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Sunday, May 23, 2010

A better plan may have prevented oil spill

On the political front

While this is a medical blog with an emphasis on the lungs, there are events that take place on a daily basis that do effect us on the medical front. So every Sunday I will attempt to write a post about the political front, particularly how it is effecting us in the medical community.

If nothing else, perhaps this will spice up the atmosphere here at the RT Cave a little bit -- or a lot, depending on how heated some of you guys are about politics.

For instance, this past week Big Oil was basically castrated, namely BP, for the explosion that resulted in the catastrophic oil slick in the Gulf Coast.

The truth is, it's a horrid event. It should never have happened. Animals have been harmed, beaches ruined, and economies destroyed. At least that's what we see with the naked eye.

Here is what we don't see. Every day 40 million gallons of oil are dumped into oceans, lakes and streams. Did you know that? And, of that 40 million 60% is naturally occurring; naturally seaping into the waters. Thirty-nine percent is natural run-off from boats and other water equipment, and 1% is from oil spills like that in the Gulf Coast right now.

Of that 40 million gallons of oil, most of it does not stay afloat as some will contend, but most swells and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and much of the rest is eaten by bacteria which exists simply for this purpose. The rest washes ashore, hurts some animals, but you don't hear about it by the media. It's basically a normally occuring phenomena.

That doesn't justify what happened in the Gulf Coast, it simply allows us to see the big picture.

Still, the Gulf Coast oil spill (or leakage considering it's still ongoing) was a travesty, and should never have happened. Disasters can be prevented. Yet when they do occur, a plan can prevent them from getting out of control.

Yet blaming Obama, as the media did to Bush during the Katrina disaster, is frivolous at best. Obama is not to blame, any more than Bush was to blame.

However, I'm not saying politicians altogether are not partially at fault for this disaster, because they are.

So, why did it happen? Why wasn't there a plan in place to prevent that explosion? Why wasn't there a plan to fill the hole in the ship to stop the leak? Why wasn't there a plan to clean up the spill?

This isn't unlike what we do here in the medical field. Someone comes into the hospital following a train wreck, and we place the patient in critical care. He has a fever, a high respiratory rate, and thus he is at high risk for sepsis, ARDC, DIC, etc.

We have a plan. We anticipate the worst. We know such an event may result in further complications, so we do whatever we can to prevent it. We anticipate. We are proactive.

Plus we have the rapid response team, whereby if we see early signs the patient might fail (change in mentality, increase RR, increase HR, change on EKG, fever, etc.) we call in the team.

The goal here is that all events that might lead to failure show early signs, and if noticed, and aggressively treated, the event can be prevented. It makes sense, and it works.

Still, if a patient does go into respiratory failure, or cardiac failure, or both, we have a plan. We know exactly what to do. So, on this note, why didn't BP have a similar plan. If they did, why didn't they implement it? If they did, why is the slick still worsening? If they did, why didn't it work? I'm sure those are all questions presently being asked, or one would hope, by all the right people.

So, who really is to blame? Most like to toss the blame at the large company, or Obama, but the true blame goes to both BP and the government. It's a 50-50 split.

Here's my reasoning. In the past 40 years or so governmental officials have been increasing regulations on certain industries based on good intentions. The problem with good intentions is you're assuming you have the best policy, and you're also assuming there will be no consequences to your policy.

Yet, as we have learned, the more regulations we place on an industry, the more corrupt that industry gets.

As regulations go up, say on oil companies, every oil company has to pay for the regulations. The ones that can't afford it, the smaller firms, will eventually go out of business. What remains after the smaller competitive firms go under is only the large corporations (like BP) remain.

When I was an advertising student we were told never to wake up the sleeping giant. If a company was not advertising, don't provide it competition, or it will advertise, and it will squash you. Thus, many businesses are like behives, in that if you leave them alone they will leave you alone.

Another example here is the medical field itself. William Goldberg, in liberal fascism, writes that there are hundreds of medical industry lobbies, for specific diseases, specialties, and forms of treatment, each of which spends a fortune in direct and indirect lobbying and advertising. The only medical profession that spends next to nothing in Washington is Vetrinary care, because the government doesn't meddle with it.

Basically, Goldberg writes, "As the size and scope of government have grown, so have the number of businesses petitioning the government." Heck, there are over 35,000 lobbyists in Washington today, which has tripled since 1996 alone.

In a sence, all the BPs of the world end up with more power over the legislation, and very little competition. Thus, we see higher prices, and poorer service.

Actually, the same has happened to hospitals, as you may have noticed most of the smaller ones have been sucked up or closed shop.

So now you have only large oil companies left. And, to make sure government officials don't make more regulations that would effect their profits, they spend millions of dollars paying for lobbyists, and making donations to candidates. They also do this in an attempt to prevent these government officials from making new regulations that would increase their competition.

Legislators like this because they get votes. Likewise, by buying votes, big oil gets its way in Washington.

So here is the key lesson here: More regulation results in less competition, larger companies, and more lobbyists, and fewer of these companies following the regulations. This, as Thomas Jefferson once warned, this type of system should be avoided because it results in more corrupt business in the Capital. Large industries are now allowed, if not encouraged, to buy off Congressmen.

This is the kind of stuff that happens behind the scenes, and for that reason you don't hear about it in the news. If BP was less involved in politics and spent more of that lobby money on prevention and emergency plans, this disaster would not have happened.

Likewise, if the government were to set goals and incentives for oil companies instead of regulatory mandates (which you now know don't work), BP would have been prepared, and nature and shoreline economies wouldn't have been ruined, or at least a plan would have been in place to deal with such disasters.

That's my take, now it's your turn.

Word of the Day: Enervate: To take energy from, to make weak and listless.
I was feeling quite enervated by the strain of work recently, which made the nice sunny day yesterday all the more rejuvenating. Enervate might be a good replacement for the word burnout.


Anonymous said...

The political posts are ridiculous, so I'm gonna stop reading your blog. And to say the BP oil spill would not have happened if there had been a plan is naive. There are many people at fault, including Obama, Bush, BP, etc. Stick to RT, branching out into politics removes your credibility and marginalizes your readers. Good luck

Rick Frea said...

I am saying it would not have happened. The exlosion never should have happened, and, in case it did, there should have been a shut off valve or something. And if that didn't work, a deeper plan to stop the leak. How can you dig in 5,000 feet of water and not have a plan? How can the administration allow the rig to pass a safety inspection?