Nothing is good, nothing is good
May 30, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Top kill has failed, and oil is still pouring into the gulf

Doug Suttles, COO of BP: "This scares everybody - the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing"

BP has given up on top kill and next they will again attempt to cap the well with a "lower marine riser package" or LMRP. But BP is running out of ideas, and it looks increasingly possible they won't be able to stop the spill until a relief well is completed in August

In other news, The New York Times reports on internal BP documents showing there were serious safety concerns and irregularities at Deepwater that BP neglected to share in testimony before Congress just days ago

As usual, the latest post from The Oil Drum should fill your oil-wonk needs. Commenters are not optimistic about the chance of success of the LMRP

Previously: 1, 2, 3
posted by crayz (387 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
It certainly scares me, that's for sure.
posted by box at 7:57 AM on May 30, 2010


the russian idea with the nukes somehow seems less abusurd right now...
posted by ts;dr at 8:00 AM on May 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


So it's now that we should be scared.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:02 AM on May 30, 2010


Does it bother anyone else that it took them a month to come up with and implement the brilliant idea of pumping mud into the wellhead in order to staunch the flow?

Next they will be sending down a diver to put his finger in there to give them more time to come up with a better solution.
posted by 517 at 8:03 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


In Canada they're required to drill a relief well at the same time as the main well, just in case something like this happens.
BP is lobbying to overturn that law in Canada, and against adopting it here.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:05 AM on May 30, 2010 [162 favorites]


Does it bother anyone else that it took them a month to come up with and implement the brilliant idea of pumping mud into the wellhead in order to staunch the flow?

Well, they tried other things (including the 'box'). The problem with trying a top kill was that if it didn't work, it could actually make things worse. It seems like they've also been trying "Junk shots" but those haven't been working at all.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 AM on May 30, 2010


They want to get oil up to $150/barrel, then we may see it fixed :)
posted by pretzel at 8:09 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to Think progress we can do more.

"In fact, the president has the authority to nationalize BP America and seize all of its assets, rendering the question of reliance on BP moot. If Obama does not believe that the Clean Water Act’s “spill of national significance” provisions give him sufficient authority, he can rightly declare a national emergency..."

In any case the vacillation evinced by Obama is doing no one any good.
posted by Max Power at 8:11 AM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm thinking corporate charter revocation and then using BP executives rendered down to artificial diamonds to plug the leak.
posted by mephron at 8:12 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was just browsing the LA Times homepage for the oil spill, lots of good coverage there. Another interesting bit - one of the top BP officials actually on the rig the day it exploded is taking the 5th.

Also, Is Tuesday going to be a great opportunity to snap up cheap BP stock?.
posted by carsonb at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2010


According to Think progress we can do more.

Ok, so you seize BP America. What's next after that?
posted by atrazine at 8:15 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Then we lop the head off of a BP exec for every day the oil continues to flow, then add the head to the "junk shot."
posted by adipocere at 8:17 AM on May 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Then we lop the head off of a BP exec for every day the oil continues to flow, then add the head to the "junk shot."

Oh, I thought we were talking about "doing more" to stop the leak.
posted by atrazine at 8:19 AM on May 30, 2010


Oh joy, now the entire fucking internet gets to armchair quarterback for both BP *and* Barack Obama, their favourite person in the world to airchair quaterback for, on the sbject of marine engineering which we are of course all experts on.

"Stupid President! You let them try a containment box! Of course it was goint to fill with Methyl Hydrates and float off, I totally knew that before it happened! You idiot!"
posted by Artw at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2010 [92 favorites]


How could Obama nationalize a foreign company? Certainly we could, and should make them responsible for economic losses (as well as just cleanup) along the gulf, and disbar them from federal contracts, though.
posted by delmoi at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2010


Scares the hell out of me. Don't eat marine food from the gulf for a century or so. Unless those dispersants have antioxidants!
posted by glaucon at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next they will be sending down a diver little Dutch boy to put his finger in there to give them more time to come up with a better solution.

There we go. Problem solved!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:21 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, I thought we were talking about "doing more" to stop the leak.

We've just got to get the right incentives in place.
posted by delmoi at 8:21 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


In related news, this article on hurricanes +oil spills answered some of my questions in a very science-y way.
posted by availablelight at 8:21 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good morning and welcome to your horrible! horrible! future!

I was wondering when it would get here.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 AM on May 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


atrazine: Ok, so you seize BP America. What's next after that?

Use their net worth to try to develop a better method for sealing the well, and when that's done, use whatever is left for cleanup. This mess is going to ultimately cost more to fix than their total worth, but they should at least pay that.

Hell, if it was legal, I'd say we should raid the personal finances of their executives.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:22 AM on May 30, 2010 [24 favorites]


It's gone from bad to serious to completely horrifying. What is the next phase, hopeless? (DABDA: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance..)
posted by marimeko at 8:24 AM on May 30, 2010


Easy solution.....rename the Gulf "Sunnydale", call Buffy, and let her shut down the Hell Mouth...

which makes about as much sense as pumping mud at it...

And, y'all thought the apocalypse was going to be caused by a happy trigger finger on a missile launcher.. little did you know it would be a little hole in the ocean floor....

posted by HuronBob at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is just so unremittingly awful.

I voted for Obama, and I like the guy. But I think we are going to look back on this moment as the exact same kind of wasted opportunity as Bush's 9/11 "go shopping" moment. Instead of saying "holy crap, we are going to begin the long, difficult, and expensive process of remaking our energy economy," he's dithering.
posted by Forktine at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't eat marine food from the gulf for a century or so

That wont be a problem because there won't be any marine food, because there wont be any marine life. This is an event which will live in infamy for centuries, and the people associated with this will be remembered as demons. It doesn't matter what Obama does now, because I think, historically, he will be the president who let the gulf die on his watch.

I think the situation is actually going to end up being worse than anyone's imagination.
posted by fuq at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [23 favorites]


This thing will spew until August when the relief well is finished. Listen to how weakly BP is advancing this cap solution, they are already basically admitting that it won't work but they're going to do it anyway because they know they can't be perceived to be doing nothing during the relief well drilling process. Seriously, they have no idea what they're doing with these plugging attempts, and at this point they are getting really close to saying just that.

So what does the Gulf look like in August, after this well has been spewing 15,000 or so barrels of oil into deep waters every day for four straight months? I think that's the contingency plan people in positions to make plans need to make, there's really no rational basis for assuming anything other than the absolute worst case scenario outcome based on what's happened so far.
posted by The Straightener at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


It should also be noted that the entire internet apparently does not use oil, drives no cars, and is trying it's eviscerations of BP on wooden keyboards.
posted by Artw at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [23 favorites]


Don't eat marine food from the gulf for a century or so.

The dispersant breaks down in 28 days.
posted by delmoi at 8:26 AM on May 30, 2010


Unless those dispersants have antioxidants!

I'm just waiting for the spin that says seafood contaminated with oil dispersants will REDUCE BODY FAT BY UP TO 10%!! CONSUMER ASSUMES FULL RESPONSIBILITY. SUPPLIES LIMITED TO ONE PER CUSTOMER. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. TERMS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN BALL.
posted by elizardbits at 8:26 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


ArtW... what the hell is an "airchair"? 'cuz I think I want one....
posted by HuronBob at 8:27 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, so you seize BP America. What's next after that?

Arrest executives who chose not to implement basic safety procedures, and try them for negligent homicide and the theft of livelihood and health of millions who live in the Gulf region. For a start.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:29 AM on May 30, 2010 [22 favorites]


ArtW... what the hell is an "airchair"? 'cuz I think I want one....

An inflatable armchair. MADE FROM OIL PRODUCTS.
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on May 30, 2010



Ok, so you seize BP America. What's next after that?

For one thing it will create a precedent for the next multinational that thinks they can tempt a national disaster in pursuit of a couple more million in profits. I for one am sickened by the fact that corporations are merely fined for acts that would put an individual in jail for 30 years. If they want their fucking corporate personhood so fucking bad lets start revoking corporate charters and imprisoning corporate executives.
posted by any major dude at 8:30 AM on May 30, 2010 [84 favorites]


Finally proof that God Hates Shrimp.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2010 [27 favorites]


<>
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2010


It should also be noted that the entire internet apparently does not use oil, drives no cars, and is trying it's eviscerations of BP on wooden keyboards.
I'm sorry, but that's some serious bullshit. People live in society. They can only use whats available to them. If it were my choice, I would rather see (slightly) higher gas prices then offshore drilling, especially after this accident. But I don't get to make that choice.

I did, however, vote for someone who claimed to be against Offshore drilling. But just a couple months ago he suddenly came out for it, talking about how safe it was nowadays. See if you can guess who I'm talking about!

But seriously, are you even aware of the fact that you can be fore oil generally, but against certain extraction methods? Or that you can participate in society while advocating that certain aspects of society change?
posted by delmoi at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2010 [46 favorites]


I grew up in the US in the Seventies, and many people then predicted scenarios just like the one we are in today. I believed it and it frightened me. By the Nineties, most people were driving SUVs. It isn't going to get any better because humanity is incapable of rising above its greed, its materialism, its gluttony, and its vanity. I wish I could envision a remedy, but I can't imagine a realistic one. Some things can't be fixed.

Sometimes I wonder what keeps me going. I'm glad I chose not to have kids.
posted by belvidere at 8:33 AM on May 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


and it looks increasingly possible they won't be able to stop the spill until a relief well is completed in August

It will run out of oil first, just like the Pemex disaster in '79.
posted by Brian B. at 8:33 AM on May 30, 2010


...and it looks increasingly possible they won't be able to stop the spill until a relief well is completed in August

And if this fails?

My question is how long can this go at this rate? Let's say no one ever stops it? When does it run out and how much will "escape."

Also, a windfall tax on oil that goes into a fund for cleanups doesn't seem bad to me at this point.

Exxon still hasn't paid what they should.

Who knew that something could come along to make the bankers no longer at the bottom of the sleaze pile. Lawyers are looking downright respectable these days.

If even one BP executive gets one penny in bonus money this year BP will have an even bigger PR problem.

I'm in favor of seizing every BP asset, every dime of every executive that has one penny in US banks, and putting someone else entirely in charge of this operation. Letting the people who fucked it up attempt to clean it up doesn't just seem wrong, it is wrong. They don't have the proper incentives. They reject claims and appeal awards. Get them the hell out of there and find someone else to clean it up and give the bill to whoever holds BPs assets.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:35 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It isn't going to get any better because humanity is incapable of rising above its greed, its materialism, its gluttony, and its vanity.

Try its short sightedness, and you'd be closer.
posted by emperor.seamus at 8:35 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why Wasn’t There a Better Plan? Before flooding the gulf with oil, BP’s plan to handle a disaster was alarmingly short on solutions.

Walruses in Louisiana?
posted by homunculus at 8:35 AM on May 30, 2010


It doesn't matter what Obama does now, because I think, historically, he will be the president who let the gulf die on his watch.

Uh, how did he "let" it die on his watch?
posted by agregoli at 8:35 AM on May 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


Shoulda dropped a bunker buster in there and closed it off last month.

It is obvious that BP had no plans beyond the relief well...anything they try between now and then is going to be for show. They don't know how to stop it.
posted by Chuffy at 8:36 AM on May 30, 2010


I wonder what the public reaction would be to seizing BP's assetts and dismantling the American arm of the corporation?

Also, for the British posters here, what's the public sentiment about this over there?
posted by codacorolla at 8:37 AM on May 30, 2010


Use their net worth to try to develop a better method for sealing the well

What a load of rubbish.

Have you got any idea as to how science and engineering research is actually done? You can't just dump dollar bills into a big magic funnel and get a working solution out that you can immediately use. Any development of "better methods" to seal the well would take months or years to develop, test, and deploy. Not only that, but you'd still be depending on the same engineers who are at work trying to fix the problem now.

I'm sure one of the usual simpletons is already mentally drafting a comment about how the oil industry engineers obviously haven't solved the problem therefore they should be replaced with people from outside the industry. An idea so stupid that it really isn't worth dismissing at length.

What Obama should take control of, are the booming efforts which BP is not managing well at all.

Arrest executives who chose not to implement basic safety procedures, and try them for negligent homicide and the theft of livelihood and health of millions who live in the Gulf region. For a start.

Which basic safety procedures are those? We don't know exactly what happened yet. We know that there was a blow-out and that this was preceded by pressure readings which some considered anomalous, but when you're working at several thousand metres under the sea-bed you are constantly dealing with impartial and incomplete information. Not only that but we don't know to what extent these decisions were driven by company policy (for which senior BP executives are responsible) and to what extent they were driven by the decisions of the BP D/S on the rig.

It is incidentally very unlikely that the facts would support "negligent homicide", as to the destruction of livelihoods, isn't that what civil courts are for? If the total damage awards exceed what BP can pay, then that'll be the end of BP as many of you clearly wish. If it doesn't, then it won't.
posted by atrazine at 8:38 AM on May 30, 2010 [25 favorites]


If, like me, you have been obsessing over the various live feeds which are available and would like to do so in the company of others equally obsessed, #theoildrum on Freenode has been pretty busy.
posted by enn at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2010


It will run out of oil first, just like the Pemex disaster in '79.

No, it wont.
posted by D_I at 8:40 AM on May 30, 2010


I'm sorry, but that's some serious bullshit. People live in society.

An oil using society. The same one me and you live in. And so we are repsonsible, no mater to what extent we want to say "this was just BPs fault!" or by some weird fucked up logic "this was Obamas fault!". We use oil. This is what happens when you use oil. We can accept that, or we can change that, but failing to acknowledge that is just burying your head in (oil contaminated) sand.
posted by Artw at 8:41 AM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Stupi question: why is BP, the one who screwed up in the first place, apparently in total control of whatever happens next?

I mean.. don't you guys have this whole FEMA thing?
posted by Harry at 8:42 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is not what has to happen when you use oil. It's what happens when you let greed override safe engineering practices.

What does happen when you use oil is an increase in concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans, which is a whole different can of worms and potentially worse.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:45 AM on May 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


BP is keeping up their PR effort, also.
posted by Danf at 8:47 AM on May 30, 2010


Which basic safety procedures are those?

Atrazine maybe you didn't read the NYT article linked to in the OP?

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards.

The whole thing is worth a read.
posted by Max Power at 8:47 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is what happens when you try to nationalize BP's operations in your country, Barry
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


atrazine: Have you got any idea as to how science and engineering research is actually done? You can't just dump dollar bills into a big magic funnel and get a working solution out that you can immediately use. Any development of "better methods" to seal the well would take months or years to develop, test, and deploy. Not only that, but you'd still be depending on the same engineers who are at work trying to fix the problem now.

Of course I do, but you don't have to do it that way. Let's take BP's giant pile of money, find the best people in the field, and pay them as much as it takes to get them all together and working around the clock. Maybe there's a solution, and maybe there isn't - but we should at least try. Plus, once we've seized the assets, the researchers will be working without worrying about BP's welfare - they'll be more willing to try solutions that cost a lot of money or make the well permanently sealed.

I understand that maybe we'll get the response that nothing is possible, but in that case, we can devote our resources to getting that relief well drilled. There's almost always a way to throw money at a problem like that and get it done faster (more people, more shifts, a willingness to destroy equipment if it gets the job done faster, etc.) And I still think we should charge BP the entire price of the cleanup, and that is likely to be more money than they possess.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]



I did, however, vote for someone who claimed to be against Offshore drilling.


In 2008, we gave him a Half Flip because early in his campaign he said he intended to maintain the ban on drilling off the Florida coast. Then, amid soaring gas prices that summer, he said he was receptive to a compromise plan to open new areas for drilling.

By the time he won the White House, Obama was squarely behind new efforts to produce more oil domestically.


No, you didn't.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


codacorolla: "Also, for the British posters here, what's the public sentiment about this over there?"

"Not our problem guv": As far as the average Brit is concerned, British Petroleum's only connection with Britain is the name & some history. These days they're just another multinational oil company, no more "British" than Shell is.

Which isn't to say that the media isn't giving the whole thing a fair amount of attention, as it should be, but you won't find much in the way of hand-wringing over whether Britain bears any responsibilty for the catastrophe in the gulf.
posted by pharm at 8:49 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uh, how did he "let" it die on his watch?

He let BP drill without appropriately investigating the response plan and environmental impact. Remember, BP had been convicted of criminal misconduct four times, and they had an open leak in Alaska that they hadn't stopped. There was ample reasons not to trust BP before they started on this drilling. There had been ample reasons not to let them drill on federal lands or waters. But nothing was stopped.

Now, I suppose you could argue that Obama was too new and that this was still Bush's fault, but Obama hadn't done anything to clean up MMS, which was still plagued with problems. And you could argue that he couldn't have predicted that this particular problem with the government would be the one that was going to cause all these problems, and his priorities were reasonable. And that's fair, but it doesn't mean his administration wasn't responsible for this. They did approve the well, I think (although I don't know exactly when this drilling started, or when it was approved)

---

More problematic though is the fact that while Obama campaigned against offshore drilling, just before the well blew, he actually flipped around and started arguing for offshore drilling. And he was even talking about how safe the modern technology was, when in fact it wasn't safe.

If this particular spill hadn't happened, Obama's policies actually would have made another blowout even more likely in the future, because he was aggressively promoting drilling as a policy, adding incentives for states to drill close to their coasts, and would have expanded offshore drilling all along the Atlantic.

So, personally I do think he bares some of the responsibility, both for not fixing MMS or actually checking the safety and for promoting and pushing more offshore drilling along the east coast in general.
posted by delmoi at 8:50 AM on May 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Okay, Artw, I'll personally confess that I'm glad to live in an oil-using society. I like to drive my car. I'd prefer that my car doesn't use oil, but I need a greater range than electrics can currently provide. Hybrids are currently priced out of my buying power. I offset that by living in a walkable neighborhood. I buy local when possible and prudent. I have a potted garden on my back deck. Recently I've cut down on meat intake. I don't agree with damaging drilling processes. I think we need a Manhattan Project to develop solar into a cheap, obtainable process.

How guilty does that make me? Because if you're insinuating that I'm just as guilty as some asshole fuck driving an SUV towing a yacht to and from the Wal-mart 35 miles away twice a week, you can eat a junk shot of my shit.
posted by scrowdid at 8:50 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Believe it or not, FEMA doesn't know how to plug a well under a mile of water, either.

Also, as bad as this is, we've had worse and survived.
posted by empath at 8:50 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stupi question: why is BP, the one who screwed up in the first place, apparently in total control of whatever happens next?

Because them and other "big oil companies" (who are also helping btw) are the only ones equipped with the knowledge, expertise, and equipment to deal with this. The whole "calling in the Navy" thing is ridiculous. Oh sure, they drill wells all the time.....
posted by Big_B at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, you didn't.

