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Three books on the gulf oil spill

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Cavnar ends on a cynical note about whether the government will respond constructively. The reorganization of the Minerals Management Service "created two new bureaucracies rather than fixing the one we had," he asserts. The moratorium on offshore drilling, he believes, was not long enough. And a policy to improve our energy security "is badly needed and long overdue."

Readers seeking another take on the Macondo well disaster might look at the well-written report to President Obama by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Available free online (at ), it gives an account of the accident, the regulatory environment preceding it and what might be done to prevent future incidents. Though the commission lacked the subpoena power held by congressional and other investigators, it still managed to elicit revealing testimony, especially about the stability of the cement job by oil services contractor Halliburton.

But the commission steered away from placing blame entirely with one actor, writing: "As the Board that investigated the loss of the Columbia space shuttle noted, 'complex systems almost always fail in complex ways.' Though it is tempting to single out one crucial misstep or point the finger at one bad actor as the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, any such explanation provides a dangerously incomplete picture of what happened - encouraging the very kind of complacency that led to the accident in the first place."


BP and the Drilling Race That Took It Down

By Stanley Reed and Alison Fitzgerald

Bloomberg. 226 pp. $24.95


The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

By William R. Freudenburg and Robert Gramling

MIT. 254 pp. $18.95


High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout

By Bob Cavnar

Chelsea Green. 230 pp. Paperback, $14.95

Steven Mufson is The Washington Post's energy correspondent and a staff writer in its financial section.

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