In 1988 the most ghastly accident occurred on the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea, killing 167 men. The cost of the commodities we consume so enthusiastically is not measured in $ alone.
The Cullen Inquiry that followed did an excellent job in identifying the measures required to prevent the recurrence of such an event. Its recommendations were accepted worldwide: on the engineering side this primarily involved the installation (and retro-fitting) of non-return valves to protect any manned platform from the possibility of fire being transferred along a pipeline. This approach works the trick and it is just lamentable that so often it takes a tragedy to move us forward. But, uncomfortable though it may be to acknowledge, that is the way of the world.
One immediate outcome of Cullen was that the material cost of offshore oil & gas activity looked set to soar, and it was widely assumed that the industry would decline: new manned offshore platforms would, it seemed, rarely be economic.
However, after a brief hiatus it was realized that if unmanned platforms could be made to work, new developments might once more be viable. The technology was just around the corner and, with a couple of other engineering breakthroughs a new generation of developments were based around small, unmanned, 'single-lift' platforms that could be prefabricated onshore. Paradoxically, the costs of development thereby fell significantly, giving a massive boost to an industry that was reeling from the disaster, and permitting the safe extraction of far greater reserves of oil & gas than had seemed possible.
It may seem heartless to recount such a story at this time. But when thinking through the consequences of Fukushima, as I am sure we all are, it's worth having a full perspective, including the counter-intuitive possibilities. It's the way of the world.