to stipulate that BP should have an emergency plan in place should the worst occur.”

  32. Peter Fraser Says:

    PuntPal – You are defending the indefensible.

    Don’t you know anything about the law?

    KS CONSTANTLY uses POPULIST rubbish that appeals to the simple minded followers of this blog to defame others. It is easy – you just find someone who is unpopular and feed the tribe rubbish about that person that they won’t question because they don’t want to. They lap up anything they WANT to hear.

    And you ate it all up didn’t you.

    Do you want fries with that load of bollocks Sir???

    Tomato Sauce???

  33. cb Says:

    Abby – I should clarify that last sentence of mine. I am not so much saying it by way of moral criticism, or at least I really shouldn’t be, but as a mere statement of (suspected) fact. My impression is that Joye has a touch of some clinically identifiable condition that makes him a borderline case of an “idiot savant”. He clearly struggles with social expectations and the finer details of etiquette with regard to socially appropriate displays of self-importance, while he undoubtedly possesses some remarkable aptitudes in other other areas.

    Whether his professional output is good, bad, or misleading, I cannot judge. It’s all statistics to me, and “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  34. PuntPal Says:

    Why dont you address the point…

    “…because of a lack of private property rights there’s no private owner putting pressure on BP to clean the mess up. In addition, there’s no private owner who could have invested in equipment or chemicals to ensure the problem didn’t spread into adjacent privately owned areas.

    Or, there was no private owner to stipulate that BP should have an emergency plan in place should the worst occur.”

    I will simplify it for you…

    Who do you have more faith in to take care of property:
    – The Government who ‘owns’ the property OR
    – A private owner of property

    Kris is showing once again that Government’s cannot be trusted to look after things and the private sector does things better.

    Its actually a very insightful bit of reasoning…yes there are holes in it, but this blog is meant to make people think about things differently and in that sense he has done well.

    I bet you the people who live on the affected areas wouldnt mind that area of the ocean having someone other than the Government that is responsible for its maintenance. AS I said, in my opinion, this would not mean that private owners can do whatever they want (regulation clearly has a role) but it does mean someone REALLY cares if Oil is a chance of spewing out of holes in the ground.

  35. SamHenry Says:

    Fair enough but far out – to sea that is. The real culprits? The US agency that waived the requirement for BP to have that “safety thing” on it’s rig that all North Sea rigs have for emergencies such as this AND then BP for forging ahead on their schedule disregarding reports that there were problems on the rig. In my mind these are the two main culprits. AND under US corporate law – I believe the buck stops at the CEO’s desk. Haliburton and that other firm were contractors but under BP’s wing as it were.

    Good thesis but of course mine is superior. Yanks are always right – until this century drat it. Have to ring off. I’m sure our Chinese overseers want the bandwidth for their government’s use. From one in Western New York, USA.

  36. PuntPal Says:

    p.s. The Government is reactive, they only cared when votes started being lost. A private owner would be more pro-active and prepared…this is the key. It comes down to incentives. The Government, the Public and all the do-gooders in the world do not care enough about something that they dont own.

    Look at how quickly the public went cold on the ETS when they found out it would cost them something…people dont care about anything other than their own property. Government’s dont care about anything other than being relected…so why do you have such faith that the private property will be looked after as long as it stays out of private hands.

  37. SamHenry Says:


    That young woman should NEVER have been allowed to sail alone at her age. There used to be kids who got younger and younger trying to fly coast to coast in the US and finally a law was passed that got rid of that dangerous situation.

    I think of the lives that might have been lost trying to rescue the girl who was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time. The international whatever of whatnot should pass a law to require a minimum age for this kind of thing.

    Her parents should be sued by the Australian Governments for recovery of funds to cover their services. Thank God few could afford a yacht or the time to do such a thing. And in these turbulent times, it is excessive and self-serving. OK, OK so it’s the American way, Geesh. I’m still not past your having taken the Auld Mug away. Very inconvenient, that. Have to go all over the world to track it and tack it down. Although I am happy that dear old Newport has been saved from unneeded expansion of “T” shirt emporiums and other delights.

