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The Great Gulf Oil Spill: Stanford Experts Explain What Went Wrong

Publication Date: 
November 29, 2010
Stanford Report
Louis Bergeron

How could it happen? The details of the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be thrashed out in a public talk Tuesday evening by three Stanford experts: geophysicist Mark Zoback, Law School lecturer Meg Caldwell and energy engineer Roland Horne.

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Stanford geophysics professor Mark Zoback says the national conversation should be more than hyperbole and hand-wringing.

"We can do better than simply damning BP or damning the oil industry or damning technology and our (lack of) ability to regulate it," Zoback said.

"I think deepwater oil and gas reservoirs can be exploited safely," he said. "But I think there has to be closer collaboration between the companies and the government."


Meg Caldwell, senior lecturer in law and executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions, will also speak, focusing on the important ecological attributes of the Gulf of Mexico, environmental impacts of the disaster and recommendations for regulatory reform. The Center for Ocean Solutions is a collaboration among Stanford, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

"The Deepwater Horizon disaster presents an opportunity for us to examine systemic weaknesses in our offshore oil and gas regulatory framework and address them head-on," said Caldwell. "We must learn from this debacle and commit to fix the problems that lead to it."

Questions from the audience will be welcomed after the two 30-minute talks, when Zoback and Caldwell will be joined by Roland Horne, a professor in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering, for a panel discussion. A video of a Nov. 16 public lecture by Horne on the technical causes of the Deepwater Horizon accident is available online.