Friday, June 4, 2010

Adventures of Geniusman, Episode 26: The Spill!

While perusing thousands of pages of documents obtained from the Minerals Management Service, Geniusman--the genius with the intelligence of ten smart people--discovers a potential catastrophe.
"Great Scott!" he exclaimed. "British Petroleum's safety measures on its deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are clearly inadequate. They are endangering the entire Gulf Coast."
Geniusman rushed to the site of a deepwater drilling rig in his jetcar and confronted the rig's foreman.
"Sir, your blowout preventers are prone to failure, and you have no redundancy measures prepared in case of a blowout. Simple expediency demands you terminate operations until sufficient backup measures have been installed."
The foreman replied, "Sorry, we're just contractors. If you want to stop the drilling, you'll have to take it up with our bosses at BP."
"You could have a spill that would dwarf the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of people depend on your shutting this well down."
"My livelihood depends on keeping it running," the foreman said. "Like I said, if you want to change it, you'll have to talk to BP."

Geniusman flew to BP headquarters and pushed his way into the CEO's office. "Your deepwater drilling rigs are completely unprepared for a blowout. A spill could spew billions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It would destroy fragile wetlands, habitats for birds and the way of life for tens of thousands of people."
The CEO looked alarmed. "Do these animals in the Gulf and on the coast have lawyers?"
"No, but--"
"That's a relief. Can the wetlands sue us?"
"No, but the people whose lives you wreck will."
"You're right, Geniusman, this calls for immediate action. I'll have the legal department draw up agreements for cash settlements to people who agree not to sue us. That should keep the costs manageable. And if we get all the Gulf Coast residents to sign these in advance of a spill, which we'll assure them can never happen, we'll save a bundle. Thanks, Geniusman."
"But. . . but. . . the government. . ."
"That's right. The government can fine us. Up to 75 million dollars. That's the amount we save by operating without a safety net in about a six month period. It's cheaper just to pay the fine."
"But what about the public relations disaster?"
"Good point. We'll hire the best PR firm in the world. You're full of great advice, Geniusman."
"No," Geniusman insisted, "I want you to stop the drilling until you can guarantee that it's safe."
"I don't think so, Geniusman. Unless the government changes its policy, we don't have financial incentive to stop drilling."

Geniusman went to the Minerals Management Service to get them to enforce their rules and force BP from drilling. He burst in, "BP's paperwork is not in proper order. You have an obligation to shut them down, or fine them enough so they shut themselves down, until they show they are prepared to prevent a spill and recover if there is one in their deepwater wells."
"I don't know who you think you are to tell me what to do, but BP's paperwork is completely in order."
"I'm Geniusman--I'm smarter than ten smart men (or women). And BP's plan is not adequate. Their recovery plan calls for cleaning oil off walruses. That's not a plan for the Gulf Coast; they just cut-and-pasted their plan for Alaska and called it their Gulf Coast plan."
"Look, I don't care how many smart men you are. Can you offer me a job? After a few years of working here, I'll retire to a comfortable job at BP or one of their lobbying outfits. Why should I risk my future for something to prevent something that will probably never happen?"
"Because it's your job as a regulator to regulate the industry!"
"F*#k that. Now I've gotta date with a lobbyist, and I need to score some blow."

Geniusman bypassed the rest of the government bureaucracy and went straight to the Oval Office. "Mr. President, we need to shut down British Petroleum's deepwater drilling operation until they improve their safety precautions."
The President turned off the remote control on the baseball game he was watching. "Now, hold on, Geniusman, heh, heh. We need that oil. We need ta keep the oil comin' if we want to keep livin' the American way."
"Mr. President, we don't need to shut them down permanently. We just need to force them to make their drilling safer. Here are the documents that show they are unprepared for a spill, and my probability projections of the virtual certainty of a spill within the next few years." Geniusman handed the President a thick manila folder.
The President took the folder and pushed a button on his desk. "Vice, get in here. We got a problem." He turned to Geniusman and settled back in his chair. "So, who ya like in the Series? I got a few bucks to put on a team, but yer a genius. Who's gonna win it?"
Geniusman looked stunned, but before he could answer the Vice President came in.
The President handed him the folder. "Geniusman says BP's drilling in the Gulf isn't safe. What do ya think a this?"
The Vice President glanced at the first document in the folder. "Urr, drilling is perfectly safe. We've got lots of regulators overseeing all this drilling. There's nothing to worry about."
Geniusman responded, "The regulators just aren't paying attention. They're helping the oil companies more than they are protecting the American people. Here, let me show you how lax they are." He tried to point to open the folder.
"Err, no need, no need. We have to work with the oil companies and keep them drilling. The American people need to know that they'll always have enough oil."
"But these oil wells save people pennies. It'll cost a lot more to clean up a spill. These wells can provide enough oil for a few days of American oil consumption. They'll never even notice it."
"Urm, no, no. We have to trust our friends in the oil industry to do the right thing. I know them; they're good people. And you're either with us or against us."
Geniusman recoiled, "Whether they're good people or not isn't the issue. It's the safety of the wells. I can go to the American people and show them the risks."
The Vice President responded, "You can, but that, urm, may be giving material support to terrorists, giving people targets for terror attacks. We've got a place in Guantanamo for people like that."
"But I'm an American citizen!"
"Doesn't matter. Hurrgh, we can do anything we want during a time of war." He waved for the nearest Secret Service agent.
The Secret Service agent came over. "Did you touch the Vice President? If you touched him, that's assault, you know. Possibly treason."
Geniusman left quickly before the Secret Service agent could draw his gun.