Are you saying that he never claimed to be against offshore drilling? Because what you quoted indicates otherwise. Anyway, he was against it during the primary, but for it during the general election. Which really just makes the flip even more brazen, IMO.
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2010


Which basic safety procedures are those?

BP official rejected safety concerns

Douglas Brown, the rig's chief mechanic, testified that three officials for rig owner Transocean balked at the desire of a BP "company man" to remove drilling mud from the pipe connecting the rig to the well...

Brown's account suggests that Harrell believed BP was taking a grave risk by replacing drilling mud with lighter seawater.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]



Are you saying that he never claimed to be against offshore drilling? Because what you quoted indicates otherwise. Anyway, he was against it during the primary, but for it during the general election. Which really just makes the flip even more brazen, IMO.


I'm saying you knew what you were voting for.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2010


Also, as bad as this is, we've had worse and survived.

That was in Mexico, pretty far away from the US.
posted by delmoi at 8:53 AM on May 30, 2010


Let's take BP's giant pile of money, find the best people in the field, and pay them as much as it takes to get them all together and working around the clock.

What do you think they're doing now? Do you think the best people in the field are sitting at home, waiting for a phone call that's not coming? They're all in West Houston, and they're coming from other companies in addition to BP's best people.
posted by fatbird at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Atrazine maybe you didn't read the NYT article linked to in the OP?

I've seen it, yes. Certainly a lot of those things raise serious concerns, and I imagine will be be fertile ground for the inquiry that will definitively establish what happened. Without reviewing in great detail the actual technical documents in question, I don't think that we can know anything for sure.
posted by atrazine at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2010


I had never heard of the Canadian relief well law, nor BP's lobbying against it.

Just like the CDO & CDS financial fiasco, it looks like us being a few years behind the USA on everything has paid off yet again.
posted by anthill at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think that we can know anything for sure.

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


They don't know how to stop it.
Does anyone? Unlike I assumed in my knee-jerk anti-MBA anti-outsourcing way, many of BP's execs (including the CEO) are geologists, engineers and physicists.

If they know nothing's going to work except the relief well and are stalling for time that's one thing, but if they are trying everything plausible in an unprecedented situation while *also* drilling the relief well, that's something else. What exactly is it that Fema, who did such a bang-up job 1ft below sea level, could do to help here? BP has spent close to a billion dollars already, and that's before the deserved and monstrous fines have hit them.

What are the better alternatives?
posted by bonaldi at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm saying you knew what you were voting for.

...or maybe he didn't follow the campaign closely enough to monitor every single shift in policy because he's not a great big political wonk like some of us are.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Without reviewing in great detail the actual technical documents in question, I don't think that we can know anything for sure.

Oh please, you're the one who's saying:
Which basic safety procedures are those? We don't know exactly what happened yet. We know that there was a blow-out and that this was preceded by pressure readings which some considered anomalous, but when you're working at several thousand metres under the sea-bed you are constantly dealing with impartial and incomplete information. Not only that but we don't know to what extent these decisions were driven by company policy (for which senior BP executives are responsible) and to what extent they were driven by the decisions of the BP D/S on the rig.
Except, you know, we kind of do know but now you're saying "oh, we don't know for sure!" We know BP spouted bullshit on their application. We know, for the most part, that BP pressured transocean to cut corners to speed up the process. We know they've been convicted of misconduct in the past. What else do we need to know? It's also only 1.6km below the surface, not "several thousand metres"

If you don't know how deep the thing is, it's a little ridiculous to lecture people about what we do and don't know.
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on May 30, 2010


BP Public Relations Has Some Advice For Maintaining Perspective
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:00 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Maybe (?) this will help facilitate change in the way we use oil. Maybe it will have a some lasting effect. Yes people need to drive. I don't need to drive in Chicago, so I never do. I realize that this is possible due to where I currently live. Obviously, if I had to move to LA (for example) for some reason, that would change. Still, there are many people in my position who continue to drive. This might finally nudge those who do have a choice to finally take steps to change the way they get around.
posted by marimeko at 9:00 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]



...or maybe he didn't follow the campaign closely enough to monitor every single shift in policy because he's not a great big political wonk like some of us are.


It's perfectly okay not to follow politics that closely. Just don't go around making categorical statements of fact like:



More problematic though is the fact that while Obama campaigned against offshore drilling, just before the well blew, he actually flipped around and started arguing for offshore drilling.


It's just not true. The opposite of fact.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Arguing over who has a car and who uses plastic and who is complicit is fucking bullshit. It's the great neoliberal scam — markets are the best way of doing everything, and so if you want something changed, it's because you're not consuming right. Let's all blame the stupid consumers for being bad, bad people! It's buck-passing bullshit. Not every problem is best addressed by evangelizing your idea of socially-responsible consumption — sometimes, you need to stop blaming people for taking the wrong kind of transport or buying the wrong kind of food and pass some fucking laws and spend some public monies. Systemic problems require systemic solutions, you are not going to fix them by riding your bike to work. In the meantime, it's nice that some people have the money and energy to try to create a more sustainable mode of living for themselves, but trying to shame the people who don't into giving up their oil by sheer force of moral indignation is profoundly misguided.

I don't have a car, they are barbaric death machine money-pits and you car people are crazy masochists, but if that's your thing, knock yourselves out.
posted by enn at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2010 [118 favorites]


this article on hurricanes +oil spills answered some of my questions

The weather side of that is right, but his knowledge of what oil does in the environment is limited to what he's read in a couple of papers. I have several problems his conclusions.

So, the Ixtoc blowout experience shows us that if a sandy beach is already fouled by oil, a hurricane can help clean up the mess. However, the situation is different along shores with marshlands, where the many shoreline plants offer crevices and tangled roots for the oil to accumulate in. A hurricane will help scour some of the oil out of marshlands, but the majority of it will probably remain stuck. This is also true of rocky beaches. Rocky shores fouled by the great Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 have been pounded by many hurricane-strength storms over the years, but these storms were not able to clean the beaches of oil like Hurricane Henri did for Texas' beaches in 1979.

This is predicated on the behavior of emulsions of the oil. The oil blown out of Ixtoc 1 was a medium-weight crude, commonly called Mayan, which emulsifies easily and forms stable emulsions. These break only slowly and remain sticky for a long time. This oil can thus get held up in crevasses and in marshes.

In contrast, the oil from the DWH is a much lighter crude, and is harder to emulsify. The emulsions also break after a few days in the sun. You can see that happening in this picture. The red emulsion on the sea-ward side of the marsh is separating in the marsh into less-viscous black oil in the hot sun.

A hurricane would be able to remove this black oil more easily than the Ixtoc 1 emulsions.

Secondly, there haven't been reports of big mats or conglomerations of oil. I suspect (but don't know for certain) that this oil will remobilize fairly easily in a heavy storm. The south Louisiana coast geomorphology, mostly marsh and beach, is such that remobilization is also likely, compared to the beaches of Alaska, which are armored by a layer of cobble.

The significance of the hurricane "blender" is also lost on the author. A hurricane will disperse the oil into very small droplets (<0.1mm diameter). This is significant because dispersed oil is much more bioavailable than slicks. Bacteria and other microbes can colonize small droplets very easily compared with bulk oil and begin to break it down. (This is what chemical dispersants are supposed to do.)

In ideal conditions, dispersed oil has a half-life of less than a week. In less than ideal, real conditions, dispersed oil can persist for up to several weeks. Even so, that's a much better result than the alternative for larger agglomerations, which is to pick up sediment and form mats or tarballs. Tarballs can persist for years and get transported very long distances.

Hurricanes will help clean up the spill to a large degree. It's true that small amounts of oil may get transported on land, but in such low concentrations that no one has ever been able to measure the difference above normal. This happens every year with the natural seeps off-shore of Texas and Mexico , after all.

The major problem with hurricane season is that on water operations will be much more limited. Mitigation efforts like burning and skimming that are now removing a significant amount of oil will be less possible. The well control engineering efforts will also be interrupted. Those are really big problems. But hurricanes, storms and high winds will do more to clean the coast that anything humans can do, in my opinion.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2010 [31 favorites]


Thank you Enn, for that.
posted by The Whelk at 9:09 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


BP Public Relations Has Some Advice For Maintaining Perspective

From that feed:
KFC now offering the Top Kill sandwich! Bacon. Cheese. Mud. Sandwiched between two oily chicken slabs served on a plate of shame #bpcares
posted by delmoi at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi,

I'm obviously not disputing that we don't have enough information to determine whether a mistake was made. I'm saying that we don't have enough information to determine who made it.

Look, it's obvious that BP fucked up, otherwise we wouldn't have a wild well on our hands. The question is, based on the information available at the time, who made the critical errors? That is what we need more information to decide.

We have only fragmentary information. We know a lot of bits about what individuals thought at various times. What we don't know is exactly what caused the accident.

We know that there were disagreements about the type of casing to use, we don't know if the change in their internal engineer's reports were driven by commercial reasons or if they genuinely changed their minds after the "further tests" mentioned in the article. We also don't know if the casing did fracture, we don't know if the cement job did or didn't hold.

We know that there was a disagreement regarding the displacement of the drilling fluid, obviously the Transocean guys were right and the BP guys were wrong - seeing as the well is now totally out of control. What we don't know is the nature of the anomalous pressure readings, how far and in what ways they were outside the norm for deep wells in this part of the Gulf.
posted by atrazine at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2010


You know that scene in Apollo 13 where the NASA guys go into a room, dump a bunch of stuff on a table and essentially say, "we've got to get a round filter in a square hole and this is what we have to work with" and they are able to do it?

Obama, or someone else with the authority need to do this. Gather the greatest minds in the USA - in the world for that matter as it is a global problem now, hold a massive brainstorming conference and figure out how to stop the oil. THAT is the most important thing now. The blame game can be played later, I guarantee you that it will.

Like, off the top of my head (and I'm certainly not claiming to be one of the greatest minds), but what about that attic insulation? The stuff they spray in and it foams up and hardens, or does that not work underwater? So what can we do to make it work underwater?? We need SCIENCE!
posted by NoraCharles at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It will run out of oil first, just like the Pemex disaster in '79.

-No, it wont.


Perhaps, but this is a scenario of raw probabilities now, and though a second well will relieve pressure, the next capping process could break open a wider leak at some point, despite the lower pressure. It could mean a permanent leak. From the LA Times link above:

Iraj Ershaghi, a petroleum engineering professor at USC, warned that continuing to inject mud into the well at extreme pressure could have broken pipes, or casings, deep in the well, causing it to collapse. Such a scenario could leave a ragged crater that could be difficult, if not impossible, to plug by any means, he said.

Ershaghi said the new strategy was a well-tested method of controlling wells and was BP's best chance of success now.
posted by Brian B. at 9:12 AM on May 30, 2010


NoraCharles,

But all those guys in the room were already NASA engineers working on the Apollo project. The equivalent would be to get all the best senior engineers from BP, Exxon-Mobil, etc. into a room and have them brainstorm. That is apparently already what they are doing.
posted by atrazine at 9:14 AM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Which basic safety procedures are those? We don't know exactly what happened yet.

Sure we do. When they were still talking about "top kill," did you notice the language they were using? It was an "unprecedented" operation "never-before-tried" at that depth. All of the journalists and experts and talking heads used that same verbiage. And what does that translate to? "BP did not prepare for the worst-case-scenario."

Look, I'm not an oil engineer, and I'll be the first to admit that I know fuck all about oil drilling. But common sense would tell you that you don't want to do ANYTHING where, if shit goes wrong, the only solution is to do things that are "unprecedented" and "never-before-tried" -- especially when that thing you're trying to do is something supermundane like wringing 10M out of an oil deposit, and the thing at risk is AN ENTIRE FUCKING ECOSYSTEM THAT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DEPEND ON.

So what went wrong? Simple. Someone at BP did the calculations and decided that a safer path -- like drilling a relief well simultaneously, or (gasp) not drilling there at all -- was just too costly, because, to them, the environment was just one big externality. And for whatever reason, the laws of this country allow them to do that. I'm sure things would be different if BP had significant holdings in the shrimp industry, or if the US had more-restrictive laws about this sort of thing, but they don't and we don't, so this is what you get.

Surprised it didn't happen sooner.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:15 AM on May 30, 2010 [42 favorites]


You know that scene in Apollo 13 where the NASA guys go into a room, dump a bunch of stuff on a table and essentially say, "we've got to get a round filter in a square hole and this is what we have to work with" and they are able to do it?

Obama, or someone else with the authority need to do this. Gather the greatest minds in the USA - in the world for that matter as it is a global problem now, hold a massive brainstorming conference and figure out how to stop the oil. THAT is the most important thing now. The blame game can be played later, I guarantee you that it will.


Seriously, this is already being done. The most and deepest expertise in deep sea drilling is at BP and some other companies, and all those guys are already working together to figure out how to stop the flow of oil. There's nothing that can be done, short term, that isn't being done. There aren't any presidential superheroics that can make a difference at this point.
posted by fatbird at 9:17 AM on May 30, 2010


If even one BP executive gets one penny in bonus money this year BP will have an even bigger PR problem.

Please be realistic. Doug Suttles has been the puiblic face of this, and he may take a token salary of a dollar for the year or something, but everyone else involved will get their usual seven-figure bonuses (or whatever they got last year). Stewart and Colbert will report it as a punchline. Any other media outlet the does so will be under attack by friends of Big Oil, who will moan about "playing the blame game," but most media will not even mention it because of their breathless reporting on who Lindsay Lohan was seen with at a club last night or telling us we will never guess who will be apearring on Dancing With The Stars during sweeps week.

BP subsidiaries on the Gulf Coast will undergo rebranding and will emerge under a new name (usually a made-up, focus group-tested, vaguely positive nonsense thing like Aliantra or something) and a year from now everything will be the same as it ever was.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:20 AM on May 30, 2010 [37 favorites]


Afroblanco,

That's a good point. Deep water drilling is inherently very difficult and given the difficulties and the consequences of an accident, it might have been better not to do it.
posted by atrazine at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2010


I'm just glad that I know what to expect when oil rigs start popping up off the BC coast.
posted by klanawa at 9:22 AM on May 30, 2010


Arguing over who has a car and who uses plastic and who is complicit is fucking bullshit. It's the great neoliberal scam — markets are the best way of doing everything, and so if you want something changed, it's because you're not consuming right. Let's all blame the stupid consumers for being bad, bad people! It's buck-passing bullshit. Not every problem is best addressed by evangelizing your idea of socially-responsible consumption — sometimes, you need to stop blaming people for taking the wrong kind of transport or buying the wrong kind of food and pass some fucking laws and spend some public monies. Systemic problems require systemic solutions, you are not going to fix them by riding your bike to work. In the meantime, it's nice that some people have the money and energy to try to create a more sustainable mode of living for themselves, but trying to shame the people who don't into giving up their oil by sheer force of moral indignation is profoundly misguided.

I don't have a car, they are barbaric death machine money-pits and you car people are crazy masochists, but if that's your thing, knock yourselves out.


I hear this, but I don't agree that it's "buck-passing bullshit". I still think that there is room for even the smallest of adjustments - in taking some personal responsibility, wherever possible, because it does ultimately trickle into the larger populace (even if only many, many years later) creating what is a bigger, lasting change. Shaming people is stupid. That's not the point. And money has nothing to with it (it's much cheaper for me to ride a bike than drive a car).
posted by marimeko at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Canada they're required to drill a relief well at the same time as the main well, just in case something like this happens.
BP is lobbying to overturn that law in Canada, and against adopting it here.


Maybe we can sell the idea using "Drill*, Baby, Drill**!"

--
*the main well
**the relief well

posted by mazola at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


We need SCIENCE!
Actually we need to stop watching so many movies. Or, at least, watching them and then demanding our politicians act the same way as movie heroes.
posted by bonaldi at 9:24 AM on May 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


A black swan or a black swan?
posted by larry_darrell at 9:24 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Big Question: Has BP ruled out (or is saving for later) any method that would cap the well AND make the oil down there inaccessible permanently or for a very very long time? If making sure they can re-drill later is a factor in decision-making for this crisis, then that would be totally WRONG to the point of inhumanly evil, right?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


How guilty does that make me? Because if you're insinuating that I'm just as guilty as some asshole fuck driving an SUV towing a yacht to and from the Wal-mart 35 miles away twice a week, you can eat a junk shot of my shit.

Good on you for taking that moral high ground there, sparky.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't eat marine food from the gulf for a century or so.

The dispersant breaks down in 28 days.

too late on both accounts. according to reports from people on the scene, there's not a bird, not a bug, not a sound from the spots where oil has been swirling. mostly, it's a dead zone out there.
posted by msconduct at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


onefellfoop,

This well was a total-loss from the moment the DW Horizon caught fire.
posted by atrazine at 9:27 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's perfectly okay not to follow politics that closely. Just don't go around making categorical statements of fact like:
More problematic though is the fact that while Obama campaigned against offshore drilling, just before the well blew, he actually flipped around and started arguing for offshore drilling.

It's just not true. The opposite of fact.
You're confused. Obama campaigned against new offshore drilling. Then he flipped around and argued for it, making my statement correct.

Apparently some time between the primary campaign and march, he made some positive statements about offshore drilling, which I didn't really remember hearing during the campaign. Of course after the primary, it was kind of irrelevant, given the "Drill Baby Drill" nonsense from the McCain/Palin campaign.

The only time I actually remember Obama making a big deal about offshore drilling was just a month or so before the well blew, after HCR passed. That was the only time during his presidency. During the primary campaign he was definitely against it, during the general election he may have made some mealy-mouthed 'interpret either way' statements about it, it wasn't a major part of his platform.
posted by delmoi at 9:27 AM on May 30, 2010


Actually we need to stop watching so many movies. Or, at least, watching them and then demanding our politicians act the same way as movie heroes.

But Obama was so awesome when he punched that alien in the face and said "Welcome to Earth"!
posted by scrowdid at 9:29 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


The car is on fire, and there's no driver at the wheel
And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
And a dark wind blows

The government is corrupt
And we're on so many drugs
With the radio on and the curtains drawn

We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
And the machine is bleeding to death

The sun has fallen down
And the billboards are all leering
And the flags are all dead at the top of their poles

It went like this:

The buildings tumbled in on themselves
Mothers clutching babies
Picked through the rubble
And pulled out their hair

The skyline was beautiful on fire
All twisted metal stretching upwards
Everything washed in a thin orange haze

I said, "Kiss me, you're beautiful -
These are truly the last days"

You grabbed my hand
And we fell into it
Like a daydream
Or a fever

We woke up one morning and fell a little further down
For sure it's the valley of death

I open up my wallet
And it's full of blood
posted by codacorolla at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


Idea: A big cork.

