Wednesday, August 09, 2006

how to fix old pipelines

Just over the last couple of days we have learned that BP has had to shut down their pipeline from Prudhoe Bay which carries 8% of the nation’s domestic production of crude oil. On the news they said that the pipeline hadn’t been tested for like 16 years.

Not good.

Whatever the reasons behind this happening, and whomever is at fault, I thought that it is an interesting example of how big things can go way wrong. I envision in my mind a scenario like this:

Let’s say that John Doe begins working for BP in 2005 up in Alaska as some kind of entry-level technician. When he first sees the condition of the pipe, he thinks to himself, “this pipeline does not look like it is in good shape.” He asks his colleagues, some middle-level technicians, “How long is this pipe supposed to be good for?”
“Oh, about 25 years.”
“How long has it been in use?”
“Why doesn’t the company invest in a new pipeline?”
“The head engineers say that it should be good for another 6 or 7 years. It would cost millions of dollars to invest in a new pipe - money which the company doesn’t have right now. Besides, if it does break it’s not our fault.”

One could say that our country has some items that have been getting worse for several years now. We have societal pipelines that are leaking some oil. I think one of the most important characteristics of a good President of the United States is being able to look back at the last couple of decades - even centuries - and understanding how we got to where we are today. Then they need to make decisions based on citizens living today as well as those living decades, even centuries in the future. I think Mitt Romney has the kind of leadership ability not only to fix the leaks when they are there, but more importantly - to make sure the pipeline is being tested and updated all along, if you know what I mean.


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