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Sherlock Ohms

Case of the Oil Fire Damper

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/29/2012 12:53:42 PM
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Yes, I'm lucky. Good for your for choosing safe cars. Could be that U.S. cars are getting close to matching the quality and safety of Japan now.

I grew up in the Detroit area, where every job was tied to the auto industry in one way or another. When I was growing up, there was a stigma about owning a non-U.S. car. The attitude was that "When you buy a foreign car, you take away your neighbor's job."

That ebbed a bit beginning in the mid-1970s when consumers even in Detroit started purchasing cars that made sense -- and were not necessarily Detroit cars.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Ann R. Thryft   3/29/2012 12:44:38 PM
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Thanks, Rob. Glad you are still with us and survived your Pinto and your Corvair. Those incidents, among other things, convinced me not to buy American cars, and I don't: I buy Japanese, specifically Nissan.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/28/2012 2:14:46 PM
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Well put, Ann. Myself, I lucked out with my famously unsafe cars. My first car was a Corvair --the car Ralph Nader made his reputation on with the book, "Unsafe at Any Speed." Later on I owned a Pinto and I suffered a rear-end collision. No flames, though. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Ann R. Thryft   3/28/2012 2:07:51 PM
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Disasters such as BP in the Gulf and and the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, and even more so the mess at Fukushima, show up how inadequate our regulations are, as well as, often more so, how inadequate enforcement procedures are. I find it hard to take seriously the complaints of businesses about regulations stifling innovation and all that. Protecting people, animals and "the environment" should be a normal cost of doing business. If it weren't for pioneers like Ralph Nader, we'd still be putting up with Pinto car fires and worse. Instead, we let Chinese citizens put up with Foxconn and with their own government that allows Foxconn, since businesses that offshored US jobs over there were too "stifled" to treat American workers like human beings and follow reasonable procedures for protecting us and our resources.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/28/2012 1:27:24 PM
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What I was referring to on "overley strict" is the continual complaint from business that government regulations are arbitrary and don't address real needs, real dangers. Then, as with the BP setup prior to the Gulf accident, the regulations were not enforced. So, I was being very general. A good example became visible during the recent discussion of the oil pipeline from Canada. Some years ago, the government had strict regulations regarding 127,000 miles of gas and oil pipelines. While the regulations were strict, the government had one inspector. I'm not sure what the situlation is now.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Ann R. Thryft   3/28/2012 1:17:53 PM
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Rob, perhaps this seems to belabor the obvious, but it's not obvious to me. What regulations would be "overly strict"? With systems this potentially dangerous, I would want regulations that take in more cases and produce fewer errors, and therefore accidents and disasters, not ones that take in fewer cases and produce more problems.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/28/2012 1:12:48 PM
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I think you're right, Ann. The insurance companies would probably do a straightforward calculation regarding the cost of an accident with and without the damper, versus the cost of the damper and the likelihood of an accident. I'm not confident the government would do the same analysis if they got involved. The government might come up with overly strict regulations that wouldn't ultimately get enforced.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Ann R. Thryft   3/27/2012 1:26:59 PM
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I think those are good points, Rob, about the mechanics involved. But I'm still curious about the insurance aspects. Surely these plants need insurance, and either insurance or government regulations will dictate what disaster mitigation strategies are used, right?


Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/27/2012 1:22:39 PM
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Without the availability of the fire-dampering set-up that is discussed in this blog, it wouldn't be factored in. But if this set-up were available, I would imagine the decision as to whether to deploy it would be assessed based on cost versus the potential exposure due to a fire that can't be put out.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Ann R. Thryft   3/27/2012 1:17:43 PM
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Interesting that you mention risk management, Rob. Risk assessment analysis is used by insurance companies to determine exactly those different kinds of risks. So I wonder why such risks--and the needed coverage for same--haven't already been factored in via the plant's insurance policy?


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