Geniusman returned to his Genius Cave. "I'll have to wait until the next President is elected and try again. In the meantime, I'll make my case on television." So, Geniusman called the cable talk shows. The only shows that would take him were Bill O'Reilly's show and the Daily Show.

The Daily Show was funny and informative, but in only three minutes, all the audience learned was that Geniusman was not very funny and was upset about drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. But they all forgot the point of the interview as soon as they saw the bear falling on a trampoline during their moment of Zen. So his last hope was Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly opened the segment, "Tonight we have as a special guest Geniusman, who is smarter than ten smart men, and he's got some typical Liberal, alarmist claptrap about oil drilling. Join me in welcoming Geniusman to the Factor."
Geniusman began, "Thank you, Bill. I've got evidence that-"
O'Reilly interrupted, "You're called Geniusman. You're a genius?"
"That's what it says on my mailbox. Now the evidence--"
O'Reilly interrupted again, "So, you're saying that you're smarter than everyone. What makes you so much better than everyone else?"
"I'm not. I just want to show you the evidence--"
O'Reilly interrupted, "Why do you hate the free enterprise system? British Petroleum is just trying to make a buck. What do you have against people making a living?"
"I don't have anything against that. It's just that the way they are trying to make a living is dangerous to the people and environment--"
"So, you're one of those environmental whackos. You are always trying to scare people and use fear to take away people's jobs. You care more about pelicans than people!"
"No, I'm not a whacko, and I don't want to take away people's jobs. I just want the drilling to be safer so people living off the Gulf Coast can keep--"
"Aren't you just another global warming, nuclear power, holes in the ozone layer alarmist? It's always the end of the world with you people. We've been fine so far. Why change?"
"I'm not an alarmist; and we haven't been fine so far, those are all genuine--"
"So, you hate America. 'We're not fine,' that's what you just said. Why do you hate America? Are you a Communist or just a Socialist?"
"I don't hate America. I just--"
"So, you're a Socialist?"
"No, look, it's got nothing to do with that. I just want people to know that--"
"It's the free market. If people don't like British Petroleum, they can buy Shell or Exxon. That's how we get rid of environmental problems by choosing the companies that do the right thing."
"But people don't know about the--"
"Well, that's what we're doing here. We're informing the American people about your fear-mongering about BP."
"It's not fear-mongering, and I haven't had a chance to inform anyone--"
"Well, that's all the time we have for tonight. My viewers are smart folks, and they can decide whether the trust a whackjob like you or the good folks at BP. And now a word from our sponsors, British Petroleum."
And that was it. Geniusman had exhausted his resources. He could only wait for the new President.

Nine months later with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Geniusman got a ticket and approached the new President during the inaugural celebration.
"Mr. President, I have important information."
"Geniusman, can this wait? We're having a celebration here."
"I'm afraid I need to show you this right away. I was unable to convince the last President, so an environmental catastrophe is only getting closer."
"Ok. Let me see it. What . . . kind of evidence. . . have you got?"
Geniusman handed him the folder. "It's all there. BP is drilling in the Gulf with equipment that is not prepared for a leak or a blowout."
"Thank you, Geniusman." The President looked over the first few pages. "I think we'll need to convene a . . . bipartisan . . . blue ribbon commission with representatives of . . . industry . . . environmental groups and . . . stakeholders in the Gulf."
"But that will take months if lobbyists, oil industry executives and pro-drilling Republicans, who will oppose you on everything anyway, don't manage to water down my recommendations, slow down the investigation further or stop the changes altogether. You don't need any commissions. The information is right there; the MMS has the regulatory power to shut them down. All you need to do is make the MMS actually follow their Congressional mandate."
"I'll take that under . . . advisement, Geniusman, but we need to . . . get everyone on board if . . . we want to have a successful . . . policy. And, I'm sorry, but now . . . I want to dance with . . . my wife."

Geniusman left the President and returned despondent to his Genius Lair. Turning to his sidekick, he said, "Whiz Kid, get my broker. We're going to buy all the stock in British Petroleum we can afford."

[Note the two Tick references/quotations.]
Update: Please note that, of course, this quote is entirely fiction and any resemblance to any persons, corporations, or anything else is entirely accidental.

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