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Drill, Baby, Drill
May 2, 2010 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Gulf Oil Spill "Out of Control" New estimates of the BP oil spill have it spilling out 25,000 barrels of oil a day, far higher than the original estimates of as low as 1,000. NOAA fears that it could get to as high as 50,000 barrels a day. Alabama's governor, said they are planning for a worst case scenario of 150,000 barrels (6,000,000 gallons) a day. That's an Exxon-Valdez every two days and a fix may be months away. The question now may not be whether this is Obama's Katrina, but whether it's his Chernobyl.
posted by empath (386 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District External Affairs Deepwater Horizon set on Flickr.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:04 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for this being Obama's fault, that's like saying the Army Corps of Engineers built a faulty oil rig and Obama's administration put the head of the Arabian Horse Association in charge of fixing it. Heckuva job!
posted by msbutah at 9:08 AM on May 2, 2010 [20 favorites]


Goddammit, it's not "Obama's" anything. That's a typical Fox News-speak construction. The forces that created this situation far predate Obama's administration (but do have a lot to do with oil-industry influence on Bush and Cheney re no regulations), and unlike Bush with Katrina, Obam hasn't fucked around waiting to do something about it.
posted by emjaybee at 9:09 AM on May 2, 2010 [92 favorites]


BP: Beyond Predictions? Hopefully not Beyond Prosecution, anyway.
posted by davemee at 9:11 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The metastasizing oil slick has reached shore, threatening ruinous damage to one of the world’s great commercial fisheries and the habitat for scores of waterfowl and other wildlife species.

I love the ecosystem, but... equivocating this to people dying in the streets? Really?
posted by yeloson at 9:14 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I say the hole should be plugged by jamming it full of oil company executives.
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on May 2, 2010 [67 favorites]


Maybe they should just rename BP to LP now, since it's going to be Louisiana Petroleum by the time all the damages are paid out in lawsuits.

It wouldn't surprise me if total payout from BP becomes the largest in history, surpassing what Union Carbide paid out for Bhopal.
posted by Justinian at 9:18 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who was it ran on "Drill baby, drill" anyway?
posted by mygoditsbob at 9:19 AM on May 2, 2010


BP: Bleeding the Planet
posted by oulipian at 9:20 AM on May 2, 2010


It wouldn't surprise me if total payout from BP becomes the largest in history

It wouldn't surprise me if BP drags it along in court for 20 years paying nothing, then negotiates a vastly reduced settlement.
posted by Nelson at 9:21 AM on May 2, 2010 [18 favorites]


Who was it ran on "Drill baby, drill" anyway?

Honestly, both of them promised more drilling in the Gulf, though obviously McCain was more enthusiastic about it. End result was the same -- Obama announced that he was opening the gulf to more drilling just a few weeks ago.
posted by empath at 9:21 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of meeting all its energy needs with clean, sustainable, renewable sources.
posted by scrowdid at 9:21 AM on May 2, 2010 [19 favorites]


Yes, it will be Obama's Chernobyl. Just like the ... whoever was leading Ukraine ... or Russia ... yeah, their Chernobyl.
posted by anthill at 9:22 AM on May 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


That's possible, Nelson, but I think it less likely than it might have been in the past for a bunch of reasons.
posted by Justinian at 9:22 AM on May 2, 2010


It wouldn't surprise me if BP drags it along in court for 20 years paying nothing, then negotiates a vastly reduced settlement.

That's not what actually happened. They paid billions for the clean up and they paid compensatory damages. They just didn't pay punitive damages.
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


During Katrina, I remember hearing Michael Chertoff interviewed by NPR and claim ignorance about the needs of the people of the Superdome.

My understanding of Chernobyl is that many casualties were caused by the government's failure to warn people of the danger of exposure.

What's scary here, though, is that over the last few days I've been hearing increasing panic in the voices of science folks. This is a disaster, and while not Obama's fault in any way I can perceive, I'm wondering how badly this is going to fuck us up, to say nothing of sea life. Some analysis sez that hopes for an energy bill are now kaput, because there's going to be a moratorium on offshore drilling, and w/o throwing offshore drilling bones at the right, there's little change of cap and trade passing.
posted by angrycat at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The highest producing well I have ever heard of in the gulf of mexico produced very close to 10000 bbl a day for a couple years. This would be a geologically unprecedented (i.e. the number is bullshit) amount of oil.

Based on what we now know the best estimate is 5000. But go nuts. Get your rage on.
posted by bukvich at 9:25 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's the corporate system's chernobyl

and it wouldn't surprise me if bp goes out of business because no one buys their gasoline anymore - i wouldn't
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 AM on May 2, 2010


Goddammit, it's not "Obama's" anything. That's a typical Fox News-speak construction.
First of all, he's the president, and of course it's his job to work deal with crises. That's his job.

Secondly, The people calling it "Obama's whatever" aren't Fox News, they are environmentalists who are pissed off because...

Thirdly just a month ago Obama unilaterally opened up the entire east coast for off shore drilling (Or at least exploration). Obviously none of it had started yet. But That meant that Obama was basically opening up the entire east to these kinds of disasters. Why? For short term political gain. (along with some bullshit about "good ideas from the left and the right")

Obama embraced Drill Baby Drill, and this is the result. He may not own this spill. But he would have owned this if it happened along the east coast later down the line due to drilling that he, personally (without congress) authorized.
unlike Bush with Katrina, Obam hasn't fucked around waiting to do something about it.
Eh, actually they waited several days before doing anything. They took BPs word for it that it was under control, not leaking, etc. And they didn't even bother doing their own assessments, it was a 3rd party group who announced the larger figure based on areal photos.
I love the ecosystem, but... equivocating this to people dying in the streets? Really?
It's not just the ecosystem, this is an economic disasters as well. All fishing has stopped, and who knows when it will be able to start again. And forget about tourism, if this gets really bad towns along coastline are going to be devastated. This isn't like a hurricane where you can just rebuild, you're going to have beaches covered with toxic sludge.
posted by delmoi at 9:27 AM on May 2, 2010 [41 favorites]


bukvich: I don't believe for a minute the 150,000 barrels per day figure but don't you think spilling 5000 or 10000 barrels per day would warrant some anger? That's still a metric fuckton of oil spilling out into a fragile ecosystem.
posted by Justinian at 9:27 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some analysis sez that hopes for an energy bill are now kaput, because there's going to be a moratorium on offshore drilling, and w/o throwing offshore drilling bones at the right, there's little change of cap and trade passing.
Are you kidding? This is a golden opportunity to pass climate change laws. Also, the right doesn't need any bones, becuase they are not actually needed to pass anything. The EPA can (and is, in fact, required too) regulate CO2. They can't do it was well as with a law, but whatever.
It wouldn't surprise me if BP drags it along in court for 20 years paying nothing, then negotiates a vastly reduced settlement.
You don't have to take them to court, after the Exxon thing, they passed a law mandating that the oil companies pay. The government, now, can just fine them.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


The highest producing well I have ever heard of in the gulf of mexico produced very close to 10000 bbl a day for a couple years.

that's a controlled process, where the oil is deliberately limited in how fast it can go out by the well machinery

lose that, and it can go out however fast it wants to
posted by pyramid termite at 9:29 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bukvich, where are you getting your numbers from?

If the wellhead is lost, oil could leave the well at a much greater rate.

"Typically, a very good well in the Gulf can produce 30,000 barrels a day, but that's under control. I have no idea what an uncontrolled release could be," said Stephen Sears, chairman of the petroleum engineering department at Louisiana State University.

On Thursday, federal officials said they were preparing for the worst-case scenario but didn't elaborate.

posted by empath at 9:30 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


and it wouldn't surprise me if bp goes out of business has to change the name on their gas station marquees because no one buys their gasoline anymore - i wouldn't

Fixed that for you. (Also, did Exxon go out of business? No. )
posted by delmoi at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Things are going to get interesting once the spill spreads into the path of a Gulf Loop Current. At the rate this thing is barfing out oil, they're going to collide at some point. And then it'll really get messy.
posted by cmyk at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it hitting the gulf stream be a relatively good thing? I really don't know, but getting it into faster moving water and spreading it out would seem to be better than slowly drifting to shore.
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on May 2, 2010


I wonder how many barrels of oil a day are lost across North America from leaking cars and other non-point source oil spillage?
posted by Xoebe at 9:39 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Placing the interests of the ecosystem last will definitely trump our economic and political interests eventually. Whole worlds dying below the waters. So sad.
posted by effluvia at 9:39 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


empath - "spreading it out" would mean a much bigger impact area. That's why they typically install booms to concentrate the spill. Without a chemical dispersal agent, the oil needs to be focused.
posted by Think_Long at 9:39 AM on May 2, 2010


Placing the interests of the ecosystem last will definitely trump our economic and political interests eventually. Whole worlds dying below the waters. So sad.

Keep in mind the oil floats on top of the water, for the most part. I don't know how much impact this has on what's underneath. It would pretty much fuck up any dolphins or porpoises underneath it, though.
posted by delmoi at 9:41 AM on May 2, 2010


Open thread

Also, NYT guest commentator Lisa Margonelli with some perspective in her Op Ed "A Spill of Our Own" - "...Nigeria has suffered spills equivalent to that of the Exxon Valdez every year since 1969."

Also also, an historic list of oil spills, sorted, alas, by date and not magnitude. Looks like the Gulf War - Persian Gulf spill is far and away the worst.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:44 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


...and did you ever wonder why they have to replace asphalt pavement every so often? You know why, right? The asphalt binder is lost over time, and the aggregate becomes loose.

If you wonder how much binder is lost, a pretty good way to estimate that would be to look at the amount of new asphalt placed every year. In any case, that would indicate the amount delivered into the environment, if not the actual amount lost.

Where does the binder go? Waste asphalt is considered hazardous waste. Yet we place millions of tons of a.c. (asphalt concrete) in exposed locations that form the basic and most fundamental element of our stormwater management system every year.

Think about it.
posted by Xoebe at 9:44 AM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love the ecosystem, but... equivocating this to people dying in the streets? Really?

Seconding what delmoi just wrote, you have to remember that the whole Gulf coast was just utterly devasted by Katrina only five years ago, and in most places hasn't really made any significant recovery. This disaster is threatening not only to do major, major ecological damage, but a HUGE chunk of the economy that remains down there is in fishing, etc., and that's all stopping now too. So, yes, this will very quickly become a humanitarian crisis as well.

It's bad down there, and only getting worse and worse by the hour.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:45 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I totally agree with being pissed, Justinian. A high rate gulf well is designed to extract at the maximum possible rate. There was a paradigm shift in the offshore oil industry in the late 1980's where instead of maximizing the ultimate recoverable number of barrels they went to maximizing the current cash value and make money as fast as possible, which leaves more oil in the ground.

Operating paradigm pre-1988 or so: maximize the barrels of reserves.
Operating paradigm post-1988 or so: get as much as you can as fast as you can.

This was a result of having to finance a billion dollar steel structure to operate in thousands of feet of water. Maybe some well someplace produced 30 000 barrels a day; I have not yet heard of it in the Gulf. If they could get a well to spew out 150 000 barrels a day they would do it. The 150 000 barrels number is geologically erroneous. 10 000 barrels a day was an all-time record a very short time ago. From what we know now the best estimate is 5000 barrels a day.

Yes this is almost certainly the worst environmental disaster in American history way worse than Exxon Valdez and there should be consequences like the responsible people failing to do due diligence ought to be prosecuted for assault and manslaughter. Limited liability incorporation makes that seem unlikely to me.

pyramide termite gasoline is fungible and they sell BP manufactured gasoline at the Exxon station and at the Wal-Mart station and at the 7-11. Boycotting the local BP franchise may give you some illusory good feeling but it is unlikely to have any effect.
posted by bukvich at 9:49 AM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Keep in mind: This was a brand new well, and the drilling platform had basically just hit oil. The explosion was caused by 'abnormal pressure'. We may be looking at something unprecedented. We don't know how much oil is in this reservoir or how much pressure it's under, but it was at least enough pressure to blow out 5,000 feet through the ocean and topple a drilling platform.
posted by empath at 9:54 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


A little googling shows 30,000 barrels a day in controlled flow is not as rare a yield as you make it sound, bukvich.

But 5K or 10K or 30K, either way this is a catastrophe of global implication. I suspect we'll see massive migration from coastal communities around the Gulf in the coming year, and presto, here are the environmental refugees of the climate-change future, so often predicted and so often dismissed as an alarmist threat. There is literally going to be no way to make a living (or live safely) along that coast for quite some time, unless you're involved in the cleanup. One wonders what can possibly be done to keep New Orleans alive. Oh well, we'll save big on hurricane preparedness.

I think the Chernobyl analogy is right on. We're so fucked.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Drill Baby Drill!

Too soon?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2010


Keep in mind the oil floats on top of the water, for the most part. I don't know how much impact this has on what's underneath. It would pretty much fuck up any dolphins or porpoises underneath it, though.

Not sure of the biology, but I think sunlight is vital to plants and some animals in the water. If the oil dilutes or blocks it, that could have effects up and down the food chain.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:08 AM on May 2, 2010


Too late, Kid Charlemagne.
posted by Nelson at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2010


Obama embraced Drill Baby Drill, and this is the result. He may not own this spill. But he would have owned this if it happened along the east coast later down the line due to drilling that he, personally (without congress) authorized.

Let this be a lesson to you pony-wishers who wanted him to unilaterally suspend dismissals under DADT without congressional authorization! See how risky it is?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:18 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


We all share in the risk and responsibility if we willingly partake of the spoils of what industry offers us. It strikes me as an immature impulse to suddenly morph oil producers into evil-doers as soon as they slip in their rush to shovel us the ipods, epoxy, asphalt and fuel we so willingly consume. Which is a surprising feeling to find myself expressing, actually.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


So, Obama is responsible because there's an alternate Universe where he would have been responsible? Trippy, man.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:29 AM on May 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


My opinion: This might be the end of, not BP, but Cameron. BP is the responsible party, so they pay for the cleanup. But, Cameron sold them the blowout preventer. The blowout preventer is supposed to work for exactly this situation, and is clearly a failure.
posted by Houstonian at 10:31 AM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Goddammit, it's not "Obama's" anything.

Yeah, it kind of is. Buck stops here and all that. Now, does saying it's "Obama's Katrina" automatically mean he's fucking up? Of course not? It's a major disaster he has to address. Right now he seems to be doing as much as he can, especially for a disaster that the company responsible for it apparently tried to cover up the severity of for the first few days.

But as far as tying this to Obama in general, well this is probably the biggest moment of metaphorical irony since they advertised the Titanic as "unsinkable." Trying to go, once again, for that magical pony of "middle ground" by flip-flopping on offshore drilling, only to have the worst offshore rig disaster in history happen on Earth Day? Yeah, I don't care that I voted for him; that's a bed Obama shat in and has to lie in now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:31 AM on May 2, 2010 [16 favorites]


Based on what we now know the best estimate is 5000. But go nuts. Get your rage on.

Your cynicism is distressing. Preparing for a worst case scenario of 150,000 barrels per day sounds pretty fucking smart to me. You have a newly tapped, high pressure well at the bottom of the ocean. The fact that the well blew out and sunk the rig means that it is under very high pressure, and it is definitely not outside the realm of possibility that it will leak, uncontrolled, faster than any controlled drilling in the area. Now, it would be fantastic if it turns out that yes, *only* 5000 barrels per day are leaking for... what... two, three, four weeks... more? I mean, that would be bad enough. But if it turns out to be much greater (like say 50K even) then it would be great to know that planning and preparations have already been made to adequately handle the situation. So maybe we should be getting behind those people who want to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
posted by molecicco at 10:32 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind: This was a brand new well, and the drilling platform had basically just hit oil. The explosion was caused by 'abnormal pressure'.

I think they mean abnormal pressure in the pipe, right? Sounds like those old movies, you know, where the top of the oil well pops off and Oil comes gushing out of the top. Actually, I think they called 'em gushers, right? (turns out that's right).

And from wikipedia:
The Lakeview Gusher on the Midway-Sunset Oil Field in Kern County, California of 1910 is believed to be the largest-ever U.S. gusher. At its peak, more than 100,000 barrels (16 000 m³) of oil per day flowed out, reaching as high as 200 feet (60 m) in the air. It remained uncapped for 18 months, spilling over nine million barrels (378 million gallons/1.4 million m³) of oil, less than half of which was recovered.[10]
So it sounds like that Gusher was doing 2-4 times the volume as this leak here, but if the wellhead comes off it would end up being bigger.
In any case, that would indicate the amount delivered into the environment, if not the actual amount lost.

Where does the binder go?
And just think about all the oil secreted by the human beings driving on those roads. Where does all that oil go? The problem isn't small amounts of oil, it's large concentrations. Obviously skin oil isn't toxic, but at very low concentrations, the oil from asphalt isn't going to be harmful (as far as I know)
posted by delmoi at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The oil does not continue to float on top of the water. As it ages, it becomes heavier than water and will sink to the ocean floor, where it will smother the sea bottom to death.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Keep in mind the oil floats on top of the water, for the most part. I don't know how much impact this has on what's underneath. It would pretty much fuck up any dolphins or porpoises underneath it, though.

The longer-term issue is when the oil is absorbed into the sediment, at which time organisms that live or breed on the bottom begin to suffer, and the entire food chain above with it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Based on what we now know the best estimate is 5000. But go nuts. Get your rage on.
If by "best" you mean "number pulled out of BP's ass like a week ago". I don't think anyone has been using that number for days.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


you have to remember that the whole Gulf coast was just utterly devasted by Katrina only five years ago

How easily Hurricane Ike was forgotten.

Except by those who lived it.
posted by Malice at 10:42 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


We all share in the risk and responsibility if we willingly partake of the spoils of what industry offers us. It strikes me as an immature impulse to suddenly morph oil producers into evil-doers as soon as they slip in their rush to shovel us the ipods, epoxy, asphalt and fuel we so willingly consume. Which is a surprising feeling to find myself expressing, actually.
Oh that's bullshit. How the hell are "we" supposed to get around without without buying gasoline? Last I checked, there aren't any ethanol or biodesel gas stations around. And even if I were to switch to a bicycle, that wouldn't affect anyone else.

The problem is that as individuals we don't control what goes on. As a group we do, but keep in mind the oil companies spend billions to prevent the (corrupt) government from doing anything.

Also, aren't iPods mostly ceramic?
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


drill baby drill

cap baby cap

contain baby contain

burn baby burn

Oh shit.
posted by mazola at 10:51 AM on May 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


gone baby gone
posted by Bromius at 10:53 AM on May 2, 2010 [15 favorites]


BP did not build the containment devices before the spill because it "seemed inconceivable" the blowout preventer would fail, Rinehart said.

"I don't think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we're faced with now," he said. "The blowout preventer was the main line of defense against this type of incident, and it failed."
Something about levees, something something.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Obama embraced Drill Baby Drill, and this is the result.

Obama tried to compromise to please the drill baby drill contingent. He was not the impetus of that movement, and in the end it seems clear that this disaster will be worse for those who openly and aggressively pushed that agenda than for Obama, who did not stand firm enough against them, but was still generally more wary. I don't see how the right wing could use this against Obama without it being turned right back around on them.
posted by mdn at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


I agree, it's very bad, but

I think the Chernobyl analogy is right on. We're so fucked.

is hyperbolic for two reasons. First, the Soviet government was fully responsible for Chernobyl, soup to nuts. There was no place for the CPSU to pass the buck since they stopped blaming everything on "capitalist imperialism" and "fascist wreckers." The US government shares part of the blame for this, not all. Second, radioactive pollution is, at least in this instance, more harmful than oil pollution. After Chernobyl, the city of Pripyat and surroundings became uninhabitable. As far as I know people won't be able to live there for hundreds of years. Very few people live in the Gulf (though a lot of people, as has been said, live around and off it); if there are evacuations they will be temporary. Moreover, the Gulf is a very large, robust ecosystem; it will be absorb this blow and be back to normal in decades if not sooner.

Clearly the US government and BP should pay for the clean up and finance an aid-package for those economically affected. But this spill, though truly horrible, will have neither the political nor the long-term economic impact of Chernobyl.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:01 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


The spill is Cheney's fault, not Obama's:

Investigators delving into the causes of the massive gulf oil spill are examining the role of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the giant energy services company that was responsible for cementing the deepwater drill hole, as well as the possible failure of equipment leased to British Petroleum.

Two members of Congress, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), called on Halliburton on Friday to provide all documents relating to "the possibility or risk of an explosion or blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig and the status, adequacy, quality, monitoring, and inspection of the cementing work" by May 7.

posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:04 AM on May 2, 2010 [21 favorites]


Thirdly just a month ago Obama unilaterally opened up the entire east coast for off shore drilling (Or at least exploration). Obviously none of it had started yet. But That meant that Obama was basically opening up the entire east to these kinds of disasters. Why? For short term political gain. (along with some bullshit about "good ideas from the left and the right")

Except that close to 2/3rds of Americans support(ed) drilling in ecologically sensitive areas. It's not like he's pushing through some unpopular idea, he's pushing through exactly what Republicans AND Democrats AND independents want.

And I hate to tell you this, but we can't switch to fuel cells or Mr. Fusion in your car tomorrow. We're a generation from being able to wean ourselves off oil enough that "Peak Oil" won't cripple or eliminate our way of life. And even then, we'll still mostly be using gasoline and diesel to get around, while coal will still be the world's #1 source of energy (so plug-in cars will just be trading the pollution of extracting and burning oil for extracting and burning coal).

And oh, all that clean energy produces environmental disasters of their own. Oil slicks kill birds and fish, but so do hydro dams and windmills. And photovoltaic production also produces pollution along the lines of computer component production.

So unless you're James Howard Kunstler, the question of drilling is a Hobson's choice. We don't have a choice but to keep punching holes in the ground like so many heroin addicts, with only the occasional methadone hit of hybrid cars and E80 to try to rid ourselves of the drug. Going cold turkey would kill us, and I mean literally kill us. By the billions.
posted by dw at 11:08 AM on May 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


Any updates on the chemical content of the air in cities along the coast? I know they were having some horrific smell in New Orleans a few days back but I didn't see a followup.


What are the health implications of being exposed to a massive amount of evaporating oil for weeks or months on end?

Because that's what is potentially going to happen to anyone who lives near the gulf coast...
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:08 AM on May 2, 2010


Yeah, it kind of is. Buck stops here and all that. Now, does saying it's "Obama's Katrina" automatically mean he's fucking up? Of course not? It's a major disaster he has to address.

It becomes Obama's Katrina when we learn the government severely screwed up. So far, it seems as BP severely screwed up, which is a huge difference. The oil rig wasn't government owned nor operated, so the initial blame isn't on public officials. But there's still plenty to go around as this thing spreads.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Drilling Ahead has a very good recording of a radio interview with a petroleum engineer who was on the rig. He explains what he knows about what happened to the blowout preventer (BOP). It's worth a listen, because it's very accessible even to people who don't know about these types of things.

Several days ago, the same website had an article written by an anonymous mudlogger on the rig. It is also quite good, but unfortunately shows how much everyone was relying on the BOP. But it's first-hand information about the incident.
posted by Houstonian at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2010 [21 favorites]


"I love the ecosystem, but... equivocating this to people dying in the streets? Really?"

heh... yeah, you're right, this isn't really a big deal... let's just get back to the ball game or something, eh?
posted by HuronBob at 11:17 AM on May 2, 2010


Where are all the conservatives getting their face in the camera to say "Drill, baby, drill!" now?
posted by spock at 11:18 AM on May 2, 2010


What are the health implications of being exposed to a massive amount of evaporating oil for weeks or months on end?

Cancer Alley
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:20 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK here is some data.

