Featured Trades: (BP), (THE NUCLEAR OPTION)
1) British Petroleum: The Nuclear Option. I have never been able to use my talents both as a securities analyst and a nuclear weapons designer simultaneously, but British Petroleum (BP) has at last enabled me to rise to the call. Back before personal computers, the Internet, and hedge funds were invented, most mathematicians, like myself, ended up working for the Defense Department in some form or another. In my case, that involved a summer with the Atomic Energy Agency working on the neutron bomb at the nuclear test site in Nevada in the early seventies. There, yields meant millions killed, not interest paid. After BP’s serial failures in plugging their Gulf leak, several industry and military figures have suggested doing the job with a small tactical nuclear weapon. This would actually work, and I learned for the first time from CNBC that the Soviet Union used this desperate measure on three runaway wells in the past. From the fifties to the seventies, the US conducted hundreds of underground tests, which involved drilling a six foot wide hole 1,000 feet deep, filling it with concrete, and then pushing a big red button. To my knowledge, radiation leaked to the surface in only one case, when a bomb was set off near an unmapped geological fault, frying two ranchers. The explosion would create a cavern deep under the surface which would be sealed by the 400 million degree temperatures these weapons create, containing the radiation. I remember walking around some old above ground sites, and the sand had been turned to colorful glass. There would be no violation of the nuclear test ban treaty, since it covers only above ground tests. Underground tests ended voluntarily in 1992, mostly because they were too expensive, not because of some high minded ideal. All of BP’s efforts to date have really been ‘Hail Mary’s’ doomed to failure. The only real chance is to relieve the pressure by drilling several adjacent wells, and that will take months. If BP has discovered the mother of all fields with pressures so enormous, they can’t be controlled with modern technology, a possibility which some geologists admit, then more huge leaks will spring and the nuclear option will be the only one left. In the meantime, if a serious hurricane hits the region, a mathematical probability, then we will see the environmental equivalent of Chernobyl meets Katrina. In this scenario, you can kiss BP goodbye.