How to Stop the Leak

Jun 23, 10 | 6:55 AM   byMichael Wolff
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I have no idea if this guy, Christopher Brownfield, who is saying on the op-ed page of the Times that we should blow up the run-amok BP oil well, has any idea at all what he’s talking about.

But it is certainly a bizarre information schism that, on the one hand, we have the White House and BP fumfering around and acting like there is no fix except infinite patience, and on the other, a perfectly reasonable, methodological approach to damming the spill in short order.

Someone’s got some explaining to do.

To recap: Brownfield says the US Navy has the wherewithal to simply blow up the well, by “drilling a hole parallel to the leaking well and lowering charges to form an explosive column” and thereby staunch the flow.

Possibly this is pure science fiction. Although Brownfield is talking about conventional explosives here, he has, in fact, been one of the people suggesting we nuke the well. If he is a quack, it is not particularly helpful for the Times to have published this contribution. And, while theoretically possible, perhaps it is not quite so practical as Brownfield suggests. In that case, I surely hope the White House can produce a very good explanation for why Brownfield’s solution is not as good as the solutions currently being tried.

Indeed, I wish they had explained why the suggestion floating around a few weeks ago as to how a massively expensive flotilla of huge tankers could be brought in to suck up the spill (a Saudi Arabia technique) wouldn’t be helpful. I would also like to know what is so bad, other than from a PR point of view, with, in fact, nuking the damn thing.

In any event, what we are still left with is the always-dubious circumstance of the people who caused the problem being in charge of fixing it. Actually, this is worse than that: In this case, the people who caused the problem who have been continuously unable to fix it nevertheless are still in charge of it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is like Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan.

But back to the spill as an information issue:

Are there are a set of solutions that are more in BP’s interest than others? Reasonably, there are. Some solutions most likely cost more than others. Some might compromise the future economic return of this well and deposit. Some might involve skill sets outside of BP’s resources—skills it can’t manage or doesn’t want to pay for.

So how is this being arbitrated? Who is making decisions here? Who is managing the process? Who, goddamnit, is in charge?

I mean…if BP and the White House can’t figure it out, then, hell, why not a contest? Propose a solution, cost no concern, that can cap the gusher in the shortest amount of time and win a billion dollars, or two, or twenty—or win all of BP.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.

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