That is 6000 bpd flowing at the Jack production test. Jack is the biggest find in the Gulf of Mexico since 1999. Further down the page is another company claiming they expect a 12000 -14000 barrel per day flow from well log interpretations.

The professor quoted above with the 30 000 barrels per day "typically" is wrong as near as I can tell. I am not saying this is not horrible. I am saying I think 5000 barrels a day is our current best estimate. It is unlikely this thing is flowing as fast as the Jack test. The day after they did that test Chevron got themselves on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
posted by bukvich at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the Chernobyl analogy is right on. We're so fucked.

I don't think it'll be that bad, at least not in the sense of long-term consequences. Early on in the spill, the BBC had someone on who was talking about the Gulf ecosystem. Apparently, quite a bit of oil leaks directly out of the seafloor, and there are local microbes that eat the stuff.

Now, obviously they can't deal with this much, this fast. Over the short term, this is a disaster, no doubt. But the Gulf should recover, and it may actually do so fairly quickly. The oil will (slowly) get eaten, and the ecosystem will repopulate.

From what I know of undersea habitats, most aren't like the coral reefs, which take hundreds of years to build. I think the closest land equivalent would be a bad fire sweeping through an area of thick brush and small trees, populated by squirrels and rabbits. It's not like old growth redwood and grizzly bears, it'll come back quickly. The biggest limiting factor will be whatever nutrients the bacteria use to digest the oil.... that will limit the digestion rate, and, thus, the recovery.

Now, the actual land... that could be a real problem. Lifeforms up there are much more complex, and will take much longer to recover. That might take a couple decades to come back. But the seafloor should recover much faster. They may be back to normal fishing down there within a few years.

So, yeah, it's a disaster, but it's probably not a catastrophe like Chernobyl, permanently putting a large swath of the country out of human reach for many decades.

I don't know what the healthy stocks are like down there, but it strikes me that, since we're probably going to end up losing most of the fishing industry down there anyway, we should try to figure out if it would do any good to stop fishing for a few years longer than we absolutely have to, in order to boost populations and increase eventual yield. I don't have specific knowledge of the Gulf, but it seems like the universal habit in fishing is to try to extract more than the fish stocks can safely provide, eventually destroying them completely. By focusing on the now, and refusing to take fewer fish this year, we eventually end up with no fish at all.

Since they're not going to be fishing anyway, this strikes me an excellent time to invest some brainpower.
posted by Malor at 11:32 AM on May 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


here is some information regarding the oil spill from theoildrum.com
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6421
also:
Not if but When this oil reaches our area, To volunteer because of this oil spill on Florida beaches 866-448-5861 or if an animal is found in distress from the oil 866-557-1401

posted by robbyrobs at 11:34 AM on May 2, 2010


The question now may not be whether this is Obama's Katrina, but whether it's his Chernobyl.

"Deepwater Horizon" seems destined to become the moniker for all kinds of reckless planning and failure. People will be surprised one day to find out it was the name of a rig and not some theoretical term. The blame shifting will soon lead to hearings and indictments, and Obama is well positioned to write the history on this one if Halliburton had something to do with it.
posted by Brian B. at 11:36 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, as I keep saying in these threads.... I'm of the firm belief that we should be saving that oil for later. Oil will only get more valuable over time. The longer we wait to extract it, the more of an impact it will have.

My personal benchmark for when we'll know it's time: when the thought of burning such a precious resource makes people blanch. When it's rare enough that we look at those reserves, and see plastics and fertilizer and chemicals, not full tanks of gas, THEN it will be time to start drilling, not before.
posted by Malor at 11:38 AM on May 2, 2010 [31 favorites]


Obama tried to compromise to please the drill baby drill contingent.

We don't know what he was thinking. What he said was that offshore drilling was a good idea on the merits. Do you think he was lying about his motivations? Generally when you're compromising, you offer something in exchange for something from the other side. But Obama preemptively agreed offshore drilling, maybe to help win over Republican votes, or maybe to prevent the "Obama's fault for high gas prices for not allowing offshore drilling!" when gas prices invariably spiked this summer.

But whatever the reason, it would have allowed for the exact situation that just happened in the gulf coast to happen all along the eastern seaboard.
is hyperbolic for two reasons. First, the Soviet government was fully responsible for Chernobyl, soup to nuts. There was no place for the CPSU to pass the buck since they stopped blaming everything on "capitalist imperialism" and "fascist wreckers." The US government shares part of the blame for this, not all.
I don't think that's right. The fact that the U.S. Government allowed a private company to do this means that they are responsible, because it was their choice. The problem here is the idea that there is a set amount of "responsibility" when in fact you have a sort of responsibility hierarchy.

The government decided to allow this, so they're 100% at fault. Then BP fucked up somehow, so they are also at fault. And some random dude fucked up somewhere inside BP, so he's at fault. But that doesn't mean the government isn't entirely responsible, nor does it mean that BP isn't at fault. (or whoever inside BP made mistakes). They are all fully at fault.
Except that close to 2/3rds of Americans support(ed) drilling in ecologically sensitive areas. It's not like he's pushing through some unpopular idea, he's pushing through exactly what Republicans AND Democrats AND independents want.
What does that have to do with anything? I'm pretty sure that a lot of those people have or will change their minds over this. People are fickle, and ill informed. And more importantly, very few are going to change their vote over offshore drilling.
And I hate to tell you this, but we can't switch to fuel cells or Mr. Fusion in your car tomorrow. We're a generation from being able to wean ourselves off oil enough that "Peak Oil" won't cripple or eliminate our way of life.
What are you talking about? Global Oil production peaked a couple years ago. No one noticed. "Peak Oil" simply means oil production peaks and begins to decline. That's it. There's no price shock or anything. That's why it's called "peak oil" and not "clif oil"

The rest of what you wrote is mostly nonsense. I mean seriously. It's just a bunch of innumerate apocalypse fetishism that seems to run rampant in some circles.
Going cold turkey would kill us, and I mean literally kill us. By the billions.
This is incorrect.
So far, it seems as BP severely screwed up,
That's B.S. If a company causes a shitload of damage it is the government's fault, for letting them do it. A government approval for something is not an abdication of responsibility, it's an ownership of responsibility.

Also, as I said, the government waited days for BP to try to fix this, and believed their (incorrect) numbers.

And again, Obama approved offshore exploration (and this was a rig that was just put down, looking for oil) on the entire east cast, which would have put the entire east coast in the same peril.

It's like saying that getting a DUI is unfair because you, personally haven't run over any kids, even though other drunk drivers have.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


My sister, her two daughters, and her five (soon to be six) grandchildren live in Gulf Shores in a beautiful, enormous house. Paid for by her husband, who works for Halliburton in Kabul and is a typical Tea Party supporter. They love how the dolphins come right up close to their property. Wonder how long it is before the smell, oil-covered beach, and dead fish and dolphins change their situation. It would probably be a miracle to think it would change their political opinions.

I just hope my little nieces and grand-nieces are ok in the meantime.
posted by emjaybee at 11:39 AM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Where are all the conservatives getting their face in the camera to say "Drill, baby, drill!" now?

they're off trying to find evidence that obama directly caused this and coming up with rationalizations like if they were to switch to bikes it wouldn't matter anyway because personal conservation efforts just don't matter, like cheney said.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:42 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


How does this spill differ than the Ixtoc blowout in 1979?

Was that one further off shore?
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:45 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The environment will survive, as environments do, but there will be a clear difference between pre- and post-spill conditions. The biggest problem is when the sludge gets into the shores: you can scrub the oil from birds and animals, but you can't get it out of vegetation, once it gets in. The stuff is like DDT in that it accumulates inside plants, when it doesn't kill them outright.

Thus your wetlands, saltwater estuaries, bayous, all are contaminated. I'd guess that with the vegetation absorbing more and more of it, the things that depend on said vegetation would start to die off from the toxicity. Then the bigger things that eat those small things. The fish stocks would drop because the fry don't survive, either from toxicity in the water or a lack of food species lower on the chain. There are bacteria that break oil down, but those are a balance for normal seepage from the ocean floor, not a huge spill like this.

It's taken decades of concentrated effort to rebuild the mangroves which shelter tons of species in their infancy. It could take months to wipe them out, if the worst-case scenario is the one that happens, with the gulf stream dispersing the slick. This is a huge fucking problem.
posted by cmyk at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


If a company causes a shitload of damage it is the government's fault, for letting them do it.

I think most people realize that the government can't be everywhere. Obama may get blamed for who his administration handled the accident, but so far people don't seem to be blaming him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:53 AM on May 2, 2010


First of all, he's the president, and of course it's his job to work deal with crises. That's his job.

And...he sent the Coast Guard out as soon as this started, to help.

Secondly, The people calling it "Obama's whatever" aren't Fox News, they are environmentalists who are pissed off because...

Thirdly just a month ago Obama unilaterally opened up the entire east coast for off shore drilling (Or at least exploration). Obviously none of it had started yet. But That meant that Obama was basically opening up the entire east to these kinds of disasters. Why? For short term political gain. (along with some bullshit about "good ideas from the left and the right")

Obama embraced Drill Baby Drill, and this is the result.


And...when this happened, he announced he was suspending those plans.

Eh, actually they waited several days before doing anything. They took BPs word for it that it was under control, not leaking, etc. And they didn't even bother doing their own assessments, it was a 3rd party group who announced the larger figure based on areal photos.

Compare that to Bush, who had the overwhelming evidence on the nightly television news broadcasts on every damn station that something was wrong, but still didn't do anything. I'd say that accepting a third party's opinion, especially when that third party has something to do with that field, is a damn sight better than completely ignoring what was going on on the news.

It's a disaster, yes. It happened during Obama's administration, yes. I understand that people want to blame someone. But -- just because it happened during Obama's administration does not mean Obama CAUSED this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Leaking Oil Well Lacked Safeguard Device
posted by homunculus at 11:55 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Going cold turkey would kill us, and I mean literally kill us. By the billions.

This is incorrect.


Um, delmoi? If all oil extraction stopped today, billions of people absolutely would die. Absolutely. The economy would grind to a halt. Food production would plummet, and what food did grow would mostly rot in the fields, because there'd be no way to get it to the people who would eat it. Even the coal supplies would dry up, because I believe they use oil-fueled machines to extract it. Most electricity would stop, most infrastructure would stop, all the cars would stop once the remaining supplies in the pipelines and in storage were consumed. With no reasonable way to get anywhere, no food, and no energy, mass starvation would be the inevitable result.

He's right about the impact of a sudden cessation of oil production. You're right, of course, that it won't happen.....oil won't disappear overnight, it'll slowly decline over a period of years or decades. Given time, we can replace most of the functions of oil with coal, but that time component is critical.

We are, as a civilization, completely hooked on stored chemical energy in the ground, and stopping cold turkey is absolutely not an option.
posted by Malor at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2010 [28 favorites]


Everything is Obama's Katrina.

Numerous media figures dub Gulf oil spill "Obama's Katrina." Media conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, the Fox Nation, the Drudge Report and The Washington Times pushed the absurd claim that a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is "Obama's Katrina." This claim is undermined by a number of facts, including that British Petroleum reportedly led the Obama administration to believe that the spill was much less severe than it actually was.

Numerous media figures suggested the H1N1 flu was "Obama's Katrina." On his November 3, 2009, radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated that the H1N1 vaccine shortage "ought to be Obama's Katrina," but won't because "they have to protect the little man-child." An August 25 op-ed by Martin Schram for the Scripps-Howard News Service was headlined, "Schram: Swine flu could be Obama's Katrina." Kansas City Star blogger Bill Dalton wrote an October 15, 2009, post under the headline, "H1N1: Obama's Katrina?" On the May 3, 2009 edition of Washington, D.C., television station WJLA's Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson and Newsweek's Evan Thomas discussed whether the H1N1 flu was "Obama's Katrina. [accessed via Nexis]"

Human Events' Wooley: "Fort Hood Could Be Obama's Katrina." In a November 11, 2009, Human Events post titled "Fort Hood Could Be Obama's Katrina," radio host Lynn Wooley wrote: "As Hurricane Katrina zeroed in on New Orleans in 2005, government at all levels was lethargic, seemed unprepared, and to some, even uncaring. In the wake of last week's massacre at Fort Hood, we are learning that the United States Army knew quite a bit about Major Nadal Malik Hasan -- but did not act on the information. Fort Hood could become Barack Obama's Katrina." Wooley concluded: "The attitude of our Commander-in-Chief and others sworn to protect us is frighteningly reminiscent of what happened with Katrina. All we need from Obama is a hearty, 'Gen. Casey, you're doing a heck of a job.'"

Confederate Yankee: "Obama's 'Katrina on Ice'" A February 1 Confederate Yankee post titled "Obama's 'Katrina on Ice'" asserted:

More than 700,000 homes are still without power in Kentucky due to a massive ice storm that struck the state six days ago, forcing Gov. Steve Beshear to mobilize his entire state's Army and Air National Guard, a total of 4,600 men and the largest call-out in Kentucky's history.

FEMA has apparently been a no-show.


WSJ op-ed: "Haiti: Obama's Katrina." In a January 25 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled "Hatiti: Obama's Katrina," Soumitra R. Eachempati, Dean Lorich, and David Helfet wrote: "Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. Criticism of the paltry federal efforts was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe."

Flopping Aces: "Does Obama Hate the People of Haiti?" In a January 17 post titled "Obama's Katrina," Flopping Aces mentioned the criticisms of Bush for his Katrina response and concluded: "Does Obama hate the people of Haiti?"

Politico: GOP hopes GM bailout is "Obama's Hurricane Katrina" A June 8 Politico article's headline read: "Republicans hope General Motors is President Obama's Hurricane Katrina."

Pajamas media: "Is the Undiebomber Obama's Katrina?" A December 29 Pajamas Media blog post titled "Is the Undiebomber Obama's Katrina?" asserted: "No doubt, Obama's poll numbers aren't going to be helped by this Jan-caused disaster. But I doubt if the fallout they'll face will be as severe as what the Bush administration went through due to Katrina, simply because the media will never gin up a news storm against the man they helped to elect that's anywhere near as powerful as the one they created to accompany Katrina."

Kaus: "Obama's Katrina." Slate blogger Mickey Kaus linked to a Boston Globe article about Obama's Chicago housing policies as a state senator, headlining his post "Obama's Katrina." Kaus later updated, concluding: After all, Obama's career has been unusually limited for a presidential contender. Housing and "community development" has been a big part of it. If the result has been a disaster in which Obama's friends made lots of money while his poor constituents lived in dangerous squalor, that seems like a big warning sign, no? At least an expectations-lowerer! George W. Bush, in contrast, hadn't dedicated a large chunk of his life to FEMA."


posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:03 PM on May 2, 2010 [92 favorites]


Where are all the conservatives getting their face in the camera to say "Drill, baby, drill!" now?

They're all stuck with their ears to the AM radio absorbing Rush Limbaugh's (out of thin air) talking point about how this was an act of eco-terrorism designed specifically by evildoers to strike at the heart of the Murkun way. "What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just noting the timing here." It takes a day or two to absorb and disseminate their master's ideas, but they're not going to just sit there and take this lying down.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:04 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think most people realize that the government can't be everywhere.
If the government passes a law that makes it legal for people to drive as drunk as they want, and a bunch of people die, wouldn't it be the government's fault? Do you seriously think people would just shrug their shoulders and "realize that the government can't be everywhere"?

Of course not. If the government passes laws that allows bad things to happen then the government is responsible. The government doesn't trust drunk drivers not to run into anyone, and it shouldn't trust corporations to do whatever the hell they want in search of oil.

Even simple things like mandating tighter safety measures that could have prevented a blowoff like this could have been added. But they weren't. For example, a remote controlled blow off prevented wasn't mandated, despite the fact that it's required in other countries (like Norway). The Oil companies actually lobbied against this, and won.

In other words, it's true that the government "can't be everywhere" but that's not the point. The point is that the government does get to decide what's legal and what's not "everywhere". If people break the law then that's not the government's fault.

But if the government legalizes a dangerous activity, and disaster happens, then yeah. That pretty much is the government's fault.
posted by delmoi at 12:06 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Argh... sit there/lying down -- pick any one of the two. Sorry about the sloppy metaforing.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:06 PM on May 2, 2010



But if the government legalizes a dangerous activity, and disaster happens, then yeah. That pretty much is the government's fault.


The goverment legalized driving and I got in an accident! You are gonna pay for this Obama!!!!11
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:10 PM on May 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


> If a company causes a shitload of damage it is the government's fault, for letting them do it.

Between this and the Upper Big Branch disaster, it's been a tough time for Libertarians.
posted by Moonster at 12:10 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


All y'all are a bunch of negative Nellies is what you are. Look on the bright side! If Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans," as Obama's education secretary says, by god, once its watersheds are all clogged with oil I can only imagine there'll be nothing but Rhodes scholars coming out of that school system from here on out! After all, we all know that marketiness is the best thing for schools and it doesn't get more markety than oil. I just hope the schoolchildren of Louisiana appreciate all the things we do for them.
posted by enn at 12:11 PM on May 2, 2010


Obama in South Louisiana RIGHT NOW.
posted by ColdChef at 12:15 PM on May 2, 2010


It's like saying that getting a DUI is unfair ...

But is The Government responsible when a drunk driver does cause harm to someone, even though it is illegal?

No government body specifically permitted BP to dump oil all over the gulf. They permitted BP to drill for oil in a safe way (or so we thought), just like they permit me to operate a motor vehicle in a safe way. If I go do something unsafe, yes, it would be better if The Government had stopped me, but it's not "their fault". Arguing that the government should have never allowed me to drive in the first place, since it is a dangerous thing to do, is unreasonable. But it is perfectly ok to question whether or not the government is doing as good as a job as they could to keep me and my fellow drivers safe.

The same applies here. It is debatable whether or not the government was doing everything it should have to prevent this disaster. Probably not. But that doesn't mean we can just run around yelling "I BLAME YOU, GOVERNMENT", "I BLAME YOU, VOTER WHO WAS IN FAVOR OF DRILLING". It's unproductive, and it sounds like children complaining to their parents when their siblings hit them. Deciding on blame right now is a silly exercise in claiming the moral high ground. Figuring out how we prevent this from happening again is what is actually useful, but that takes more thought and less hyperbole.
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:21 PM on May 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


But if the government legalizes a dangerous activity, and disaster happens, then yeah. That pretty much is the government's fault.

You're going to have to point to a specific action or in action of the the government in order to blame them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:23 PM on May 2, 2010


But if the government legalizes a dangerous activity, and disaster happens, then yeah. That pretty much is the government's fault.

Even if the activity a given law instigates hasn't even happened yet?

"The government" is a very general phrase. Obama is not the whole of the United States government. Yes, "the government" did legislate drilling in the Gulf Coast. However, a completely different administration was responsible for paving the way for this particular drill.

And yes, Obama did recently expand drilling on the East Coast -- but no platforms have been built yet, and Obama moreover put that on hold in light of recent events.

So yes, "the government" is responsible in both cases -- but Barack Hussein Obama is not a monolithic superentity who has been the embodiment of the whole of "the government" since the beginning of time.

This does raise an interesting question, though -- which president WAS in power when this particular region of the Gulf was cleared for drilling? I'm curious now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Um, delmoi? If all oil extraction stopped today, billions of people absolutely would die. Absolutely. The economy would grind to a halt. Food production would plummet, and what food did grow would mostly rot in the fields, because there'd be no way to get it to the people who would eat it. [...] With no reasonable way to get anywhere, no food, and no energy, mass starvation would be the inevitable result.

Uhh... we can make oil. Well, long-chain hydrocarbons anyway. You can make liquid hydrocarbons out of coal, out of natural gas, or out of biomass. The last is theoretically renewable.

We don't do that except for specialized applications because it's a lot cheaper at present to suck up oil out of the ground with giant milkshake straws. But if the choice were between finally paying the piper in terms of eating the cost of making synthetic fuels and OH MY GOD WERE ALL GOING TO DIEEEEEEE, well, I don't think we'd go with the dying bit.

I suppose it is true that if waving a magic wand caused all oil extraction to become impossible starting today it is trivially true that lots of people would die. It's also true that lots of people would die if we stopped breathing. But going "cold turkey" wouldn't mean stopping extraction starting today, it would mean rapidly weaning ourselves onto renewable or synthetic fuels and off oil sucked out of the ground. We could do that rapidly enough to qualify as "cold turkey" and it wouldn't involve gigadeaths but it would mean we were all a bunch poorer for the near and medium terms. In the long run it might mean we (as a society) were richer but in the long run we're all dead anyway so we won't go this route until we have to.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


furiousxgeorge pretty much summed up the initial point I was trying to make; the "X is Obama's Katrina!" has indeed been a meme Fox and other conservative outlets have been trying to promote since Inauguration Day.

The actual merits of Obama's stances/actions are always up for debate; I am far from an unqualified supporter. I don't hold him "blameless" but I do think that much larger chunks of blame still have other people's names on them.

But I'm not going to let the debate be framed by Republican-inspired talking points, because that's stupid.
posted by emjaybee at 12:33 PM on May 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Could they theoretically collapse the well by blowing it all to hell with large amounts of explosives? I have no idea if this could possibly work or if it could make things much worse or what, I'm just curious. Because blowing shit up is in our wheelhouse.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


i'm not sure what the conservatives get out of trying to label everything as 'obama's katrina,' considering they were rather silent and uncritical of the president during bush's katrina. seems strange they would go out of their way to label something they're going to evade discussion on.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2010


Rumple, that was uncalled for.

Rush Limbaugh is seriously calling this eco-terrorism? I'm speechless.
posted by jokeefe at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The government decided to allow this, so they're 100% at fault. Then BP fucked up somehow, so they are also at fault. And some random dude fucked up somewhere inside BP, so he's at fault. But that doesn't mean the government isn't entirely responsible, nor does it mean that BP isn't at fault. (or whoever inside BP made mistakes). They are all fully at fault.

No delmoi, that's tantrum logic, as is your claim that this would have happened all up and down the east coast following Obama's decision to allow offshore drilling there. You might have a point if Obama had decided to approve 'offshore drilling, without any of those irritating environmental or safety standards'. but in fact, the industry has had a consistently improving safety record at this kind of thing until this incident. Now everything is everyone's fault all the time? Nonsense.

You're like the people who pop up after a plane crash demanding to know why people are in such hurry to get everywhere that they have to fly, and concluding that they've been brainwashed by evil capitalist airline executives or something.

This oil spill in the gulf is a major environmental disaster, almost certainly much bigger than the Exon Valdez - it's probably going to be the biggest ecological problem even in American consciousness since Three Mile Island. But blaming Obama for it, as if somehow his words caused or allowed it to happen, is like claiming the old lady who lives up on the hill is a witch because your milch cow ran dry after she said 'nice cow'.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


How coincidental is it that Katrina was Bush's Katrina?
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:49 PM on May 2, 2010 [15 favorites]



i'm not sure what the conservatives get out of trying to label everything as 'obama's katrina,' considering they were rather silent and uncritical of the president during bush's katrina. seems strange they would go out of their way to label something they're going to evade discussion on.


Go ahead and try and find a conservative who admits to having supported Bush. They are tough to find, it's like a reverse Woodstock effect.

Damn liberals must have voted him in, twice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Barack Obama doesn't care about black fishes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:55 PM on May 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Could they theoretically collapse the well by blowing it all to hell with large amounts of explosives? I have no idea if this could possibly work or if it could make things much worse or what, I'm just curious. Because blowing shit up is in our wheelhouse.