  38. Peter Fraser Says:

    PuntPal @ #34 – Why don’t you suggest to the American people that BP purchase the shores and beaches of the area and then they can make themselves clean it up. What a solution.

    Mate do yourself a favour and stop trying to defend this rubbish – there is verbal pollution all over it.

    I think that right now in the Deep South of the USA you would be lynched for some of your suggestions on this issue.

  39. PuntPal Says:

    I wouldnt say that BP should own it – because they have a business interest in making sure the oil comes out as quick as possible and who cares how many birds get covered in sloppy goo in the process…

    But that area of the coast was in private hands before the oild drilling commenced, you can bet that private owner would have initiated better safety measures than what was imposed by the Government.

    If anyone should own that area of the beach, I reckon the people of that area should…would I get lynched for saying that?

    This is not about giving big business something more to exploit, its about taking things out of the hands of incompetant Governments

  40. PuntPal Says:

    I meant to say ‘But if that area of the coast…” – just in case it didnt make sense

  41. Peter Fraser Says:

    Actually PuntPal the people DO own that area of the coast.

    Now we have come full circle.

  42. Yocanlocan Says:

    You sure sound like a fully paid up member of the hidden hand crew, because you do not SEE your opinions have no weight.

  43. PuntPal Says:

    Do they – so they gave permission for BP to drill?

  44. Frank Says:

    To the ecological ignoramuses Ron and Nick.

    So 50 feral cats kill about 2.8 birds a day! Gee that really puts dingoes and alpine wild dogs to shame. So they kill 10% of the bird population per year, that sounds like natural balance to me!

    Ever bothered to wonder why Tasmania still has most of its small marsupials when there are no end of cats on the island to exterminate them? Of course not, that may require thought and rational enquiry instead of mere prejudice.

    When your moron mates in Tasmanian Parks and Wildlfe successfully eradicate the feral cats they will probably cause a catastrophic collapse in the very bird populations they are trying to protect because there will be no top level predator to keep the rats in in check.

    In 2000 the last feral cat was killed on Macquarie Island and since then the Island has been undergoing ecological collapse due to uncontrolled rabbit and rodent populations.


    Another ecological victory for the brain dead feral cat haters who masqerade as wildlife and natural environment managers and in a world hertiage listed island they should get extra points for that!

  45. cb Says:

    PuntPal – You have a point, that generally private individuals take better care of their personal property than do our elected officians and their appointed bureaucratic minions of the commons.

    However, the example is bad. Privatising the commons cannot be the solution. Besides, a private individual who may own a piece of the ocean, or the beach, may not lack the resources to really look after such property. Polluters like oil giants will run circles around them and tie them up in legal paperwork until their dying days.

    What you are suggesting is clearly not a good idea, and the first principle that you and Sayce must consider is whether the concept of the commons is an important one, and most people will tell you that it is, and that even if the commons is not being looked after as best as it could be, privatising it would be against the common good.

    And besides, I do not at all find the argument compelling that under private ownership disasters like this would not happen, or that they would be dealt with more efficiently. As PF suggested, if the sea and the beaches could be bought up, it would be the giant corporations who would buy them up, and they would probably trash it worse than under public ownership. Anyhow, the short and long of it is that you do have a point, but the instance to which you are trying to apply that point is the wrong, and clearly inapplicable one.

  46. Kenny Says:

    Privatise the ocean? Are u on crack?

  47. Ian MacFarlane Says:

    Which of the pantheon of gods inspired this vacuous piece of fluffy nonsense?

  48. Nick Says:

    Mike..#21…you are exactly the kind of lunatic the law ties to protect us from. Heaven help us if you owned a gun.
    …and by the way, you would be one of those selfish cat lovers who respect nothing except your own ego. Poor man.

