You are witnessing the governmental approach to an issue that requires a technological solution. Fines and regulations and intimidation will not soak up a drop of oil. The private sector’s response could be as follows. Build a ship with a vacuum/filtering system that recaptures spilled oil. Such a ship or fleet of ships could easily handle any large spill anywhere in the world. We could build such ships and employ them but the potential for profit and the amount of risk may be detrimental to their development. The taxes and the credit crisis and the trend for more regulation and fines makes it an even riskier proposition. Entrepreneurs in earlier times would have realized the potential for profit and launched such a project but today it is all about getting grants or government assistance to reduce risk and with less risk comes less profit and an attitude of dependence.
Oil spills are not the job of the government to monitor or repair or solve. This is a technological problem that could be addressed just as we address the use of other waste materials. When a problem is solved by way of profit it creates a system of ongoing activity that reasonably makes for a permanent solution. When the government inserts its solutions” on what is essentially a technological issue you see shut downs, badgering, fines and stagnation. Government resources such as the Coast Guard can help retain escaping oil but that does not recover the spilled oil and is only a stop gap until the escaping oil is stopped.
This issue also brings up another issue regarding the planning of the oil company. To assume such a tragedy would never happen is poor planning. Such an event could be envisioned and plans for prevention and a contingency plan should have been in place. Accessible shut off valves could have been installed in case the event took place. Twin valves or diversion valves could have been installed. This event should have been reviewed and resolved before installation and production was begun. It is the same process that is used for fire prevention. Prevent if possible by taking away sources of ignition and fuel but if a fire breaks out have extinguishable mechanisms ready to work. That no contingency action was planned for is an oversight of BP and they are paying a very high price for this.
Technology investment to profit from such events should have business minded people moving to design and implement ships that could handle and recover oil spills. You ask who would pay for such a service? Don’t you think BP would be happy to contract a fleet of such ships to cover their oversight? Just the reduction in fines would be worth it but the fact that the oil would not be lost would also be an incentive. The question then arises is it possible to construct such ships? The answer is yes. We can filter and have the ability to vacuum. The first prototypes may not be fully effective but that is the case with most early forms of machines. The important thing to notice is the problem is not solved by stopping drilling and oil production.
The naysayers will say just as they always have said that it cannot be done. When it is done and the companies make huge profits cleaning up spills they will denounce the profits as excessive and claim it is not fair. This is the sorry state of our culture where issues that seem so vital are dismissed as inconsequential when profit making ventures take the concern away.
Another possibility could be a large processing plant either on shore or afloat fed by fleets of pumping ships that moved the spilled oil and water thru floating lines to the processing plant(s) with the oil being recovered and the water returned clean. The point is there are answers to these spills that do not require government shut downs of drilling or fines that cripple our oil production capacity. It is to be hoped that an entrepreneur will see this opportunity and make it happen. If no one does you have to ask why.