Justinian, they probably could, but unfortunately it would probably take a small nuclear device to do it. And that would open up a whole 'nother can of worms, not so much because of contamination issues, or even the "ick" factor, but because it would upset every other country in the world who also has undersea oil wells, since they would want the right to do the same to their wells in case they ever had a blowout situation too. And if they didn't already have a nuclear device, they might want the right to pursue one on the basis that they "need" it as a safety measure for their wells. Ireland, to take a least-objectionable example, has underwater oil wells but no nukes, but some other countries that drill are way more unstable and crazy and should probably not be given books of matches, much less nukes.

tl;dr: right now this is "just" an internal environmental disaster; no one wants to make it into a situation that actually affects international diplomacy and nuclear non-proliferation.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:55 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, delmoi? If all oil extraction stopped today, billions of people absolutely would die. Absolutely. The economy would grind to a halt. Food production would plummet, and what food did grow would mostly rot in the fields, because there'd be no way to get it to the people who would eat it. [...] With no reasonable way to get anywhere, no food, and no energy, mass starvation would be the inevitable result.

maybe. maybe 1.2 billion would be as affected as all that, those living in the OECD and developed nations where systems would grind to a halt.

But for the other 4 or 5 billion who walk to work, ride a bicycle, donkey cart or mule, whose food comes from what little they can grow and are primarily living in hyperlocal resilient communities, where for the most part there may not even be a pukka road, it might be a blip in some of those hundreds of million's day, if their livelihood is somehow connected to the oil run formal economy, but there are/will be at least 2 or 3 billion who may not even notice...

interesting thought experiment there on which "civilizations" might be better prepared to survive under conditions of adversity and scarce resources, constrained in their access to raw materials and fuel.

ponders.
posted by infini at 1:01 PM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's just a little disconcerting that BP's stock dropped more after it missed its Q4 profit estimates than it has in the last ten days.
posted by The White Hat at 1:02 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The multiplying problem in Louisiana is that the land is washing away already. This oil will suffocate the grasses that hold the land now and make it that much worse. Certainly, the shrimp and other organisms will be harmed, including migratory birds, but the loss of the whole environment has been so troubling. No shrimp, fish, and birds forever in that case. That sense of danger accelerates enormously with this incident.

I hope that if anything good comes of this, people will care enough to help us build a third delta of the river, sending sediment from the Mississippi to rebuild the wetlands. Either that or a bunch of smaller pipelines to send that sediment to specific places in the wetlands. Right now, the levees keep the sediment in the river and send it off the shelf. We've missed a lot of opportunities to do something about it for many reasons.

Growing up, I was always taught that the marshes were going away, but I did not know until recently that there have been actual, viable plans and feasibility studies going for over 30 years. This was disheartening, given that we don't seem to be getting much closer to implementing a solution, and now this.

Lots of people are more knowledgeable than I about this, but to me, it seems that the billions in seafood, hurricane protection, and wildlife preservation will make it a worthwhile if not profitable public investment in a place that needs it (and one that serves the nation). While this incident brings us closer to the brink, perhaps it will raise awareness and potential to prevent the ultimate conclusion of the slower-motion and more-devastating disaster of the wetland subsidence.
posted by mblandi at 1:03 PM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


How does this spill differ than the Ixtoc blowout in 1979?

The Ixtoc blowout was 30,000 bbl/day, six times bigger than the current estimate of 5,000 bbl/day. NOAA counts it as the #2 spill of all time (They count the Iraq war as the first). It took several months to cap. The total spill volume was 140 million gallons. It was a bit further offshore than the present spill (~80 km compared with ~40 km for the present incident), but a lot of the oil did end up on the beaches of Mexico and southern Texas.

There are similarities. The Ixtoc spill, 2 miles down (>10,000 ft), was made worse by the failure of a BOP. It lasted 295 days before it was brought under control.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 1:08 PM on May 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


there's a nice map here of the spill, and maybe some geomancer can help the blogger out.
posted by infini at 1:13 PM on May 2, 2010


Houstonian those drillahead links are great. Thank you so much for posting that. That dude who volunteered for the interview showed courage. Inspiring.
posted by bukvich at 1:14 PM on May 2, 2010


Uhh... we can make oil. Well, long-chain hydrocarbons anyway. You can make liquid hydrocarbons out of coal, out of natural gas, or out of biomass. The last is theoretically renewable.

Sure, but without oil, where do you get the energy to do that? A sudden oil disruption wouldn't give us the time or energy to develop alternatives and scale them up to production levels. This is kind of a silly hypothetical, because this simply isn't going to happen, but off in bizarro world, a sudden stoppage of oil extraction would be well past "bad".

Even slow weaning is going to be damnably difficult. Ultimately, current civilization works because we get so much energy for free from the ground. I've read estimates that for every unit of energy we spend on oil extraction, we get about ten usable energy units delivered into the economy. That's one hell of a cost advantage to compete with.

If we substitute coal for oil, which we can do, energy will get somewhat more expensive, and many petroleum-based goods will get a LOT more expensive, but overall, we could mostly cope. But in that case, we're just replacing one non-renewable resource with another, dirtier one, accelerating climate change problems.

Even if we go nuclear, we still have the problem with non-renewables, but it looks like the uranium would last at least a couple centuries, and then there's thorium as well, so we can probably maintain something resembling present energy consumption for a good long time. That's still punting the ball downfield instead of trying to score, but it's a long way downfield.

Ultimately, we need to get fusion power working. Once we have reliable fusion power, we can sustain ourselves for probably as long as the solar system remains habitable. That's why they keep chasing it... once that works reliably, everything changes.

Solar's getting better, too... in another couple of decades, it may actually be a real option, one capable of sustaining heavy industry. It's good for light applications now, but it doesn't yet have the energy density necessary for large-scale factories and the like. Plus, of course, it's competing with that 10:1 cost advantage in oil.
posted by Malor at 1:21 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just a note from the front lines here in Deep South Alabama...

For the first time in my life, the reddest-necked of my redneck relatives is amenable to tougher environmental legislation, as this oil spill has potentially ruined their favorite Gulf fishing spot.

How about instead of playing the blame game, we pay attention to the fact that, for the first time EVER, staunch angry Southern white male Republicans want to protect the environment?
posted by jefficator at 1:21 PM on May 2, 2010 [45 favorites]


Ultimately, current civilization works because we get so much energy for free from the ground.

Malor, everything you're saying makes great sense except the assumption that the oil dependent civilization is the only one there is on this planet. Contextualize, then pontificate, please.
posted by infini at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, we need to get fusion power working.

Easy! Heh.
posted by Houstonian at 1:24 PM on May 2, 2010


Could they theoretically collapse the well by blowing it all to hell with large amounts of explosives?
---
Justinian, they probably could, but unfortunately it would probably take a small nuclear device to do it.
What? The reason this oil is flowing out is because it's under massive internal pressure, more pressure then was expected which is why there was a blowoff.

If you tried to blow it up, all you would accomplish would be making the hole bigger. I mean, people are talking about what might happen if the wellhead gets dislodged. A bomb (or nuke) would surely do that, at least.

It would be like trying fix a leaky bathroom pipe with dynamite.

(Plus, I have no idea where this "oh it would probably work but you'd need a nuke" idea comes from)
posted by delmoi at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


delmoi, I assumed both posters were joking?
posted by Houstonian at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2010


Sure, but without oil, where do you get the energy to do that? A sudden oil disruption wouldn't give us the time or energy to develop alternatives and scale them up to production levels.
So what? Who said anything about a sudden disruption? Why would there be a sudden disruption?
posted by delmoi at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2010


How about instead of playing the blame game, we pay attention to the fact that, for the first time EVER, staunch angry Southern white male Republicans want to protect the environment?

Which is why I said now is actually a great time for energy reform.
posted by delmoi at 1:32 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think they mean abnormal pressure in the pipe, right?

No, abnormal pressure (first) at the bottom of the well.

"Standard Pressure" downhole tools these days operate at up to 20,000 psi. "High pressure downhole tools operate up to 30 - 35,000 psi. Yes, that's a lot of pressure.

In drilling operations you often use a variety of tricks to manage the well pressure within a range. Too low and you have a kick risk; too high and you risk fracturing the formation, damaging the well and shortening bit life.

There are "pressure while drilling" (PWD) tools which report on changing pressure conditions as they occur, but they are not foolproof. "Mud logging" personnel at the surface also keep a close eye on the average volume of mud (drilling fluid) returning from the well, which can be an early indicator of a rising gas bubble. Well engineers and drillers also use logs from perviously-drilled wells in the immediate area (offset logs) to predict how a new well will behave. All this data, though, is subject to interpretation, experience and judgment. Escaping formation gas (from too-low operating pressure) is particularly insidious because it enters the well highly compressed, then rapidly expands (bubbles) once it rises to a certain depth in the well, similar to "the bends" scuba divers risk. Once these bubbles are detected it may already be too late to do anything about them.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:33 PM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


What? The reason this oil is flowing out is because it's under massive internal pressure, more pressure then was expected which is why there was a blowoff.

Yeah, but it's all being squeezed through a small, very, very, very deep hole. (The drill was 30,000 feet long -- that's over 50 miles).

Blowing it up would fix the problem unless it left a crater 50 miles deep.
posted by empath at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2010


Uh ... 30,000 ft is about 5.7 mi.

A 50 mile well would be quite an achievement.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:41 PM on May 2, 2010


...and that 5.7 miles isn't all vertical, either.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2010


5 miles empath, not 50.

for the first time EVER, staunch angry Southern white male Republicans want to protect the environment?

It's a good thing. I know some Pacific NW loggers who were also angry Republicans but have gradually swung around to the center a bit after accumulating enough first-hand evidence of global warming to realize that it might not have been cooked up by Al gore's strategy team after all.

To make the most of this, resist the temptation to push disillusioned Republicans into admitting the error of their past anti-environmental attitudes - rather, solicit their views on how government should handle cases like this, and give them a chance to own the solution rather than have one imposed on them. Being wrong and then paying a heavy price for it is humiliating for anyone. But the natural reaction to humiliation is withdrawal, so any Democrats tempted by the little devil called I-told-you-so should reflect that a vote uncast for a Republican in the next election is not a vote won, but an underestimate waiting to be discovered one election later.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:53 PM on May 2, 2010 [28 favorites]


Rush Limbaugh is seriously calling this eco-terrorism? I'm speechless.

Apparently, we don't need to worry about cleanup either.

"The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there," Limbaugh said. "It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is."
posted by Sandor Clegane at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


anigbrowl I wish I could email your statement to everyone on earth right now.
posted by jefficator at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2010


No delmoi, that's tantrum logic, as is your claim that this would have happened all up and down the east coast following Obama's decision to allow offshore drilling there.-- anigbrowl
I said could, not would. The risk to the gulf coast would have been the same.
You might have a point if Obama had decided to approve 'offshore drilling, without any of those irritating environmental or safety standards'.
What safety standards did Obama propose that didn't apply to this rig?
but in fact, the industry has had a consistently improving safety record at this kind of thing until this incident.
Well, that statement speaks for itself, right? Just like wallstreet saying that derivatives are fine because everything was going fine until the collapse.

Look, the safety standards would have been the same for rigs on the east coast as they were for this rig, which (as other people pointed out) was brand new. They had just struck oil.
You're like the people who pop up after a plane crash demanding to know why people are in such hurry to get everywhere that they have to fly
No, I'm wondering why people are so desperate for oil that they'll do offshore drilling even though the amount of extra oil you get is marginal. If an airline, say, skipped out on maintenance checks on it's airplanes in order to cut costs by 5%, and then the planes crashed due to an overlooked problem, I think it would be fair to blame the airlines.

Similarly, if the government changed the rules that said you no longer needed to do a certain check, and the lack of a check caused a crash, I think it would be fair to blame the government. Why not?
But blaming Obama for it, as if somehow his words caused or allowed it to happen, is like claiming the old lady who lives up on the hill is a witch because your milch cow ran dry after she said 'nice cow'.
I'm not saying the spill is Obama's fault. What I was saying was that Obama instituted a policy that could have caused the same problems all up and down the east coast. There would have been the same risk to those coastlines as there was in the gulf coast.
posted by delmoi at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2010


"It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is."

I hope a fucking tiger eats him. Those are natural too.
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


Uh ... 30,000 ft is about 5.7 mi.

Duh, either way. An explosion would still cap it, unless it left a 5 mile deep crater.
posted by empath at 2:01 PM on May 2, 2010


Duh, either way. An explosion would still cap it, unless it left a 5 mile deep crater.

How do you know it would cap it? Maybe it would just leave a bunch of gravel that oil could still seep through. Or the rocks would just sink to the bottom of the well, or just get shoved out of the way by the 30k psi oil.

Keep in mind the wellhead is keeping it capped now, it that goes people have estimated 150 bbl/day or something like that could flow out.
posted by delmoi at 2:14 PM on May 2, 2010


What happened with the robots? Was/is the weather too rough for our robot friends to fix things up?
posted by angrycat at 2:17 PM on May 2, 2010


they probably could, but unfortunately it would probably take a small nuclear device to do it

A bang *and* a whimper. Awesome.

The 2012 end of the world crazy talk starts to sound more realistic.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I hate to tell you this, but we can't switch to fuel cells or Mr. Fusion in your car tomorrow. We're a generation from being able to wean ourselves off oil enough that "Peak Oil" won't cripple or eliminate our way of life. And even then, we'll still mostly be using gasoline and diesel to get around, while coal will still be the world's #1 source of energy (so plug-in cars will just be trading the pollution of extracting and burning oil for extracting and burning coal).


No. We can't switch to fuel cells because hydrogen production is horribly energy inefficient (and almost always fossil-fuel sourced, btw), and fuel cell technology is notoriously finnicky. However, electric vehicles are absolutely feasible and even if they are run using coal-fired electricity, the CO2/km of electric vehicles is significantly lower than that of even hybrid vehicles.

And oh, all that clean energy produces environmental disasters of their own. Oil slicks kill birds and fish, but so do hydro dams and windmills. And photovoltaic production also produces pollution along the lines of computer component production.

Excuse me what? If you think the environmental consequences of renewable energy technologies is anywhere on the scale of that of fossil fuels you are sadly mistaken. Aside from at a few poorly placed wind turbine farms, the number of birds killed by windmills is approximately the same as that killed by buildings.

So unless you're James Howard Kunstler, the question of drilling is a Hobson's choice. We don't have a choice but to keep punching holes in the ground like so many heroin addicts, with only the occasional methadone hit of hybrid cars and E80 to try to rid ourselves of the drug. Going cold turkey would kill us, and I mean literally kill us. By the billions.

Dead wrong. Sorry. Conservation, ground source heat pumps, high efficiency multi-stage generating facilities, wind turbines, solar thermal and PV, and offshore wave and wind energy can easily provide all of our energy needs, even with a population of six billion living middle class lifestyles.
posted by molecicco at 2:23 PM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


delmoi wrote: "Eh, actually they waited several days before doing anything."

Well, you know, other than NOAA monitoring the size of the spill using satellites from day one. But hey, who wants to let facts get in the way of some GRAR?

pyramid termite wrote: "that's a controlled process, where the oil is deliberately limited in how fast it can go out by the well machinery"

Other than that they generally extract it as fast as it'll come out, presuming that rate isn't too much to handle.

effluvia wrote: "Placing the interests of the ecosystem last will definitely trump our economic and political interests eventually. Whole worlds dying below the waters. So sad."

I'm much more concerned about ocean acidification than some oil. Oil makes for better news stories though. The pictures are much more disgusting.

empath wrote: "The explosion was caused by 'abnormal pressure'."

Yeah, you can have a blowout with a hundred barrel a day well if your drilling mud isn't heavy enough. It's all about balancing the weight of the mud with the pressure in the well. Too light, you end up with a blowout. Too heavy, you end up with no well at all.


fourcheesemac wrote: "I suspect we'll see massive migration from coastal communities around the Gulf in the coming year"

Seriously? Alarmist much?

delmoi wrote: "If the government passes a law that makes it legal for people to drive as drunk as they want, and a bunch of people die, wouldn't it be the government's fault?"

No, that would be the fault of the idiot driving drunk. Just like when some drunk driver kills someone now nobody claims it's the government's fault.

This definitely concerns me. However, the hyperventilating here is completely out of proportion to what is actually happening. It sucks, but it is not by any means the end of the world. If people would apply half the outrage they have here to constructive solutions, such as getting the fuck out of the way of those who want to build fail-safe nuclear plants, we'd have a lot better luck in preventing a repeat of this sort of accident.
posted by wierdo at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


What happened with the robots? Was/is the weather too rough for our robot friends to fix things up?

Well, we sent robots down to try and activate the blowout preventer, but the thing isn't working. Stop trying to blame the robots! :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2010


It makes me shiver to think of the workers on the platform. BP says that the workers told them they hit the panic button before evacuating. The panic button is one of the lines of defense -- it closes the blowout preventer. (If nobody hits the panic button, then the deadman switch is activated -- an automatic response that is supposed to work.)

So here they are, in the middle of the ocean, with everything on fire and the fire fed by a seemingly-endless supply of oil. There's nobody in the industry who has not been told about the horrors and lessons learned from Piper Alpha, our worst incident in terms of lives lost -- lots of safety training discusses all the problems and safety failures that were in play there. I'm sure that was going through their minds... and yet they were able remember to hit the switch on their way out, in the panic, fear, and fire.

Those are brave people. They deserved working equipment.
posted by Houstonian at 2:28 PM on May 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


delmoi: So what? Who said anything about a sudden disruption? Why would there be a sudden disruption?

Um, cold turkey? Cold turkey means stopping suddenly, not gradually. :)

infini: Contextualize, then pontificate, please.

Pontificate? That's a specialty! But that contextualization stuff is hard. :)

More to the point: Modern civilization requires vast amounts of energy, and we presently get that energy from oil. If we got away from using energy on the same scale, we could maintain a low-tech agrarian civilization for probably quite a long time, but who the hell wants to live like that? I like my Internet, air conditioning, soft bed, high-quality water and food, and physical safety. And I like being able to go see things, and I like that people have the physical wealth to build marvelous things for me to go see. I absolutely adore being able to see k.d. lang singing for an Olympic crowd, a year or more after it happened. I love that we can assemble a worldwide audience and put on that kind of spectacle. I like art and being able to buy it, and computer games, and movies, and the occasional snow cone. And I love reading about the deep puzzles the physicists and biologists are working on.

And all those things need energy. We need to get off the oil, but we can't stop using energy.

Subsistence farming sucks. Just ask anyone doing it. It's a miserable existence. If that's all we can have, I'd rather go extinct. And if we tried to go back to that, most of us would. Like it or not, we're married to technology and energy production, and divorce is not possible without gigadeaths.

I mean, just imagine, even if you survived the death of billions of people from starvation, and managed to scratch out enough calories from the land to stay alive, you'd never see another snow cone.
posted by Malor at 2:28 PM on May 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


Obama is not a monolithic superentity who has been the embodiment of the whole of "the government" since the beginning of time.

Would you mind if I made a macro of this and just posted it every time someone wanted to take Obama to task about not doing something about a thing? I mean does no one pay attention to the news where, every time you turn around there's some congresscritter who would have cheerfully supported the "criticizing the president = treason" bandwagon not too long ago but is now quite willing to do something like hold veterans benefits hostage to prevent the closing of Guantanamo Bay?

I mean sure, the guy sees talking points in bullet time but that's not quite the same league as a Green Lantern power ring. Speaking of which, haven't there been plenty of comic books and science fiction stories that examine to concept of someone who is nearly omnipotent and omniscient who saves us from all risk and folly again and again? Don't they pretty much agree that it sucks?

And from the link, check out the bit on WarHammer 40K: Space Marines are supermen who can not feel fear and rarely experience doubt or hesitation; such is their fanaticism that they can not experience the full range of human emotion. They are more intelligent that most humans, but at the same time more narrow minded. For a Space Marine, the mission is all: Mankind shall be saved, from its endless enemies and from itself. "There can be no bystanders in the battle for survival" goes the Imperial saying, "He who is not with the Emperor is his bitter foe.

You don't have to change too much in that paragraph (outside the first half of the second sentence) to describe the previous administration. Is that really what we expect and want from Obama?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:47 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"fail-safe nuclear plants"

now, safe against earthquakes, tsunamis.

the wall st journal is reporting 5,000 barrels/day

the christian scientist monitor is reporting "25,000 barrels a day. If chokeholds on the riser pipe break down further, up to 50,000 barrels a day could be released"

if correct, the gom oil spill is an event worse than chernobyl, as measured in terms of damage to humans and the environment, animal/marine life.

you cannot clean this up.

those of you proposing that we 'nuke' it should view the exploding whale video.
posted by kimyo at 2:48 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


the postings below this picture make for a very interesting read.
posted by Frasermoo at 3:02 PM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


kimyo wrote: "now, safe against earthquakes, tsunamis. "

That would be why you build them inland in areas not prone to earthquakes and use the sort that are physically incapable of melting down. Or we could just keep drilling for oil. Whichever you prefer is fine, I guess.
posted by wierdo at 3:02 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi wrote: ...

pyramid termite wrote: ...

effluvia wrote: ...

empath wrote: ...

fourcheesemac wrote: ...

delmoi wrote: ...


dude, could we do away with the massive digest-form comment response thing already? it fucks up the flow of the thread, it's a bit free and easy with removing the original comments from appropriate context, and it's a little too conveniently hand-picked to be thorough yet seems to reflect some implied requirement that one has to respond to every single thing that one doesn't agree with. also, it seems a bit rushed and haphazard, considering how often the point (or particularly humor) of the original post is overlooked by the one responding. why not just pick a train of thought instead of trying to be authoritative on every single front?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:05 PM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is that really what we expect and want from Obama?

HOPE FOR THE HOPE GOD
posted by empath at 3:13 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Um, cold turkey? Cold turkey means stopping suddenly, not gradually. :) -- Malor
Ah. well, I think most people would take that to mean, "stopping as quickly as possible", as opposed to "stopping immediately." There are still tons of oil in refineries, just sitting in storage, and of course the strategic oil reserves, etc. Which think hold a 6-month supply. The comment I was replying too was a sort of hyperbole stew.
No, that would be the fault of the idiot driving drunk. Just like when some drunk driver kills someone now nobody claims it's the government's fault. -- wierdo
That's because drunk driving is illegal. But what if the government legalized it? Wouldn't the excess deaths be caused by the government? (also, have you heard of MADD?)
Obama is not a monolithic superentity who has been the embodiment of the whole of "the government" since the beginning of time.
Would you mind if I made a macro of this and just posted it every time someone wanted to take Obama to task about not doing something about a thing?
-- Kid Charlemagne
Whats' the problem with taking him to task for things he is actually doing? Like, I dunno, opening up offshore drilling.
The administration pledged an "all hands on deck" approach to the spill, but maintained its support of offshore expansion. "We need the increased production," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "The president still continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely, and without any harm to the environment."

But by Friday morning, the White House had shifted its stance a bit...
Drill baby drill! Yeehaw.
posted by delmoi at 3:18 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


First of all, he's the president, and of course it's his job to work deal with crises. That's his job.

Yeah, because its his fault that the machine that was supposed to stop the oil from leaking broke.

I think he's going to get in a wet suit and dive down there and seal it himself.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ah. well, I think most people would take that to mean, "stopping as quickly as possible", as opposed to "stopping immediately."

I don't think so, it quite specifically means (and I think is quite specifically understood as) quitting through a strategy of immediate cessation, as opposed to any sort of gradual anything.
posted by floam at 3:32 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're all stuck with their ears to the AM radio absorbing Rush Limbaugh's (out of thin air) talking point about how this was an act of eco-terrorism designed specifically by evildoers to strike at the heart of the Murkun way.

