Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Are Our Objectives in the Gulf?

There are many of us who would like to see the federal government get more involved in mitigating the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama seems to be reluctant to take responsibility for stopping the oil leak. Is he trying to distance himself from the problem or are there pertinent legal issues to be considered? The oil rig was outside the U.S. 3 mile limit. BP is an multinational oil company. The problem requires a lot of coordination.

From the point of view of operations research one should try to reduce the "cost" of the oil spill. One can measure cost in terms of the monetary cost or the cost to the environment. Either way one has an objective function which one tries to minimize. There are a number of methods such as the Simplex Method and Algorithm which address the best way of proceeding when constraints are present. The basic idea involved is that of gradient descent in which one follows the path which most quickly reduces the costs. In this case containing the oil spill should be given the highest priority by all parties involved. We need to end the release of oil into the environment which could mean capturing it and placing it in containment vessels. There is probably a problem with storage capacity.

If this is an international problem then it requires an international approach with someone in charge of coordinating activities among nations to get a handle on the problem. It may be that no one has the power or resources to act alone. We need to come together on this. It is the only way to get on top of the situation.

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