You're welcome.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I hear this, but I don't agree that it's "buck-passing bullshit". I still think that there is room for even the smallest of adjustments - in taking some personal responsibility, wherever possible
Nope, sorry. The idea that environmentalism = personal sacrifice is one of the stupidest things out there. It gives the (false) impression that if environmental laws do pass, then people's lives are going to be worse. When in fact there won't be much of a difference at all -- electricity prices might be a little higher (but not much) and vehicles would be more likely to be hybrids. You could get most places by taking mass transit. They are things most people wouldn't notice or really mind.

On the other hand, extreme measures like going without a car in most of the country where one is needed or whatever do not, on an individual level, do much at all. It's only by engineering society to make owning a car less important, by doing things like building mass transit, clean energy, etc.

There are some things you can do, like putting solar panels on your roof, or driving a hybrid car that will help, but (if you notice) don't actually entail any real sacrifice, just upfront investment that gets paid back over time.

Some people want environmentalism to be a more holly then thou asceticism competition. But those people don't want to save the environment, they want to feel superior.
posted by delmoi at 9:33 AM on May 30, 2010 [40 favorites]


Metafilter: more holly then thou
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:42 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Idea: A big cork.

Why the hell isn't Green Lantern down there doing that with his power ring right now?
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nope, sorry. The idea that environmentalism = personal sacrifice is one of the stupidest things out there. It gives the (false) impression that if environmental laws do pass, then people's lives are going to be worse. When in fact there won't be much of a difference at all [...]

On the other hand, extreme measures like going without a car in most of the country where one is needed or whatever do not, on an individual level, do much at all. .


There's a false equivalence buried in here somewhere. You're saying that environmental laws will not make much of a difference at all at the individual level. Then you're also saying that "extreme measures" like going without a car will not make much difference at all, at the individual level. So, er ...

Environmental reform will necessarily and irreducibly mean personal sacrifice of one kind or another, of varying degrees of impact, because the reason we're in the position that we need it is because of unsustainable exploitation of resources.

I agree that the way to bring it about isn't best served by tainting the whole thing with superior moralism, just as the best way to stop the slaughter of millions of cattle isn't to stop eating meat yourself. The best way, in both cases, is government regulation.

But the people who know that government regulation isn't coming nearly quickly enough, even as they agitate for it, also know that the sole alternative is to practice what you preach and try to convince other people as you go.

Of course, people hate being proselytised to, which is why "eco-freaks" are as mocked and derided as vegetarians once were.
posted by bonaldi at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some people want environmentalism to be a more holly then thou asceticism competition. But those people don't want to save the environment, they want to feel superior.

And those people who are genuinely concerned and doing what they can - what do you call them?
posted by marimeko at 9:45 AM on May 30, 2010


But those people don't want to save the environment, they want to feel superior.

These are not mutually exclusive.

trying to shame the people who don't into giving up their oil by sheer force of moral indignation is profoundly misguided.

Why? Isn't this what we're doing with tobacco? The two best ways we have of adjusting behavior in this country are making it socially unacceptable or painfully expensive. We should do both.
posted by ecurtz at 9:45 AM on May 30, 2010


I say we listen to the Russians and nuke it. It's worked before, and we could finally see if nuclear technology is as clean and safe as Obama says it is. And it would look totally awesome. Top kill failed as it only sounded rad, but was really just burring the damn thing in mud, which just looks plain boring (duh).
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:49 AM on May 30, 2010


artw: We use oil. This is what happens when you use oil.

The NYT article explicitly lays out the myriad ways in which BP ignored safety violations and willfully took actions that were potentially illegal and in violation of regulations. How is it that consumers are responsible for BP violating these rules?
posted by Adam_S at 9:51 AM on May 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why the hell isn't Green Lantern down there doing that with his power ring right now?

Aquaman, dude. Aquaman. Alls he's gotta do is talk some of them greased up fishies into swimmin down the pipe and three-stoogesing themselves into a big old clog.

Then the Wonder Twins could simply shove their rings together and turn into some kind of Sea Life Rescue Reservoir and a Giant Sea Sponge, respectively, and save the critters while soakin up the oil.

It's just that easy.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:52 AM on May 30, 2010


That is NOT how Aquamans relationship with the fish of all the seas works.

Also pressure is still going to be a problem.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, let's just call up Galactus and get it over with.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:58 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


The NYT article explicitly lays out the myriad ways in which BP ignored safety violations and willfully took actions that were potentially illegal and in violation of regulations. How is it that consumers are responsible for BP violating these rules?

Big coimpnay acts like big compan, that's how it works. You think any other oil companies aren't involved in similar compromises and trade offs all the time? Do you think this is the only time anything has gone wrong with oil drilling? There is going to be a non-zero chance of spills regardless of whatever precautions are in place.
posted by Artw at 9:59 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a false equivalence buried in here somewhere. You're saying that environmental laws will not make much of a difference at all at the individual level. Then you're also saying that "extreme measures" like going without a car will not make much difference at all, at the individual level. So, er ...

I'm not sure what you mean by "False equivalence" here. But yes, I am saying that environmental laws won't make much of a difference to the invidual, whereas individual measures won't make much of a difference to the environment.

$10,000 is a lot of money to me, so if I spent it on, say, solar panels it wouldn't make much of a difference overall (although I would recoup my investment over time). It would have a huge impact on me personally, though.

On the other hand if the law mandated that everyone above a certain income level pay an extra $50 tax this year that would go towards buying solar panels then it would have a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions but it would not have much of an impact on each individual.

If I decided to sell my car and get around on a bike, then I, as an individual would not have much of an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but it would be a major change in lifestyle.

On the other hand, if the government passed a law that mandated all gas stations sell hydrogen in addition to gasoline, lots of people would get hydrogen cars and that would have a big impact on greenhouse gases without changing people's lives very much.

I'm not sure why this is confusing.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2010 [23 favorites]


So how long until we change the name of the gulf to Oil Ocean Zone and let Sonic the Hedgehog handle it? Because that seems to be equally worth trying these days.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Do you eat food? Do you have a job? Our entire society is built on cheap oil. Everything we eat, everything we wear, all of our jobs are either directly or indirectly dependent on the flow of oil.

We may not like it but as long as this remains a fact then we are all responsible for the consequences. You can't divorce yourself from it because you ride a bike or take public transportation.

We are all, ALL, collectively responsible for what we do to this planet. Our lives are too intertwined for any other conclusion. There are something like 4,000 offshore oil wells, this accident was bound to happen eventually. We have to hold BPs feet to fire on clean-up but stringing up executives is just scape-goating. BPs sins are our sins.

Banning off-shore drilling for 3 months isn't a solution. Building an electrical super-grid to the American south-west is a solution. Converting our fleets of trucks from diesel to natural gas is a solution. Nuclear plants are a solution. Colossal wind farms are a solution.

Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.
posted by Bonzai at 10:01 AM on May 30, 2010 [22 favorites]


Blaming consumers for this is a bit like blaming poor people for eating Ramen and getting sick. If Ramen is all that's available to them in their budget, are you seriously going to blame them for eating it?

In other words: If there were more environmentally friendly options available to us as consumers, within a budget we could afford, we'd do it. I certainly would. Solar car? I'm there, even if it stops on a cloudy day.

I can't afford it though. Very few people can. I'm still driving the car my husband got for graduating high school, and it limps along but still gets around 36mpg.

Someone said it right above: Instead of blaming consumers, we need to blame the companies, the laws we have in place, our government, and work to change those so we consumers can consume something more environmentally friendly.

You will never get a majority of consumers to stop consuming something so widely available and within their budget. It just won't happen.
posted by Malice at 10:03 AM on May 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


Big coimpnay acts like big compan, that's how it works. You think any other oil companies aren't involved in similar compromises and trade offs all the time? Do you think this is the only time anything has gone wrong with oil drilling? There is going to be a non-zero chance of spills regardless of whatever precautions are in place.
What's your point? We should just let this go because they were just a "big coimpnay" acting like a "big compan"?

I think it's clear I don't think we should do offshore drilling. But yeah. Safety precautions should have been taken.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 AM on May 30, 2010


Do you eat food? Do you have a job? Our entire society is built on cheap oil. Everything we eat, everything we wear, all of our jobs are either directly or indirectly dependent on the flow of oil.

We may not like it but as long as this remains a fact then we are all responsible for the consequences. You can't divorce yourself from it because you ride a bike or take public transportation.

We are all, ALL, collectively responsible for what we do to this planet. Our lives are too intertwined for any other conclusion. There are something like 4,000 offshore oil wells, this accident was bound to happen eventually. We have to hold BPs feet to fire on clean-up but stringing up executives is just scape-goating. BPs sins are our sins.

Banning off-shore drilling for 3 months isn't a solution. Building an electrical super-grid to the American south-west is a solution. Converting our fleets of trucks from diesel to natural gas is a solution. Nuclear plants are a solution. Colossal wind farms are a solution.

Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.


Oh, your right. Why bother doing anything at all. I think I'll buy a car now..
posted by marimeko at 10:04 AM on May 30, 2010


Banning off-shore drilling for 3 months isn't a solution. Building an electrical super-grid to the American south-west is a solution. Converting our fleets of trucks from diesel to natural gas is a solution. Nuclear plants are a solution. Colossal wind farms are a solution.
Natural gas? That might help with oil leaks, but it won't do much to prevent global warming. It's still a greenhouse releasing energy source.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 AM on May 30, 2010


BPs sins are our sins.

Well, no. They are the sins of a multinational megacorporation and a government with easy-greasing palms. The Power of the People ain't got nothing on that shit.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:05 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wanna thank the industry folks for contributing to this thread. You may be biased, you may not be, with not a smidge of scientific knowledge in my head I don't know. I trust that if you folks are not acknowledging something important, another expert will come in here and go toe-to-toe with you. Anyway, you folks know more about this than I do, so again, thanks.

Here's a question: What can I (a writing tutor/teacher with a limited income) do to help the Gulf? At this point I'd consider moving down there and breathing in oil air to, I don't know, tutor low-income kids/teach at whatever JC.

Anybody from the Gulf have any ideas?
posted by angrycat at 10:08 AM on May 30, 2010


[comments removed - metatalk for that sort of shit, not here]
posted by jessamyn at 10:11 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anybody from the Gulf have any ideas?

If you come to the gulf be prepared for two things.

1.) Your rate of pay will be at least halved. You will barely make a living.

2.) Your food and shelter will be almost the same price.

Good luck!
posted by Malice at 10:11 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.

It would be the end of their existential crisis, certainly. In another few weeks they might even welcome it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:12 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.

What is it was a Pay-Per-View event with the proceeds going to Gulf cleanup?

By 2017 the world economy has collapsed. Food, natural resources and oil are in short supply. A police state, divided into paramilitary zones, rules with an iron hand. Television is controlled by the state and a sadistic game show called "The Running Man" has become the most popular program in history.
posted by ecurtz at 10:12 AM on May 30, 2010


I'm not sure why this is confusing.
The problem isn't there, it's in the conclusion. Yes, if we all do something the individual impact is less. But if only some do, they must necessarily do more. It doesn't follow that their efforts are futile or pointless, or worthy only of your derision.

Compare with vegetarianism. The govt action would have been quicker and more effective, sure. But concerted action by individuals resulted in a world where you can't find a restaurant without a vegetarian option. They took "extreme measures", and they changed the Western world.

What you'd have them do is nothing at all, except lobby for government action as it's the only way to get a 100% solution.
posted by bonaldi at 10:15 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Compare with vegetarianism. The govt action would have been quicker and more effective, sure. But concerted action by individuals resulted in a world where you can't find a restaurant without a vegetarian option. They took "extreme measures", and they changed the Western world.

What you'd have them do is nothing at all, except lobby for government action as it's the only way to get a 100% solution.


As someone who actually was a vegan for many years, this does not compare. I can choose not to eat meat fairly easily. I cannot choose a solar powered car as easily.
posted by Malice at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "Natural gas? That might help with oil leaks, but it won't do much to prevent global warming. It's still a greenhouse releasing energy source."

It's a stop gap solution but hydrogen isn't ready, batteries don't have the range. We have enough gas to supply ourselves for 50 years.
posted by Bonzai at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2010


I wanna thank the industry folks for contributing to this thread.

When the conversation turns to things like "This company is evil" and "These losers don't know what they are doing," and "Let's chop them up and stuff their body parts in the well," some people who might actually have real industry information tend to share a little less.
posted by Houstonian at 10:19 AM on May 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


BPs sins are our sins.

It's very strange that Pat Robertson has not revealed God's intentions by now.
posted by Brian B. at 10:20 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


marimeko
Oh, your right. Why bother doing anything at all. I think I'll buy a car now.."

Well I clearly talked about solutions, you even quoted them. I'm just saying that we need to own up to our share of the responsibility here.
posted by Bonzai at 10:20 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I keep waiting for the suggestion that we plug the hole with the moon.
posted by yoga at 10:25 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


You will never get a majority of consumers to stop consuming something so widely available and within their budget. It just won't happen.

Really? I expect more form people than that. If informed, why not expect people to change (albeit slowly) ? This kind of response is a cop out.
posted by marimeko at 10:26 AM on May 30, 2010


You will never get a majority of consumers to stop consuming something so widely available and within their budget. It just won't happen.

You don't need to. You need a significant minority of early adopters to buy the expensive option, so that over time economies of scale and demand driven by aspiration combine to bring down the price, no govt required.

What you are proposing is the govt order Apple to make and sell $600 iPads in 1977, without going through the decades of $10,000 computers first. And *that* ain't gonna happen.

Likewise: As someone who actually was a vegan for many years, this does not compare. I can choose not to eat meat fairly easily. I cannot choose a solar powered car as easily.
Perhaps you can now. But you couldn't in 1970, because the infrastructure wasn't there. If you wanted to be vegetarian, you were limiting your social options hugely, as well as complicating your homelife. Now a 14-year-old girl can go vegetarian as a lifestyle choice with virtually no impact or restriction.

Same would be true with delmoi-disapproved individual action. It'll take decades (that we probably don't have, admittedly) of $10,000 solar panels, but the end result will be the same.
posted by bonaldi at 10:28 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


What you'd have them do is nothing at all, except lobby for government action as it's the only way to get a 100% solution.
It doesn't hurt anything if they take personal measures, but if they give the impression that everyone would have to live like they do in order to solve the problems, then they are doing more harm then good, IMO.
posted by delmoi at 10:29 AM on May 30, 2010


marimeko
Oh, your right. Why bother doing anything at all. I think I'll buy a car now.."

Well I clearly talked about solutions, you even quoted them. I'm just saying that we need to own up to our share of the responsibility here.


You are absolutely right. I stand corrected. I'm all in a huff, I apologise!
posted by marimeko at 10:30 AM on May 30, 2010


I'm just saying that we need to own up to our share of the responsibility here.

I am second guessing my previous advocacy for Free Range oil.
posted by mazola at 10:32 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aquaman? Aquaman would never have permitted offshore drilling in the first place. That dude is hardcore badass environmental. You want to piss off Aquaman with a drilling rig? You're going to get every goddamn ship in the ocean herded back to shore by whales with an attitude -- just as a start. Then the sharks start going nuts. Seriously, Aquaman?

Nationalize BP or whatever it is they can do, tear it up, and raise the gas tax by a buck a gallon and use some of that shit to clean up what can be cleaned up, some of it to rebuild wrecked communities by putting new jobs in place, and most of the rest of it to build nuke plants
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:34 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


You don't need to. You need a significant minority of early adopters to buy the expensive option, so that over time economies of scale and demand driven by aspiration combine to bring down the price, no govt required.

What you are proposing is the govt order Apple to make and sell $600 iPads in 1977, without going through the decades of $10,000 computers first. And *that* ain't gonna happen.
And how exactly are consumers supposed to individually buy mass transit? Or walkable neighborhoods? Or Wind farms? Or super-grids capable of moving electricity from wind/solar corridors to the rest of the country? Obviously, they can't. You can't even get net metering that can make solar panels more useful/profitable without collective action.
Same would be true with delmoi-disapproved individual action. It'll take decades (that we probably don't have, admittedly) of $10,000 solar panels, but the end result will be the same.
Wtf are you talking about? I wrote this:
There are some things you can do, like putting solar panels on your roof, or driving a hybrid car that will help, but (if you notice) don't actually entail any real sacrifice, just upfront investment that gets paid back over time.
Things like solar panels and hybrid cars can catch on. They're economically feasible right now. But it's never going to happen that enough people are willing to give up their cars and switch to bikes unless we get government supported alternatives (and btw, there is a huge amount of government support for driving gasoline fired cars)
posted by delmoi at 10:36 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.

Apparently neither, is the containment box or top kill, but we went ahead and tried them, right?

All I'm saying is let's give it a chance...
posted by bashos_frog at 10:37 AM on May 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


Gulf Oil Spill: Media Access 'Slowly Being Strangled Off'
posted by homunculus at 10:38 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I overheard a guy at work saying how frightened he was about the developments in North Korea and some other current event, I think maybe something related to Afghanistan, how these were the top two things he was worried about.

I asked him where the oil spill ranked in his concerns and he said "Well, it's not going to cost me any money or kill me, so it doesn't matter."
posted by odinsdream at 10:41 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.

Are we talking long term or short term?
posted by Brian B. at 10:41 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Canada does not require relief wells to be drilled at the same time as the exploration well. They require that oil companies show that they can drill a relief well in the same season as the exploration well so a blowout doesn't last for months before even starting.

This has been reported as fact without even the slightest fact-checking whatsoever by the entire internet. Reddit comment discussing it, and another article that links to a Canadian government press release.

I personally haven't gotten an adequate answer why *actually* requiring a relief well to be partially dug before the main well is expected to hit hydrocarbons is a bad idea but I'm also not a geologist.
posted by Skorgu at 10:44 AM on May 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Naked emperor.
posted by HTuttle at 10:44 AM on May 30, 2010


Aquaman? Aquaman would never have permitted offshore drilling in the first place.

Namor wouldn't, but Aquaman seems to take a more consensus building approach to being a head of state. He would probably personally be against it, but after a few months of Atlantean PACs and fake outrage from FISH News, he'd have to acquiesce in order to get some of his other legislative goals through.

So if you want bold, decisive leadership, vote Namor. He'll be hurling oil tankers into the breadbaskets of the world within minutes of taking office. Aquaman, on the other hand, knows that he has to work with the other nations of the earth if anything is every really going to be done.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:53 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Things like solar panels and hybrid cars can catch on. They're economically feasible right now.