It's not entirely out of thin air but it is predictably disingenuous on Rush's part. Someone in the White House has taken to calling inter-agency disaster recovery teams "SWAT teams", which has been intentionally misinterpreted by Limbaugh to mean literal police-style SWAT teams, implying some kind of political violence at cause. And the rubes are falling for it just as they've been trained to do.
posted by scalefree at 3:34 PM on May 2, 2010


I also thought "cold turkey" meant an immediate cutoff.

cold turkey

1 : abrupt complete cessation of the use of an addictive drug; also : the symptoms experienced by a person undergoing withdrawal from a drug
posted by tss at 3:52 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since Step 1 seems to be 'find someone to blame', I have a few suggestions. Let's start by pointing out this happened in the Gulf of MEXICO, not the Gulf of USA. We'll use all caps, too. Gulf of MEXICO. That way we can wash our hands of any responsibility and stop pointing fingers at Bush voters and Obama. Then we can point out that there's dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, which are smart and cute and do tricks for fish. Now even Limbaugh listeners will want to do something about it, especially because it's in the Gulf of MEXICO and therefore the dolphins are being killed by foreigners, like in The Cove. Do you guys even know what's going on in Mexico? Wars between drug cartels, that's what. You know who else produces drugs? Afghanistan. Now we can get the War on Drugs and the War on Terror up in the Gulf of MEXICO because it's foreign drug dealers attacking America again. We can now call in the military and show off some of their new top secret oil-getting hardware they developed for the wars for oil in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I guess what I'm saying is, for fuck's sakes there's oil hemorrhaging out of the ocean floor and about to cause some major shit, and people seem to be focusing on whether this is worse for the Republicans or the Democrats?
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:54 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


here's what I'd like to know:

1. Where is the British government in all of this? It is a British company, right? I'm not pointing fingers, just curious.

2. Is this really going to go on for three months? That's what the Times articles sez, but I swear I heard eight days on NPR.

3. Why on earth aren't BP stocks tanking?

4. Is this going to be, like, 2 zillion times worse than Valdez? Does it all depend on the time frame?
posted by angrycat at 3:58 PM on May 2, 2010


i think this accident reflects poorly upon obama's decision to expand offshore drilling only to the extent that this drilling rig met the operational and safety standards the administration would have imposed on those new drilling projects. my vague recollection, when the story about expended drilling was announced, was that improved safety of the process was one of the factors in the decision. obama has put that plan on hold in any case, but we don't know at this point that the rig at the site of the accident would have met the standards obama's administration would have set, and so suggestions that his decision was setting us up for the same danger are overly speculative.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:59 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it'll be interesting to see how the Federal government responds to this. Obama hasn't been in power nearly as long as Bush had by Katrina, so he hasn't had time to reorient the massive bureaucracy much, but I'd like to see what the Feds can do with an administration that's hopefully focused on hiring competence, instead of ideology. It looks like, for the first week or so, they were expecting BP and the Coast Guard to handle it, and it doesn't sound like Jindal is AT ALL happy with the Coast Guard.

Obama being in LA might just be an empty photo-op, as so many of the Bush appearances were, but let's see what happens. The actions of the Federal government over the next week or so will be, I think, a good measure of his administration's managerial skill.

I wonder if we have plans for this, anywhere in the Federal bureaucracy? I wonder if they've thought about what they'd do in this kind of emergency? Surely FEMA must have something.

This will be an important measure for me of Obama's actual caliber. This is what Presidents are for. From my perspective, the clock started ticking when his boots hit the ground in Louisiana.... at this point, he should realize that BP and the Coast Guard are failing dismally. Let's see how good he is at recognizing that failure, and mobilizing the vast resources we should be able to deploy.
posted by Malor at 4:02 PM on May 2, 2010


Ah. well, I think most people would take that to mean, "stopping as quickly as possible", as opposed to "stopping immediately."

Well, as others have pointed out, cold turkey does indeed mean stopping all at once, but since that couldn't possibly happen in the real world, arguing from the standpoint of 'the fastest possible reduction' makes more actual sense. I was commenting from the literal interpretation of his words, while acknowledging that it was an impossible hypothetical, while you were trying to stay somewhere in reality. It's no wonder the wires got a bit crossed. :)

I will, however, observe that even the fastest possible reduction wouldn't be very fast. We are deeply dependent on oil, and replacing it throughout the economy would be a very long and painful process. Hell, just think of most modern autos... with care, you can easily get twenty years out of a Toyota. That's a long cycle time. Many cars being sold this year could easily still be in service in 2030, if they're well-maintained.
posted by Malor at 4:14 PM on May 2, 2010


Where is the British government in all of this? It is a British company, right?

Kinda. It's more complicated than that. The legal responsibility goes with the project operator, but then different areas fall under different laws (maritime, environmental, safety, etc.)

- BP: Project Operator with 65% interest in the well. As project operator, they accepted legal responsibilities. Headquarters in London. Leased the rig from Transocean.
- Anadarko. Had 25% non-operating interest in the well. Headquarters in The Woodlands, TX.
- Transocean. Owner. Headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. Bought the rig from Hyundai Heavy Industries.
- Hyundai Heavy Industries. Builder. Headquarters in Ulsan, S. Korea.
- Halliburton. Oilfield services company doing the casing (the last bit of work they did). Dual headquarters in Houston and Dubai.
- Cameron International. Built and sold the blowout preventer. Headquarters in Houston.

These operations never involve just one company. On any rig, you'll see workers from all sorts of companies, working side-by-side. BP is the responsible party in this -- by that, I mean there is no doubt that they are the ones to pay for the cleanup. This is a matter of (I believe maritime) law.
posted by Houstonian at 4:20 PM on May 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


VENICE, La. - David Kinnaird, BP's liaison to Plaquemines Parish, spent Saturday night ripping up the contracts that hundreds of local commercial fishermen had signed to work for BP cleaning up the slick that could wipe out the local seafood industry.

It's not that BP didn't want to hire them. And there is nothing these fishermen would hesitate to do to save the bayous, canals and rivers where they and their families have made a living for generations - except this: Sign a contract with BP saying they will "hold harmless and indemnify … release, waive and forever discharge the BP Exploration and Production, Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees, and independent contractors … from all claims and damages" arising from helping to clean up the mess that BP has made.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/bp-voids-fishermens-cleanup-contracts-in-la-cites-660372.html?cxtype=ynews_rss&imw=Y
posted by robbyrobs at 4:29 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the damage estimates are extrapolations. Science deals well with interpolations, but we just don't know what the effects will be. That applies to the primary effects (direct damage to organisms), and even more to secondary damages like tax revenues decreasing due to less tourism.

My recollection is that the state governments have been far more pro-drilling than the federal government, and I heard one Louisiana representative acting as an apologist for the industry a couple of days ago.

I had wanted to say "at least it's not nuclear with a half-life of ten thousand years," but then I remembered that the oil is, what, a couple of million years old? So the stuff could be around for awhile, and while evolution doesn't care (a few billion dead organisms here or there is nothing), the human cost is unknowable.

Finally, if I remember right, England is kept warm by the Gulf Stream, so if the spill keeps producing Merry Old could taste the kiss of British Petroleums vintage.
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:34 PM on May 2, 2010


My interest percentages didn't equal 100%, above.
- MOEX 2007: 10% interest in the well. Subsidiary of Mitsui Oil Exploration. Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
posted by Houstonian at 4:36 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


What he said was that offshore drilling was a good idea on the merits. Do you think he was lying about his motivations?

Yes, absolutely. This is someone who has repeatedly lied to us about his intentions on important things (FISA, single payer, Guantanamo, etc). Generally, politicians, even ones we (sort of) like lie rather a lot more than your average person does.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:39 PM on May 2, 2010


David Kinnaird, BP's liaison to Plaquemines Parish, spent Saturday night ripping up the contracts that hundreds of local commercial fishermen had signed to work for BP cleaning up the slick that could wipe out the local seafood industry.

It's not that BP didn't want to hire them.


BP didn't want to hire them and incur liability, that' what BP wanted. /gnashes teeth
posted by angrycat at 4:40 PM on May 2, 2010


Malor, everything you're saying makes great sense except the assumption that the oil dependent civilization is the only one there is on this planet. Contextualize, then pontificate, please.

Um. Can you point out some current civilizations which don't use oil?
posted by Justinian at 4:44 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi wrote: "That's because drunk driving is illegal. But what if the government legalized it? Wouldn't the excess deaths be caused by the government?"

No, the excess deaths would be caused by the idiots who thought that merely because something is legal it is a good idea. Your assertion is like claiming that the police are responsible for deaths caused by drunk driving because the police didn't catch the guy before he killed someone. It makes no sense.

If I come up with a novel fraud that somehow happens to be legal, it is not the government's fault that I was able to legally defraud. That argument might hold water if you could prove that the government specifically intended for me to be able to commit fraud without actually breaking the law or if they knew but failed to act, but otherwise, not so much.

If our regulations on safety devices for offshore drilling were so lax as to meet that standard, the event that sparked this discussion would not be very newsworthy, as it wouldn't be unusual. The unusual nature of it proves that, to at least some extent, the safety protocols already in place aren't intended to enable this sort of behavior.
posted by wierdo at 4:49 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


A quick scan of the New York Times and CNN just now shows no news - no oil seems to have washed ashore (although as I type this it is probably already evening along the Gulf coast). The lack of information is a little mystifying and frustrating.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:51 PM on May 2, 2010


Also, it occurs to me that comparisons with the Valdez incident, other than as comparisons of scope are also ridiculous. In the Valdez spill, there was real recklessness there, as in the pilot of the boat was drunk.

In this case, the blowout preventer failed. If further investigation uncovers a lack of maintenance on this particular unit or a deliberately overlooked flaw in manufacturing, such comparisons would then be appropriate. Until then it's just alarmist hyperbole.
posted by wierdo at 4:54 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


does anyone know what they do with all the oil that is siphoned off the surface? is it separated from the water and used?
posted by Mach5 at 4:57 PM on May 2, 2010


Politically speaking the real problem with Obama having said that offshore drilling is a good idea on its own merits just a few days before the blowout is that it took away some of the best political arguments that can be made now.

No one can say "vote Democrat, we want to keep stuff like this from happening". Because per Obama the Democrats support offshore drilling same as the Republicans.

In his desperate rush to pre-appease the Republicans in hopes of getting "bi-partisanship", Obama has, yet again, left Democrats bereft of their most powerful arguments.

I'll also guarantee you this: there will not be any new legislation as a result of this. The Senate Republicans are in full bore opposition mode and they will filibuster any attempt to enact stricter safety legislation for oil drilling. And thanks to Obama's embrace of offshore drilling we can't even use their obstructionism against them in the elections.

If Obama's "fellate the Republicans in hopes that they'll be nice and give us a vote or two" strategy was actually generating any Republican votes that'd be one thing, but so far it hasn't produced one single Republican vote, so as an Obama voter I have to ask why he's continuing to surrender liberal principles?
posted by sotonohito at 4:59 PM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's not entirely out of thin air but it is predictably disingenuous on Rush's part. Someone in the White House has taken to calling inter-agency disaster recovery teams "SWAT teams", which has been intentionally misinterpreted by Limbaugh to mean literal police-style SWAT teams, implying some kind of political violence at cause. And the rubes are falling for it just as they've been trained to do.

Well, the other day rush was saying this was all an eco-terrorist plot to prevent further offshore drilling. Now he's saying that Obama is crazy paranoid and thinks teabaggers sabotaged the platform, and therefore sending down SWAT teams.

First of all, he's the president, and of course it's his job to work deal with crises. That's his job.
Yeah, because its his fault that the machine that was supposed to stop the oil from leaking broke.

I think he's going to get in a wet suit and dive down there and seal it himself.
So you're saying Katrina wasn't Bush's Katrina because he didn't actually cause the hurricane?
they were expecting BP and the Coast Guard to handle it, and it doesn't sound like Jindal is AT ALL happy with the Coast Guard.
To be fair, Jindal is kind of an idiot.
These operations never involve just one company. On any rig, you'll see workers from all sorts of companies, working side-by-side. BP is the responsible party in this -- by that, I mean there is no doubt that they are the ones to pay for the cleanup. This is a matter of (I believe maritime) law.
There was a law passed after the Valdez making the oil company responsible for the cleanup. Before that, the company had to be sued, and dragged the case out for decades.
Um. Can you point out some current civilizations which don't use oil?
these guys? But the point was not people who don't use oil, but people who are not dependant on it. If oil disappeared from the earth today, the taliban probably wouldn't have as much trouble as us. People living in rural areas around the earth are generally not as dependant on modern technology (they probably can't even afford it). People in the cities, who need their food trucked in, would be screwed (In the event of an IMMEDIATE shutoff. I think we could transition off oil pretty quickly if needed. I mean it's not environmentally friendly but there's the whole liquid coal thing. The Germans had almost no oil at the end of WWII but they were able to use liquefied coal)
posted by delmoi at 4:59 PM on May 2, 2010


"Halliburton also was the cementer on a well that suffered a big blowout last August in the Timor Sea, off Australia. The rig there caught fire and a well leaked tens of thousands of barrels of oil over 10 weeks before it was shut down. The investigation is continuing; Halliburton declined to comment on it."

"The following is not public," reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Emergency Response document dated April 28. "Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought."
posted by dragonsi55 at 5:06 PM on May 2, 2010


Random question: Will any of the oil recovered from this spill be refined and used? Or am I correct in thinking that this is both an environmental disaster, and a monumental exercise in futility?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:07 PM on May 2, 2010


(On lack of preview, what Mach5 said.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:13 PM on May 2, 2010


Sorry about the derail, but if the oil supply got cut off for any length of time, it's people in the third world who would suffer most, because so many nations can only support their populations on imported food. Looks at the riots and trouble that countries like Haiti had when the price of oil rose over $100 a barrel.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:14 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I understand that the oil is light crude, and they expected 2/3 of it to evaporate as it rose to the surface. NPR has a pretty recent update, BBC is worthless. BP hopes to collect the seawater/oil mixture with a ship that will process the remaining recoverable loose oil. They also expected to corral the slick. However, nothing is matching up to projections or expectations. The oil is heavier than expected, the wind and waves are slinging it around as it spreads. The slick is about eight miles off the Louisiana coast, according to the NPR account. Anon source from BP projects the reserve at "tens of millions of barrels".
posted by effluvia at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The following is not public"

You left off the non-tinfoil-hat part that was in the next paragraph: "Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks described were reported to the public late Wednesday night."

So, memo was written on the 28th, and they told the public on the same day.
posted by Houstonian at 5:21 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of my favourite blogs has two interesting postings about this:

Important background information about the oil spill (an example of real journalism)

Valuable background information about oil slicks: excerpts from Science

(not my blog. Please don't email me)
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:25 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stupid of the Administration to call things "SWAT teams." SWAT specifically means Special Weapons and Tactics. It's had this specific meaning for decades and there is a lot of cultural media that has taught essentially the entire public that SWAT are those cool police snipers who will pick off a crazy man to save the life of his family.

Obama is stupid to say he sent a SWAT team. Unless he's actually expecting to find terrorists there, holding something hostage.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:26 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, other than the common colloquial usage meant to connotate more of a fast response team of any sort, you are correct fff.
posted by wierdo at 5:29 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


So how much is the television media covering this story? As much as they should, and with the seriousness it deserves? Or is there some amount of "hush" — corporate media not being particularly keen on making corporations look bad.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:30 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


common colloquial usage

The police sniper is the common colloquial usage. Obama's usage is definitively not.

From yoyo's links:

…the other, originally comprised of 22 whales, has lost all of its females of reproductive age and is down to seven or eight members. Eventually, Rice says, “they’re going to become extinct.” …the deaths were almost certainly caused by the spill when the whales breathed oil fumes or ate contaminated prey.

And someone upthread posts that 2/3 of the spill is expected to evaporate? Those downwind of the spill are in for some nasty health consequences.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on May 2, 2010


Will any of the oil recovered from this spill be refined and used?

You might be interested in an article about that from the Houston Chronicle. Some can be refined, some turned into asphalt and other things.
posted by Houstonian at 5:36 PM on May 2, 2010


SWAT specifically means Special Weapons and Tactics.

i think it's just part of the evolution away from the bush mentality, when 'weapons' referred exclusively to guns and explosives, and not to logic and science; and 'tactics' referred exclusively to assassination and attack, and not to negotiation and compromise.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:45 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


BP told to stop circulating settlement agreements with coastal Alabamians
Alabama Attorney General Troy King said tonight that he has told representatives of BP Plc. that they should stop circulating settlement agreements among coastal Alabamians.

The agreements, King said, essentially require that people give up the right to sue in exchange for payment of up to $5,000.
I think BP knows they're in deep shit.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:46 PM on May 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


some stuff can be found on twitter at #oilspill
posted by angrycat at 5:46 PM on May 2, 2010


BP's Worsening Spill Crisis Undermines CEO's Reforms
posted by Artw at 6:02 PM on May 2, 2010


Why on earth aren't BP stocks tanking?

They aren't doing great. From Rigzone on Friday: "A review of closing New York Stock Exchange prices for those companies from April 19 to April 30 shows Macondo field operator BP off 12%, Macondo field partner Anadarko Petroleum down 15.2%, rig operator Transocean down 18%, blowout preventer supplier Cameron International off 11.9% and well cementer Halliburton down 2.9%. Although Halliburton had gained from the day before the incident through April 28, the company's shares took a steep 5% drop on April 29 with news about the roles of the companies gaining wider attention."
posted by Houstonian at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of the articles about "Obama's Katrina" almost sound like its inevitable that he has one eventually; we're just all waiting to see what it it. But the reason Katrina was a black mark on the Bush administration wasn't because the disaster was huge, although it was, and it wasn't because the hurricane was somehow Bush's fault, which it obviously wasn't. It was because Bush's response was simultaneously uncaring and incompetent. At least part of that is because Bush fundamentally feels that it isn't the role of government to help people, and part of it is probably that he isn't terribly competent himself, and has a hard time recognizing whether someone else is.

Obama, on the other hand, is competent, can tell who else is, and thinks that government should help people. No matter what disasters America faces under his watch, none of them are going to be Obama's Katrina. He won't have one.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:15 PM on May 2, 2010 [23 favorites]


It's pretty hard to top Bush.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:23 PM on May 2, 2010


Obama is stupid to say he sent a SWAT team.

In principle I agree. But I haven't seen Obama himself quoted as saying it, just others speaking on his behalf; plus the phrase seems to have some cachet in government circles. In any event the context makes it clear they're not talking about snipers & Rush had to know it.
posted by scalefree at 6:27 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This Bobby Jindal's volcano.
posted by Haruspex at 6:40 PM on May 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Going cold turkey off of oil isn't just about everyone buying bicycles, a great deal of our current level of productivity in growing food is a direct cause of "cheap" oil. I'm willing to live in a world with no modern conveniences (to save the species) but I'm not willing to be one of the billions of people that will die when the taps are turned off.
posted by Bonzai at 6:40 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is, isn't it?
posted by Haruspex at 6:40 PM on May 2, 2010


According to BP, estimating the flow is very difficult, as there is no metering of the flow underwater. In their permit filed with the MMS, BP quotes a worst case daily discharge of 163,000 barrels.
posted by kuatto at 6:41 PM on May 2, 2010


The anti Barack rage is ridiculous. Go have so tea already and chill the fuck out. This is an impossibly complex problem with no simple resolution. The man isn't sitting around telling the former head of the Arabian horse association how great a job he's doing while a thousand people are trapped inside the Superdome. You act like you expect him to put on a supersuit and seal the drill hole with his laser vision.
posted by humanfont at 6:47 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bill, Barry, Bill.
posted by effluvia at 7:11 PM on May 2, 2010


Additional pearls of wisdom from the former Bush speechwriter who penned "Obama's Katrina", David Frum...

"Offshore drilling using modern techniques is environmentally responsible. It adds jobs and enhances the security of energy supplies. So (to borrow a phrase) — drill, baby, drill."

"The (Obama) administration says it plans to raise over $36 billion in new revenues by eliminating what it calls “subsidies” for domestic oil and gas production. . . These are tax increases on domestic oil and gas exploration and production, plain and simple. If they were to pass, the energy companies would simply move their exploration activities overseas."

"BP yesterday announced the discovery of a “giant” oil field in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. . . The technology involved in reaching this oil ought to boggle the mind. . . I say “ought” to boggle the mind because no one seems much impressed with these amazing technological feats anymore. . . (This) only underlines what this country is likely missing in the areas offshore where drilling has not been allowed for over three decades: the eastern GoM off Florida, the coast of California and ANWR. It also underlines the cluelessness of America’s . . . don’t drill/no nukes/wind-and-solar-will-save-us energy “policy” that benefits no one but the sheiks who run Saudi Aramco."
posted by markkraft at 7:18 PM on May 2, 2010


I'm guessing the people pushing "Obama's Katrina" were kind of quiet about Bush's actual Katrina then?
posted by Artw at 7:26 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, since almost all of these companies are based outside of the US, does anybody think this can be actually sort of economically good for us? All the money that will get spent (by others) on this should have some sort of stimulus effect, right? The same way it can be good Good if you ran over by a well-insured wealthy person?
posted by floam at 7:41 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the left has really painted itself into a corner with its anti-nuclear policies. Those policies have just led to more coal and oil extraction and burning, not more renewables. This accident could have been avoided if there was a larger shift to nuclear in the past.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:03 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


A tale of two royalties.
posted by Brian B. at 8:34 PM on May 2, 2010


dda: mmm, maybe. Probably not. Gas mostly powers cars, and nuclear mostly powers buildings. Even if we'd been smart like the French and thoroughly embraced nuclear power, chances are pretty good that this would have played out in the exact same way.

Now, that Massey coal-mine accident? That might not have happened.
posted by Malor at 8:40 PM on May 2, 2010


Go ahead and try and find a conservative who admits to having supported Bush. They are tough to find, it's like a reverse Woodstock effect.

Damn liberals must have voted him in, twice.


With the right software tweaks on the voting machine, that could be true!
posted by mazola at 8:46 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the left has really painted itself into a corner with its anti-nuclear policies. Those policies have just led to more coal and oil extraction and burning, not more renewables. This accident could have been avoided if there was a larger shift to nuclear in the past.

I can't tell if this comment is serious or not, especially given all the Chernobyl comments. Are we really supposed to believe that nuclear power plant accidents can never happen again? Really?
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 8:48 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the left has really painted itself into a corner with its anti-nuclear policies. Those policies have just led to more coal and oil extraction and burning, not more renewables. This accident could have been avoided if there was a larger shift to nuclear in the past.

Environmentalists opposed Gulf drilling. So by your logic we can now suppose they saved from a nuclear accident too.
posted by Brian B. at 8:49 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't tell if this comment is serious or not, especially given all the Chernobyl comments. Are we really supposed to believe that nuclear power plant accidents can never happen again? Really?

To some people it seems everyone else has selective apathy about energy-procurement-related deaths and disasters. The problem being that Chernobyl deaths are nothing compared to what happens in coal mines, oil drilling, etc. By most measurements nuclear is pretty darn safe compared to what we're okay with now.
posted by floam at 8:52 PM on May 2, 2010


Should have been on top of this on day ONE!

ONE!

NO EXCUSES!

NO 'PROTECT THE ONE' BS!!!!!
posted by HTuttle at 8:56 PM on May 2, 2010


The problem being that Chernobyl deaths are nothing compared to what happens in coal mines, oil drilling, etc.

Genuinely curious, what numbers are you using for each of these categories?
posted by mazola at 8:59 PM on May 2, 2010


I just like the fact that the Bush administration's pathetic "response" to Hurricane Katrina and the months of finger-pointing and political gainsaying afterwards, never mind the years of red tape and contradictory efforts, now stands as the litmus test of incompetence. A litmus test which has little to do with this situation.

Given that Obama's had at least eight "Obama's Katrinas" so far, according to mouthpieces desperate to make Bush look somehow better, the very term is too dilute to matter. As a right-wing spin phrase, the press blew their wad far too early.

