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Six lessons from the BP oil spill

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"In 10 years or less, you will see all these sorts of technologies addressing the most difficult and dangerous drilling situations – and cutting the huge costs of these giant rigs," says Stein Bjørnstad, an oil exploration expert at BI Norwegian School of Management in Oslo.

To enhance offshore oversight, some experts say data from the sensors could be transmitted to a command center onshore or to government agencies. This would let regulators monitor rig operations and provide information about what happened during a spill or blowout. "What I'm talking about is an extra set of eyes" off the platform, says Elgie Holstein, a strategic planner at the Environmental Defense Fund.

3 manage the cleanup like Churchill

In the 1990s, experts from Columbia University and Boeing Corporation tried to prod the oil industry into planning for disasters as a critical part of the so-called lean management movement. No luck.

"The industry thought it was added cost, and because incentives were heavily biased towards cost cutting, they turned it down," says Roger Anderson, a senior scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

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