Solar panels aren't really a viable option currently - at least in temperate climates. I'm a planner - I did a quick costing estimate last year as part of a land use bylaw review and, based on current and projected natural gas prices, it would take the average consumer 100 years to break even (after a $25000 investment in solar panels) over a conventional gas system. That's not practical or cost effective - at least not on the Canadian prairies. It might be different in somewhere like Arizona, sure, but not everywhere.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:01 AM on May 30, 2010


an oil using society. The same one me and you live in. And so we are responsible

In an ultimate sense, yes, the same way that if someone gets killed or raped or dies of malnutrition on planet earth today we are also responsible. But let's be clear: "we" did not draft the legislation on safety for oil rigs, "we" do not sit on BP's board of directors, "we" are not the ones who have used the still highly lucrative oil industry to quell alternative energy development.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


For all the folks pushing enlightened consumerism as the answer-- has that worked yet? That's been the primary form of collective action pushed by mainstream liberalism (sorry, "progressivism") for 30 years.
posted by wuwei at 11:08 AM on May 30, 2010


> Uh, how did he "let" it die on his watch?

For all intents and purposes, by not being on TV everyday, and not having his surrogates on TV and radio everyday, explaining that

a) unfortunately, our technology for extracting oil in difficult to reach places is far more advanced than our safety measures for drilling in those places (as Rachel Maddow et al have helpfully pointed out)

b) the regulation-is-bad ethos has led directly to this disaster, and kept even the primitive existing safeguards from being implemented properly beforehand

c) this is the time to look at the Big Picture, and how spending money on investing in Moving Aggressively Toward new energy sources will Strengthen National Defense and Free Us of Foreign Entanglements, Create Jobs and Technological Superiority, and, incidentally, do something or other about the long-term viability of the planet, Doing Something That Will Put Smiles on Our Grandchildren's Faces

d) it's the Other Guy's Fault [cf. b) ]

To the extent that Obama does not firmly, indelibly establish in the minds of the public that it was some specific other party's fault, it becomes his fault. To the extent that he and his supporters do not reinforce the Other Guy's Fault over and over and over again, they create the possibility that it will revert to becoming Obama's fault.

While I can sort-of sympathize with Obama and crew's Reality Principle doctrine ("Yeah, we're going to be mainly depending on oil for at least 30 years, so let's not rile people up about it"), they're missing the major point:

A helluva lot of the political opposition they encounter stems from the fact that many Americans don't know very much, factually... and the facts in their head are, um, wrong.

Obama could get a lot of mileage just by taking the time to explain issues in a simple, point-by-point, here-are-the-actual-facts fashion, ala Perot and his pie charts. ("How much do we REALLY spend on defense, COMPARED to the rest of the world? How high are our taxes, comparatively? How quickly is the US's technological lead shrinking? How great is social mobility in the US really, compared to other countries? How much would it have cost BP to adhere to the highest safety standards? How much will it cost you, the taxpayer, to clean up their mess? Let's look at the actual numbers...")
posted by darth_tedious at 11:11 AM on May 30, 2010 [19 favorites]


I personally haven't gotten an adequate answer why *actually* requiring a relief well to be partially dug before the main well is expected to hit hydrocarbons is a bad idea but I'm also not a geologist.

Basically, then you have two wells where an accident could happen. Partially digging them also doesn't help as much as you might think because the deeper stages of the drilling are much harder.

One of the relief wells they're drilling now is halfway of the vertical distance to the target, but they're nowhere near half done. This is not only because the deeper layers of rock are harder, but also because as they get closer to the formation they have to be more careful (it would be be pretty embarrassing if they had a blowout in the relief well as well)
posted by atrazine at 11:29 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It makes sense to me that BP is at the forefront of trying to plug the leak; the government doesn't have assets that can try to do that, just like after the shuttle program is dismantled the government will have to rely on the Russian space program if anything urgent needs to be done in space.

But what I don't get is why any of the foreign aid for trying to do a cleanup has been refused. Why no Dutch skimmers? Why no Saudi supertankers to try siphoning it up? It's not like it's hard to get to the cleanup area the way it's hard to get to the well head - the cleanup area is massive, anyone with a seagoing craft who wants to can get access to it to work on it. I don't understand why we aren't throwing absolutely everything we can get our hands on at the cleanup effort. The fact that we aren't is the thing that makes me suspicious that the government isn't really on top of this.
posted by XMLicious at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man. Titanic and Avatar in one nightmare. Get me out of this theater.
posted by effluvia at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


A helluva lot of the political opposition they encounter stems from the fact that many Americans don't know very much, factually... and the facts in their head are, um, wrong.

It's always the case, in public consultation, that people never know as much as the experts. They just get angry when things change, or go bad. However, a lot of the political opposition in this case is that there'sfucking thousands of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day. Is that something people can understand? Yes. This is NOT inevitable. It's a regulatory failure that could have been prevented by pre-drilling relief wells. It's not complicated. Heads should roll.

Obama could get a lot of mileage just by taking the time to explain issues in a simple, point-by-point, here-are-the-actual-facts fashion, ala Perot and his pie charts.

Not in my experience. When people are angry, there's not much success in explaining the salient details - even when they're wrong. In this case, they're not. A certain percentage of people will calm down slightly - in as, not as likely to yell in your face - but they still vote with their guts and not because of some pie chart that they only maybe understand.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:33 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and for those of you wondering how exactly the relief well will work,
they'll drill into the existing hole near the bottom and then mill through the casing, then they'll fill the old well with heavy mud which will "kill" the well, after the well is controlled they'll cement it closed. After this, the relief well will also be cemented closed.
posted by atrazine at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2010


someone: Also, as bad as this is, we've had worse and survived.

Delmoi:That was in Mexico, pretty far away from the US.

What is that supposed to mean? That actually the whole panic is because America is involved this time? That's it's not actually any kind of global ecosystem disaster? That as I don't care about America I don't really need to care about this, except insofar as the effect on the US economy would affect the rest of the world?
posted by jacalata at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]



I wish George Carlin was still with us. I can just imagine what he would have to say about this whole thing. For starters it would be something on the order of, "a million gallons of oil pouring into the gulf is not a spill. A spill is....."
posted by notreally at 11:36 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


darth, i see what you're saying about Obama and communication but i'd much rather that he was working away in the background than spending his effort trying to explain to us in excruciating detail what's going on. I'm happy with "i'm on it."
posted by ukdanae at 11:42 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


>
Not in my experience. When people are angry, there's not much success in explaining the salient details - even when they're wrong. In this case, they're not. A certain percentage of people will calm down slightly - in as, not as likely to yell in your face - but they still vote with their guts and not because of some pie chart that they only maybe understand.

Here's where repetition comes in.

Remember, people already have implicit, unconscious pie charts in their heads:

Factors Behind the Unemployment of My Kinfolk--

Greed of the Big Bosses: 10%
Technological Changes: 2%
Wrath of an Angry God at a Decadent Society: 8%
Illegal Immigrants: 80%


Through relentless repetition, one attempts to replace their existing pie charts with more accurate ones; the more accurate their pie charts, the more amenable they become to more-or-less rational solutions.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:48 AM on May 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


posted by effluvia Man. Titanic and Avatar in one nightmare. Get me out of this theater.

I think it's more of a cross between There Will Be Blood and Waterworld.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:51 AM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Get me out of this theater.

That's the thing. It's real.
posted by marimeko at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2010


> i'd much rather that he was working away in the background than spending his effort trying to explain to us in excruciating detail what's going on. I'm happy with "i'm on it."

Most of those on MeFi operate from the presupposition that Obama's a smart, rational guy with benevolent objectives.

A lot of folks not on MeFi don't make that assumption. For them, "I'm on it" isn't at all reassuring. And even if they'd never like or vote for the guy, it's still his job to find ways to reassure them, hopefully by giving them information that allows them to make better decisions or hold more useful expectations than they did before.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:02 PM on May 30, 2010


Wtf are you talking about? I wrote this:
There are some things you can do, like putting solar panels on your roof, or driving a hybrid car that will help, but (if you notice) don't actually entail any real sacrifice, just upfront investment that gets paid back over time.
Yet you also said:
$10,000 is a lot of money to me, so if I spent it on, say, solar panels it wouldn't make much of a difference overall (although I would recoup my investment over time). It would have a huge impact on me personally, though.
So which is it? Solar panels are "no real sacrifice" or have a huge impact on you personally? Or are these huge impacts non-sacrifical because they're purely monetary?

Things like solar panels and hybrid cars can catch on. They're economically feasible right now. But it's never going to happen that enough people are willing to give up their cars and switch to bikes unless we get government supported alternatives

And again, this puts the cart before the horse. There aren't going to be government-supported alternatives until there is a groundswell of support for them; until politicians realise there are serious votes in them, enough to counterbalance the I-aint-changing-shit-about-my-life vote.

The way you do that isn't by mandating it. You change minds first. It took decades to ban smoking in public places in civilised areas, because a whole lot of moralising and but-it's-really-bad-for-everyone had to happen first.

Changing consumer habits alone will never be enough to get this job done, absolutely not. But they're a necessary foundation. I get that you don't like the tone of some of the early adopters, but I think it's part and parcel. They're fighting the tide, and they have to be zealots.

I didn't and don't like the tone of people who insisted that using camera film was effectively murder because of the gelatin, but there's no denying that animal rights have come a long way, largely because of the efforts of people like them and their more moderate fellow travellers.
posted by bonaldi at 12:03 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


What does happen when you use oil is an increase in concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans, which is a whole different can of worms and potentially worse.

It's worth noting, among all this (justified) handwringing about the livelihoods of Gulf fishermen, that the world's leading marine scientists believe we're as little as 10 years away from condemning the world's coral reefs to mass extinction due to ocean acidification. Such an extinction in the ecosystem upon which one-quarter of all marine life relies would decimate the world's commercial fisheries (and a substantial swath of the global tourism industry as well). Hundreds of millions of livelihoods would be destroyed. It would (I'm resisting saying will) reduce this BP spill to an asterisk in the chronicle of the worst catastrophe in human history.

Obama won't be remembered generations from now for the BP spill. He - and everyone in a position of authority today, if not everyone alive today - will be remembered for needlessly extending the fossil fuel age in the face of incontrivertible evidence it was exhausting the biosphere's ability to support human life.
posted by gompa at 12:12 PM on May 30, 2010 [18 favorites]


August? Fucking hell.

Also, Is Tuesday going to be a great opportunity to snap up cheap BP stock?.

No. I mean, I know this is a tragedy from so many other perspectives, but, seriously, no. It might be interesting to trade it for a while, but forget owning it. I used to own BP stock and sold it shortly after the spill. I don't particularly like oil producers, but owning part of a company does give you a little more leverage in communicating with them. But they screwed up pretty bad, and I have little faith in management to recover their public image if they can't even address the problem they created, and do so in a way that doesn't make them look even worse. It's toxic, like the problems they have. There is a good dividend, and that could possibly stay in place (meaning you do at least get a known yield), but maybe not, and the sentiment is extremely negative and is likely to just get worse until there is a real solution to the very visible and massively destructive problem in the Gulf.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:21 PM on May 30, 2010


Stewart and Colbert will report it as a punchline. Any other media outlet the does so will be under attack by friends of Big Oil, who will moan about "playing the blame game," but most media will not even mention it because of their breathless reporting on who Lindsay Lohan was seen with at a club last night or telling us we will never guess who will be apearring on Dancing With The Stars during sweeps week.

Yeah, because The Monolithic Media has just been ignoring this story completely.


You know that scene in Apollo 13...?"

In the converted training room on the third floor of BP's U.S. headquarters, the pressure might have been measured in pounds per square inch
"It's kind of like NASA and the Apollo 13 mission in there," said BP managing director Robert Dudley.


Cutting the heads off of BPs execs is not a solution.

How can we be sure until we give it a try?
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:23 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the converted training room on the third floor of BP's U.S. headquarters, the pressure might have been measured in pounds per square inch
"It's kind of like NASA and the Apollo 13 mission in there," said BP managing director Robert Dudley.


This is just so disingenuous. Yeah, it's so difficult to work down there because of the massive pressure, and dealing with a problem in the well integrity isn't so easy a mile underwater. No shit, Dudley. You mean you hadn't thought of that until now?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:38 PM on May 30, 2010


"In fact, the president has the authority to nationalize BP America and seize all of its assets, rendering the question of reliance on BP moot. If Obama does not believe that the Clean Water Act’s “spill of national significance” provisions give him sufficient authority, he can rightly declare a national emergency..."

That is true. Doing this would also have serious consequences. BP is owned by a lot of funds, retirement accounts and institutional investors, on top of an economy which is barely starting to recover from the worst economic conditions since at least 1987, maybe 1933. It sounds like the most logical conclusion, but I can't imagine what would happen, honestly. It wouldn't be good either way, so not a great choice to have.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:52 PM on May 30, 2010


Scares the hell out of me. Don't eat marine food from the gulf for a century or so. Unless those dispersants have antioxidants!

It's OK. The oil is organic.
posted by zippy at 12:53 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oil companies don't often give a shit about oil spills. Nor to the countries who obtain the oil from those polluting companies care either. Are petro-execs intrinsically more corrupt than other businessmen?
posted by adamvasco at 1:17 PM on May 30, 2010


I'm finding it really unclassy, all these suggestions of murdering BP execs.
posted by agregoli at 1:25 PM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Documents Show Early Worries About Safety of Rig

On June 22, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options...

Mr. Hafle, asked for comment by a reporter after his testimony Friday about the internal report, declined to answer questions.

BP’s concerns about the casing did not go away after Mr. Hafle’s 2009 report.

In April of this year, BP engineers concluded that the casing was “unlikely to be a successful cement job,” according to a document, referring to how the casing would be sealed to prevent gases from escaping up the well.

The document also says that the plan for casing the well is “unable to fulfill M.M.S. regulations,” referring to the Minerals Management Service.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm finding it really unclassy, all these suggestions of murdering BP execs.

Tell that to a oyster harvester in Louisiana, I'm sure he'll understand.
posted by Max Power at 1:31 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm finding it really unclassy, all these suggestions of murdering BP execs.

Agreed. Seriously, this line of discussion pretty much needs to end here. Please go to MetaTalk if you need to discuss it further.
posted by jessamyn at 1:32 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is like when the Vogon warships descended to clear the earth for a hyperspace bypass. Obama could go in tv and tell you to put a paper bag on your head but really it won't matter. There is nothing that can be done.
posted by humanfont at 1:32 PM on May 30, 2010


Solar panels aren't really a viable option currently - at least in temperate climates. I'm a planner - I did a quick costing estimate last year as part of a land use bylaw review and, based on current and projected natural gas prices, it would take the average consumer 100 years to break even (after a $25000 investment in solar panels) over a conventional gas system-- jimmythefish
Well, I have no idea what you're basing the costs on. Here's a 370W solar panel kit, including a grid tie in for $989.91. (That's $2.60/watt) At 10¢/kwh and assuming an average of 4 hours of sunlight a day, that's 1.4kwh/day or 540kwh/year. It would take 19 years to earn back your investment.

You must be estimating panel costs at 5 times that. In fact, wholesale prices can be about half of that per watt. this wholesaler lists panels wholesaleing at just $0.98/watt. Again, assuming that for every watt of solar energy, you can generate 1.46kwh/year = 14¢. So if you pay 98¢/watt and you generate1.46kwh/watt/year you recoup your investment 98¢/14¢ = 7 years.

That's not including the installation cost, but the assumption is you'd do it yourself.

So anyway... what exactly are you talking about with this 100 year figure?
To the extent that Obama does not firmly, indelibly establish in the minds of the public that it was some specific other party's fault, it becomes his fault. To the extent that he and his supporters do not reinforce the Other Guy's Fault over and over and over again, they create the possibility that it will revert to becoming Obama's fault. -- darth_tedious
I agree. What is the deal with Obama never wanting to blame bush for all this shit? It just seems stupid, and annoying. It's also his problem because he was a supporter of offshore drilling. And not just some random guy who supported it, but he was the president and had a huge impact on whether or not we would do it. And he's also still for it. Saying that it "makes sense" to develop our own resources, for national security reasons. Because obviously the risk of oil all over our coastlines isn't a national security issue...
It's a regulatory failure that could have been prevented by pre-drilling relief wells. It's not complicated. Heads should roll. -- jimmythefish
You know what else could have prevented this? NOT DOING OFFSHORE DRILLING. I'm sorry but discussing these technical fixes totally misses the point. We don't NEED that oil. So why put the economy/environment in so much danger to get it? in the first place.
What is that supposed to mean? That actually the whole panic is because America is involved this time? That's it's not actually any kind of global ecosystem disaster? That as I don't care about America I don't really need to care about this, except insofar as the effect on the US economy would affect the rest of the world? -- jacalata


This isn't a global disaster, it's just a disaster around Louisiana/Mississippi for the most part. Who knows how much damage was done off the coast of Mexico in the 1970s and how long it took to recover. I don't. Maybe it never really recovered.
darth, i see what you're saying about Obama and communication but i'd much rather that he was working away in the background than spending his effort trying to explain to us in excruciating detail what's going on. I'm happy with "i'm on it." -- ukdanae
Why? He doesn't know any more about capping deep see oil wells then any other random person.
So which is it? Solar panels are "no real sacrifice" or have a huge impact on you personally? Or are these huge impacts non-sacrifical because they're purely monetary? -- bonaldi
Solar panels are no real sacrifice because they pay for themselves in a 10-20 years. That's why I specifically included them as an example of something that was a good idea. I'm not sure why you're having trouble understanding this. Solar panels are something I think do make sense to do on an individual basis.
posted by delmoi at 1:33 PM on May 30, 2010


This certainly brings up the thought about the future of nuclear power in this country. Imagine if instead of a sheet of oil it were a cloud of radioactivity blowing over the Northeastern U.S.

GE spokesman: Gee, who would have guessed that could have happened?
posted by JackFlash at 1:41 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm finding it really unclassy, all these suggestions of murdering BP execs.

At this point, we know that executives made decisions that ultimately lead up to this catastrophe. That this is true is no longer in dispute, except by people who seem fit on defending BP (for whatever reasons they have).

Perhaps when you read suggestions of murdering BP execs, maybe it is really about anger that they will more than likely be let off the hook for a chain of horrible decisions that were likely made to cut costs, decisions which ultimately lead up to the homicide of 11 oil workers and the long-term poisoning of the Gulf and the people who live around it and make a livelihood from it.

We can hem and haw about how to deal appropriately with BP executives, but ultimately we need to start being honest and acknowledge the scale of this disaster and who is to blame. That the leak is out of control seems all but assured after weeks of the company's continual failures.