"Drill, Baby, Drill", however, isn't looking too good right now.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:01 PM on May 2, 2010


Should have been on top of this on day ONE!

ONE!

NO EXCUSES!

NO 'PROTECT THE ONE' BS!!!!!


Covered it on day one. Don't need to provide excuses, don't need to protect "The One."

He's not Bush. Deal with it.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:03 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


BBC doing some pretty indepth coverage now.
posted by angrycat at 9:09 PM on May 2, 2010


Should have been on top of this on day ONE!

They were. The coast Guard was on top of this immediately and NOAA was activated as well. This was the Coast Guards' primary responsibility until this was declared a spill of national significance (by the USCG Admiral). That's an important declaration, like declaring somewhere a disaster area. It triggers a much higher level of response.

This is normal for any response. Not every spill is a major one. The whole nation doesn't need to be alerted every time a barge operator makes a mistake connecting a hose, or even if a rig collapses. Initially, it was though that this wasn't a major spill, big yes, but one that could be contained, at least with the resources at hand. There are a lot of resources in Mobil. When it became apparent that this wasn't true, roughly last Wednesday, the heightened level of response started. This allows more ships to be been drawn in, more dollar available to make and acquire booms and more dispersant.

Ironically, this last week was to be part of this year's "Spill of National Significance", a training exercise for all of the Federal spill responders.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 9:25 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Genuinely curious, what numbers are you using for each of these categories?

I don't know what floam was getting at exactly, but while in the US coal mining is pretty safe, annual deaths from coal mining in China number into the thousands (6,027 in 2004 alone). Chernobyl, by contrast, killed several dozen people promptly and caused something like 4,000 additional cancer deaths.

So the coal mining industry in China kills more people every year than the Chernobyl disaster has in 24 years. I don't know that oil drilling causes very many direct deaths, though. The environmental impact of oil drilling and coal mining are both very significant, but on the other hand uranium mining is pretty bad for the environment as well.
posted by jedicus at 9:26 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Krugman this morning: "...as visible pollution has diminished, so has public concern over environmental issues. According to a recent Gallup survey, 'Americans are now less worried about a series of environmental problems than at any time in the past 20 years.'"

Nope, definitely not enviro-terrorists. Just regular people who think hauling 150 pounds of ass in a 6,000 lb., 12 mpg battle cruiser is a good idea.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:46 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the left has really painted itself into a corner with its anti-nuclear policies.

Despite the cheerleading that nuclear power gets on Metafilter, as long as energy companies keep putting government corruption and profitability over safety, nuclear is just a few moments away from rendering another swath of land uninhabitable for thousands of years, and killing and sickening millions in the process. Nuclear is no sane answer to what is happening here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 PM on May 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't tell if this comment is serious or not, especially given all the Chernobyl comments. Are we really supposed to believe that nuclear power plant accidents can never happen again? Really?

Chernobyl was a product of Soviet mismanagement and disgregard for safety. Compare the French Nuclear industry. Or any western democracy's implementation. The facts are that nuclear is historically safe especially when you weigh it against the real cost of oil and coal - lung cancer, accidents, etc.

Of course, "peak uranium" is an issue here, but probably not for quite a while.

Environmentalists opposed Gulf drilling. So by your logic we can now suppose they saved from a nuclear accident too.

I guess if you oppose everything you'll always be right when an accident happens., but then again "everything sucks" isn't a feasible energy policy.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:59 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


HP LaserJet P10006 wrote: "Are we really supposed to believe that nuclear power plant accidents can never happen again? Really?"

Are we really supposed to believe that technology is stuck in the 1960s? That Chernobyl was the best example of safety at nuclear power plants?

I beat on this drum a lot, but there are designs out there that literally cannot melt down. They can't catch fire. (the fuel can't, anyway) It's simply not physically possible.
posted by wierdo at 10:44 PM on May 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


you'll always be right when an accident happens., but then again "everything sucks" isn't a feasible energy policy

No, but renewable (wind, solar, etc.) energy poses the least potential danger, fwiw. This need not be either/or for now, in any case.

Are we really supposed to believe that technology is stuck in the 1960s? That Chernobyl was the best example of safety at nuclear power plants?

Are we really supposed to believe I said either of these things? Why are you putting words into my keyboard? I brought up Chernobyl b/c it's mentioned in the fucking FPP and in the thread.

Nuclear power may well be safer now than in the past, but so are oil rigs, and look what just happened. Wherever there are human-built entities, accidents are bound to happen. Which was my only point. Arguing that another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island cannot happen is not unlike arguing another Exxon Valdez cannot happen: and the latter argument was being made only a few weeks ago.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:34 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


BP told to stop circulating settlement agreements with coastal Alabamians
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:35 PM on May 2, 2010


Anyone complaining about nuclear power being dangerous hasn't really looked at the numbers.

Total number of deaths from civilian nuclear power generation in the West, since the dawn of the Atomic Age: zero. Zilch. Nada. Not one person has died from nuclear power generation except from Soviet reactors.

Total number of deaths from radiation poisoning ever, from any civilian source at all: about 200. And that's including radiotherapy accidents, Chernobyl, and that Russian nuclear sub that exploded a number of years ago. (Obviously, that's excluding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since those were deliberate.)

By way of comparison, we lose, on average, 36 people every day in the United States to traffic accidents. So the entire death toll of scary radiation, including the deaths from the idiot Soviets and medical mishaps, amounts to about 5.5 days' worth of traffic fatalities.

I don't have the old figures I once did handy anymore, but IIRC, one coal plant, running for one year, releases more radioactivity into the air than the all of the reactors in the West have over their entire lifespans, including the (minor) release from Three Mile Island. I believe each coal plant releases about five tons of uranium into the air each year. If you include the Chernobyl disaster, the complete track record for world nuclear power is about equivalent to one year of just West Virginia's radiation pollution. (the Chernobyl stuff was much more intense, which is why you can still live in WV. But the releases from WV will remain radioactive for millions of years, where large chunks of Chernobyl will be human-habitable again within fifty or sixty years, and essentially all of it within a couple of hundred.)

Coal is dirty and dangerous stuff. We really shouldn't be using it. Even now, we still lose about 40 people a year to mining accidents... each year, even with modern safety standards, coal in just the United States kills more people than nuclear plants ever have, worldwide. And coal mines in China kill 6,000 workers a year, much like ours once did, a hundred years ago.

By pretty much any measure, even if you stack all the assumptions against nuclear power, its track record is extraordinarily good. It appears to be at least two, and maybe three orders of magnitude better than coal. It's probably five or six orders safer than oil, when you consider all the wars that stuff causes.

Further, we understand radiation extremely well, and can measure and clean it up with real precision. It's not a hidden problem, it's right in front of us, and that's the kind of thing we're good at solving. Coal and oil do indirect damage by dumping CO2 into the air, and that's the sort of issue that we demonstrably handle poorly. And humans are uniquely susceptible to radiation. All plant and animal species suffer when their climates change, but they're far more resilient than we are in radiated environments. We apparently evolved when there was far less of the stuff around, so we're very fragile. Most other species will reactivate genes that fix radiation damage within a generation or two, and will happily set up shop in environments that humans can't live in anymore.

Want to REALLY protect an ecosystem? Set off a nuclear bomb there. It chases away the humans for an extended period, and when the ecosystem recovers from the damage, it'll thrive. The presence of humans is far more dangerous to the environment than radiation.

Bikini Atoll is paradise on Earth.... just don't eat the bananas.
posted by Malor at 11:35 PM on May 2, 2010 [38 favorites]


Anyone complaining about nuclear power being dangerous hasn't really looked at the numbers.

Anyone claiming it poses no danger is being disingenuous, and also derailing the thread.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:38 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Houstonian-

Did you mean to link to the post itself, or to a separate Houston Chronicle article? (Tried finding it for myself, but failed miserably.)

Also, thanks for the Drilling Ahead links upthread. It's pretty amazing to read the takes of the engineers and specialists who work with machinery that's built on this scale.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:53 PM on May 2, 2010


If humans can build an indestructible widget, it seems that we are capable of making it go pear-shaped too. I think the same holds true with our ability to fix or create problems. This event is so devastating, on so many levels, I can't even focus my mind on it for any length of time yet. But I truly want and need to see some examples of unrestrained good coming from this...even if it's just one human standing on the edge of a beach with a hair mat soaking up oil blobs.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:25 AM on May 3, 2010


Chernobyl was actually pretty good for the ecosystem. It's pretty much s giant nature reserve now. Mostly due to a lack of people but it certainly didn't hurt the environment much.

Obama is a smart guy and all but its been apparent from the beginning that his administration lacked knowledge of a lot of scientific issues. The reasons for this particular spill are less important than the fact that such spills are inevitable given enough oil extraction activity. Weighing the likelihood of such an event against the probable harm requires am understanding of statistics and systems that this administration has not shown any indication of. His entire environmental platform was "green jobs" and was economically focused. The fact that he's a reasonable guy with good advisors does not mean he understands complex issues he has no background in. In fact, in my experience those are the people most likely to believe that they van prevent the inevitable by trying really hard.

As one of the "enviros" mentioned so often in this thread I hope a lot of people learn from this incident. I hope they learn that we cannot hope to predict the effects of many of our actions but that those effects ate very real. A critical analysis of predicted impacts versus measured under various obvious in retrospect scenarios is called for. The results should be the basis for decision making of this magnitude.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say "the river never gets this high" about a waterbody they've only been observing for 8 years I'd have a lot of dollars. Same with any "inconceivable" scenario. We need to start conceiving of them a whole lot better.
posted by fshgrl at 12:29 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor, I agree with your thesis, that coal is terrible and we'd probably be better with almost anything else, and nuclear is not so bad. But I think you're stretching it with "no deaths in The West"

Japan (two deaths) may not be "the West," Geographically, but if you're talking about geography instead of just discounting soviet safety practices (which seems more reasonable and less arbitrary), remember that Ukraine is in Europe.

So: way way better than coal? Sure. Hardly killed anyone? Sure. No deaths? It's a weak argument (at best) now, and if we actually make heavy use of nuclear power, eventually *someone* here will die and then it will be "hey! you said it was perfectly safe!"
posted by aubilenon at 12:42 AM on May 3, 2010


Bush lifts offshore drilling ban
The Governor of oil-rich Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, welcomed Bush's announcement.
"Louisiana produces 30 percent to 40 percent of the nation's oil and gas off our coast. It is certainly good for our economy ... It is also good for the nation," he told Fox News.

posted by zota at 1:21 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only good thing that could emerge as the outcome of this "greatest ecological disaster ever" would be if it came as a slap in the face of the status quo and spurred a serious shift towards focusing on developing sustainable renewable energy sources that replace the oil based addiction.

That was the first Industrial Revolution. So 1899...
posted by infini at 2:46 AM on May 3, 2010


evidenceofabsence, oops! From the Houston Chronicle, "What to do with oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico."
posted by Houstonian at 2:49 AM on May 3, 2010


fourcheesemac wrote: "I suspect we'll see massive migration from coastal communities around the Gulf in the coming year"

wierdo wrote: Seriously? Alarmist much?


Not often, no. But I know the Gulf Coast. This spill will wipe out its three main economic bases for some time, fishing arguably for more than a year (maybe well more), tourism for at least 6 vital summer and fall months, and oil services as such (although I am sure there will be work on the cleanup). If you know how poor those communities are, how close to the bone they live, and how they were just getting off their knees from Katrina and Ike, you'd be less sanguine. A lot of people are going to move away and never come back. Mark my words.

wierdo wrote: If people would apply half the outrage they have here to constructive solutions, such as getting the fuck out of the way of those who want to build fail-safe nuclear plants, we'd have a lot better luck in preventing a repeat of this sort of accident.

Are those the same people that promised fail-safe oil drilling platforms?
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:01 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Weighing the likelihood of such an event against the probable harm requires am understanding of statistics and systems that this administration has not shown any indication of.

You're joking, right? Politics isn't based on science or statistics, although good policy should be. I can assure you there are people in the administration who understand statistics clearly.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:05 AM on May 3, 2010


Funny how you can just tell which MeFites make their living connected to the energy industries.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:06 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whats' the problem with taking him to task for things he is actually doing? Like, I dunno, opening up offshore drilling.

Delmoi, you seem to keep missing the fact that Obama has suspended that plan.

You want to talk to the person who opened up the drilling in the area that is NOW being affected, then -- as stated above -- go talk to George W. Bush.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:09 AM on May 3, 2010


heh, that makes this oil spill bush's katrina.... Wait a minute
posted by infini at 4:18 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Further, we understand radiation extremely well, and can measure and clean it up with real precision.

Statements like these show disregard for the reality of what's involved in cleaning things up. We can take care of some contamination, up to a point, but not without giving contractors billions of dollars.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:20 AM on May 3, 2010


Funny how you can just tell which MeFites make their living connected to the energy industries.

That's so true, but you can't fault people for not understanding an industry in which they don't work, and think about for over 2000 hours/year for years on end. After all, you could work multiple lifetimes in this industry and still not know all of it, end-to-end.

Er, wait... were you saying that like it's a bad thing?
posted by Houstonian at 4:34 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


aubilenon: Huh, I guess wherever I read that missed those two guys, and I didn't catch it when I went over the list of radiation deaths to get a count.

So, I retract the claim of zero deaths: there have been two. (Japan is certainly included in the West; their safety standards are as good as anyone else's, probably better.) I think the rest of the argument stands, however. I think you'd have a hard time finding an industry, anywhere in the economy, that had killed fewer people.

Hell, we've seen a couple people killed from paintball, which is about as non-lethal a sport as exists.

Anyone claiming it poses no danger is being disingenuous,

There is no such thing as zero danger. It does not exist. Even if we all lived in padded rooms, wearing straitjackets, fed through straws, a comet could still hit the planet and wipe us out. If that's your criterion, simply sitting there reading this post, if you're not in an underground bunker, is a form of hypocrisy.

If you are, in fact, typing from an underground bunker, I retract that claim too. :)

I'm not saying there's no risk. I am saying that, judging from historical experience, the risk appears to be at least a hundred times lower than coal, maybe a thousand. With new reactors, the possible failure modes are very limited; about all we're likely to lose is a building or two, and probably not permanently. And virtually all the damage done is right there where we can see it, quantify it, and remediate it, rather than being diffuse and hard to define. It fits better, in other words, with how we think about problems. Further, humans bear most of the risk of using nuclear power, which is precisely how it should be, since we reap all the benefits.

I suspect that any environmentalist that's not a flag-waving cheerleader for nuclear power either doesn't believe in modern civilization (and, therefore, thinks a few billion people should die involuntarily), or likely hasn't thought his or her way completely through the problem. It's WAY better than what we're doing now. It would be a giant step forward. It's not renewable energy yet, but that old saw about the perfect being the enemy of the good comes to mind. We can't maintain civilization on any renewable source yet... all we can do is supplement non-renewable power generation. And nuclear appears to be the safest and cleanest non-renewable source we have, by an enormous margin. Waste is the biggest problem there, but that's something that the newer plants handle much better than the older ones.

What we have on one side of the balance sheet is two deaths, and a relatively small amount of waste, comparatively speaking. That's still going to be a problem, and we need to really think our way through it.

On the other side of the balance sheet is anywhere from thousands to millions of deaths, depending on how you count, vast environmental destruction, and worldwide climate change. This threatens major economic disruptions and, likely, further resource wars and millions more deaths.

I'll tell ya, given the choice between the fearmongering in Silent Spring and what we're actually getting, I think we'd have been better off with Silent Spring.
posted by Malor at 4:44 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


i think it's just part of the evolution away from the bush mentality, when 'weapons' referred exclusively to guns and explosives, and not to logic and science; and 'tactics' referred exclusively to assassination and attack, and not to negotiation and compromise.-- fallacyof the beard
That doesn't really make sense, IMO. It sounds like some stupid DC jargon that crops up every once in a while. I've never heard the term used that way and while I get the metaphor, it's somewhat confusing. What's wrong with "rapid response" team? Also SWAT origionally stood for Special Weapons Assault Team, but Daryl Gates, who came up with the idea was forced to change it, because it sounded too militaristic.
Going cold turkey off of oil isn't just about everyone buying bicycles, a great deal of our current level of productivity in growing food is a direct cause of "cheap" oil. I'm willing to live in a world with no modern conveniences (to save the species) but I'm not willing to be one of the billions of people that will die when the taps are turned off.
Well, there are two separate issues here. One is the absurd hypothetical situation where we completely stop using oil for anything in a very rapid timeframe. Obviously if it were immidate, there would be huge problems. If we stopped importing oil there would still be plenty left for agriculture, etc. And I think we could ramp up production of liquefied coal pretty quickly, which would be horrible for the environment but would still work for most purposes. This is what the Germans had to do in WWII.

One of the things I discovered reading about this is the fact that coal state senators are some of the biggest opponents of Offshore drilling. coal producers want us off oil just as much as much as environmentalists. They want coal to be our number one energy source. Obviously environmentalists disagree (coal is even worse then oil, in terms of normal pollution. But you can't really have a coal spill)

But what most people are advocating is that we stop using coal, oil and other CO2 producing energy sources. You can switch to bio fuels, which will be expensive but will still work. For very high energy needs, like cracking nitrogen in the air to make fertilizer you can use nuclear energy, including thorium reactors. This would work well for centralized industry. (I think we also need to work on fusion reactors)

And then of course wind and solar to power homes and business, along side nuclear.
So, since almost all of these companies are based outside of the US, does anybody think this can be actually sort of economically good for us? All the money that will get spent (by others) on this should have some sort of stimulus effect, right? The same way it can be good Good if you ran over by a well-insured wealthy person?
These are publically traded companies that anyone, anywhere can buy into. You can go out and buy BP stock today if you want, although shorting might make more sense. But the benefit politicians talk about usually means jobs, and cheaper oil overall (the cheap oil thing is a red hearing, for the most part, though). I think the oil drilling companies do need to pay for the right to drill in those regions, though.
I don't know what floam was getting at exactly, but while in the US coal mining is pretty safe, annual deaths from coal mining in China number into the thousands (6,027 in 2004 alone). Chernobyl, by contrast, killed several dozen people promptly and caused something like 4,000 additional cancer deaths.
It's just like 9/11 vs. automobile accidents. A big event seems a lot more scary then lots of little, anonymous accidents. And people are just radiation phobic. I actually do think that nuclear reactors can be made a lot safer then oil wells, especially when the shutoff mechanism is as simple as they sometimes are. For example, you'll have the rods held up by magnets, so if the power is lost, they'll fall. With a pebble bed reactor there's no way to ever have a meltdown unless the laws of thermodynamics change.

And keep in mind, the huge problems associated with coal and oil. It isn't like we are switching from something "safe" to something "dangerous" here. The argument is that nuclear energy is safer then coal and oil. And that it's very, very safe if done properly.
Delmoi, you seem to keep missing the fact that Obama has suspended that plan.
He suspended the plan after this leak. But if this thing hadn't blown off now then his plan would have put the entire eastern seaboard at risk. I don't know why you think I'm "missing" that he suspended the plan.

I'm certainly not blaming Obama for causing this leak, what I was saying that opening up the east coast for oil exploration would have put NY, new jersey, Virginia and so on under the same risks. Here we see an example of just how wrong his decision actually had been. Again, if this hadn't happened now, it could have happened 10, 15 years down the line on the east coast. (But the overall chance of it happening would have gone up, as more wells came online)

Obviously this is the fault of Bush and Jindal (and probably the previous governor of LA, who was a democrat), among many others.
posted by delmoi at 4:45 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Er, wait... were you saying that like it's a bad thing?

See here.

The inference is that fourcheesemac is our social superior.
posted by bukvich at 5:13 AM on May 3, 2010


No, the inference is that those who work in this industry have a different set of interests from those who don't. And I think you mean implication.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:17 AM on May 3, 2010


Ah, yes, because people who push around risk and depreciation numbers for oil companies are the coal miners and slaves of the modern era. Poor babies.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:19 AM on May 3, 2010


you can't really have a coal spill

Um...what?
posted by mediareport at 5:29 AM on May 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are thousands upon thousands of people who work full-time in the energy industry trying to keep people and the environment safe, and millions upon millions of dollars spent doing the same. Believe it or not, we are not all:
- Anti-environmentalists
- Republicans/Teabaggers
- Wealthy fatcats who devise ways to destroy the world so we can make money
- Americans
- Anti-regulation

Everyone has a right to their opinions, but when you make sweeping generalizations you are kinda asking that those who participate in the discussion only be people who do not think about these issues in depth every day. How does that make anything better?
posted by Houstonian at 5:39 AM on May 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


Malor: "Obama being in LA might just be an empty photo-op, as so many of the Bush appearances were, but let's see what happens."

I was also encourged to wait and see what happens after Obama caved on telecom immunity, stood by while the public option was dealt away, put a torture squad commander in charge of Afghanistan, etc.

At this point, anyone willing to acknowledge it knows very well "what happens".
posted by Joe Beese at 5:44 AM on May 3, 2010


Malor: So, I retract the claim of zero deaths: there have been two. (Japan is certainly included in the West; their safety standards are as good as anyone else's, probably better.)

Make that at least four: In 1975, two workers in a German nuclear power plant died in an accident involving radioactive steam.

The procedures used for the establishment of a long term nuclear waste site here in Germany have not been particularly confidence inspiring, to say the least. Decisions about the location were made for political, not geological, reasons, the scientific judgement was ignored or manipulated, etc. The model site (Asse II), established in 1967, was used to experiment with storage in an abandoned salt mine and supposed to demonstrate the safety of a much larger storage site. It now turns out to be a huge failure, with water seeping in and the possibility of collapse. Currently, the plan is to recover all the barrels (potentially damaged) with the stored waste - at a cost of 3-4 billion euros, payed by the tax payers...
posted by ltl at 6:43 AM on May 3, 2010


Um...what?

Hmm, you're right. Hadn't thought of that. Interestingly, the reason those ash pools are so deadly is because the toxins have been taken out of the exhaust. They used to be air pollution, now they end up as toxic waste.
posted by delmoi at 6:52 AM on May 3, 2010


BP down 6% so far today, for a total of 18% over the past week. And the stock market as a whole is up. Also, I found this link on the finance page:

BP's liability may be limited to 75 million, but that's because of a 1 billion dollar fund paid into by all offshore oil companies. Apparently 75 million is what BP spends on lobbyists each year.
posted by delmoi at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2010


Uranium mining left a legacy of death.
posted by Brian B. at 7:13 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A good map of the spread of the oil and potential environmental impact here. By good I mean terrifying.
posted by Go Banana at 7:22 AM on May 3, 2010


CEO says company isn’t responsible for accident, but is ‘responsible for the oil and for dealing with it’.

I will assume this is a pre-emptive attempt at limiting cost to cleanup while avoiding paying out compensation. Good luck with that!
posted by mazola at 7:40 AM on May 3, 2010


CEO says company isn’t responsible for accident, but is ‘responsible for the oil and for dealing with it’.

I will assume this is a pre-emptive attempt at limiting cost to cleanup while avoiding paying out compensation. Good luck with that!


Rule #1: Express heartfelt [cough] regret; shift blame.

Speaking of which, do you folks who work in the industry know whether the big petro companies like BP use in-house PR staffs for routine issues and outsource their crisis work to big-ass firms, or what?

Every time one of her clients gets in deep shit and she bills lots of hours at crisis rates, my self-employed PR friend gets a new kitchen or refinishes her floors or something, so the flacks on a job like this must be sitting on giant fucking heaps of oily dollars.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:05 AM on May 3, 2010


This is someone who has repeatedly lied to us about his intentions on important things (FISA, single payer, Guantanamo, etc)

This whole seemingly impossible to kill "Obama lies" derail may be one of the most insulting things a gulf-state resident like myself is having to put up with, but since it's not going to die, at least get the facts straight: no one has fucking lied about their intentions on Guantanamo, just because the entire congress and even one city mayor have made their intentions plain. But some of you are always just chomping at the bit all the goddamn time to blame every problem by any even remotely plausible stretch on President Obama and nothing I say's going to change that, so go ahead. I'm just too tired of this "debate," so whatever. Hold your ground. Don't. Who the fuck cares anymore? The situation doesn't change, no matter who wins that "debate" so it's a waste of breath either way from where I sit.

