Spill just a drop in the bucket
This is the first time I'm responding to one of your editorials. A lot of people are beginning to shy away from offshore drilling because of this disaster, an understandable reaction. If something burns our finger, we quickly learn not to touch it.
The problem is that demand for oil and oil products, including plastics, is only going to increase. There have been past spills in the Gulf and elsewhere, but how many billions of gallons are delivered safely per gallon spilled? I don't know the answer, but I suspect it's quite high based on readily available gasoline, oil, and plastics. That doesn't mitigate the damage, but people around the world desire modern products, which are driving the increased demand for oil.
Nuclear option not feasible
The nuclear option — to blast the Gulf's oil gusher closed with a bomb, as Russian scientists have suggested — doesn't really exist. This oil spill, unlike the levees during Katrina, is a commercial responsibility.
The government is only helping because of the damage being caused. In the end, BP should receive a bill from the U.S. government for every flight and task.
I grew up in Louisiana and the thought of never being able to eat Gulf oysters again is painful. We must force our “free market” to produce electric vehicles along with renewable sources of electricity. We need oil because we haven't developed anything to replace it.
Further, we didn't insist on procedures and inspections to avoid disasters like this. We balk at the cost of change, but what will this recent incident cost us? Gulf seafood, Florida beaches, coastal tourism, and jobs in supporting industries.
Safety systems not a priority
I'm amazed that this spill isn't over. It's like running a nuclear reactor and not knowing how to handle the safety systems. Safety features are common to nearly all designs, so why not on BP's rig? Perhaps it's because no value is put on operations that aren't absolutely essential. Perhaps management said, “We'll fix that later.” Although BP didn't willfully cause this disaster, they weren't prepared.
If the public ends up footing the bill for this cleanup, costs will be mitigated so that BP can drill to its heart's content. In recent years, these have been the equations: Rain = Rising oil prices; High wind = Rising oil prices; Consumption down = Rising oil prices; War in Iraq = Rising oil prices, and so on. Yet, one of the most massive oil spills of all time is going on and oil prices have actually dropped.
No plan B
I am absolutely astounded at the lack of plans B, C, and so on. Even though this appears to be totally irresponsible on the part of the engineers involved, I can't help but wonder how much pressure was brought to bear by those in control of financing the Deepwater Horizon. I ask myself: How many engineers resigned much earlier in the project due to a lack of contingency plan development? Indeed, there may well have been people from the financial side resign earlier as well. The responsibility ultimately lies with the CEOs of this project and of the parent company itself. To listen to their spokes-people on TV, it sounds as if they still don't get it.
Discussion on PLCopen standardization
I just read the Save time with reusable code article in your May issue, including the sidebar regarding PLCopen, which provides certification and testing for IEC 61131 programming environments. However, the PLCopen Motion Control function blocks are not tested; vendors can report that their PLCopen Motion Control function blocks are in compliance, but they self-certify them by having someone sign a document that states that their software conforms. I know this from experience, having had to deal with certified PLCopen function blocks from different vendors that have different behavior. This has been a major shortcoming of PLCopen, and unfortunately no one seems to be addressing it.
In response: Brian Beal is right to point out that there are differences in implementation that PLCopen does not and cannot stop. I reviewed the www.plcopen.org site again to verify this. Referring to compliance, the standard says:
“The supplier must fill out tables for used datatypes and Function Blocks, according to their product, committing their support to the specification. In case of non-fulfillment, which has to be decided by PLCopen, the company will receive a statement on this from PLCopen in written form.
The company will have a one-month period to either adapt their software package in such a way that it complies, represented by the issuing of a new compliance statement, or remove all reference to the specification, including the use of the logo, from all their specifications, be it technical or promotional material.”
In conclusion, it was inaccurate to say that PLCopen tests products, but they do intend to enforce the standard to the extent that it is possible.
On a related note, PLCopen works with two independent software-testing organizations — one in Germany, one in China — that will actually test vendor software. However, this is not an automatic part of conformance and must be done separately at an additional cost to the vendor.
Kevin Hull, Yaskawa Electric America Inc.
From food stamps to manufacturing
In response to the May issue's editorial column, 10 million workers for U.S. manufacturing sounds like a lot on the surface, but is small in comparison to the number of people on food stamps in this country — 40 million.
I don't think many could argue the benefits of expanding U.S. manufacturing, which could result in moving people off of food stamps and into the manufacturing sector. I hope Congress has these two numbers in mind as they debate further manufacturing regulation, such as cap and trade.