One of the key ways a science fiction writer comes up with story ideas is to ask his- or herself the What if? question.
It's simple really -- you look at some situation, and it sparks a line of thought.
Consider, oh, say, the recent unpleasantness at Toyota, involving sticking gas pedals.
What if somebody did that on purpose? Who would do that? Why?
Follow the money, and presto, you have a story.
Or consider this: The current President of the U.S. has a great deal of power, not least among it the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices. Those folks are on the bench for life. An appointment can reverberate for decades, change the tone of American law.
What if three of the current conservative justices decided to retire? What if they did so for reasons that weren't the usual ones? Presto, a liberal court ...
Which brings us to British Petroleum.
It's obvious that BP needs some science fiction writers in its employ, and apparently has needed some for at least a while. Obvious. Because apparently nobody in the company ever had the what-if notion that, in hindsight seems, oh, I dunno, incredibly overlooked:
What if one of these big ole deep wells blows out and we get a monster leak?
Nobody ever came up with a Plan B apparently, because it didn't occur to them they'd ever need one?
Come to think of it, the U.S. Government could use a few science fiction writers on its payroll. I can, off the top of my head, come up with a raft of things they should be thinking about and from what I can tell, aren't.
Heads up, government and industry. You need our help.