This is a terrible event. Half my family depends on the health of the gulf for their livelihoods (as fishermen and oystermen). Times have been getting tougher and tougher for those in the seafood industry in Florida for many years now, and this may well make an already bad situation that much worse for many Floridians as well as Louisianans. Meanwhile, I guess it's time to get in touch with my family in the Apalachicola and East Point area. There's a lot of worry that the spill may even impact the Apalachicola Bay, where my uncle's family still relies almost exclusively on the foundering seafood industry for its survival. With my uncle's death still fresh in their memories, I can't imagine this news is sitting well with any of them right now.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:51 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


CEO says company isn’t responsible for accident, but is ‘responsible for the oil and for dealing with it’.

Well it does seem as though there were several contractors doing work that may have caused the accident or at least made it worse, namely the failure of the BOP, so I buy that a little bit.
posted by Big_B at 8:57 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


BP down 6% so far today, for a total of 18% over the past week. And the stock market as a whole is up.

Yeah, Exxon Valdez only caused their stock to drop by 3.8%. The drop in BP is well over $20B in market cap (was $12B Friday), which is many times the cost of the spill in any scenario, but news travels much faster these days, as does investor money.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:02 AM on May 3, 2010


I'm a pro-nuke environmentalist, but I'd be a heck of a lot more pro-nuke if we weren't talking about for-profit corporations getting their hands on radioactives. Those people see safety as just another corner to cut for higher quarterly profits.

If we were talking about government owned, or non-profits tightly regulated, or something of that sort I'd be a lot more pro-nuke. But as long as people stand to make higher profits by cutting safety I think there's a problem with atomic power. Inspections, regulations, etc only take you so far. When people can make more money by finding ways around inspections and regulations they will. Only by taking the profit motive out of atomic energy will it be truly safe.
posted by sotonohito at 9:40 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


As I said, I know I'm wasting my breath, but I'd like to point out again that it doesn't help anybody to oversimplify the issues surrounding offshore drilling around the gulf states.

In the case of Florida, the state government controls the coastal waters extending out to a certain distance from land (roughly 10 miles into the Gulf).

Before President Obama's announcement about lifting the Federal ban on deep sea drilling in the Gulf, the Florida legislature and executive leadership were seen as on the verge of lifting the state ban on near off-coast drilling in protected state waters, in the face of overwhelming popular political pressure (exacerbated by the right wing cheer-leading squad, but not entirely without real grassroots support) to expand off-shore drilling along the near coast of Florida to provide a new source of state tax revenues and to mitigate the nation's foreign energy source dependency problems.

The state's lifting of the ban--which would have put oil rigs just off the coast of Florida, within 10 miles of shore, rather than much farther out in the gulf waters that fall under federal control--was seen by nearly all observers as inevitable, and popular support has turned sharply in support of near-coastal drilling over the last couple of years, until in the period of time immediately preceding this catastrophe, a majority of Floridians supported opening up offshore waters to oil drilling.

So whether or not President Obama had lifted the federal ban, it's almost certain there would have been drilling in the near term in the Gulf off the coast of Florida. Many of the opponents of offshore drilling in Florida actually saw in the President's announcement of drilling in Federal waters a last hope of maintaining the state-level ban on near coastal drilling, which would have created the potential for much more damaging environmental consequences to coastal residents. Or, as Florida congressman Bill Nelson put it:

"It [the loosening of the Federal prohibitions on deep sea drilling] ought to derail the scheme in the Florida Legislature to drill 3 miles offshore," Nelson said.

It doesn't do us any favors to keep churning out oversimplified versions of complicated issues and then to make sweeping, knee-jerk judgments based on those oversimplifications.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:48 AM on May 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also:

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson calling for investigation into possibility of industry regulatory capture as contributing factor to the disaster.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This whole seemingly impossible to kill "Obama lies" derail may be one of the most insulting things a gulf-state resident like myself is having to put up with -- saulgoodman
Dude, the person who said that was defending Obama. I had said:
What he said was that offshore drilling was a good idea on the merits. Do you think he was lying about his motivations?
And lupus_yonderboy followed up with
Yes, absolutely. This is someone who has repeatedly lied to us about his intentions on important things (FISA, single payer, Guantanamo, etc). Generally, politicians, even ones we (sort of) like lie rather a lot more than your average person does.
Are you saying that you think Obama believed offshore drilling was a good idea on the merits, and not just trying to win republican votes? And if so, doesn't that make him a reckless idiot, who's mistakes could have had similarly catastrophic effects up and down the east coast?

Or do you think he was lying when he said this? Because he has to have been lying at some point. You can't say two contrary things without lying at least once. It's got to be one or the other.

I don't really think he thought the drilling was a good idea, rather he wanted to satisfy some republican senators, and avoid the inevitable "Gas is expensive because no offshore drillin'!" arguments that republicans were going to be making this summer (leading up to the election)
posted by delmoi at 10:10 AM on May 3, 2010


Are you saying that you think Obama believed offshore drilling was a good idea on the merits, and not just trying to win republican votes? And if so, doesn't that make him a reckless idiot, who's mistakes could have had similarly catastrophic effects up and down the east coast?

In the same way that it makes more than 60% of Floridians and the population in general "reckless idiots," maybe.

Generally speaking, assumptions--even bad ones--that are shared by more than 50% of the population shouldn't be dismissed as "unreasonable," "idiotic," etc., unless there's a compelling argument (other than hindsight) for calling them idiotic. The fact that something approaching 70% of the population, by recent counts before this event, supported offshore drilling prior to this incident similarly suggests that the idea that drilling might be a good idea isn't exactly some crazy fringe belief that can be judged self-evidently absurd. Sorry, but it's incredibly dumb to reduce these issues this way.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on May 3, 2010


The build up of plastic based particulates in the ocean from the millions of plastic garbage bags we use every day is much more catastrophic than this oil spill. Not to mention the acidification of the ocean from all the CO2, or the rise in mercury levels from the fish from all the coal plants. Not to mention the impact to the environment of the Gulf War.
posted by humanfont at 10:34 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude, the person who said that was defending Obama. I had said:

No, you're mistaken. My comment was in response to Lupus' comment only.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:36 AM on May 3, 2010


FelliniBlank-

I don't work in the industry, but I'm guessing they hire an outside company. Burston-Marsteller is a PR firm known for doing crisis cleanup over such incidents. And worse.

Then again, the Unabomber targeted (and killed) one of Burson-Marsteller's executives over suspicions that they handled the PR for the Valdez spill. FWIW, they've since denied any involvement.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:47 AM on May 3, 2010


In the same way that it makes more than 60% of Floridians and the population in general "reckless idiots," maybe.
Well look, there has been a massive amount of marketing going on to support offshore drilling. And people are persuadable. But I would be surprised if many of those people actually studied the issue, or cared about it very much. There is a difference between being passionate about an issue, and simply answering a question when someone calls you up to poll you.

When Gore had done his movie on global warming, and followed it up with the re-power America stuff, public attitudes about global warming shifted a great deal in support.

When the denialists got those hacked emails, took them out of context and generally started to fight back, it lost support.

But the underlying merits never changed. Global warming was just as real before gore started promoting it, and it was just as real after "Climate-gate" -- and the same is true for offshore drilling.

When I say "Passionate about an issue" I mean caring enough for it to affect who you vote for, and whether or not you vote. I mean, I think we should move away from manned space flight, but I wouldn't vote for a republican if the democrat was for it.

--

But here's the thing. Saying you agree with X in a phone poll does not make you a reckless idiot even if X is a bad idea. Because you're not the one doing it. We all know that people don't pay that much attention to the issues. I don't consider it "reckless" to have an ill-informed opinion about something you have no control over or perhaps don't really care about either way.

But there is a huge difference between that and being the president or a lawmaker. Those people are supposed to study the issues. They have staffs that are supposed to study the issues, entire billion dollar departments exist to do research. There's no excuse for being ill informed on an issue before acting.

Are you seriously arguing that it's OK for the president of the United States, when making a major decision, to be as well informed as a housewife in Tallahassee?
Generally speaking, assumptions--even bad ones--that are shared by more than 50% of the population shouldn't be dismissed as "unreasonable," "idiotic," etc., unless there's a compelling argument (other than hindsight)
Hindsight? If people say "X is dangerous", and people do X, and it causes a ton of damage, that doesn't make the arguments originally made only valid "in Hindsight"

Most people thought the Iraq war was a good idea before it happened. Lots of people thought the housing bubble wouldn't burst and bought expensive housing. But the fact that a lot of people believed them has nothing to do with the fact that they were, in fact, bad ideas, and the people advocating against them were correct.
The fact that something approaching 70% of the population, by recent counts before this event, supported offshore drilling prior to this incident similarly suggests that the idea that drilling might be a good idea isn't exactly some crazy fringe belief that can be judged self-evidently absurd.
It doesn't make it "fringe" but it doesn't make it right either. The president's job isn't to follow the public off the cliff.
posted by delmoi at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2010


I don't know a thing about oil drilling. I don't know about responses or the practicality involved therein, so I am probably worlds away from reality with this thought.

What I'm thinking is: any time there's any sort of leak at an oil rig, treat it like it is the worst-case scenario. Go nuts with containment. Deploy the booms and the chemical treatments and everything else, because then you're not getting the sort of slow-moving chemical disaster we're all waiting for. A pound of prevention would be worth several thousand tons of oil-choked seagrass and dead animals.
posted by cmyk at 11:21 AM on May 3, 2010


Most people thought the Iraq war was a good idea before it happened\

Another major oversimplification. Public opinion was extremely variable, and there were a lot of polls at the time that showed widely different levels of approval at various points in time. I can remember 2/3rds of voters wanting to hold out for UN approval until only a couple of months before the invasion began.

It doesn't make it "fringe" but it doesn't make it right either. The president's job isn't to follow the public off the cliff.

We have and continue to have offshore drilling operations in place all over the world. The comparison is just insanely weak. For my part, I oppose offshore drilling too--but not because I ever thought enormous environmental catastrophes like this were inevitable, but because expanded drilling helps perpetuate our dependence on a dwindling and environmentally harmful resource.

Before this, very few people would have argued it was reasonable to view approving some new restricted offshore drilling alone as "follow[ing] the public off a cliff." You must be able to see that it's only with the benefit of hindsight that such a statement could read like anything other than ideologically-biased hyperbole. And I say this as someone who's stomach tied itself in knots when I first heard the announcement of expansion of offshore drilling. Not because it took me by surprise (I read candidate Obama's campaign energy platform, and it explicitly included some expansion of offshore drilling), or because it made me feel betrayed, but because I personally still thought and continue to think it was a mistake. But if I'm being honest with myself, I can't say it's an unreasonable or stupid mistake. Plenty of reasonable, smart people (that I disagree with) have been arguing that some expansion of oil drilling is a necessary component of an overall strategy for reaching energy independence. They weren't just arguing that to "score points" with Republicans either.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:37 AM on May 3, 2010


Selfishly, one good thing that might come from this event is that maybe now, finally, the Florida legislature's plans to allow near coast drilling truly are dead. Crist seems to think so, but then, he's not exactly in touch with the consensus Republican view these days, and the Republican party still effectively runs the show here. For all I know, they may be drafting legislation to nuke the gulf right now (never mind having no such authority or even the means at their disposal), such is the Florida's legislature's tenuous hold on reality.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:45 AM on May 3, 2010


The president's job isn't to follow the public off the cliff.

I think it's to shove us off, snickering. Of course, the prior administration may have colored my viewpoint somewhat. :)
posted by Malor at 12:10 PM on May 3, 2010


Fox And Friends Pushes ‘Conspiracy Theory’ That Massive Oil Spill Was ‘Deliberate’ ‘Sabotage’
posted by homunculus at 2:33 PM on May 3, 2010


Oil may reach Florida Keys in 24 hours
posted by angrycat at 3:03 PM on May 3, 2010


Another major oversimplification. Public opinion was extremely variable
Right. Public opinion is extremely variable.

Going back to the offshore drilling question, how much do you think public opinion changed because Obama supported it. How many moderate democrats heard Obama supported it and figured "Oh, well it's probably not that big of a deal, then". People actually do listen to that guy, and I'm sure Obama's support had a lot to do with people's opinion.
Before this, very few people would have argued it was reasonable to view approving some new restricted offshore drilling alone as "follow[ing] the public off a cliff."
Well, for me it's hindsight, sure. But I'm not an oil drilling expert. I expected the housing bubble to burst, but I didn't expect the huge bank runs/bailouts/etc. I had no idea that was even a possibility. I thought it was more a question of continual small leaks or something.

But there certainly were people who were warning about this kind of thing, And prior, oil drilling had been pretty unpopular in coastal states, including enough Florida democrats for the President to oppose it while he was there (Remember, what FL republicans think doesn't really factor into a political equation, just whether or not enough moderates will switch their votes, or democrats will stay home)
Selfishly, one good thing that might come from this event is that maybe now, finally, the Florida legislature's plans to allow near coast drilling truly are dead
Definetly. And on top of that the incentives for states to do so will probably be stripped from the energy bill that they're working on in congress. Politically, this will probably kill offshore drilling for a while.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on May 3, 2010


Fox And Friends Pushes ‘Conspiracy Theory’ That Massive Oil Spill Was ‘Deliberate’ ‘Sabotage’

Fuck Fox News, seriously.
posted by empath at 3:06 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even if it was Sabotage, doesn't that make things even worse? It would mean that terrorists could cause widespread ecological and economic damage to the U.S. every time they could get their hands on a submarine.
posted by delmoi at 3:08 PM on May 3, 2010


So, I retract the claim of zero deaths: there have been two.

You've also missed the 1957 fire at Windscale, Cumbria, which was estimated to have led to a probable additional 240 cases of cancer.
posted by reynir at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2010


"Heckuva Job" Brownie: Obama deliberately let the spill get huge.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:19 PM on May 3, 2010


I were a horse show judge-cum-incompetent FEMA director whose bungling led to people drowning in the streets of New Orleans, I'd keep quiet and not draw attention to myself, unlike moral hero Michael Brown. Heckuva job, Drownie!
posted by kirkaracha at 4:28 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my fuckin God I can believe I spent one moment feeling a bit of pity for Brownie, the party hack who got in over his head. This is why I could never operate in politics; I'd go so apeshit over shit like this.
posted by angrycat at 4:33 PM on May 3, 2010


Arni sez no offshore drilling in Cali
posted by angrycat at 4:46 PM on May 3, 2010


"Heckuva Job" Brownie: Obama deliberately let the spill get huge.

Wow. So what are they going to tell the children when they ask why God hates the Gulf states?
posted by Brian B. at 4:48 PM on May 3, 2010


Heckuva Job" Brownie: Obama deliberately let the spill get huge.

Man, fuck THAT guy TWO times.
posted by empath at 4:50 PM on May 3, 2010


I see Palin is still chanting Drill, Baby, Drill.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:02 PM on May 3, 2010


A tweet:

RUMOR: #OILSPILL AN INSIDE JOB, WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!! #ILLEGAL #IMMIGRANTS START #AFIRE 4 #OBAMA 2 #SOCIALIZE NAT'L GUARD #TCOT #TEAPARTY #FACT

I'm glad "#FACT" is in there, personally
posted by angrycat at 5:07 PM on May 3, 2010


Someone should make a conservative doll so when you pull the string, a bunch of simplistic slogans come out in nervous chuckles; but when you squeeze it a little or apply any pressure, it panics with shrieking paranoid nonsense.
posted by Brian B. at 5:18 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If tapped, a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick could power the country of Australia for 44 minutes. #FACT
posted by Artw at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2010


BREAKING: Large Air Spill At Wind Farm. No Danger Foreseen.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:25 PM on May 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cheney -- Haliburton. Anyone surprised?
posted by Some1 at 6:00 PM on May 3, 2010


I'm certainly not blaming Obama for causing this leak, what I was saying that opening up the east coast for oil exploration would have put NY, new jersey, Virginia and so on under the same risks. Here we see an example of just how wrong his decision actually had been. Again, if this hadn't happened now, it could have happened 10, 15 years down the line on the east coast.

...So you're upset with Obama because...he wasn't clairvoyant enough to have predicted future accidents?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 PM on May 3, 2010


...he wasn't clairvoyant enough to have predicted future accidents?

Future accidents are a probability. Sooner or later, there will be an accident. You don't have to be clairvoyant to acknowledge that. Just realistic.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 PM on May 3, 2010


Not that this carries a lot of weight, but I just got off the phone with my father - who until ten years ago ran a successful company manufacturing electric submergeable oil pumps like the ones that would have been used here, in order to get some education on this matter.

(Full disclosure, my dad has no real trust in the oil industry, and no love for BP. He does no all of the science around how these platforms work, though, and has been paying close attention.)

His assessment is that it's far too early to tell, but (1) somewhere around 5,000 bpd is what makes sense for that part of the world. 25,000 is outlanding as all hell. Also, 5,000 is horrifying still.

(2) a Casing problem does make some degree of sense. There's a decent system in place for all of this, and it's very rare to see a failure (obviously especially rare to see one on this awful a scale) but a problem in the Casing is really strong as a culprit right now. The thing is, though, that if it's a casing issue, that also gives a far more innocent explanation for BP's "underplaying" of the extent of the disaster in the first few days. With a casing problem, the initial leak would be pretty small, and appear to be something that could be handled with BOPs, but over the next few days the leaking petroleum would eat straight through the concrete and then burst forward from there.

(3) this will probably be worse than we think.

(4) because they've got a number of plans they're trying, but due to the sinking of Deepwater Horizon, they can't get to the initial hole (predictably) and can't really see down there.

(5) even though it's legally BP's liability, in reality this is almost certainly Transocean's fault, through and through (possibly shared with Halliburton) but nobody, for some reason, seems to be mentioning Transocean, who were the one's actually doing the work down there.

I'm not trying to necessarily ascribe to any of this, or present anything as fact. I'm just passing on information.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:31 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Future accidents are a probability. Sooner or later, there will be an accident. You don't have to be clairvoyant to acknowledge that. Just realistic.

There is a certain amount of risk that is involved in any endeavor, though. So I at least have enough faith in Obama to believe that he did what any of the rest of us do when trying to decide things -- he weighed the pros and cons, weighed the best data available when it came to the risk factors, and made a decision. I don't believe he did that because I think he's Super Speshul President Man -- I believe he did that because that's what all human beings do when they're trying to decide something.

Mind you, I don't necessarily agree with the decision he made. But...at the same time, I'm not standing there pointing and going "see???? See?????" like he should have "known better" or something. Obama made a decision based on the evidence he had available to him at the time -- including the risk factors, which ALSO include "measures that offshore oil well drilling rigs are using to minimize the risk of damage from disasters". And then when this happened, it was NEW INFORMATION, which he took into account and responded by CHANGING his plan, in LIGHT of new information. That's what people are SUPPOSED to do.

It's like, if I've been arguing with someone for a half hour, trying to convince them of something, and I'm not getting anywhere, and someone else finally figures out why they don't get my point and THEY come up with the new piece of evidence that I hadn't known about that fifnally convinces them of my point, then I'm going to be glad that the person I'd been arguing with finally got my point, I'm not going to still be mad because "but you still suck because didn't change your mind SOONER!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 PM on May 3, 2010


People keep talking about this remote control or acoustic blowoff preventer (Including the 'cheney' link Some1 just posted) as if it could have stopped this from happening. If anything, this proves it's not really necessarily. After all, they sent a robot down to manually pull the blow-off preventer. And it didn't actually accomplish anything.
posted by delmoi at 6:42 PM on May 3, 2010


There is a certain amount of risk that is involved in any endeavor, though.

These risks are simply too high, in my opinion. And unless the information that the President was privy to included sort of iron-clad guarantee from all concerned that this couldn't possibly happen (and of course we know that information couldn't have included any such guarantee) then I would maintain that the go-ahead for such drilling was a mistake. A very unfortunate lapse of judgement and a mistake.

I still like Obama. I'm still pretty delighted that he is the US President, but your "how could he have known / he didn't have the information that we have now" argument doesn't hold water for me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 PM on May 3, 2010


Or the robot couldn't get to the blow-off preventer, it being buried under an oil platform.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on May 3, 2010


And unless the information that the President was privy to included sort of iron-clad guarantee from all concerned that this couldn't possibly happen (and of course we know that information couldn't have included any such guarantee) then I would maintain that the go-ahead for such drilling was a mistake. A very unfortunate lapse of judgement and a mistake.

I still like Obama. I'm still pretty delighted that he is the US President, but your "how could he have known / he didn't have the information that we have now" argument doesn't hold water for me.


Does the fact that this particular event caused him to change his mind ALSO not hold any water for you, though? That's more what I'm getting at.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 PM on May 3, 2010


Picture of a robot with its gripper on the manual BOP trigger
posted by anthill at 7:39 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does the fact that this particular event caused him to change his mind ALSO not hold any water for you, though?

Ah, I see. Sorry, I didn't exactly understand your point. No, absolujtely, if he's changed his mind and won't be allowing such drilling in the future, sure, yeah, that's a great thing. No problem with that whatsoever.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:39 PM on May 3, 2010


HP LaserJet P10006 wrote: "Anyone claiming it poses no danger is being disingenuous, and also derailing the thread."

No, people who claim that reactors which are physically incapable of melting down are dangerous are the ones being disingenuous. Yes, your usual PWR and BWR designs have failure modes that can lead to a meltdown if multiply redundant safety backups fail to activate, but there are other designs that don't have those issues.

fourcheesemac wrote: "Are those the same people that promised fail-safe oil drilling platforms?"

You really shouldn't talk about things you are obviously completely ignorant of. There are designs that cannot melt down even in the event that all safety systems fail. They are passively safe indefinitely.

As good a record has been built on the back of the heretofore flawed technology, opposition to new plants using these even safer designs seems odd, at best.
posted by wierdo at 7:43 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anything, this proves it's not really necessarily. After all, they sent a robot down to manually pull the blow-off preventer. And it didn't actually accomplish anything.

You honestly feel comfortable making a statement like that even though no one knows the exact chain of events that led to the failure of the blow-out preventer in the first place?
posted by Cyrano at 7:59 PM on May 3, 2010


Obama made a decision based on the evidence he had available to him at the time -- including the risk factors

Oh, please. Obama's "decision" had nothing to do with scientific evidence; it was pure politics in an election year, a classic (outdated) Clinton-style triangulation to try and remove from the table a hot-button issue Republicans were using against him. The move shocked his environmental supporters for a reason - it was a public betrayal of everything they thought he stood for. That it backfired so obviously in Obama's face is an embarrassment to him and to the advisors who convinced him publicly supporting offshore drilling off the US east coast was a smart thing to loudly support.

To suggest that Obama's recent "decision" on offshore drilling wasn't primarily motivated by short-term domestic election worries is ridiculous.
posted by mediareport at 8:03 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


To suggest that Obama's recent "decision" on offshore drilling wasn't primarily motivated by short-term domestic election worries is ridiculous.

Well, since I was concentrating more on his recanting that decision, then, there it is. This incident caused him to recant that decision, and that's good enough for me. I'm more reacting to the insistance others have in continuing to say "well, it's not good enough for ME because he should have changed his mind about that SOONER." As if the fact that he didn't change his mind soon enough wasn't good enough.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 PM on May 3, 2010


"well, it's not good enough for ME because he should have changed his mind about that SOONER."

