"It's real hard to get on rigs. You don't just drive a boat up to them and get off on the ladder." - Richard Ranger of the American Petroleum Institute on the difficulty of boarding an offshore oil rig.
In the days following the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the chorus from the conservative punditry decried the speed of the reaction by the Obama administration. Some tried to frame the event as "Obama's Katrina", perhaps forgetting the fact that more than 1,800 died during Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood.
But a different accusatory narrative came from radio talker Rush Limbaugh who said "environmentalist wackos" may be responsible for the oil spill and the resulting ecological catastrophe. “What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?” Limbaugh asked.
A similar suggestion was made, albeit, with no overt claim of environmentalist responsibility, by former White House Press Secretary and current Fox News contributor Dana Perino, who also suggested sabotage: "I'm not trying to introduce a conspiracy theory," Perino qualified, "but was this deliberate? You have to wonder...if there was sabotage involved."
I wondered too. Well, not really, but in a Thursday conference call I had the opportunity to ask representatives of the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas industry trade group in the U.S., whether it would be difficult for saboteurs to get on an offshore oil drilling platform and rig it to explode somehow.
In short, they said it would be difficult. Very difficult.
"It's real hard to get on rigs," said Richard Ranger, Upstream/Industry Operations at the American Petroleum Institute. "You don't just drive a boat up to them and get off on the ladder"
"We're talking probably well in excess of 80 feet from the barge to the lowest point on the platform that you would have to scale," said Robin Rorick, Group Director, Marine & Security at API. "These platforms are in the middle of the water so it‟s not like you can really sneak up on them."
In addition, it's not as if unsuspecting rig workers could be infiltrated by mysterious strangers -- like you might expect to see in a James Bond movie. "There are crews that work closely with one another on these rigs," said Rorick. "So if there was someone who should not have been there, that also would have been fairly obvious."
Rorick also noted that the equipment is extremely complicated. "And it would take someone with a lot of knowledge and a lot of time to really conduct any sort of sabotage." Hedging a bit, Rorick concluded: "I have no idea what the cause of this incident is and I can't really speak to whether or not this was or was not the result of any sort of sabotage."
But I think he already answered my question and publicly confirmed Limbaugh and Perino had no idea what they were talking about when they proposed the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon was a product of sabotage, environmental or otherwise.
I won't be holding my breath for a retraction.