The Obama administration needs to cut BP out of the loop, arrest executives, seize BP's property in the United States and get the response under control by people who actually know what the fuck they are doing, because BP has demonstrated to people who live on the coast, to the United States and to the world, beyond all doubt, that it is and has been wholly incapable of managing this from the very start. And continually stating that BP is the only party capable of fixing this is a tragic lie, made worse by repeating it over and over.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Solar panels are something I think do make sense to do on an individual basis.
Yet you also used them as an example of something that would have a huge impact at a personal level and have not make much difference overall.

Can't you see the confusion engendered by you trying to use solar panels as an example of a pointless sacrifice that won't solve our overall environmental problems, while also using them as an example of a worthwhile individual contribution to solving that same problem?
posted by bonaldi at 1:44 PM on May 30, 2010


We are all, ALL, collectively responsible for what we do to this planet. Our lives are too intertwined for any other conclusion. There are something like 4,000 offshore oil wells, this accident was bound to happen eventually. We have to hold BPs feet to fire on clean-up but stringing up executives is just scape-goating. BPs sins are our sins.

I was born into the world I live in and the ability I have to fix problems that are larger than my life is pretty limited. I didn't get a pre-natal vote on the world I came into; if I had, I would've voted against the one we have now.

In your mind, I seem to only have two choices; reject the world (either through suicide, or by cutting myself off from everything in the world) or accept responsibility for all of the sins of the world. FUCK THAT. There's a third option; that right now, at this moment, the power in the world unbelievably unequal and those with the power are the ones responsible for what they've done.

Put it this way; I'm responsible for the dents I put in the bumper from my own negligence, but the ones driving are responsible when they total the car. Sure, we were both negligible, but to absolutely different degrees.
posted by Hiker at 1:46 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


And continually stating that BP is the only party capable of fixing this is a tragic lie, made worse by repeating it over and over.

Who are you suggesting as an alternative?
posted by matthewr at 1:46 PM on May 30, 2010


This isn't a global disaster, it's just a disaster around Louisiana/Mississippi for the most part. Who knows how much damage was done off the coast of Mexico in the 1970s and how long it took to recover. I don't. Maybe it never really recovered.

Huh? The whole fishery system of the Caribbean could be destroyed, not to mention the deep oil (that's not yet coming to the surface) that could make it's way into the gulf stream and potentially all the way up the Eastern Seaboad - effecting fisheries all over the North Atlantic.
posted by marimeko at 1:48 PM on May 30, 2010


And continually stating that BP is the only party capable of fixing this is a tragic lie, made worse by repeating it over and over.

Who are these "people who actually know what the fuck they are doing"? Apple?

Because everyone in the oil industry is saying that pretty much all of their experts, from every company, are working on this. There's nobody saying "these chumps are doing it wrong, let us in to do it right". The best you get is some low-level grousing over the order in which these teams are trying fixes.

Given that, how would putting BP effectively out of action, diverting the government into trying to run an oil company instead of working on relief efforts, and causing chaos in the oil industry help to fix this?
posted by bonaldi at 1:48 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This chart is why Obama supports offshore drilling.

It ain't gonna get better.
posted by Max Power at 1:50 PM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


At the BP offices, working on the problem: "The workers in the center aren't all BP workers. The U.S. Minerals Management Service has had engineers here since the early days, as has the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard and a number of other federal agencies. And just about every other major oil field services firm (and even the major E&Ps) have had people stationed here for some operations."
posted by Houstonian at 1:51 PM on May 30, 2010


You don't need to. You need a significant minority of early adopters to buy the expensive option, so that over time economies of scale and demand driven by aspiration combine to bring down the price, no govt required.

The oil industry spends a huge amount of money politically to ensure that we keep needing their product, and that it's cheap enough where no other option would be viable. OPEC wants oil at $60-80 per barrel, but not much higher right now.

China is driving demand. Our individual choices help a little, but they barely affect this market.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:52 PM on May 30, 2010


I'm finding it really unclassy, all these suggestions of murdering BP execs.

Yeah. That's what called for in a situation like this. Class!

[obligatorydisclaimer]do not condone murder or violence[/obligatorydisclaimer]
posted by blucevalo at 1:55 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who are you suggesting as an alternative?

For a start, let's get data to scientists from our university system. Purdue University's Steven Wereley analyzed leaked video and discovered that BP was lying through its teeth. If BP really could manage the disaster, there'd have been no reason to lie about the scale and scope of the event.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 PM on May 30, 2010


There are so many blowouts on university campuses, that I'm sure all the experts with practical experience of capping oil wells must be employed as professors and not by oil companies.
posted by matthewr at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The oil industry spends a huge amount of money politically to ensure that we keep needing their product, and that it's cheap enough where no other option would be viable.

By the way, it's very easy to see their PR efforts in this regard. Every time oil drops below $70, the talking heads over at Fox (and the conservative heads on other cable news channels) start going crazy repeating the mantra that alternate energy solutions are not viable because oil is so cheap. They do this so predictably that it has to be coordinated.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:00 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a start, let's get data to scientists from our university system. Purdue University's Steven Wereley analyzed leaked video and discovered that BP was lying through its teeth. If BP really could manage the disaster, there'd have been no reason to lie about the scale and scope of the event.

The reason they did that is because they have financial liability for each barrel spilled. It's not really about managing the spill so much as managing their liability and PR. But it's something of a futile effort. The government was going to make their own assessment anyway.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2010


If BP really could manage the disaster, there'd have been no reason to lie about the scale and scope of the event.

Being able to manage the disaster doesn't stop them being lying PR monsters. After all, these are oil companies here. Ken Saro Wiwa died in the name of oil company PR; being a bit mean to photographers is nothing for these guys. But that still doesn't mean they aren't the best people to fix this stuff.
posted by bonaldi at 2:07 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are so many blowouts on university campuses, that I'm sure all the experts with practical experience of capping oil wells must be employed as professors and not by oil companies.

I don't understand the choice to trash intelligent and honest people who can contribute with knowledge and skillful, reality-based analysis, as opposed to liars who are demonstrably incompetent. Maybe you can explain that to someone.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to be clear. I do not condone or support murder or violence of any kind. Toward anyone. And I would never suggest that murdering or committing violence toward anyone is the answer to anything. I would never even imply it. Period.

There's no place for that kind of talk anywhere, in my view. I don't think it's right to use it even as a rhetorical device.

My last comment was directed at the notion that we have to stay classy when discussing a situation that makes many people's blood boil in anger, and, to put it mildly, makes our helplessness in situations like these even more apparent than usual.

The situation is not one that calls for classiness.

But it's also not a situation that calls for violence, real, imagined, or otherwise.
posted by blucevalo at 2:09 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a good reason the government isn't taking BP execs to the firing squad right now. We need them to fix this fucking leak. Now.

Firing squad can come later. Everyone at BP, and in responsible positions in the government, knows this.
posted by Xoebe at 2:13 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Firing squad*

*I used that term figuratively.
posted by Xoebe at 2:14 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


As atrazine said, "one of the usual simpletons is already mentally drafting a comment about how the oil industry engineers obviously haven't solved the problem therefore they should be replaced with people from outside the industry. An idea so stupid that it really isn't worth dismissing at length."
posted by matthewr at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2010


one of the usual simpletons

Ah, insults. Again. The last resort of the dishonest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on May 30, 2010


How can we be sure until we give it a try?

The problem with corporate wrongdoing in some industries (like offshore drilling) is that they are so lightly regulated that there is little downside compared to the benefits, so we socialize the risk and privatize the profits. Yes, we all need oil at the moment anyway, but we really need the market to function in a way which reflects these risks realistically. This would mean higher oil prices, but probably a fundamental change in the industry. I think with such a resource we need more public ownership as well, because privatizing it puts our energy policy at the mercy of the most ruthless market participants, and our tendency to let the markets rule makes it a real problem. Public ownership means we actually do own the problems, but also the benefits, if it's done right.

And, yeah, I owned BP and own some other oil producers (no offshore drillers), but they take my money, and as long as things are this way, I am getting some of it back.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:24 PM on May 30, 2010


Oh, I meant to add, and while we're at it, we could bring back the stockades for corporate executives who commit serious crimes, in addition to prison time and fines, of course. I'm not a fan of the death penalty, but humiliation for the powerful committing crimes upon society is OK.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:27 PM on May 30, 2010


Blazecock Pileon: we don't just need to hold BP executives to account. We MUST hold them to account.
posted by wuwei at 2:31 PM on May 30, 2010


So who's for giving up and living in the woods like animals? At this point it's looking like the only sensable thing to do.
posted by nola at 2:33 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Demands from the rally in New Orleans today:

We demand the Federal Government intervene immediately to stop the BP Oil Flood and:

1. Declare the BP Oil Flood a national disaster so that Louisiana can finally begin getting federal assistance.

2. Stop BP’s use of “Corexit” and other chemical dispersants that present significant danger to health and safety.

3. Under a state of emergency, employ all resources (including Navy) of the government at every level – Federal, State, local, and parish — to defend our coast, our livelihoods, and our culture.

4. Suspend all BP contracts by means of the EPA’s discretionary debarment act and seize or attach all of BP’s assets, including BP Atlantis and other operational offshore rigs, to assure that all costs of cleanup and remediation are covered.

5. Strongly enforce all regulations for workplace health and safety: Cleanup crews must be supplied with and allowed to use full-face respirators, not paper masks.

6. Undertake immediate, full, and ongoing 3rd-party verified air-quality and toxicity testing in all affected areas, including New Orleans, and objective close monitoring of the oil leak to determine the true extent of the catastrophe.

7. End all deepwater offshore oil drilling.

8. Institute a temporary moratorium on non-deepwater offshore drilling (both current and new operations) and require each operation pass a stringent independent safety review before they can resume operation. Those that fail inspection stay shut down and are heavily fined until they comply or are debared.

9. Keep all lawsuits related to the BP Oil Flood and its aftermath in Louisiana, and instruct the DOJ and States’ Attorney General to hold BP, Halliburton and Transocean accountable to the furthest extent possible under the law.

10. Found a two-decade TVA-Style Gulf Coast Authority that rebuilds sea walls, levees, coastlines, and wetlands, with a dedicated fund for fishermen and related industries to provide economic relief for those put out of work because of the disaster.
posted by eustatic at 2:34 PM on May 30, 2010 [25 favorites]


Anybody have any ideas regarding a (perhaps metafilter engineered) call to action? Now we got the execution talk out of our system.

maybe efforts to promote green energy; metafilter is such an ideal blending of experts and others who can engage in political organizing

What about a march on Washington to demand investment in green energy, a proposal to wean ourselves off petroleum in a workable way?
posted by angrycat at 2:37 PM on May 30, 2010


maybe something such as what eustastic posted but more universal
posted by angrycat at 2:38 PM on May 30, 2010


So who's for giving up and living in the woods like animals? At this point it's looking like the only sensable thing to do.

Yes. Oh, and we are animals. Hopefully, still.
posted by marimeko at 2:39 PM on May 30, 2010


I'm up for living in the woods like elves.
posted by The Whelk at 2:41 PM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Come on guys, let's not play the blame game. Accidents happen from time to time. An industry here, an ecosystem there, pretty soon we're talking about something substantial.

In other news, the new two-strikes laws and truth-in-sentencing acts were passed by overwhelming margins reflecting Americans' strong sense of justice and responsibility.
posted by speedgraphic at 2:46 PM on May 30, 2010


I'm up for living in the woods like elves.

See, that's why your loved. You make everything more funner.
posted by nola at 2:55 PM on May 30, 2010


Corporations strain at the end of however much leash we grant them. They aren't moral or immoral, they are amoral. Expecting otherwise is naive.

As to hurricanes there are some excellent graphics that show the historical paths and frequency here.
posted by vapidave at 3:03 PM on May 30, 2010


Ah, insults. Again. The last resort of the dishonest.

But your statement is itself an insult, so you must be dishonest too. But if you're dishonest, then you didn't mean that, then arguably you didn't deliver an insult. But if you didn't deliver an insult, then you're not dishonest, so then you did deliver an insult and aren't but then you did didn't did didn't ddiiddnt

*explodes*
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:03 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Totally called this a month ago. There's going to be oil in Ireland and Portugal by the end of the year. The Keys are fucked. Tampa Bay is fucked. Havana and the rest of Northern Cuba? Fucked. Louisiana? So fucked the state won't be able to walk straight for a century.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:14 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I falsely remembering BP negligence in refinery plants causing all kinds of deaths in an explosion or three? This is just par for the course.

Were I, as a sole individual, to go out and create this much havoc, destruction, and death in a grab for money, what wouldn't I be up for? Prosecutors would find some way to throw treason and violation of archaic statues about molesting wildebeest into it. Corporate personhood has created this bizarre situation wherein the worst thing that ever seems to happen is that stock value goes down, for a while, and that's that. Very very occasionally, for very specific crimes, a few select folks get put in the slam, but that's it.

Executives in companies like this seem to operate in a near consequence-free environment, because, hey, it was an "accident." I'm not even sure that we can put anyone in prison over this, just issue more disproportionately small fines. Charter revocation, the corporate death penalty, does not cut it, because the smooth operators just get jobs elsewhere, at other oil companies. They have no fear, just good days and bad days for the portfolio, and until that situation changes, we'll keep having situations like this, over and over.

As far as I can tell, planet Earth is basically like Second Life to these guys — just design your avatar (corporation) as you like, run around, do whatever you please. Maybe you lose some Linden Bucks, maybe you get some, but no matter what happens there, you can unplug and that's the end of it. Corporate personhood has perhaps outlived its usefulness. With what would we replace it?
posted by adipocere at 3:16 PM on May 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


Oh, right: there’s 4,000 more rigs in the Gulf.
posted by kipmanley at 3:16 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


See, that's why your loved. You make everything more funner.

Is this thread fun ("funner") for you?
posted by marimeko at 3:24 PM on May 30, 2010


delmoi wrote: "And he was even talking about how safe the modern technology was, when in fact it wasn't safe."

The problem isn't the technology. This incident was caused by faulty equipment and blatant disregard for safety. That we haven't had a comparable spill in 30 years despite thousands of wells being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico kinda argues against your point there.

People who want major structural change right this second are ignoring the major economic disruption that such changes would bring. If it were 5 years ago, I wouldn't be too concerned about that, but right now I am. Additionally, it's difficult to make good decisions in a crisis (hello, USA PATRIOT). We could act like the Republicans and assorted industry fucktards who use crises such as this to ram through changes which are almost always to our detriment. I'd prefer not to be like those people, thanks.
posted by wierdo at 3:28 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Imagine if instead of a sheet of oil it were a cloud of radioactivity blowing over the Northeastern U.S.

Even the old-style reactors in the US are incredibly, incredibly safe. They put an unbelievable amount of brains into those things; absolutely first-class, space program style engineering. And they're regulated almost to the point of stupidity, where even simple and harmless mistakes can potentially land operators in jail.

Even when the worst happened, at Three Mile Island, the public was never in danger. They lost that reactor, but no people, and when they (deliberately) flushed the radioactive gas residue, it wasn't detectable ten meters away from the plant. But the media, and the politicians, both thrive on fear and spectacle, and that's what you got....hysteria all over the airwaves, with lots of eye-rolling by the engineers on the site. But you didn't hear about the eye rolling.

That whole 'China Syndrome' thing, as least as far as US plants go, is complete bullshit. If the reactor core slags itself and turns to liquid radioactive hell, it drains down into specially-designed catch basins that can handle the temperatures, and keep the masses sub-critical. You lose the plant for a few decades until things cool down enough to be safe to clean out, but nothing escapes. Even if, somehow, the inner containment is breached, there's an outside containment, and then a huge containment building on top of everything else.

And that's with the old plants, the ones that still put out high-level waste. What's really stupid there is that the waste is considered the reason not to have these plants, because it's highly radioactive and very dangerous. But high radioactivity is energy. That's not waste, that's energy sitting there that we're not using.

In a old-style plant, the uranium rods that go into the reactor gradually get changed into other substances as they "burn". It doesn't take a whole lot of adulteration to make the rods too inefficient for use, something like, um, I think it's about 10% contamination. So they get pulled out with something like 90% of their original energy still sitting there. And we, in essence, just throw them away!

It is completely ridiculous to do that. We should be reprocessing them, to get the 90% pure uranium back out of them again. There are various trace elements generated that are useful in various medical fields, and then some actively dangerous stuff that's of no use. That can be treated with super high-energy lasers, and decomposed into other radioactive elements, which then themselves go through a decay chain over a few days, and eventually end up being basic, non-radioactive elements like, say, potassium or something. There's still some chemical risk with some of these byproducts, but it's chemical, not radioactive, and it's not a large volume at all.

With full reprocessing, a 100MW plant running for one year generates about one 5-gallon bucket of waste. This is stuff we can't easily break down or deal with, and has to be stored until it breaks down itself, typically a matter of years or decades. It takes some ancillary industry to do the reprocessing, but it's still cheaper than buying fresh uranium, wasting 90% of it, and then trying to figure out where to put it.

In other words, the waste problem should be about a tenth of a percent of what we have now. But Carter, for whatever reason, got a bee up his bonnet and prohibited reprocessing. The number one problem with those reactors is high-level waste, and he forbade the technique to get rid of it. Out of fear of nuclear power, we've banned the solution to the problem.

Modern designs are much better, both in terms of safety and in terms of waste. I don't know a lot about their waste cycle, but their actual operation is designed to always remain sub-critical, and to fail into non-reaction if there's a coolant or control problem. The old plants can indeed fail into total meltdown, if enough systems go wrong at the same time. Newer plants can't go into meltdown even if everything stops at once. They'll get hot, and the coolant will boil off, but the heat and lack of coolant both actively impede the reaction. It keeps the core sub-critical at all times, even when every active safety mechanism has failed.

But remember, even a total meltdown of an old plant is contained; there's just about zero danger outside even the first containment vessel, much less the other layers in between the nasty stuff and the public outside. The employees may be in some danger, but you aren't.

Now, Russian reactors? Those things are hazardous as fuck. Most of them probably shouldn't be operational at all. Chernobyl was a horrible design, one that failed into increased criticality; as temperatures increased, and as coolant boiled off, it got more reactive, not less. Combine that with operators driving the plant past safe operational temperatures to try to burn off waste gases, and you got an earth-shattering kaboom. Apparently there are some more Chernobyl-style reactors around, and I wouldn't want to live within 500 miles of one.

But ours are very, very good. Those guys took real pride in their work, and even their worst-case failure, Three Mile Island, put the public in no danger. I'd have been just as safe, five hundred yards downwind of TMI when it melted down, as I am sitting in this easy chair.

