May 20, 2010 | Mark Paradies

Charles Perrow – Author of “Normal Accidents” – Talks About the BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon Accident


Normal Accidents

Pictured above is Dr. Charles Perrow, Sociology Professor Emeritus at Yale University. He is the author of the book, “Normal Accidents.” He was interviewed by CNN about the BP Deepwater Horizon accidents.

From the interview:

“Regulation, regulation, regulation. Until the U.S. can make the switch to renewables, insists professor and author Charles Perrow, regulation is the best way to prevent disasters like the Gulf oil spill. …”

For the whole interview, see:

I’ve always liked Dr, Perrow’s work (even though he doesn’t get all of the technical details exactly right in accidents). His views on system complexity, robust systems, and resiliency were ahead of the times back in the 80s. He’s a prophet in these areas.

Now he is recommending more regulation and conversion to renewable technologies.

Here’s a quote:

“This is capitalism and it has to be heavily regulated where there are chances of large catastrophes. Because otherwise profit concerns will push managers to take risks that we should not be willing to take. Whenever there can be a large catastrophe — 100 or more of what they call ‘prompt’ deaths, 1,000 ‘soon’ deaths, or irretrievable environmental damage — then you need regulations.”

Perrow’s technical assessment (when he gets away from sociology and into engineering) isn’t as prophetic. So, I somewhat doubt his suggestions about changing technologies to solve problems (from oil and coal to wind and solar). Carbon taxes and carbon capture may solve some problems, but what new problems will they create?

But the interview is a short, good read—an interesting viewpoint to consider.

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