That's not the thinking at all. The thinking is "QUIT PLAYING GODDAMN POLITICAL GAMES WITH MOTHER EARTH."
posted by mediareport at 8:41 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


What do you propose in lieu of political games? In a democracy, everyone gets what the majority deserves. If you have someone dictating the official policy at whim, you're probably not going to be super happy with how things turn out.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:52 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: Everything is Obama's Katrina

Thanks for that link. The "Obama's Katrina" mantra has jumped across the pond. It showed up in the commentary section of Der Standard, the quality daily paper that I subscribe to, yesterday.

I shot them an email with the link and scolded them a bit for falling for this particularly stupid talking point.

Throw mud long enough and eventually something will stick.
posted by syzygy at 12:08 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Allow me to be a little pedantic about oilfield nomenclature here.

delmoi: blow off preventer

Small correction: BOP stands for blowout preventer, not blow off.

this rig, which (as other people pointed out) was brand new. They had just struck oil.

The Deepwater Horizon rig was built in 2001. This type of rig is technically considered a ship. This particular rig/ship had a Marshall Islands flag.

This type of rig is towed around to different spots, where it drills wells. So, while the well was brand new, the rig is 8 or 9 years old.

That doesn't change the fact that the well should have been drilled using the latest safety standards, but I think it's a common misconception that the rig is the well when, in fact, the rig is a special kind of ship that moves around and drills wells at different locations.
posted by syzygy at 12:48 AM on May 4, 2010


That doesn't change the fact that the well should have been drilled using the latest safety standards, but I think it's a common misconception that the rig is the well when, in fact, the rig is a special kind of ship that moves around and drills wells at different locations.

I've been playing too much Mass Effect 2, because:

Right mouse button: *Moralize on ship and death of crew members and sea turtles*

Left mouse button: *Punch Republican in the balls*

*Scan planet for Element Zero*

*Deplete planet's resources*
posted by dirigibleman at 1:20 AM on May 4, 2010


#ILLEGAL #IMMIGRANTS START #AFIRE 4 #OBAMA 2 #SOCIALIZE NAT'L GUARD

I find that last to be the most interesting bit of insight into the way the Teabagger mind works, or rather fails to work.

The explosion was part of a dread plot by Obama to enable him to socialize the National Guard; the NATIONAL Guard.

That's fractally messed up thinking right there. Every tiny detail of the thought process that would result in such a rant is as messed up as the overall rant itself.

I realize that, at one level, this doubtless represents part of the standard Right Wing toss all the shit you can at the wall and see what sticks approach, but the fact that anyone thought that particular meme would work (and the possibility that they're right) is staggering.
posted by sotonohito at 4:16 AM on May 4, 2010


The explosion was part of a dread plot by Obama to enable him to socialize the National Guard; the NATIONAL Guard.
Wow.
Or the robot couldn't get to the blow-off preventer, it being buried under an oil platform.
Would the acoustic preventer have worked in that scenario either? Anyway, you can see that the robot did make it to the switch in that picture (Which I'd seen earlier). Also, I don't think the rig fell directly on the wellhead, rather, it's fallen down kind of like a tree that's been knocked over, with the rig wreckage sitting pretty far from the wellhead.
posted by delmoi at 5:12 AM on May 4, 2010


What do you propose in lieu of political games?

You're kidding, right? The point is Obama's playing political games *badly*. As in, they don't work and only help move the country further to the right, in this case legitimizing offshore drilling in hopes it will give his party short-term political gain this November, while selling out his base and avoiding doing what he promised he'd do: make a serious push to make the country less dependent on fossil fuel. That it took a disaster of this magnitude to get him to realize the utter shittiness of his "decision" last month is not something anyone should be praising as sharp policy-making.

Politics is necessary. What you play the game in service of is what matters.
posted by mediareport at 6:15 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


in this case legitimizing offshore drilling in hopes it will give his party short-term political gain this November, while selling out his base

Nope. As of 10 April, Democrats favored increased drilling by a two to one margin. The base wanted drilling.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


What has the guy been given to work with? By mid-February of last year (he'd been in office less than thirty days) Metafilter was chock full of criticism for Obama from the left. In the health care reform debate, the right was unified in what they wanted - NOTHING. For anyone! The left was all over the road because it's harder to build something than to build nothing. The problem is, in a majority rules kind of system, that means your almost always going to be stuck with nothing. The fact that we got something slightly better than nothing is as good an argument for a benevolent God as I can think of.

This FPP is a perfect example - there are probably more MeFites than people in the Coast Guard, and among us we probably know more about capping an oil well than the Coast Guard does. WHY HAVEN'T WE DONE SOMETHING??? I mean other than the fact that most of us know absolutely nothing on the subject, we have no equipment, and it's not really our job.

If were all as convinced that we need to get away from oil in the near future, why haven't we done something like set up a kind of benevolent society where members agree to pay small monthly dues on the long term and once a month we convert a house somewhere to active solar? Oh, yeah, because it costs less and is more fun to rant on the internet where we can jump from the present to a world of absolute answers with zero unintended consequences.

I'm no more happy about Obama's futile efforts to bring the right into the fold, but at some point we're going to have to realize it's that whole united we stand, divided we fall thing. The united group is aggressively nihilistic and wantonly destructive.

It makes me real glad I don't have kids.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:45 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, please. Obama's "decision" had nothing to do with scientific evidence; it was pure politics in an election year, a classic (outdated) Clinton-style triangulation to try and remove from the table a hot-button issue Republicans were using against him. The move shocked his environmental supporters for a reason - it was a public betrayal of everything they thought he stood for.

Mediareport: How is what you're claiming possible when President Obama's official campaign platform explicitly included a promise to expand some offshore drilling? It was in his official platform at the time he ran for office. It wasn't just invented ad hoc for some political motivation, as you're suggesting. I read his energy proposal during the campaign: limited expansion of domestic oil exploration was right there in black and white.

Maybe you feel betrayed, but if you do, that can only be because you didn't actually read what he said he would do.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:45 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's a situation update, culled from various public sources:
NOAA, Transocean, Satellite Tracking the Slick.

No oil has yet been found on shore. The weather seems to be continuing to be the best friend of the spill responders, and of the sensitive wetlands nearby.

The past few days have been rough at sea, but this seems to have helped disperse the oil, satellite estimates reduce the slick size by 30% to 40%. This has not been confirmed by independent sources (such as NOAA).

The weather is calmer today and on-water operations are resuming. This includes in situ burning and dispersant application, as well as continued skimmer operation. All of these work to abate the spill.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 11:04 AM on May 4, 2010


Gulf Oil Spill Is Bad, but How Bad?
"It is not yet close to the magnitude of the Ixtoc I blowout in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico in 1979, which spilled an estimated 140 million gallons of crude before the gusher could be stopped.
...
After the Ixtoc spill 31 years ago, the second-largest oil release in history, the gulf rebounded. Within three years, there was little visible trace of the spill off the Mexican coast, which was compounded by a tanker accident in the gulf a few months later that released 2.6 million additional gallons, experts said.

“The gulf is tremendously resilient,” said Dr. Dokken, the marine biologist. “But we’ve always got to ask ourselves how long can we keep heaping these insults on the gulf and having it bounce back. As a scientist, I have to say I just don’t know.”'
posted by vapidave at 11:50 AM on May 4, 2010


(Plus, I have no idea where this "oh it would probably work but you'd need a nuke" idea comes from)

From Russia, it seems.
posted by homunculus at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2010


Last day at the beach,

also Here's something BP is working on to cap the well, a giant box that will fit over the well.
posted by delmoi at 12:07 PM on May 4, 2010


Forget Offshore Drilling Until We Get Some Answers
posted by homunculus at 12:43 PM on May 4, 2010


More news on the topic of corporate responsibility in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill from ProPublica:

Nonprofit Conservation Group [Cited as Authority by Media] Has Ties to Oil Interests, Gulf Oil Spill
posted by saulgoodman at 1:01 PM on May 4, 2010


All assets of the executives and boards of BP and Halliburton should become property of the effected states, along with those companies themselves. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:48 PM on May 4, 2010


ROU_Xenophobe wrote: "Nope. As of 10 April, Democrats favored increased drilling by a two to one margin. The base wanted drilling."

Some people don't grasp that their preferences, no matter how much more factually based and generally better than the majority opinion, are not shared by the majority.

I'm sorry, but Obama can't just go against the will of the people willy nilly and hope to get re-elected. I wish it were true. And it is true that this spill has a chance of forcing a rethink among a lot of people. Problem is, that if they get it all cleaned up without much of the oil making it ashore, there will be no outrage-generating pictures, so people will probably be more cemented in their pro-offshore-drilling stance. This despite the fact that the only thing keeping the oil offshore has been unusually favorable wind patterns.

I hope we'll at least get better inspection and maintenance of safety devices out of this, even if they do manage to keep the oil offshore.
posted by wierdo at 3:19 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Plus, I have no idea where this "oh it would probably work but you'd need a nuke" idea comes from)

From Russia, it seems.


Holy crap. I thought you were kidding, so I read the article you linked. Then I got a translation of the Russian article and read it (even more details!). This is the most surprising, irresponsible thing I've read in a long time.

It would be very worthy of an FPP.
posted by Houstonian at 3:35 PM on May 4, 2010


Ah, Russia...
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on May 4, 2010


Some people don't grasp that their preferences, no matter how much more factually based and generally better than the majority opinion, are not shared by the majority.

I'm sorry, but Obama can't just go against the will of the people willy nilly and hope to get re-elected.
This is just not true. You're ignoring issue intensity Some issues will cause people to change their votes, others won't. Democrats are not going to abandon the party and vote for Sarah Palin because they like the idea of offshore drilling and nothing else.

And the other problem is that this doesn't take into account the number of people who switched their position on offshore drilling when Obama did. The public isn't some mass of set preferences that never changes, people listen to the arguments of politicians and often change their minds.
posted by delmoi at 4:37 PM on May 4, 2010


It's not like southern Mississippi hasn't been nuked before.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:43 PM on May 4, 2010


Maybe you feel betrayed, but if you do, that can only be because you didn't actually read what he said he would do.

You're right; if he ever said we should open up the east coast to offshore drilling I never heard it. It's also true that, regardless of what he said, I never actually thought he would, as president, push for us to open the east coast to offshore drilling.

As of 10 April, Democrats favored increased drilling by a two to one margin. The base wanted drilling.

I'd love to see that poll, if you don't mind giving a cite. It will be interesting to see how the question was phrased, and if there was anything at all about the risks involved. I'm guessing not, but let's go ahead and see the poll anyway. Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 4:54 PM on May 4, 2010


delmoi wrote: "This is just not true. You're ignoring issue intensity Some issues will cause people to change their votes, others won't. Democrats are not going to abandon the party and vote for Sarah Palin because they like the idea of offshore drilling and nothing else."

And independents (and DINOs, like most "Democrats" in my part of the country), who are largely in favor of offshore drilling, will do so.
posted by wierdo at 5:18 PM on May 4, 2010


It was an (I think) Opinion Dynamics poll for Fox taken on that date; googling should bring it up. IIRC it was a general approval poll that happened to ask a couple of questions about offshore drilling.

The question was very simple "Do you favor increased offshore drilling?" or words to that effect. It was listed in the pdf of the report.

For sure it didn't include anything about risks, and we can expect that responses would have been more negative if it had. Likewise, responses almost certainly would have been more positive if the question had included some crap about jobs or economic growth; this is why (good) survey questions generally eschew leading or clarifying elements, or are careful to include both positive and negative leaders and reminders.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:01 PM on May 4, 2010


There is a massive insurance claim at the end of the tunnel. The cynic in me wonders if this is a bryzantine insurance scam for the benefit of the powerful elite.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:08 PM on May 4, 2010


ROU: or if the surrounding questions were of that nature. Previous questions influence the outcome of future questions.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 PM on May 4, 2010


or are careful to include both positive and negative leaders and reminders.

Yeah, I'd go with that one over more typical simplistic framings; one or two tweet-length questions about complex issues really don't convey much information about the depth of feeling (or understanding, but we'll leave that aside) the polled person has. In other words, "the base wanted drilling" is a pretty big overstatement, given what we know about how polls work and what they actually capture.
posted by mediareport at 9:07 PM on May 4, 2010


And independents (and DINOs, like most "Democrats" in my part of the country), who are largely in favor of offshore drilling, will do so.

Were. Were in favor. If you still think that's the case you're out of your mind.

And anyway, what I'm saying is that even if people say "yes or no" to a question on an opinion poll doesn't mean it will have any affect on their vote at all. The people on the left who cared about offshore drilling were strongly opposed. That's what I'm talking about when I say "The base". That said, I don't know how many people really cared. In fact, I bet a lot of the opposition to offshore drilling stemmed from the fact that he opposed it during the campaign (but also remember that this is a much more salient issue in states that are actually on the coast. They don't want it, especially blue and swing states)

Anyway. I understand you have some polls out there that say whatever, but they're largely irrelevant to political issues unless there's a lot of intensity, like healthcare, for example. Or the Iraq war. Offshore drilling isn't, or wasn't, a hot button issue. And now it's dead.
posted by delmoi at 5:21 AM on May 5, 2010


BP says one of three leaks shut off.
posted by delmoi at 7:59 AM on May 5, 2010


Gulf Oil Spill a "Dead Zone in the Making"?
posted by homunculus at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2010


There are clear indicatons of emulsion formation in that picture on the top of the page, homunculus. That orange color is characterisic of oil "mousse", emulsified water in oil. There are more shots of it here. That orange band is almost certainly emulsified oil.

That's not great news. I was hoping that this stuff would not emulsify. The crude oils, particularly the light crude oils from young wells like this one usually are hard to emulsify. Why is this a problem? It makes more "spill". Water can make-up 40% to 80% of the emulsion; emulsification can magnify the spill volume by a factor of 2 to 5, depending on the water uptake rate.

There is good news with the bad though. Tarballs are less toxic than fresh oil and, after further weathering, less sticky too. Their impact on ecosystems is less severe than fresh oil.

Emulsions lead quickly to tarballs as the sticky mass collects sediment from the water (or even from rainfall). This is what will be washing up on beaches for the next few months. Here's a good description of what tarballs are (PDF) and what they do in the environment.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're right; if he ever said we should open up the east coast to offshore drilling I never heard it.

Well, it wasn't that specific. But his energy plan did call for promoting the "responsible development" of additional domestic energy resources, including fossil fuels, and for eliminating federal hurtles where practical that prevented existing domestic energy resources from being exploited. And offshore drilling was part of the mix. Granted, YMMV on whether or not expanded offshore drilling should be considered "responsible development," or on there having been an implicit promise not to open up those specific protected areas to new drilling; some have suggested such a promise was made or implied, but organizations that tracked Obama's promises during the campaign (like PolitiFact) don't make any mention of this, so I'm not sure why others are so convinced on the point.

In any case, hopefully by now it's clear that this particular form of domestic fossil fuel energy development isn't nearly as "responsible" as advertised. So I'm holding out to see what the President does next.

Interestingly, it now seems as if Halliburton may have played a direct role in this catastrophe. Funny how huge catastrophes almost seem to follow Dick Cheney and his former business interests around. Must be bad mojo.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:38 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can I add that delmoi wrote just about 7 months ago about how in cases which are extremely risky to ecosystem health, like offshore oil require a little extra officiousness, and possibly "inefficient" (to some people) regulation, and some costs (studies, impact assessments, risk management, safety fail-safes) before jumping into environmentally risky activities today (actually 6 months ago), is better than the costs and massive remediation projects, long term degradation of the environment and loss of habitat for critical ecosystem elements... when something like this happens.

People have been talking about this for decades... It seems really strange to now see all of the ideas, and scientists who have been talking about these risks for a long time now in the spotlight, and pop news, and networks-- where up until two weeks ago, all these things were locked up in specialist books, journals, and academic papers and databases... You wouldn't catch "the most trusted name in news" ever choosing to talk about, or educate on this topic (even though it was materially connected to the actual politics they were claiming to be covering [how can you cover an election where 'drill {offshore} baby drill' is an actual slogan- without talking about risks, costs, long term concepts]) can this show us why we need "science" out there and consumable by the public (without costing resources, because, it is more valuable to society for society to be informed than the cost when our society makes misinformed decisions and provides misinformed support for things like this sort of drilling...)

Why is it such a burden for companies to have the ever so slightest duty of care.
The cleanup the next day, when incomplete, sketchy environmental safety checks have been put in place costs magnitudes and scales of money bigger.

Is there a site that contains all the times when we "...shoulda listened to metafilter"

This is horrible for the local wetlands, marshes and wet soil places (which is abundant in the effected area)... My reading of some studies on effects of oil and dispersant (like corexit) on soil, wetland, and water column based life will be to give a boost to some microbial life, which provides a short term nutrient boost to some higher forms usually "marginal" to ecosystems, taking nutrients from the 'local' life. Microbial promotion of life that is not as useful to a healthy ecosystem... a "stronger growth" (short term) of some species, causing a decline in overall diversity.
The scale that this leak represents?
Disaster.

Effect of Crude Oil and Chemical Additives on Metabolic
Activity of Mixed Microbial Populations in Fresh Marsh Soils (PDF)
J.A. Nyman
Numerous observations that crude oil reduced microbial numbers or diversity in sea water and terrestrial soils [2, 3, 6, 34, 60], invertebrate abundance [7], and diversity of emergent plant communities [39] suggest that lack of toxicity was unlikely. It therefore appears that activity was maintained by tolerant species that could metabolize substrates normally used by sensitive species.
and some other research testing effects of several dispersants and oil types on water life
"Microbial response to crude oil and Corexit 9527: SEAFLUXES enclosure study."
The results indicated that Corexit and Corexit-dispersed crude oil stimulated bacterial production by serving as substrates and/or by inducing the release of organic compounds from the indigenous phytoplankton population. Highest bacterial standing stock was observed in the enclosure treated with a mixture of Corexit and crude oil, in which a large fraction of the predominant bacterivores were eliminated.
All this "burst" of life arrives in the middle of a horribly toxic environment; while there may be a short term boom with slightly more hardy life (think weeds, which aren't nearly as good for feeding higher trophic levels), once the boom is gone, there is only left a shattered ecosystem.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2010


some have suggested such a promise was made or implied, but organizations that tracked Obama's promises during the campaign (like PolitiFact) don't make any mention of this, so I'm not sure why others are so convinced on the point.


Once wobbly, Obama not inconsistent in latest oil drilling proposal

posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:52 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi wrote: "Were. Were in favor. If you still think that's the case you're out of your mind."

See, I think you're the one out of your mind with hysteria over this spill. You insist that everything bad that can possibly happen as a result will happen. You're attempting to predict the future with certainty. If you'd asked me last week whether we'd have a bunch of oil covering at least some of the Gulf beaches by this Monday, I would have said "almost certainly."

The weather has been kind. It goes to show you can't always predict accurately.

Anyway, far more of the country than you'd like to believe isn't paying any attention whatsoever to this whole "oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico" thing. It'll cause some changing of minds, but not as much as you think. At least not until we have pictures of beaches covered in goopy oil. People respond to pictures, not you saying "the fishermen will all go bankrupt because the oil is killing all the shrimp." (regardless of the truth of the statement itself)
posted by wierdo at 11:25 AM on May 5, 2010


One (small) correction, infinite intimation. They're probably not using just Coreexit 9527, they're using (mostly) Corexit 9500A, which is a bit more amphoteric and not quite as harsh to most organisms. The EPA maintains a list of approved products for US use here. Specific info on dispersant toxicity is here.

To say that dispersant use is controversial in the community of spill responders, oil companies, regulatory people and NGOs is like saying the Gulf is a bit wet. Careers have been broken and much ink has been spilled. Fundamentally, dispersant use is a trade-off between allowing the oil slick to remain on the surface, directly affecting dabbling seabirds and potentially drifting on shore or dispersing the oil slick into the water column, which is more deleterious to the pelagic and benthic organisms. It's very situationally-dependent which is the better choice.

Dispersant use is usually restricted to off-shore, deep waters. I can't remember what the stand-off distance is in South Louisiana, but minumums of 3 to 10 miles out and at least 100 feet of depth are common. The hope with dispersants is that the plume of oil in the water column spreads rapidly, quickly dropping below toxic levels. There are usually strong impacts right below the treated slick on swimmers, but this spreads rapidly. The major toxicity from dispersed oil is not the dispersant itself, most of those are pretty safe actually. The problem is simply exposure to the aromatic oil compounds, benzenes and PAHs. There are also indications that dispersants actually increase the toxicity of the oil by facilitating better penetration of membrane (like gill) walls.

So, tl;dr: you try to use dispersants off-shore which greatly reduces bird and mammal effects and potential landfall, while trading that off with fishery and other stationary organism impacts. You don't do it in shallow or near-shore waters, and you try not to do it in sensitive areas like breeding grounds, estuaries or coral reefs.

Sometimes there are no good options though. With a spill this size, a concern is that there's so much oil in the water, it won't be able to disperse quickly enough and a large area could remain at the toxic level for a long time. They're trading that off though with the even worse result of oil ending up in those sensitive mangrove and island ecosystems.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 1:27 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Google has a crisis response page that has a layered map, KML files, how to help, news and updates and a video channel.
posted by vapidave at 2:53 PM on May 5, 2010



You're attempting to predict the future with certainty.
....
Anyway, far more of the country than you'd like to believe isn't paying any attention whatsoever to this whole "oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico" thing. It'll cause some changing of minds, but not as much as you think. At least not until we have pictures of beaches covered in goopy oil. People respond to pictures, not you saying "the fishermen will all go bankrupt because the oil is killing all the shrimp." (regardless of the truth of the statement itself)



Wait, who was predicting the future again? People respond to whatever they have to hand. Some words, others images, others still, knowing people suffering from this crisis, and the fallout; whatever one's opinion on 'precautionary principles'... this currently represents a multi-faceted crisis. (jobs, economy, tourists, ecological damage, political fallout, popular understanding of what "environmentalism" actually means [as opposed to the way popular culture has gotten by all happy like, while sneeringly calling good people "enviro-nazi's"])

Maybe this will be a partial catalyst for some honesty in the 'starting terms' for talking about how to move forward with a "valuation" of everyone's favorite euphemism 'externalities'.


Thank you A5$S, good info, yeah, definitely not a resolved matter this using dispersant tactic... but again, this is a little like putting a band-aid(TM) on a severed femoral artery... the whole idea of "peak oil" isn't just that "opps, we used all the oil, now it's gone"... it is that as reserves are tapped, and run dry, more and more "oil" will necessarily be sought in 'extreme' environments (like deep under-water), these locations carry far more uncertainty, and risk. More and more events like this.

So, yeah, maybe "everyone" won't "rethink" the world because of this... but what about the idea that we will be getting "more and more" of this... Much more commonly; will anyone care about that?
posted by infinite intimation at 4:15 PM on May 5, 2010


I mean what?
Rather than it going like it seems to be; our resources are being used to "avert" this crisis, coast guard, epa, fema, national guard... these all come out of our taxes, the in-cautious behavior of many corporate citizens of late has me feeling like they are "rebellious teens"... ignoring rational changes, opposing the government, cutting corners and the list continues.

Instead, slap massive fines on these clowns... Use that, in conjunction with the peanuts we use to fund the epa, bailout funds, and tax dollars; and start a project exactly like the day during WWII that the "car production factories" were re-purposed to build plains and tanks... but build windmills, solar collection, geothermal tapping, and oceanic current utilization, along with coastal tidal power... come on, how is this not an imperative at this point in time?

Cost?
So they would think what?
That it is cheaper when we have run out entirely of "easy to access resources" to begin our shift to a well balanced and rounded energy resource collection network.

Or is that kind of desire not to be dependent on "oil producing nations" having a kind heart towards us not that important?