If we get nuclear power wrong, we pay a price, but they've put a lot of effort into minimizing that cost. With fossil fuels, we pay an enormous price even when we're doing it right.
posted by Malor at 3:33 PM on May 30, 2010 [128 favorites]


It's fun watching Metafilter debate this. I love you guys, but there are so many milquetoast, wishy-washy opinions on here, I feel like I'm spectating a competition in most-words-written, least-things-solved.
posted by speedgraphic at 3:35 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


bonaldi: Actually we need to stop watching so many movies. Or, at least, watching them and then demanding our politicians act the same way as movie heroes.

The one scene from the one movie I mentioned was indeed based in fact. That did happen with all the NASA guys getting together to solve that problem. I demanded nothing, I only made a suggestion, which, others have since mentioned is already going on.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:41 PM on May 30, 2010


Let me drive around in my Topkick C4500 for a while jotting ideas on my iPad I'm bound to come up with something.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:49 PM on May 30, 2010


Malor wrote: "But ours are very, very good. Those guys took real pride in their work, and even their worst-case failure, Three Mile Island, put the public in no danger. I'd have been just as safe, five hundred yards downwind of TMI when it melted down, as I am sitting in this easy chair. "

And safer still than I am every time I drive through the exhaust plume of several coal fired power plants on my way to work. Or when I smell the nastiness coming from one of the oil refineries across the river.

The nuclear hysteria is one of the few things that really makes me mad about the "left." I can even understand, without agreeing mind you, wanting to get rid of the standard BWR and PWR designs (and even not build the newer designs). What I really don't get is what's so hard to grasp about pebble bed, CANDU, and the other reactor designs that are 100% fail safe. You know, the ones where if you walk away and forget about it, it just gets hotter than usual (but not meltdown hot) for a short while and then stops fissioning.

Yeah, mining is dirty business. It sucks. It's way better than spilling millions of gallons of oil into the gulf of mexico and spewing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. At least with the mines, the off site impacts can be better controlled.

I want nuclear power and a reasonably priced battery powered car that gets me at least 200 miles on a charge (ideally 300-350 miles so I don't have to overnight at my destination, but I could deal with that). Preferably one I can pack a rollaboard and a couple of server cases in. Hydrogen produced by nuclear energy would be fine, too, but somehow I like the idea of a pure electric car better.
posted by wierdo at 3:51 PM on May 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I feel like I'm spectating a competition in most-words-written, least-things-solved.
posted by speedgraphic at 5:35 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


So, suggest something. Anything. People are listening.

This is what pisses me off (here, today). Personal responsibility is quickly, angrily poo-pooed. In a most - please allow me to justify this away, "and make every excuse possible so that I don't need to adopt any responsibility in the world, etc".

Okay. But when you have little other (immediate) course to take, why not the small, personal (reasonable) move in a greener direction?
posted by marimeko at 3:52 PM on May 30, 2010


> With full reprocessing, a 100MW plant running for one year generates about one 5-gallon bucket of waste. This is stuff we can't easily break down or deal with, and has to be stored until it breaks down itself, typically a matter of years or decades. It takes some ancillary industry to do the reprocessing, but it's still cheaper than buying fresh uranium, wasting 90% of it, and then trying to figure out where to put it.

I would put forward that the french have been extremely successful with their nuke programs doing just this (their primary source of fuel has been the waste fuel from other nations), however, it is in part because the French also have a much strong labor and workers rights union, along with extremely protective of the whistleblower laws. I would support a nuclear option in the US only after we had similar unemployement, workers rights, nationalized health care services as offered in France, therefore ensuring that the technicians and individuals involved on the ground dealing with these systems do not have to decide between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:01 PM on May 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


While you are busy parroting the talking points of the nuclear power industry; Jimmy Carter was trained as a nuclear submarine engineer for the USS Seawolf and also participated as an officer in assisting the Canadians in one of the first major nuclear reactor incidents in the 1950s. These incredible safety advances are they actually the same fucking safety advances that supposedly made offshore drilling totally safe? Also Jimmy Carter was president for 4 years while Reagan and the Bushes got 20 of the cast 30. If we'd reelected him instead of Regan our cars would be getting 45mpg average by now and we'd have cheap solar and wind powering the economy. In conclusion Carter 2012, if only we'd listened to him in 1980.
posted by humanfont at 4:12 PM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


> So, suggest something. Anything. People are listening.

Please raise my gas taxes and electricity prices. A lot.
posted by Skorgu at 4:16 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


atrazine: Thanks. It still seems like 30% of a drilled relief well is better than 0% but that does at least make some of the complexity clearer.
posted by Skorgu at 4:18 PM on May 30, 2010


Harry Shearer is playing the fucking boom clip on Le Show this week.
posted by angrycat at 4:32 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Modern [nuclear plant] designs are much better, both in terms of safety and in terms of waste.

The issue, as we have seen from BP, is not technology but management. As long as the free market is in charge of nuclear power we can expect short cuts, risk taking, profit making and catastrophic accidents. I would trust the French before I would trust Westinghouse or Excelon.
posted by JackFlash at 4:36 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


So given that you can't even safely have a relief well ready to go, this seems to imply that there is really no safe way at all do to deep water drilling. Sure maybe this particular blowout could have been prevented with adherence to the rules, but given the right set of things going wrong, it is probably inevitable that you will have a major deep water blowout every now and then. How can the overall costs possibly be worth the advantages of that extra oil?

Asking any supporters of deep-drilling still left out it in Metafilter...
posted by dopeypanda at 4:38 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


@marimeko Excuse me? Where did personal responsibility come into this? I won't go into what I already do to conserve energy, but I would vote for a $1 or $2/gallon gas tax or a doubling of electricity rates without hesitation if I thought it'd help.
posted by speedgraphic at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2010


But when you have little other (immediate) course to take, why not the small, personal (reasonable) move in a greener direction?

I don't think anyone is saying there are no other immediate courses of action available. Organize, agitate, go to the meetings — these things can make a difference in ways that isolated consumer choices made without any sense of collective action never will.

In conclusion Carter 2012, if only we'd listened to him in 1980.
You had your chance with Jimmy Carter, and you fucking blew it. So get fucked. Fucking country.
posted by enn at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


TVA has been a major polluter in the not-so-distant past. I don't think the suggestion that a new agency be modelled after that agency was all that well-considered.
posted by raysmj at 4:47 PM on May 30, 2010


re: the left and nuclear power.

I think the anti-nuclear movement made quite a lot of sense at the time. The US was coming out of a war designed and financed by the military industries and the production of nuclear bombs could easily be inferred as a reason for building the plants. So you've got this big bunch of nuclear scientists tied to this big nasty military that has had no problem lying over matters that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths for decades. And these scientists say they want to build these new things that are going to help build the bombs to beat the communists, and no, they won't build it next to _their_ house, it has to go next to _yours._

There was what we might call a credibility gap that had to be bridged, and, thanks to the bad behaviour of the government and military in the prior decade, there was no way for that bridge to be built.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:48 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


@marimeko Excuse me? Where did personal responsibility come into this? I won't go into what I already do to conserve energy, but I would vote for a $1 or $2/gallon gas tax or a doubling of electricity rates without hesitation if I thought it'd help.

Way, way up thread.
posted by marimeko at 4:51 PM on May 30, 2010


humanfont wrote: "Jimmy Carter was trained as a nuclear submarine engineer for the USS Seawolf and also participated as an officer in assisting the Canadians in one of the first major nuclear reactor incidents in the 1950s."

Nuclear power on naval vessels is a completely different animal than nuclear power in big generating stations on land.

Also, management issues are headed off at the pass with fail safe reactors.
posted by wierdo at 4:51 PM on May 30, 2010


Please raise my gas taxes and electricity prices. A lot.
It's a good start, but for a litre of petrol we pay what you pay for a gallon, and still the roads are chocka. (There is a noticeable move to Diesel engines, though.)

Meanwhile our mass transit is still rotten. (Well, it's good by your standards, but still people avoid it). Disincentives only go so far; minds have to be changed as well.
posted by bonaldi at 4:52 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile our mass transit is still rotten. (Well, it's good by your standards, but still people avoid it

By whose standards (which city in particular)?
posted by marimeko at 5:01 PM on May 30, 2010


Yet you also used them as an example of something that would have a huge impact at a personal level and have not make much difference overall.

Can't you see the confusion engendered by you trying to use solar panels as an example of a pointless sacrifice that won't solve our overall environmental problems, while also using them as an example of a worthwhile individual contribution to solving that same problem?
-- bonaldi
No, because it's not a sacrifice. That's what makes it worthwhile. The solar panels pay for themselves over time. Given the current prices, they can pay for themselves in 10-20 years, and after that produce free income. Yes, buying solar panels, as an individual, won't have much of an impact. But it's something that actually can appeal to a broad swath of the public, since it makes economic sense. Other examples might be CFL light bulbs and better insulation.

On the other hand, sacrifices that are just that, sacrifices with no payout, ones that reduce your apparent quality of life don't really help that much, and certainly won't have an effect on their own because they are not going to catch on. The fact of the matter is that individual consumers do not have that much say over things on their own. They can't chose to take the train if it doesn't exist. They can't choose wind power if there are no wind plants nearby, or a power grid that can deliver them the energy they need. (Unless they have enough land for their own windmill). They can't make their neighborhood walkable. They can't choose higher density living if their local zoning board doesn't want it.

In other words, some things make economic sense and individuals should do them, And some things don't: They're just sacrifices that make the individual feel good but don't accomplish anything.
This chart is why Obama supports offshore drilling. -- Max Power
Ugh. That's so wrong, sorry. Offshore oil production is a drop in the bucket compared to other sources of oil. Only a tiny portion of our oil consumption is made up for by deep water drilling. Not doing it wouldn't have much of an impact on the average person. Oil wouldn't be that much more expensive. And instead of waiting for production to ramp up, we'd be better off
The problem isn't the technology. This incident was caused by faulty equipment -- wierdo
Uh... Read that again.
and blatant disregard for safety. -- wierdo
Well, I kind of think that if a technology is 1) sensitive to irresponsible use, and 2) capable of wreaking widespread destruction then we probably shouldn't be letting people use it at all. Why should we as a society tolerate
That we haven't had a comparable spill in 30 years despite thousands of wells being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico kinda argues against your point there. -- wierdo
No it doesn't! If someone proposed doing this such that you would only have one blowout every 30 years no one would support it. If we actually needed this oil, it would be a different issue, but we don't. Oil is going to go away eventually, and we need to be moving off of it as fast as possible for other reasons!
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi, I agree completely that we need to be moving away from oil. One unforced errors in tens of thousands of wells drilled is a pretty low failure rate. If the mismanagement of this particular well is typical, it speaks well of the technology and understanding.

That people failed to maintain the technology argues more for better regulation than an outright permanent ban.

When I wrote "The problem isn't the technology. This incident was caused by faulty equipment." I (obviously, in my mind) was stating that the technology itself can be perfectly safe, if it doesn't suffer a lack of maintenance and testing. Technology that can withstand idiots is even better, of course. Point being, that if the blowout preventer and it's activation mechanisms had been functional, there would have been only a small spill directly in the vicinity of the drilling platform, as the only thing that would have been able to leak would, of course, have been the oil already in the riser when the BOP was activated.

Bus drivers driving off a cliff doesn't make me think we should ban buses, it makes me think we should have better monitoring of the alertness of commercial drivers.

That said, it is an open question as to whether deep water drilling is even necessary. It probably will be in the future when we've dug up all the oil we can and burned it rather than saving some for later so we can continue to make plastics. I like plastics.
posted by wierdo at 5:15 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


By whose standards (which city in particular)?
The best mass transit I've seen of any American city is NY but, while the subway is immense, as soon as you head out from the city it peters out quickly. Even getting upstate is poor compared to the trains I can get out from London, but I really meant a US average.

I don't say this to mock the US btw, just to illustrate how hard this problem is. We have already done a lot of things that people say the US must do -- we have very high petrol taxes, we have a mass-transit system of trains and buses, all our towns are walkable -- but we also have an ever-growing number of cars on the roads. (And a lot of offshore drilling, as an aside). Even if the US adopted these measure, it'd face all our challenges, plus a lot more of its own because of the mammoth geography involved.

That's why I say that changing people's minds has to be a first step. We need a cultural revolution that's stronger than one that just comes from economic incentives. If some people want to martyr themselves because they think that'll help bring it about, it's fine by me because I don't see any real political leadership and fear we're burning up the last few decades that could have made this a soft transition.
posted by bonaldi at 5:23 PM on May 30, 2010


By whose standards (which city in particular)?
The best mass transit I've seen of any American city is NY but, while the subway is immense, as soon as you head out from the city it peters out quickly. Even getting upstate is poor compared to the trains I can get out from London, but I really meant a US average.

I don't say this to mock the US btw, just to illustrate how hard this problem is. We have already done a lot of things that people say the US must do -- we have very high petrol taxes, we have a mass-transit system of trains and buses, all our towns are walkable -- but we also have an ever-growing number of cars on the roads. (And a lot of offshore drilling, as an aside). Even if the US adopted these measure, it'd face all our challenges, plus a lot more of its own because of the mammoth geography involved.

That's why I say that changing people's minds has to be a first step. We need a cultural revolution that's stronger than one that just comes from economic incentives. If some people want to martyr themselves because they think that'll help bring it about, it's fine by me because I don't see any real political leadership and fear we're burning up the last few decades that could have made this a soft tran


So, New York? That's what you meant by "your standards"?
posted by marimeko at 5:33 PM on May 30, 2010


No, I meant the situation of the average American Joe w/r/t access to mass transit etc compared to the average Brit.
posted by bonaldi at 5:38 PM on May 30, 2010


Delmoi -yes it is, drops in buckets are what we are faced with.

Politics alone have contributed to this end, "drill baby drill" anyone?

The illusion that the US can just solve our energy problems by drilling off our coasts has forced Obama to embrace the idea of squeezing the last drop that can be squeezed.

The empire is lost, our President has no balls, he is residing over the collapse of not just our happy go lucky way of life but over the collapse of of the idea of American exceptionalism.

His embrace of offshore drilling is direct recognition that he cannot convince our corporate controlled media, who guide the majority of us, that there are other ways of continuing our "lifestyle."

While the gulf of Mexico suffocates under plumes of oil and hedge fund managers pay 15% taxes on profits they make with other peoples money we will look to other ways to "maintain" our "way of life."

Game over, the system breaks down, sometimes in most unexpected ways.

Oh wait there's something funny on TV BRB.
posted by Max Power at 5:39 PM on May 30, 2010


marimeko, I think bonaldi meant 'better than any american city of which I have knowledge of mass transit'. If you think that there is a city in the US which has better public transport than Britain, it'd probably be more helpful to go ahead and mention it than whatever you're trying to do.
posted by jacalata at 5:40 PM on May 30, 2010


Speak for the average American Joe, when you've dealt with the average American Joe (tranist sytem), then, K?
posted by marimeko at 5:40 PM on May 30, 2010


This is like when the Vogon warships descended to clear the earth for a hyperspace bypass. Obama could go in tv and tell you to put a paper bag on your head but really it won't matter. There is nothing that can be done.

Beer. And peanuts. The protein will help cushion your system.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


marimeko, I think bonaldi meant 'better than any american city of which I have knowledge of mass transit'. If you think that there is a city in the US which has better public transport than Britain, it'd probably be more helpful to go ahead and mention it than whatever you're trying to do.
posted by jacalata at 7:40 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


You are absolutely right.

I live in Chicago. When I was in Europe it was clear that tranport was superior. But it's no excuse. Public tansport will only improve via demand - that is, people's input towards such. New York is hardly the only city in the world. LA coud catch on, damnit!
posted by marimeko at 5:50 PM on May 30, 2010


delmoi, I agree completely that we need to be moving away from oil. One unforced errors in tens of thousands of wells drilled is a pretty low failure rate.
It doesn't matter if the failure rate is "low" if the failures are this catastrophic. Twice in 3 decades is still way to often.
Bus drivers driving off a cliff doesn't make me think we should ban buses, it makes me think we should have better monitoring of the alertness of commercial drivers.
Or just not have the bus drive by the cliff in the first place. Again if there weren't plenty of reasons to move off oil, then it would at least make sense to try to make this safer. But why would want to try doing that when the downsides outweigh the upsides even if the rigs could be perfectly safe. And nothing is "perfectly safe" when it depends on people not fucking up. People are always going to fuck up. That's why I like new nuke designs that can't fail even if people screw everything up. Wind and solar plants can't cause catastrophic problems, and they aren't susceptible to fucking up.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]



An oil using society. The same one me and you live in. And so we are repsonsible, no mater to what extent we want to say "this was just BPs fault!" or by some weird fucked up logic "this was Obamas fault!". We use oil. This is what happens when you use oil. We can accept that, or we can change that, but failing to acknowledge that is just burying your head in (oil contaminated) sand.


Yeah everyone uses oil, but that's kinda like blaming children for getting hooked on crack instead of the dealer. They've set up this world to run on oil. That is their fault.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:50 PM on May 30, 2010


I'm sorry that I upset you marimeko, but you'll need to give me more here than just sideways questioning and ad homming. Are you telling me the US has mass transit to rival Europe's or even just Britain's?

(Fwiw I've lived in three states, and visited plenty more, so I'm not just grasping for stereotypes here. My experiences trying to get around the US by bus and train were grim. Living without a car anywhere except SF and NYC seems very difficult. Here it's a piece of piss)

On preview: now I'm even more confused. If you're saying that Europe does have better transit, what the hell is your point?
posted by bonaldi at 5:53 PM on May 30, 2010


I'd suggest giving the cleanup operation to the tar sands mining operators in Alberta. When you look at how much energy, effort and expense those fuckers are willing to put into getting a barrel of oil, skimming it off the gulf is going to look like child's play to them. There is nothing they won't do, nothing they won't mow down to get to it. They'd be pigs in clover. They wouldn't leave a drop.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:54 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The nuclear hysteria is one of the few things that really makes me mad about the "left." I can even understand, without agreeing mind you, wanting to get rid of the standard BWR and PWR designs (and even not build the newer designs). What I really don't get is what's so hard to grasp about pebble bed, CANDU, and the other reactor designs that are 100% fail safe. You know, the ones where if you walk away and forget about it, it just gets hotter than usual (but not meltdown hot) for a short while and then stops fissioning.

I was so anti-nuke in the seventies and eighties that for more than twenty years my license plates were NO NUXE. And I think it was a reasonable position - our major concern was that utility companies were as competent at providing safe nuclear energy as BP has proven to be at their area of "expertise".

