Wednesday, September 08, 2010

BP Gulf disaster caused by combination of human and mechanical failure

Human error and cost-cutting played a crucial role in the disastrous BP Gulf crisis earlier this year. More details are here, including the five human errors that combined to make a mechanical failure catastrophic.

The narrative of greedy oil companies shirking their responsibilities for the sake of maximising profit is once again decisively illustrated. By law, corporations are responsible first to their shareholders, and this means that any well-functioning company will do all it can to maximise profits. If this involves risk to the common good, passing off costs onto third parties (externalities) or even undermining the stability of society, then as long as such actions can be hidden or spun away, they will be done for the sake of profit. Companies that break the law and hide their mistakes are only following the logic of the system that created them.