Why should (spoiler, they won't) Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and so many others just keep oil supply prices so artificially low (American oil price, and price at the pump is hugely subsidized compared to its 'real world' cradle to grave costs). How can we compete in an economy where other people are using these resources, and we will be left "buying gas", at ever increasing $ rates, with increasing uncertainty of supply... this is not a stable way to live, this is not a stable way to compete with other nations who also have interests, and also desire to be leaders in the global economy.

I thought we were all about "independence" and not "relying" on people who may cut us off at any time. Offshore drilling is the worst kind of temporary solution.
posted by infinite intimation at 4:41 PM on May 5, 2010


Weirdo, I am not saying you are wrong, I agree that many people will likely use gut reactions and knee jerk responses... essentially the exact "responses" that have been trained into them by repetion and ubiquity... the "Media-think" problem; if all the sources of our information use the same terms and twisting of positions to frame debates, it can only be expected that we will all share somewhat similar "conditioned-responses" to various "types" of news stories, and world events.

I have no illusions that the "anti-environmentalist" bias will remain in pop culture, and I don't expect people to change their deep set ways right away... but it's all about the terms of the discussion; it is security, it is independence, it is a rejection of dependence on outside powers and resources.

These are the exact issues that "Republican leaning" voters carry as most urgent and important... There is a coup of 'Logical, rational thinking government' just waiting to happen, some blue party members need to figure out how to say this (in a non-condescending way) to these voters.
posted by infinite intimation at 4:53 PM on May 5, 2010


infinite intimation wrote: "These are the exact issues that "Republican leaning" voters carry as most urgent and important... There is a coup of 'Logical, rational thinking government' just waiting to happen, some blue party members need to figure out how to say this (in a non-condescending way) to these voters."

All I can say is: "good luck with that."

I don't mean that in a snarky way. I think it would be great to have an environmental awakening in this country. I just don't see it happening.

When I wrote that what will change minds are pictures of birds and beaches covered in oil I meant on a wide scale. A few people will, of course, be swayed by fishermen losing their homes and that sort of thing, but people in general only respond to things that don't directly affect them when there's a visceral reaction involved. The right does this by demonizing whatever it is they are trying to turn the public against. They turn disagreement into disgust, and in doing so change minds. (quite dishonestly, but that doesn't change the effect)

Barring that, we'll see the public react positively to the situation. They will more likely take away the message that we can clean up these sorts of messes instead of the message that we're too focused on cost-cutting to drill in deep water responsibly. That is, of course, predicated on the weather remaining on our side.

It's the same sort of thing that leads to environmentalists coming out against the pragmatic approach of using safe nuclear power. They once had a visceral reaction to something like Three Mile Island or Chernobyl and have a gut feeling that all nuclear power is bad. It's emotion that drives people's thoughts on these matters. (and everything else in society lately)
posted by wierdo at 5:35 PM on May 5, 2010


I've got to say, I'm pretty impressed and pleased with the White House's timeline of government response activities. This transparency... it takes some getting used to, but I like it!
posted by Houstonian at 5:45 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


They once had a visceral reaction to something like Three Mile Island or Chernobyl and have a gut feeling that all nuclear power is bad. It's emotion that drives people's thoughts on these matters. (and everything else in society lately)

This is a textbook example of projection. I personally don't want cheaper electricity any more than I want cheaper gasoline. I see it go to waste everyday to people who despise those who "go green." Making nuclear utilities powerful and rich isn't my idea of progress and no matter how many personal reasons one has for centralized nuclear power, I'm just not invested in their delusional ownership of the problem.
posted by Brian B. at 7:13 PM on May 5, 2010


Yes, making observations about other people's behavior is projecting. Way to keep the level of discussion up.

We need lots of electricity to run things like aluminum smelters and other industry, not to mention the electronic geegaws in our homes, and if we plan on getting off oil any time soon, to charge electric cars. It doesn't just come outta nowhere. Distributed generation is great, but it's going to take a long while before most people have wind turbines or solar cells (or both) on their roof.

Until then, what do you propose we do? Revert back to early 20th century levels of energy use, with all the economic dislocation that will entail? Conservation can only go so far. Oil has to be replaced with something. So does coal. So does natural gas. So does some hydroelectric if we want to get rid of some of the more egregiously environmentally damaging dams in this country.

That's a lot of increased electricity generation that's going to have to happen.

By no means am I saying we shouldn't be building large scale solar projects in our deserts, putting wind turbines where-ever they will fit, investing in tidal power, and every other form of renewable energy. I'm saying that in the short term, our only real option is to increase the mix of nuclear.
posted by wierdo at 10:04 PM on May 5, 2010


Until then, what do you propose we do?

"We" don't need to do anything. It's not my problem if we don't have any new smelters. I will agree to pay more such things, encouraging fresher ideas which have been waiting for their chance. "They" are proposing to supply something that physical and commercial growth requires, not what any of us requires. I don't credit my chances in making a profit from their venture, and I don't want to donate nuclear-made electricity so the masses can keep sucking it up without breaking stride. And talking about this as if like socialized medicine is doubly misleading. We're just the suckers they require for the permission to build dangerous things. Now feel suddenly pressured to come up with an idea to save the world I didn't ruin. So if we repeal most building height requirements it would help overcome our energy planning failures with the suburbs. People should start moving closer together before worrying about how they will drive their commute.
posted by Brian B. at 10:50 PM on May 5, 2010


This will be so cool if it works:

Army Corps of Engineers Investigates Using Flood Waters to Protect Louisiana Coast
posted by electroboy at 6:28 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brian B. wrote: ""We" don't need to do anything."

I see you're more interested in discussing a pie in the sky than the reality on the ground. Too bad. We need all the help we can get. I say we because, like it or not, we all benefit from the large energy hogging capital projects the capitalist pigs own. I get lots of things I like. Like my laptop. And the Internet. And electric lights. And refrigeration. Shiny baubles, to be sure, but ones I enjoy a lot, thankyouverymuch.

And I'm sorry to break it to you, but unless you haven't bought anything since the Industrial Revolution, you probably contributed to our collective problem.
posted by wierdo at 6:53 AM on May 6, 2010


See, I think you're the one out of your mind with hysteria over this spill. You insist that everything bad that can possibly happen as a result will happen. You're attempting to predict the future with certainty. -- weirdo
I don't really know what you're talking about. All I said was that public opinion had changed as a result of this, and it has. And I wouldn't consider that a "bad thing" So again, no idea what you're trying to say here.
Barring that, we'll see the public react positively to the situation. They will more likely take away the message that we can clean up these sorts of messes instead of the message that we're too focused on cost-cutting to drill in deep water responsibly. That is, of course, predicated on the weather remaining on our side. -- weirdo
Uh huh, now who's trying to predict the future? I think the idea that people are going to just shrug their shoulders and go back go chanting "Drill baby drill!" because "we can just clean up the messes" is a little delusional. Especially the ones who live in coastal areas. Even if this doesn't cause much damage, the next spill could.
posted by delmoi at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2010


That's a lot of increased electricity generation that's going to have to happen. [...] our only real option is to increase the mix of nuclear.

I see you're more interested in discussing a pie in the sky than the reality on the ground.

Then let's talk the reality of societal decline. You seem no more willing to discuss the reality of the situation than Brian B.

What we face is not simply a problem that can be solved. Maybe it was in the 70s, but it's grown much farther out of proportion since then (such is the result of delaying dealing with problems). What we have now is a predicament that must be lived with. We're entering an age where fossil fuel production is in decline, and renewables aren't replacing them fast enough to keep up. So shit's going to be tough. As you recognize:

Revert back to early 20th century levels of energy use, with all the economic dislocation that will entail?

Yep. Let's use a historical example. The roman empire fell primarily because of resource depletion. If someone had suggested a possible, realistic, attainable vision of a society that could weather the coming age of scarcity, what would it have looked like? Probably something like the middle ages.

The more we try to fix our problems by adding more and more layers of complexity, the worse off we're going to be once the desperate fixes preventing us from actually changing start coming apart. The more we scale back the complexity of our society willingly the better off we'll be in the long run.
posted by symbollocks at 8:43 AM on May 6, 2010


Army Corps of Engineers Investigates Using Flood Waters to Protect Louisiana Coast

Inundation can work quite well in certain situations. Water washing with low pressure (less than garden hose) flooding is commonly used on sensitive shorelines. One technique I've seen used is wake-flooding by having a heavy vessel pass by marsh areas and have the high, but non-breaking waves do the work of flushing reed beds. I've seen this work for even heavy, sticky, viscous marine heavy fuel oil.

The question here, as mentioned in the article, is that they can't fight tides, currents or winds. If the wind is blowing on-shore, or the tides are coming in, it's not going to work well. Additionaly, the volume of water available has to be enough to cause a current through the wetland, or at least, a stable wave. Waves are trickier though, because they don't go very far/last for long distances in wetlands.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2010


delmoi wrote: "I don't really know what you're talking about."

Sorry, I conflated part of fourcheesemac's statements about the effects on the gulf states in general with your own statement, as they largely intersected, although fourcheesemac got much more hyperbolic about it. My bad, I'll try to pay closer attention in the future.

delmoi wrote: "Especially the ones who live in coastal areas. Even if this doesn't cause much damage, the next spill could."

Sure, I know that and you know that, but will the public at large get that? I don't know that they will, unless things take a turn for the worse. I haven't been watching TV news much, but the reporting on the Internet seems to not be much in the vein of "oh noes, the gulf coast is ruined! ruined, I tell you!" Barring an obvious environmental catastrophe played out right in front of their eyes, as opposed to the relatively subtle environmental catastrophe we've seen thus far, the next time gas prices spike I'm pretty confident we'll be hearing "drill, baby, drill". (the slogan may change, but the message will remain the same)
posted by wierdo at 8:52 AM on May 6, 2010


symbollocks wrote: "The more we scale back the complexity of our society willingly the better off we'll be in the long run."

On not-preview, sorry, I don't buy into that. We have the resources available in the reasonably short term to eliminate oil and coal as fuels, if we're willing to deploy them. I, for one, would prefer to see continued technological progress than a self-imposed return to agrarian living. We're nearly to the point where our energy demand can be met with only relatively clean renewable resources. Why should we give up now?

As I mentioned earlier, I like my shiny baubles and see no good reason to give them up at this point.
posted by wierdo at 9:00 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure, I know that and you know that, but will the public at large get that?

I think they will get that. I mean, it's pretty obvious. Especially given the trust level people have in institutions now. Even if Obama comes out and says "okay, we fixed the problem now it's safe" he said that oil drilling offshore was already safe last month! There's no one with any credibility on anything anymore. So it will be hard to prove to people that things are safe now.

As I mentioned earlier, I like my shiny baubles and see no good reason to give them up at this point.

I don't really think, for example, that capping CO2 will have much impact on consumer purchasing power for most people.
posted by delmoi at 10:14 AM on May 6, 2010


U.S. exempted BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling from environmental impact study
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2010


Obama biggest recipient of BP cash
posted by homunculus at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2010


That sounds bad but I'm not sure if it really means all that much. Obama was the biggest recipient of many, many different donor's cash. Because everybody knew he was a rock star with a big future.
posted by Justinian at 10:48 AM on May 6, 2010


And FWIW, Politico has earned a reputation for skewing right while loudly proclaiming its political independence.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:39 PM on May 6, 2010


"This will be so cool if it works:
Army Corps of Engineers Investigates Using Flood Waters to Protect Louisiana Coast"


Fuck, thought of this a week ago I have been looking for some mention for days. I've been trying to monitor the water levels at different areas to see if there was noticeable (intentional) change in the water flow. I lived south of New Orleans on the east side of the river in St. Bernard Parish and there is a network of pumps and canals (called the freshwater bypass locally) made to divert fresh water into the swamp to restore the balance and seasonal variation that we screwed up in the process of building levees and making the Mississippi navigable. Farther upriver north and west of Baton Rouge there are miles of levees and spill gates that channel the Mississippi into its current course, if they weren't there the river would flow into the Atchafalaya basin. As it stands now there is a mandated balance of, I believe, 70/30 Mississippi/Atchafalaya. Along the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans there are other gates (the Bonnet Carre Spillway mentioned in the article) that allow water to be diverted into Lake Pontchartrain (which isn't a lake at all) and out into the Gulf in the event a flood threatens. I've been wondering if it is possible to temporarily divert some of the Atchafalaya flow down the Mississippi and through the Lake Pontchartrain diversions and the freshwater bypasses south of New Orleans in order to provide an outflow to help keep the oil out of the swamp.
There was a flood a few years ago upriver that I saw in St. Louis as I was traveling back to St. Bernard Parish and I think the surge took about 5-6 days to reach New Orleans. In order to mitigate the surge they opened up the spillway and the bypasses and I drove around to see. The amount of flow was impressive. I don't know how these narrower flows would translate into the miles of swamp but I'm glad they are at least considering it.
posted by vapidave at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2010


delmoi wrote: "I don't really think, for example, that capping CO2 will have much impact on consumer purchasing power for most people."

I was responding to symbollocks, who appeared to be advocating a large scale dismantling of industry. One hopes that rather than just capping carbon dioxide emissions and suffering with low energy use, we'll shift energy production to methods that emit less carbon dioxide.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on the public's medium term reaction to this spill.
posted by wierdo at 5:22 PM on May 6, 2010


We'll just have to agree to disagree on the public's medium term reaction to this spill.

We just have to wait for some polls. How long is 'medium term'?
posted by delmoi at 6:40 PM on May 6, 2010


In my way of thinking 6-18 months or so. Long enough for them to see the effects and the results of the cleanup. Before and after that, barring Valdezesque pictures we'll likely be completely within the zone of talking-points driven public opinion. Now because there's not enough information easily accessible to most people who don't futz around on the Internet all day and after that because the echo chamber will have diluted the reaction.
posted by wierdo at 7:06 PM on May 6, 2010


And I'm sorry to break it to you, but unless you haven't bought anything since the Industrial Revolution, you probably contributed to our collective problem.

I'm sorry to break it to you but I want to pay a lot more for electricity. I want you to pay a lot more too. And we're talking economics, not whether we ban electricity or not. How could you possibly talk me out of this witihout sounding even more paranoid?
posted by Brian B. at 8:34 PM on May 6, 2010


Financial Damage Beginning to Seep from Gulf Disaster: Energy Likely to Emerge Unscathed, While Tourism, Fishing Take Hits
posted by homunculus at 11:14 PM on May 6, 2010


Brian B. wrote: "I'm sorry to break it to you but I want to pay a lot more for electricity."

Ok, why do you want to pay a lot more for electricity? Because it's generated uncleanly?
posted by wierdo at 11:22 PM on May 6, 2010


Ok, why do you want to pay a lot more for electricity? Because it's generated uncleanly?

Cap and trade.
posted by Brian B. at 11:41 PM on May 6, 2010


Brian B. wrote: "Cap and trade."

So you don't specifically want to pay more for electricity. You want polluters to pay for the externalized costs of their pollution. Jeez, man, why didn't you just say so?
posted by wierdo at 12:28 AM on May 7, 2010


an american chernobyl - club orlov
posted by infini at 3:14 AM on May 7, 2010


Thanks, infini: good link, good reading.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 AM on May 7, 2010


It's going to be interesting. Of course we aren't going to power our existing way of life from variations of 1W/m2 peak insolation, and of course uranium supplies aren't going to stretch when fuel substitution kicks in and the other 80% want to start living a bit like us. You take a look inside the big, empty "here be dragons" slice of the EIA's oil projection (the 50% between reverse engineered fantasy and bottom up reality) and it will have to come from deep water and its ugly siblings, Arctic and Tar Sand. Now, it may be getting fashionable to think about banning offshore drilling, and especially fashionable to start calling it British Petroleum and getting all tea party on us, but the deep water exploration market isn't exactly well served with players.

I predict this outrage and moratorium on offshore drilling will last until the first petrol (sorry, gas) queue, and suddenly deep water and BP will start to look attractive again, the way a dead rat does to the starving man. I expect BP will cut a deal with the US to get a $10bn clean up liability cap in return for the donations, and the difference (I've seen estimates in the $ trillions if the BOPs flow cut and they lose primary containment) will get socialiased, as the price of keeping the growth project solvent in energy for a few more months.

Bet you wish Ronnie left Jimmie's solar panels up on the roof now, eh?
posted by falcon at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2010


Deepwater Horizon blast triggered by methane bubble, report shows: Investigation reveals accident on Gulf of Mexico rig was caused when gas escaped from oil well before exploding
posted by homunculus at 8:57 AM on May 8, 2010


BP creates worlds biggest metaphor
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on May 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The roman empire fell primarily because of resource depletion.

Are you sure about that?
posted by peeedro at 10:42 AM on May 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The dome failed: Can the experts here analyze this report?

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2010/05/08/bp-box-fail/
posted by angrycat at 4:04 PM on May 8, 2010


My non-expert opinion: We're properly fucked.
posted by angrycat at 4:06 PM on May 8, 2010


Another source:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/05/08/2010-05-08_methane_bubble_triggered_deadly_gulf_coast_oil_rig_explosion_devastating_oil_spi.html
posted by angrycat at 4:11 PM on May 8, 2010


Ohhhhh fuck, methane clathrates. Talk about your doomsday global warming scenarios.
posted by Justinian at 4:47 PM on May 8, 2010


Doomsday schmoomdays. They've put a cap over oil-saturated ice-cold seawater under high pressure. This outcome isn't particularly surprising and certainly isn't associated with global warming.

I think it's a condemnation of our governments that they are not requiring greater pre-disaster planning. That box should have been dropped within a couple days, not a couple weeks. There should have been anchors and cables already in place to guide it into location. There should have been some foresight.

The whole affair is a pathetic demonstration of greedy incompetence.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:58 PM on May 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


So this means three months of this?
posted by angrycat at 5:14 PM on May 8, 2010


falcon wrote: "uranium supplies aren't going to stretch when fuel substitution kicks in and the other 80% want to start living a bit like us."

Thanks to reprocessing and alternative fuel cycles, uranium is not the only source of fuel for fission power. This is what is so maddening to me about the anti-nuclear stance many people have. We'd still want a few gas turbines or whatever that can respond quickly to changes in demand, but we could easily get 90% of our power in a relatively clean manner. (as clean as any activity that involves digging things up from the ground ever gets, anyway)

I am similarly infuriated by the lack of investment in manufacturing oil from biological waste. We can burn things pretty cleanly, so removing the carbon issue from our fuel supply would allow for a much more orderly transition to electrically powered transportation and provide a continuing source of fuel for things like aviation, where alternative fuel sources aren't a reasonable replacement.
posted by wierdo at 5:57 PM on May 8, 2010


The EPA has a new page up on dispersants. Dispersant use is one of those issues that has been too technical to really be covered well in the press, but has dominated the spill evolution so far. It has been the most effective tool in BP's toolbox for dealing with the spill, but at the same time, little is known about the effectiveness or safety of this scale of underwater application.

Underwater dispersant use, I'm certain, will be one of the lasting legacies of this spill. This is an application that had not been tried before, not on this scale. There will be much study and discussion of this following the incident, both for effectiveness and for tocixity and effects.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2010


I think it's a condemnation of our governments that they are not requiring greater pre-disaster planning. That box should have been dropped within a couple days, not a couple weeks. There should have been anchors and cables already in place to guide it into location. There should have been some foresight.

The useless box would have been just as useless if lowered earlier. Pretty much everyone knew or at least strongly suspected that the dome was not going to work. It's busy work. BP is showing that they are doing something even though there isn't really much they can do. And besides, it's not like the leak is in some predictable spot, although they could move it to a more predictable spot by cutting of the riser, but that could possibly make the leak worse if it's being constrained by a kink in the riser.

Not that I don't agree that it is a failure of regulators and ever-so-greedy companies, but don't blame them for not having a non-functional system in place.
posted by Authorized User at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2010


Slick Operator: How British oil giant BP used all the political muscle money can buy to fend off regulators and influence investigations into corporate neglect.
posted by homunculus at 9:29 AM on May 11, 2010


BP makes enough profit in four days to cover the costs of the spill cleanup thus far.
posted by homunculus at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2010


Scientist: Gulf oil spill may be far worse than first estimated
posted by homunculus at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2010


BP's response, while rational in its efforts to protect its interests, is sickening.
The News Hour had a fascinating interview with one of the guys who got off the rig. BP is denying him medical compensation because their lawyers thrust a waiver of liability upon him after he'd been up almost two days, after the explosion.
Plus they're asking for volunteers to clean up the spill. Volunteers. Pay them, BP.
posted by angrycat at 10:25 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Scientist: Gulf oil spill may be far worse than first estimated

Note that this is not necessarily in contradiction to the 5000 barrel per day estimation. The leak is almost certainly getting worse all the time as the abrasive oil-sand mixture wears away whatever is partially blocking the flow currently. Unless there is a lucky break with some of the hail mary fixes they are attempting, this is going to get a lot worse. A lot.
posted by Authorized User at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2010


Also, keep in mind that this hasn't been confirmed yet by other agencies with more and better data. NOAA, in particular, has the same and more imagery data, including much that hasn't been publically released. It's notoriously hard to judge oil on the surface of the ocean, especially visually or by radar. False positives are very common.

One more reason imagery can be misleading is that oil coverage is often patchy. Oil doesn't generally cover 100% of the surface of the water, even in heavily oiled areas. It can be quite low, especially if weather and waves play a large part, as they do here.

Futhermore, if his weathering models are wrong, i.e. he's not getting the disposition of oil into air, water surface and water column partitions right, models can be very misleading. Modelling oil is very different from aqueous fluids.

While I don't discount MacDonald's claim, I do think it's important that this be backed up by further models and observations.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 11:34 AM on May 11, 2010


Not that I don't agree that it is a failure of regulators and ever-so-greedy companies, but don't blame them for not having a non-functional system in place.

My point is they have NO systems in place. Even with the cap system not working, I'd still be able to at least give them some credit for thinking ahead.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:38 PM on May 11, 2010


They do have a system in place. They are drilling the relief well as we speak. As far as I know, this is the only way to stop a leak like this, 5000 feet below sea level.
posted by Authorized User at 9:34 PM on May 11, 2010


A system which takes months to work during which time at least 5000 barrels of oil a day (and likely more) are spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is not worthy of the name "system".
posted by Justinian at 10:22 PM on May 11, 2010


The Big Picture
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


BP's Ford Pinto Memo
COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF THEE LITTLE PIGS
* Frequency - the big bad wolf blows with a frequency of once per piggy lifetime.
* Consequence - If the wolf blows down the house, the piggy is gobbled.
* Maximum justifiable spends (MJS) - A piggy considers it's worth $1000 to save its bacon.
* 1/0/piggy lifetime*$1000/piggy life = $1000
*Which type house should the piggy build?
posted by caddis at 7:01 AM on May 26, 2010


I'm curious if any of the oil industry apologists in this thread care to revise their opinions.
posted by empath at 10:45 AM on May 26, 2010


empath wrote: "I'm curious if any of the oil industry apologists in this thread care to revise their opinions."

Now that there's enough information to judge the response, I'd say they didn't do a very good job. They got a bunch of booms out there and probably managed to lessen the disaster, but still not a great response.

I'm more interested with the broken BOP, which seems to be the greatest oversight.
posted by wierdo at 2:44 PM on May 26, 2010


You know, I'm all for bashing BP, but more and more the reactions to this situation are reminding me of this.
posted by Artw at 2:48 PM on May 26, 2010


I don't give a shit how hypocritical it is, I still think BP executives and the asshat who decided to cut corners and substitute seawater for mud should all be executed with efficiency.

Nothing I EVER do in my life will be as destructive as the outcomes of the decisions BP has made. Absol-fucking-lutely *NOTHING*.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2010


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