I would wholeheartedly support pebble bed reactors now, however. As long as we also pursue every other avenue, too. Decentralized solutions are what I'd really prefer, though, if possible.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:57 PM on May 30, 2010


On preview: now I'm even more confused. If you're saying that Europe does have better transit, what the hell is your point?

I was mad at the "you" which inevitably meant "New York" and we are not merely NY'ers here, in the US. Whatevs. I was already mad due to the subject of this thread. I am sorry (all). Touchy, touchy stuff for me..
posted by marimeko at 6:01 PM on May 30, 2010


How awesome would it be if a oil-rich hurricane caught on fire?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:37 PM on May 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Anyone still arguing against nuclear on safety grounds is clearly not paying attention. It is not a matter of having to trust anyone's statements as to the safety - the designs are physically unable to melt down. It's like arguing that a brick sitting on the ground might blow up, because you never know.
posted by odinsdream at 6:47 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


posted by George_Spiggott I'd suggest giving the cleanup operation to the tar sands mining operators in Alberta. When you look at how much energy, effort and expense those fuckers are willing to put into getting a barrel of oil, skimming it off the gulf is going to look like child's play to them. There is nothing they won't do, nothing they won't mow down to get to it. They'd be pigs in clover. They wouldn't leave a drop.

The Alberta Tar Sands are being mined by BP.
posted by mattdidthat at 6:53 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


mrzarquon: however, it is in part because the French also have a much strong labor and workers rights union,

I have no other data than idle Usenet ruminations from years ago, in a forum that had a number of working nuclear engineers in it, but rumor there claimed that the French safety record may not actually be very good. They claimed that there have been quite a number of incidents that the government simply hushed up, being able to do that. It wasn't single-poster sourcing, but it was all completely unsubstantiated in any way, shape, or form, so believe it or not at your whim.

It was their belief that our nuclear industry was MUCH better, although they were pretty sad, because the field they trained for has been dead for thirty years, and they're all getting old. They saw lots of expertise retiring and/or dying. Our nuclear power research programs were once far in advance of everyone else, but they seemed to think that other countries are way ahead at this point, and that it could take decades to catch back up. They were deeply frustrated that we'll have to be buying safe reactors from other countries, instead of selling them stuff that's even better what they can do.

JackFlash: The issue, as we have seen from BP, is not technology but management. As long as the free market is in charge of nuclear power we can expect short cuts, risk taking, profit making and catastrophic accidents. I would trust the French before I would trust Westinghouse or Excelon.

Their overall safety record of civilian nuclear power in the West is absolutely stellar. I've never done a comparison, but it wouldn't shock me if solar and wind power have killed or injured more people. (I asserted zero deaths from civilian nuclear power a few weeks ago, but people did a little digging past my initial source and found a few... less than ten in the entire West, as I recall.) That's not zero, but it's still pretty amazing, when you consider that nuclear power covers about a fifth of all our electricity generation, and even more for many other countries. If you count wars, oil has killed millions, and possibly millions more in the future from climate change, even if we stop fighting over it.

That's not a completely fair comparison, because I have no idea what the casualties are like in uranium mining, but once the stuff's out the ground, they've done incredibly well.

Oh, I just remembered that the Usenet guys were pretty down on a few plants, thinking that they were very poorly managed. The fundamental designs are so strong that even idiots have a hard time screwing them up too badly, but there are, apparently, idiots in charge of a few of them. You can trust that generation of engineers, but you may very well be right to fear the power companies.

Regardless, there's not going to be any huge clouds of radioactivity. TMI released some radioactive noble gas (maybe krypton? not sure), but noble gases don't interact with much of anything (which is why they're "noble"), so they don't bioaccumulate or cause much trouble. If you're exposed, it just passes through you. That's not exactly GOOD for you, but it's an acute exposure, not a chronic one. The stuff that stays in your body is really dangerous, like radioactive cesium or iodine. Not all radioactivity is created equal, and not all exposures are equally bad.

One simple example: polonium, the stuff that was used to poison Alexander Litvinenko. Externally, it's intensely radioactive, but your skin stops the particles it emits; even a sheet of paper will stop polonium radiation completely. Take even a tiny bit internally, though, and you're dead. But because it's so dangerous, it also doesn't last very long... its half-life is a little over 4 months.

Very generally, the more radiation something emits, the shorter it sticks around. So when people moan about waste that lasts millions of years, that's true in a technical sense, but most of the dangerous stuff is gone in a few centuries. The stuff that lasts millennia or aeons is very mildly radioactive... that's why it lasts so long.

They're figuring that ground zero in Chernobyl, which was just about the worst possible accident, will be safe again for humans in about 200 years. That's a long time from our perspective, but it's about the lifespan of one tree.
posted by Malor at 6:53 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


posted by Malor ground zero in Chernobyl, which was just about the worst possible accident, will be safe again for humans in about 200 years.

In that case, we should stick with fossil fuels, since the Gulf of Mexico will be safe for humans in less than 5.
posted by mattdidthat at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2010


In that case, we should stick with fossil fuels, since the Gulf of Mexico will be safe for humans in less than 5.

The gulf coast is a lot larger then the the Exclusion Zone.
posted by delmoi at 7:15 PM on May 30, 2010


marimeko wrote: "Speak for the average American Joe, when you've dealt with the average American Joe (tranist sytem), then, K?"

The average joe, by raw numbers of cities, has little to no mass transit whatsoever. By population, it may look a little better. Most of us have anemic bus service at best.
posted by wierdo at 7:53 PM on May 30, 2010


delmoi wrote: "Wind and solar plants can't cause catastrophic problems, and they aren't susceptible to fucking up."

Oh they fuck up. The risks are just completely different than the sort we're used to. It's more of a grid instability thing than a environmental disaster sort of thing, though. The argument can certainly be made that plunging half of North America into the dark for a few hours once every 30 years is better than coating the gulf coast in oil once every thirty years. Obviously there are other options besides, such as meeting the challenges that will be caused by increasing wind and solar inputs into the grid.

That shift will require modernization, though. Our current system works best with the large power plants that don't generally reduce output unexpectedly. It can be done, but it's not all blue skies and roses, either.

I also agree with the sentiment that distributed generation is a good thing. For a bit more cost we get more redundancy (although we also get more points of failure!) and better transmission efficiency. We do lose in the sense that it's more difficult to maintain a stable grid when you have more inputs, but that's certainly not an insurmountable problem.

Personally, I'm interested in a few solar panels and a small wind turbine connected to a nice battery bank just as a backup source of energy during power outages. That it could offset some of my draw from the grid is just a bonus, to my mind.
posted by wierdo at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wind and solar plants can't cause catastrophic problems

Current world energy use is *googling* 15 terawatts, and we can expect that to grow substantially. I don't think we know much about what happens when we start extracting, say, 30-40 terawatts from wind.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:17 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting thread, sorry to come so late into it (as usual)... Some small points of information, and thoughts:

In Canada they're required to drill a relief well at the same time as the main well, just in case something like this happens.
BP is lobbying to overturn that law in Canada, and against adopting it here.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:05 AM on May 30 [104 favorites +] [!]

Canada does not require relief wells to be drilled at the same time as the exploration well. They require that oil companies show that they can drill a relief well in the same season as the exploration well so a blowout doesn't last for months before even starting.

I personally haven't gotten an adequate answer why *actually* requiring a relief well to be partially dug before the main well is expected to hit hydrocarbons is a bad idea but I'm also not a geologist.
posted by Skorgu at 10:44 AM on May 30 [7 favorites +] [!]


You don't need to be a geologist. A deepwater offshore well costs tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to drill. You don't drill two simultaneously because it doubles the already huge cost in order to protect against an exceedingly improbably (though, as we have seen, not impossible) event.

The proposed wells for the Beaufort sea are likely to cost somewhere in the 500 - 600 million dollar range, because the drill ship capable of drilling in deep Arctic waters does not yet exist and needs to be built. Same season relief well capability may not be realistically possible at this time, meaning it is possible that neither Imperial or BP will actually drill their Beaufort prospects.


and it looks increasingly possible they won't be able to stop the spill until a relief well is completed in August

It will run out of oil first, just like the Pemex disaster in '79.
posted by Brian B. at 8:33 AM on May 30 [+] [!]


The Ixtoc well flowed for about ten months before it was stopped, by drilling a relief well.

No it won't



Estimated by BP to hold 50 million barrels, the seam of oil has emptied as much as 740,000 barrels (one barrel is 42 gallons), or about 1.5 percent of the total. Because of the immense pressures of the earth's innards, geologists say, the deposit will completely unload into the Gulf unless the Deepwater Horizon well is capped.


I don't know who these geologists are, but this is not true. Getting optimal recoveries out of a deep reservoir takes many wells -- some injecting, some pumping -- drilled over years of developing, for recovery factors around 30%. If only it were as easy as sinking a straw into the reservoir and having it all pour out...



Big Question: Has BP ruled out (or is saving for later) any method that would cap the well AND make the oil down there inaccessible permanently or for a very very long time? If making sure they can re-drill later is a factor in decision-making for this crisis, then that would be totally WRONG to the point of inhumanly evil, right?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:25 AM on May 30 [2 favorites +] [!]


No method (seriously) proposed for mitigating or stopping the spill would make the reservoir permanently inaccessible. Making sure that they can re-drill later is not a factor.


But concerted action by individuals resulted in a world where you can't find a restaurant without a vegetarian option


Huh. Having just spent three weeks dining at the finer establishments of tiny towns in the Piceance and Uinta basins, I can attest that this is correct if you are willing to subsist on iceberg lettuce. I'm only an at-home vegetarian: I shudder to think of how emaciated I'd be if I were a committed vegan!


delmoi: "Natural gas? That might help with oil leaks, but it won't do much to prevent global warming. It's still a greenhouse releasing energy source."

It's a stop gap solution but hydrogen isn't ready, batteries don't have the range. We have enough gas to supply ourselves for 50 years.
posted by Bonzai at 10:17 AM on May 30 [+] [!]


Replacing coal fired electricity with natural gas generation (or better, marrying natural gas generation with wind or solar) is far and away the low hanging fruit for large greenhouse gas reductions in a short (<1>100 years of supply.


I wanna thank the industry folks for contributing to this thread.

When the conversation turns to things like "This company is evil" and "These losers don't know what they are doing," and "Let's chop them up and stuff their body parts in the well," some people who might actually have real industry information tend to share a little less.
posted by Houstonian at 10:19 AM on May 30 [11 favorites +] [!]


. I often joke that I work for the Evil Empire, and yet I would not call a single person I have met or talked with at the company as evil or incompetent. It does no favours to anyone, and, indeed, does a lot to confound moving towards solutions or improvement to indulge in simplistic moralization and dehumanization. Do I feel strong moral tensions while continuing to work for the Empire? Sure I do. Am I hopelessly naive in thinking that I might be able to contribute to advancing solutions or nudging towards better practices or even wholesale changes? Perhaps, but even if I were to quit tomorrow, I'd still feel compromized, because, like the rest of us, I'm deep in it regardless.


You know what else could have prevented this? NOT DOING OFFSHORE DRILLING. I'm sorry but discussing these technical fixes totally misses the point. We don't NEED that oil. So why put the economy/environment in so much danger to get it? in the first place.


Just in the US, offshore drilling represents more than 30% of production, and a far greater proportion of that in potential reserve growth. The US is the number 3 oil producer in the world, so this is not small potatoes. Beyond the US, the offshore represents something like 40 to 50 millions of oil equivalent barrels a day (boe -- this includes gas production). So, yeah, while there is a sense in which we don't need that oil, it is the same sense in which we don't need oil at all. We can argue about this, about how quickly we can stop relying on oil for energy, and what policies we need to put into place to make it happen.


I think with such a resource we need more public ownership as well, because privatizing it puts our energy policy at the mercy of the most ruthless market participants, and our tendency to let the markets rule makes it a real problem.

posted by krinklyfig at 2:24 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


The most ruthless energy system participants are arguably the national oil companies (NOCs) and psuedo-NOCs like the three Chinese majors, not the publically traded international oil companies. The nationalization of domestic oil industries is commonly accompanied by huge amounts of corruption, political repression, and environmental devastation -- the well known "resource curse". The Norwegian model appears (at least to me, right now) the best way of dealing with this: tight regulation of private companies paying large royalties feeding into a completely off-limits to partisan manipulation and use sovereign wealth fund. The US offshore certainly isn't the Norwegian North sea, but it ain't Venezuela either.


delmoi wrote: "And he was even talking about how safe the modern technology was, when in fact it wasn't safe."

The problem isn't the technology. This incident was caused by faulty equipment and blatant disregard for safety. That we haven't had a comparable spill in 30 years despite thousands of wells being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico kinda argues against your point there.


Thousands of wells successfully drilled, completed and producing against one operator with a known and well established track record for shoddy practices being overseen by a regulator known to be in desperate need of restructuring and reform. Even before knowing the full details of the many things that all went wrong and/or contributed to the current disaster, we know how to fix this.


> So, suggest something. Anything. People are listening.

Please raise my gas taxes and electricity prices. A lot.
posted by Skorgu at 4:16 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


Absolutely. Either a revenue neutral carbon tax (tax things you want less of, like pollution) or a carbon tax that feeds into subsidizing low or zero carbon sources (for instance, funding the feed in tariffs without which solar does not even come close to breaking even) or R&D into same.

Also: reforming the MMS and offshore regulatory regime. The Exxons of the world handily make money in Norway, they can live with a Norwegian level regulatory regime in the Gulf.

And: the slow transformation of our cities, transportation and supply infrastructure.



So given that you can't even safely have a relief well ready to go, this seems to imply that there is really no safe way at all do to deep water drilling. Sure maybe this particular blowout could have been prevented with adherence to the rules, but given the right set of things going wrong, it is probably inevitable that you will have a major deep water blowout every now and then. How can the overall costs possibly be worth the advantages of that extra oil?

Asking any supporters of deep-drilling still left out it in Metafilter...
posted by dopeypanda at 4:38 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


Still a "supporter", if by supporter, you mean "improve practices while funding the structural changes necessary to accelerate the move to lower polluting and lower emission energy system".


Ugh. That's so wrong, sorry. Offshore oil production is a drop in the bucket compared to other sources of oil. Only a tiny portion of our oil consumption is made up for by deep water drilling.


Not so. Instaed of "drop in a bucket", try, "about a third" and "far and away the largest potential for future resource growth".



posted by bumpkin at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


Nuclear power on naval vessels is a completely different animal than nuclear power in big generating stations on land.

Also, management issues are headed off at the pass with fail safe reactors.


A blowout preventer is supposed to fail safe. You can keep spouting GE/Westinghouse sales copy or you can consider the fact that we are working to engineer at the boundaries of our knowledge and the consequences of system failure are pretty catastrophic.
posted by humanfont at 8:37 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi : Well, I have no idea what you're basing the costs on. Here's a 370W solar panel kit, including a grid tie in for $989.91. (That's $2.60/watt) At 10¢/kwh and assuming an average of 4 hours of sunlight a day, that's 1.4kwh/day or 540kwh/year. It would take 19 years to earn back your investment.

The typical American house has a power budget of 5-10KW (with pushing 20KW increasingly common) averaged over the course of a day.

370W (keep in mind that describes the peak, which you might get for 6 hours a day if lucky) would barely run my computers and light the room I occupy at any given time, and I say that as someone who chooses CPUs for energy efficiency and runs all CFLs.


atrazine : If the total damage awards exceed what BP can pay, then that'll be the end of BP as many of you clearly wish.

The end of BP? A fictional entity with no ability to suffer for its misdeeds? Oh, no no no! We don't want the end of BP. We want the heads of their execs mounted on poles, with their genitals stuffed in their mouths, in a ring around Washington DC. We want the Potomac to run red with their blood. We want their families fed to starving oil-coated sea-birds live on PPV.

And don't think we consider Shell et al any better - Quite the contrary, we want this not so much for revenge, but to send a VERY clear message to the rest - "Don't do this again. Really. Just don't."

We want their product, they want our dollars, but we damned well do have lines they can't cross.
posted by pla at 8:47 PM on May 30, 2010


A blowout preventer is supposed to fail safe. You can keep spouting GE/Westinghouse sales copy or you can consider the fact that we are working to engineer at the boundaries of our knowledge and the consequences of system failure are pretty catastrophic.

The difference is depending on a mechanism rather than physics. Modern reactor accidents are like someone lighting a fire in a impregnable sealed dome; yeah, it'll get smoky, but the fire will eventually extinguish itself.
posted by Snyder at 8:49 PM on May 30, 2010


Wind and solar plants can't cause catastrophic problems, and they aren't susceptible to fucking up."

Judge halts wind farm over bats.

Bat/bird friendly wind power.

The question we have to ask ourselves isn't what the size of the catastrophy is, but how big a catastrophy in relation to what we get out of it. A half-billion windmills chopping up birds may or may not be better than the occasional spill, but personally I keep praying for fusion.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:53 PM on May 30, 2010


Current world energy use is *googling* 15 terawatts, and we can expect that to grow substantially. I don't think we know much about what happens when we start extracting, say, 30-40 terawatts from wind.
How much do you think gets extracted from trees every day?

Also, the sun dumps 696.8 petawats of energy per day into the system.
Just in the US, offshore drilling represents more than 30% of production
Yeah our production which is tiny. Our production is already pretty small compared to our consumption. If we stopped producing oil in the U.S. entirely, it wouldn't have that big of an impact. Offshore drilling is only a tiny portion of our consumption. Right now we produce 10% of the world's oil, and use 25%. Which would make offshore oil account for 12% of what we use. But that goes into the global supply, so it wouldn't affect overall oil prices much at all. The U.S only has 2.2% of the worlds reserves, too.
Thousands of wells successfully drilled, completed and producing against one operator with a known and well established track record for shoddy practices being overseen by a regulator known to be in desperate need of restructuring and reform.
Again, if all it takes is one fuckup to cause a disaster this size, then the fact that you can drill 'thousands' of wells without a problem doesn't matter. Also, my understanding is that BP has a pretty sizeable chunk of the offshore drilling, anyway.
Not so. Instaed of "drop in a bucket", try, "about a third" and "far and away the largest potential for future resource growth".
A third of a small and irrelevant number, and growth in a resource we don't want growing in the first place.
posted by delmoi at 8:55 PM on May 30, 2010


Interesting thought delmoi, allow me to pull some numbers out of my butt wikipedia and do a BOTE comparison:

The Chernobyl exclusion zone is roughly 30 km in radius so about 2800 km^2; if you assume it's contaminated for 200 years, call that 565 giga-(meter^2-years) of badness. The Deepwater Horizon oil slick seems to be about 55 miles(?) in radius, times 5 years is 123 giga-(meter^2-years) of badness.