  49. cb Says:

    Mike – I have just noticed what you have written @ 21.
    What possessed you to say something like that? Cats are doing untold damage to native fauna in this country, and the domestic ones should not be allowed out at night, and those that have gone ferral should be eradicated. Those of us that appreciate this land for its native fauna must be excused for not being disposed too kindly towards ferral cats, and your comment here is way out of line. And if you are gentleman, you are going to apologise to Nick for that comment.

  50. Maurice Says:

    That’s a brilliant idea Chris!
    In fact not only should H2O be privatized but also O, as in the air we breath around us.
    If this was to occur it would certainly solve the Greenhouse problems of this world and overcome the Climate Change ‘catastrophe’.
    Think about it, by privatizing the air, the private owner will certainly not allow all those dastardly companies to pollute the earth.
    No need for Copenhagen and the other climate meeting rorts.
    No need for carbon targets or ETS as the private owner will be the carer of the most important moral dilemma of our time!

  51. David Gray Says:

    Who would you choose to regulate and inspect etc a project like the BP Well? The Technology is so new only a handful of people would even understand the entire chain of innovations they needed to drill at such incredible depths and pressures.

    Reading BP’s earlier words regarding the number of ‘Teams’ working on separate problems…down to the last ‘Widget’.

    Statistically if the chance of catastrophic Failure is 100:1 and you repeat that action a 1000 times then a failure is statistically inevitable.
    JP Morgan owns a substantial amount of BP. Also our friends at Halliburton (I wonder how Dick Cheney is doing?) were involved with critical elements in the project.

    Is there such a thing as a Spill Ship? A fleet of ships designed to deploy and contain these Mega Disasters. I say Mega as it seems the erosion effect on the underground pipe is probably if the pipe is ‘cut through’ we will have an open hole under 5000 feet pumping Crude at rates of 50 -70 Thousand Barrels a day unstoppable even with relief wells.

    Our love of Oil will have ramifications far beyond imagination. God help us when the inevitable Hurricane comes along.

    This event was bound to happen, the US Govt is powerless to do anything but posture and placate as this Pipe deteriorates the BOP will collapse, oil & Gas will start bubbling up from the sea floor. We / They are in the S**t.

    BP Global – Reports and publications – Thunderous innovation

    “The list of development breakthroughs is formidable even by the standards of large oil industry projects, pushing technical know-how out to new boundaries. In operation, many of these equipment developments will be out of sight beneath the waves. Another set of first-time achievements will be even more invisible – deep down inside Thunder Horse’s wells.

    O’Connell notes that having five completions engineers in the design team alone, compared to a more usual one or two, was an indication of the work that had to be done.

    ‘We were doing virtually everything from scratch, and had to question even the most basic assumptions. For example, with wells flowing at 50,000bpd, could the whole completions string vibrate itself to pieces? Answering such questions required an extensive testing and quality assurance programme for the many new components. It is astounding to think that of the 32 major components in a 140mm diameter Thunder Horse completions string, 18 of these are classed as “Serial Number Ones” – that is to say, they are the first of their kind ever made. You might expect one or two Number Ones in a completion. But certainly not eighteen.’

    The 18 new design components were just the tip of the iceberg – a further seven were existing designs that had to be modified. And by the time the operations team had developed ways to install and operate the completions strings, a further 89 Serial Number Ones were notched up”.

  52. Jon Wexler Says:

    If you owned a fishing business or beach house on the Gulf coast you’d be looking a whole lot differently at this massive disaster instead of pissing about with irrelevant wildlife population counts and smart-arse, totally fallacious propositions about catastrophe avoidance from privatising the seas. I’ll be taking future utterances from you with far greater salinity.

  53. Otto Says:

    Hello Kris , I really have to say you are way off beam with this one . The headline already suggested to me that not all is well with this article and sadly it was . Perhaps you will all have us own a wild Lion or Crocodile in future to monitor their activities and prevent problems . There is far more care required by the Oil companies . If BP is financially able to pay the huge costs involved in the clean up then the money must be there in the first place to fund environmental protection right from the start .

