Even before the current oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico it was well understood that drilling offshore sometimes results in spills. The current oil spill in the news has brought the idea of spills to the attention of many, many more people, people who don’t usually think too much about these things. But it isn’t obvious to me that the spill should cause us to revise our estimates of the likelihood of spills, or otherwise alter any of the factors that go into well reasoned policy analysis. And if all of the inputs going into a well-reasoned policy analysis stay the same, then the policy recommendation should stay the same too.
If you now favor changes in regulations to reduce the likelihood of future oil spills, you should identify the new policy-relevant information upon which you base your call for changes. Or, in other words, you should specify what was wrong with your understanding of offshore oil development as of about two months ago, and then explain how correcting that mistake leads you to favor more restrictive regulations.
It is possible, too, that correcting mistakes in your earlier thinking could lead you to favor less-restrictive regulations. After all, there is no reason to believe that all errors in earlier thinking were biased in the same direction. For example, learning about advances in movie-star funded clean-up technologies might lead you to reduce your estimate of the expected costs of spills.
By the way, with Canadian tar sands soon to become the largest single source for U.S. oil imports, any advocates of regulatory changes that diminish oil production from offshore U.S. sources on environmental grounds should include in their analysis the environmental effects of marginal increases in tar sands output and other oil sources. (Or did your policy analysis assume that diminished offshore production would be compensated for by people driving less and riding sustainably-fueled robot unicorns more?)
SEE ALSO: Robin Hanson on regulation ratchets for related.