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Blowout in the Gulf



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This is the edition with a publication date of 10/18/2010.

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On April 20, 2010, the gigantic drilling rig Deepwater Horizonblew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crew members and causing a massive eruption of oil from BP's Macondo well. For months, oil gushed into the Gulf, spreading death and destruction. Americans watched real-time video of the huge column of oil and gas spewing from the obviously failed "blowout preventer." The evening news showed heart-rending images of pelicans, dolphins, and other Gulf wildlife covered in oil. What has been missing until now, though, is a book that tells the larger story of this disaster. In Blowout in the Gulf, energy experts William Freudenburg and Robert Gramling explain both the disaster and the decisions that led up to it. They note that-both in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere-we have been getting into increasingly dangerous waters over recent decades, with some in the industry cutting corners and with most federal regulators not even noticing. In the process, the actual owners of the oil-American taxpayers-have come to receive a lower fraction of the income from the oil than in almost any other nation on earth. Freudenburg and Gramling argue that it is time for a new approach. BP's Oil Spill Response Plan was pure fantasy, claiming the company could handle the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez spill every day, even though "cleaning up" an oil spill is essentially impossible. For the future, our emphasis needs to be on true prevention, and our risk-management policies need to be based on better understandings of humans as well as hardware. Blowout in the Gulfweaves these failures, missteps, and bad decisions into a fascinating narrative that explains why this oil spill was a disaster waiting to happen-and how making better energy choices will help prevent others like it. Freudenburg and Gramling are the authors of Oil in Troubled Waters: Perceptions, Politics, and the Battle over Offshore Drilling.

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