  54. Drowning Dolphin Says:

    I agree with Steve in that the suggestion of privatising the Oceans is coming from a soul that likes to brag about its ability to survive without government intervention. I think he is just trying to cause argument for the sake of it. Anyone with a passion for human rights, knowledge or nature should be horrified by the suggestion. The fact that he had to apologise to a property spruiker infers a provocative style and lack of tact but this is ridiculous.

  55. OREO-ruddxpin-BASHER-BUMMER Says:

    @ 28 I’d be interested to know…
    “””””””””””What i do know about Joye is that he is one of Australia’s main property spruikers whose business (Rismark Int) has vested interests in perpetuating the lie that Australia’s property market is not in a bubble. Having read only a couple of Joye’s comments and articles on his blog site i can already tell that he has published misleading information (i.e. blatant lies) on his blog, for example his claims as to the ratio of property prices to average income in Australia is pure fiction.
    When will we get an apology from him for the tripe he’s been spouting about Australia’s mystical property market?? After the crash perhaps?
    IF he’s man enough to apologise that is, which i suspect he isn’t, we probably would not have to wait a very long time then…”””””””””””””””

    when it/if it all goes belly-up ..it wouldnt matter to him as he’s got more than enough money to LIVE IN MAJORCA

  56. borg Says:

    once again a stupid article by a one eyed privately biased idiot… “private” doesnt equal responsible… private equals ‘do whatever I like to make the most profit’!! and thats exactly what BP did. cut corners to ensure the most profit… but now its bitten them hard! I only hope these private companies learn the lesson! unlike the author of this article!

  57. Harry Says:

    I am a mettalurgist, and had part of my (practical)training with “Royal Shell” (KSLA). I also pressure tested pipes.Aboveground.
    What would the world think if there were a Gas-Explosion? Not the fault of the carrier of the gas/energy corporation ?What about the “disaster in India a few years back.Who paid for that? What if a refinery here would have an explosion?Would “rudd” fix it, or have to fix it?,Out of our taxpayments?We would shove it back to the refinery ownner,would we not?
    Coming back to Shell, they had a MASSIVE testing laboratory,
    nearly fifty years ago (candidate for senility?),one of the most impressive in the world .Some of their test benches went through THREE floors. On someof their test the WHOLE building would shake.
    To me it is a shortcoming of BP one way or the other,probably coupled to bad luck.
    Who would be responsible if an “act of God” happened? And ruptured the setup. Earthquake?
    If I owned that peace of ocean realestate –or YOU ?—would you have 2 billion PLUS!! for spare to fix the blow out?
    Still to my mind: It isBP’s Bunny,if they go bust because of it..so be it,
    Though i would be seriously sorry about it.From Shell I learned that BP is not owned by BP only , also by Shell, and Caltex etc.
    Consequently WE ALL have to pay more for our fuel.So be it.
    More truckies going bust.
    CATS…?? I cried when my cat of 18 y old died, here in Australia.Nearly 20 years ago.I still feel sorry.BUT!!! Live Cats as a pet should not be in Australia, not more than CANE-TOADS!! Cats are just more appealing and charming; which one is more disasterous to the Ozzie Fauna? I don’t know. High taxes on cats…that is not politically appealing.

  58. Jono Says:

    This reminds me of an excellent article I read a few years back that gave a prime example of how property rights lead to better environmental management over common ownership.

    That example was the French regulation of their oyster industry during the 18th century, versus the British example of leasehold arrangements. The French went through a wave of crises as overfishing occurred, whilst the British never suffered the same problems.

    I only wish I c0uld find the link to the original article. It highlights just how government management is completely un-sustainable and private ownership leads to all kinds of environmental resources – fish, trees, coral, flowers – never running out and being renewable.

  59. Josh Says:

    BP did not own the rig, it was owned by a US company called Transocean. Transocean were being paid $500,000 a day to mantai the rig, including a key part in the well to prevent blowouts, which in this case killed 11 men.

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