Here's a question that is bothering me: why are BP and the Federal government telling two different stories about the importance of closing the vents on the containment cap over BP's leaking well?
It's certainly possible that the government's position (that the vents should be closed) is wrong, and if so, they need to clarify the record. But I'm far more suspicious of BP's position -- that we don't need to close the vents -- and it all comes down to one reason: money.
Let me explain. The one thing that everybody agrees on is that if the vents were closed and we could bring all the oil to the surface, we'd have a good idea what the flow rate actually is. Another independent researcher is now pegging the rate at 100,000 barrels per day, but if we captured all the oil, we'd have a much more reliable figure for the flow-rate.
So what does that have to do with money? Well, if you were BP, you'd know the fines that will be levied against you are calculated by the barrel. And if you're BP and you've been spewing 100,000 barrels per day since April 20, you be looking at a fine so far of $21.5 billion -- a fine that's growing ever single day. (That's if they get hit with the $4,300 per barrel maximum.)
And if the flow rate is as high as 100,000 as some fear, then as long as the well is flowing, BP has a financial incentive to not bring all the oil to the surface, because bringing the oil to the surface will allow us to calculate the total flow rate. Given that reality, when BP starts downplaying the urgency of closing vents to bring more oil to the surface, it's only natural to be suspicious. (And when they start talking about needing to wait for a new cap to be deployed sometime in July, there's even more reason to be suspicious.)
If BP is playing games here with capturing the oil, the administration needs to put it to an end, and they need to do it now. Either way, this is a critical -- and perhaps defining -- moment of this crisis, and the administration needs to get it right.