I'm beginning to believe I can sum up the BP oil spill disaster in three little words: no Plan B.
As an engineer for 35-plus years, I have an understanding of the thinking of the people who do this type of work. I've found that engineers are basically an optimistic group, and while that can lead to great achievement, it just as often leads to trouble.
On many occasions, I've had to put myself at risk of ridicule or worse to point out that a particular plan of action was not completely thought out and requires the question of "what happens if this doesn't work?" to be answered. There is a lot of time and money pressure to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible and "Plan Bs" are usually neither. If the optimists get lucky too often, you risk becoming white noise or, worse, someone who is seen as getting in the way of people wanting to do real work.
To top it off, the more remote and dangerous the work is, the younger the people doing it. Young engineers, who may be well trained but haven't seen the wheels fall off the tricycle, are even more optimistic than your average engineer. It is pretty clear to me that nobody asked, "What happens when the blowout preventer fails?" It was an expensive and inconvenient question to have to answer, and I'm sure it was a quick ticket to engineering hell if you asked that question too loudly or too often, and we're paying for it now.
No more new offshore drilling until we have a practiced and working Plan B and, given the scope of the potential problem, a Plan C as well that we can implement quickly, paid for by a per barrel fee and audited by an agency that can just shut down drilling and put people in jail. Anything less just invites this to happen again.