The Chernobyl complex had a power output of about 4 GW electrical / 13 GW thermal, apparently (but that's four reactors, only one of which blew up). Assuming the Gulf well would have produced 5000 barrels of usable oil per day, at 5.8 MBtu/barrel that's about 354 MW thermal / 110 MW electrical. (Did I drop a decimal here? That seems awfully small.)

So Chernobyl was five times as bad, in terms of poisoned planet surface, but 10-40 times as good, in terms of electrical power output. Chernobyl is the worst power-reactor accident in history and we have good reasons to think it's an outlier; DH-magnitude oil spills on the other hand happen pretty regularly and we have no reason to think they're suddenly going to stop happening.

To tilt the comparison in oil's favor, we could weight contamiated ocean less heavily than contaminated forest; we could count only the strip of shoreline that's wiped out instead of the sea; we could consider that people are more willing to expose themselves to toxic amounts of crude oil than to toxic amounts of radiation…
posted by hattifattener at 9:03 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So how can we make this worse?

We're dumping millions of gallons of oil into a sensitive ecosystem that produces quite a bit of our food supply, and can't turn it off. It's floating on the surface and killing the creatures that need air, like dolphins and whales and birds.

I know, let's "disperse" is so nobody can see it.

Oops. Now it's piling up on the seafloor, killing all the bottom feeders like shrimp, crab, lobster. Hope nobody wanted them.

Hey, how about dropping a giant concrete box on it?

Hmm. The box is clogged.

Maybe we can fill it with mud.

Nope. Now it's gushing oil and full of mud.

I know, lets use nukes! What could possibly go wrong?

Yum! There's just nothing like the taste of radioactive shrimp mush mixed with heavy crude.
posted by WebMonkey at 9:09 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Ixtoc well flowed for about ten months before it was stopped, by drilling a relief well.

The worst case scenario indicates the possibility of the well head breaking off. In that case the relief well would be just a way to compete with the flow, because there may be no possible way to cap it.

Ixtoc, off the coast of the southeastern Mexican state of Campeche, continued to leak oil more than three months after Pemex completed its first relief well.
posted by Brian B. at 9:20 PM on May 30, 2010


humanfont wrote: "A blowout preventer is supposed to fail safe. You can keep spouting GE/Westinghouse sales copy or you can consider the fact that we are working to engineer at the boundaries of our knowledge and the consequences of system failure are pretty catastrophic."

A blowout preventer is a mechanical device. Many of the new designs do not rely upon mechanical devices (or anything other than the physical properties of the materials used) to remain safe.

Regarding 60s/70s BWR/PWR designs, no nuclear accident that I'm aware of has been caused by failure of the reactor safety systems, rather than operator error. That's because they are multiply redundant, even on older reactors. At TMI, there would have been no significant incident had the operators not aborted the automated procedures keeping the reactor safe. There is but one BOP involved here, and it was known to be compromised. Stricter regulation would have caught this, as it usually does even in the nuclear industry.

The new designs I referenced can't be made to melt down through operator error. They are physically incapable of getting hot enough even in the complete absence of coolant. That's what makes them safe. These are completely incomparable, since they don't have any moving parts that must function to remain safe. They are essentially idiot proof. (which doesn't mean they shouldn't be heavily regulated and inspected!)

Granted, the new PWR/BWR designs do not have that luxury, although they do have passive safety systems that provide a significantly increased margin of safety compared to existing designs that require electrical power to remain safe. IIRC, they are configured such that, so long as the reactor vessel is not compromised, the water will convect in such a way as to cool the reactor enough to prevent a meltdown. They also have gravity fed systems that can dump borated water in the reactor to quench any continuing fission reaction. They aren't completely idiot proof, but they're pretty darn close.
posted by wierdo at 9:41 PM on May 30, 2010


.
posted by tzikeh at 10:14 PM on May 30, 2010


So we're agreed then? All new coal fired plants will be replaced by natural gas starting immediately and 80% of all electrical generation will be nuclear plant generated by 2050.

We'll add massive (on the order of $1/gal for gasoline) taxes on petroleum and use that money to

. double the fusion research investment (gotta think long term)
. upgrade to a super-conducting power grid (under DOE control)
. wind farm grants
. solar farm (photovoltaic and solar thermal) grants

Somebody type this up and send it to Obama, I'm going to bed.
posted by Bonzai at 10:17 PM on May 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Delmoi, I wonder if we look at the same data, and yet come to different conclusions. In which case, fair enought, we can do our best to educate each other or even convince each other but we may just disagree. But still...

Yeah our production which is tiny.

Third largest production in the world, how is that tiny?

Our production is already pretty small compared to our consumption.

Well, the US produces something like 8.5 million bpd, consumes about 20 bpd. So, maybe "pretty small" is defensible (I wouldn't call it that), but

If we stopped producing oil in the U.S. entirely, it wouldn't have that big of an impact

Really? Cut off about 40% of the supply and it wouldn't have much of an impact? Disagree.

Offshore drilling is only a tiny portion of our consumption. Right now we produce 10% of the world's oil, and use 25%. Which would make offshore oil account for 12% of what we use.

Even supposing that 12% is "tiny", that ignores how much of US imports is from offshore East Africa, subsea Caspian, offshore and subsea Persian gulf, offshore Indonesia and so on. Combined oil and gas offshore is 40 million boe a day. I don't offhand and can't quickly find how much of that is gas vs. crude oil and NGL, but calling offshore production a tiny part of US or even global consumption seems like a bad call.

But that goes into the global supply, so it wouldn't affect overall oil prices much at all.

Around the end of 2009, there looked to be between 3 - 5 million bbd of spare capacity. Cut out GOM production and I, for one, am loading up on oil futures. Cut out all global offshore? Disaster.

Thousands of wells successfully drilled, completed and producing against one operator with a known and well established track record for shoddy practices being overseen by a regulator known to be in desperate need of restructuring and reform.

Again, if all it takes is one fuckup to cause a disaster this size, then the fact that you can drill 'thousands' of wells without a problem doesn't matter. Also, my understanding is that BP has a pretty sizeable chunk of the offshore drilling, anyway.


Arguable. For some (maybe you), the BP blowout has wrought / will wreak so much devastation that it can not ever be balanced by the value of offshore production. Some are even offended by attempting the exercise (eg. that the value of intact ecosystems can't and shouldn't be assessed in monetary terms). Others, on the other hand, tend to appeal to analgies to the airline industry where very, very infrequent accidents kill hundreds and yet we don't stop flying. Or will argue that the track record in offshore production -- as economically risky, as technically daunting and generally challenging as it is -- is overwhelmingly sound, compared to the risks we regularly countenance.

I was trying to push a far more limited point, though: just that we know how to fix this. Or, at the very least, there seems to be some low hanging fruit in tightening and improving the regulatory environment in the GOM. Which we need to do, because we won't (and we shouldn't) shut down the GOM.

Not so. Instaed of "drop in a bucket", try, "about a third" and "far and away the largest potential for future resource growth"

A third of a small and irrelevant number


Umm, about a third of global oil production is what I meant. I admit to being a bit loose on this one: 40 million boe's including gas against ~80 million bbl just oil -- I'm not anywhere I can quickly access the data. But even supposing its as low as 20% its anything but irrelevant.


, and growth in a resource we don't want growing in the first place.
posted by delmoi at 8:55 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


Count me among those who are impressed with the challenge we face in simply keeping up with demand both of oil specifically and energy in general. Even as oil occupies a smaller part of the energy system, reserve replacement is going to be as necessary as substitution, demand destruction, efficiency increasing, and the growth of renewables. If you agree with me that part of the problem is also replacing coal, you may not want growth, but we may need it regardless.
posted by bumpkin at 10:26 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The worst case scenario indicates the possibility of the well head breaking off. In that case the relief well would be just a way to compete with the flow, because there may be no possible way to cap it.

Ixtoc, off the coast of the southeastern Mexican state of Campeche, continued to leak oil more than three months after Pemex completed its first relief well.
posted by Brian B. at 9:20 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


The integrity of the compromized well (broken off well head or not) is not the only or worst thing that could go wrong. My worries also include failure of the relief well because 1) failure to intersect the compromized well; 2) having to abandon the relief well because of problems arising while drilling (the original well had issues with well control almost the entire way down, and was significantly overbudget partly as a result) or 3) lost circulation problems prevent sufficient quantities of mud from killing the flow. But now that you mention it, I'm going to have to read up on Ixtoc. Sadly, the best source I've found is a subscription-only piece that I won't have access to for another couple of days.

In the meantime, I'm going to get some sleep and dream of 8$/gallon gas, windmills on the horizon and happy algae growing in salty tanks in the desert....
posted by bumpkin at 10:50 PM on May 30, 2010


I fail to understand those of you in this thread who are against jailing BP management for this.

I believe that we'd probably get a lot more out of BP if they understood that there was something that trumped their profit motive.

But I'm completely sure that as long as BP executives sat rotting in jail, the next guy in BP or Exxon/Mobil to have to decide whether to spring for a blow-out preventer will err on the side of caution.

The management isn't helping the experts work; if a few managers were thrown in jail - or frankly, if just one or two of them ended up hanging from lamp-posts with ravens pecking at their eyes - it'd be a salutatory lesson for the survivors.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:13 PM on May 30, 2010


CNN: "The first thing to say is I'm sorry," Tony Hayward said when asked what he would tell people in Louisiana, where heavy oil has already reached parts of the state's southeastern marshes.

"We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back."
(Emphasis mine)
posted by blucevalo at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2010


I've reinstalled STALKER thanks to this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:54 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fail to understand those of you in this thread who are against jailing BP management for this.

Are you advocating that under certain circumstances due process of law should be put aside for an emotionally satisfying expedience?
posted by Cyrano at 1:01 AM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I fail to understand those of you in this thread who are against jailing BP management for this.

By all means let's jail all the BP management who are actually guilty of crimes on the books. Let's not have a political scapegoating as a sideshow to distract us from a considered and measured response producing effective regulation of the oil industry as a whole. The time to fix the Horizon problem was before it happened, and at this point any action is knee-jerk, and probably going to be more about political grandstanding than effectiveness. Passion and anger are good sometimes, but only a sustained commitment and conviction will carry through long enough to fix deep systemic problems with oil consumption, financial regulation, infrastructure strategy, etc... Not to mention all the other regulatory insufficiency after 8 years of Republican havoc (not that the Dems aren't responsible for some of it).
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:18 AM on May 31, 2010


What's everybody so upset about? BP has created billions of dollars of economic activity with this crisis, including jobs for those involved in the cleanup. This will undoubtedly be a net gain for the US GDP. Progress marches on!
posted by kaibutsu at 1:32 AM on May 31, 2010


@weirdo The titanic could not be sunk, the space shuttle was going to fly dozens of times a year, the Tacoma Narrows bridge was a wonder of modern engineering. New experimental technologies created at the limits of our engineering, operational and scientific capabilities are likely to have multiple Black Swan events as humans gain operational experience over them. It is much easier to tax gas at $2/gallon, build out our wind and solar capacity and focus on fuel efficiency.
posted by humanfont at 2:22 AM on May 31, 2010


Corporate personhood has perhaps outlived its usefulness. With what would we replace it?

This is an excellent question.

Creating and/or running a corporation does demand effort and imagination and those things should be rewarded. Also, limiting liability in various ways encourages people to invest in the first place, which means that capital can move to where it is needed and people are willing to take risks on new ventures.

However! A corporation is also clearly something that is a subset of society as a whole - a sort of mini-society inside society (an organ in the body politic?) rather than something like a table you have built or a book you have written. It is defined by and supported by all sorts of things in society at large - laws, roads, education etc. - that everybody contributes to, not just the entrepreneur or the shareholders, or even the employees.

Perhaps we need to come up with some new legal entity that balances the advantages of a corporation with a better recognition of the fact that a corporation depends on and serves society as a whole, rather than just it's management or shareholders.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:35 AM on May 31, 2010


humanfront: You can keep spouting GE/Westinghouse sales copy or you can consider the fact that we are working to engineer at the boundaries of our knowledge and the consequences of system failure are pretty catastrophic.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not parroting anyone's copy, I'm going to find out the actual data, and relaying it. If GE happens to be saying the same thing, that's because it's true. You are allowed to tell the truth in marketing, and it remains the truth even after doing so.

We understand nuclear reactions and nuclear power exceedingly well. Radioactivity is probably better understood than any other toxin. We can precisely measure it, find contamination down to a few dozen atoms, and clean it up. It may be very, very expensive to do so, but the nature of the contamination is precisely quantifiable. It gives us the kinds of problems that we're good at solving, things we can directly measure and change. Chernobyl was just about the worst possible accident, and we know exactly where it's polluted and unsafe to be. It's going to be a large ongoing problem for decades, because the contamination gets spread by fires and flooding, but we know where it is and how to measure it. The damage isn't hidden, it's right there where we can see it.

Compare that with fossil fuels, where we're not even sure what the impacts are of using it, and we can't more than vaguely measure the impacts, and guess what might happen. The oil industry has hijacked the scientific process to argue in bad faith about climate change... and they can get away with it, because it's not concrete, not a problem that humans can easily get their heads around.

Honestly, fossil fuels and their pollution effects are a lot closer to the edges of our knowledge, and the consequences of failure potentially include near-total destruction of the entire world ecosystem. The nightmare nuclear scenarios don't even approach that kind of impact. Hundreds of Chernobyls wouldn't be that bad. Three Mile Island doesn't even register as a blip on the safety radar.

Fossil fuels pollution costs are externalized (like the Gulf) and hard to quantify, while profits are privatized. From the perspective of human psychology and the way markets work, this is just about the surest possible recipe for disaster.

There's no arguing about radioactivity; it's there or it's not. It's right in front of us. We have supremely sensitive instruments that can measure down to clusters of a few dozen atoms. This kind of pollution maps better to how we think. It gives us problems at scales that we can understand and solve. It simply maps better to human intelligence. Instead of generalized paranoia and lack of understanding of the consequences, we can point and say "this place is unsafe, and it will be unsafe for X number of years. Don't go there." We're really good at dealing with that kind of problem.

But CO2 emissions? Collectively, when dealing with that, we're as dumb as a box of rocks.
posted by Malor at 3:04 AM on May 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't forget: uranium mining isn't all kittens and sunshine.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:46 AM on May 31, 2010


Pretty sure it's safer than coal mining...
posted by mek at 4:50 AM on May 31, 2010


Yeah, as I said above, I don't know what the safety levels are for uranium mining. My sum total of knowledge is that pitchblende is involved somehow. :-) Once it's above ground and refined, they do yeoman work, but before that, I can't intelligently comment.

As mek says, though, surely it can't be much worse than coal mining, if only because the scale is so much smaller.
posted by Malor at 5:25 AM on May 31, 2010


I'm sorry, but that's some serious bullshit. People live in society. They can only use whats available to them.

Oh you poor helpless things. All you can do is follow your instructions. You have no options, no free will, no ability to change your lifestyle, write your legislators, vote consistently for green leadership, donate to green organizations, spend your dollars wisely, or any of the hundreds of things all of us could have done decades ago if only we were just poor helpless pawns in the hands of cruel fate.

No no no no. This problem was manmade, and it was manmade by people who were told to go ahead and make as much money as they could selling us what we wanted. And what we wanted was the easiest, quickest, fanciest, cheapest glut of wonderprizes that tech could slap together from this oil glut which we are going to use up as fast as we can and to hell with all the future generations, I want mine NOW, dammit!!
posted by Twang at 5:31 AM on May 31, 2010


Uranium is usually mined in an open pit. Pitchblende is what the miners look for; it's what contains the uranium.

Like most open-pit mines, the biggest threats are not to the miners, but to the environment and the people living arouind the mine. Huge piles of tailings left by the operation emit radon gas and gamma radiation into the air, and all kinds of nasties that can/will leach into the water table.

Worse or better than coal? I don't know, but proper management is needed for both.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:35 AM on May 31, 2010


So apparently this new plan to cut the pipe and try to cap it is incredibly risky, requires inch-level precision a mile under the sea, and if it goes wrong will increase the amount of oil leaking by a huge amount.

Is there any reason this is being done other than to sate boisterous demands that "something" be done? Seems more likely to make things worse until August than to help them.
posted by bonaldi at 5:41 AM on May 31, 2010


We are all, ALL, collectively irresponsible for what we do to this planet.

FTFY
posted by Twang at 5:47 AM on May 31, 2010


> Perhaps we need to come up with some new legal entity that balances the advantages of a corporation with a better recognition of the fact that a corporation depends on and serves society as a whole, rather than just it's management or shareholders.

Maryland's new Benefit Corporation.

(Still a "person"; hopefully a bit more humane.)
posted by ropeladder at 6:07 AM on May 31, 2010


.
posted by Theta States at 6:22 AM on May 31, 2010


BP's pr firm, with Rahm Emanuel's help, will straighten things out.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 7:06 AM on May 31, 2010


So apparently this new plan to cut the pipe and try to cap it is incredibly risky, requires inch-level precision a mile under the sea, and if it goes wrong will increase the amount of oil leaking by a huge amount.

I don't think they would try it if the kinks in the riser were the main obstruction. In which case cutting the riser off would mean considerable increase in flow. Probably the constrictions obstructing the flow are somewhere inside the BOP in which case cutting off the riser would have no effect on the flow. They have at least had a semblance of pressure communication with the well during the top kill attempt, so their knowledge of the leak has increased a little bit. But indeed this operation is really really difficult. It's not even easy when done on above ground wells. I'm hoping but I doubt it will work.
posted by Authorized User at 8:46 AM on May 31, 2010


DiA has some choice quotes: "we have empty-headed squawking over what the catastrophe is doing to Barack Obama's image. Who's raising concrete critiques of administration policy? Chiefly Mr Obama. Last Thursday he laid out a series of mistakes he felt he had made. Chief among them was taking oil companies at their word... What we're seeing here is a perfect circus of media nothingball"

altho still a case of regulatory or cognitive capture, DiA also raises a relevant point re: subsidising insurance for offshore drilling versus nuclear (or, uh, 'renewables' ;)
[L]et's say you had... a small but very dynamic, very aggressive start-up nuclear-reactor company with some great ideas about how to run a reactor at half the cost of those big inefficient old utility companies. The competition will be great for the business, driving down prices everywhere. But wouldn't you know it, you just can't get your company off the ground. Why? Because the federal government requires you to insure yourself for $10 billion in damages in case of an accident. (For anything above $10 billion, the taxpayer picks up the tab.) Just because of the tiny chance that your reactor might melt down and turn the tri-state area into a radioactive wasteland, you'd have to pay $400,000 a year in premiums on your reactor. At that price, only the big guys, the monopolies, the Florida Power and Lights of the world can operate nuclear reactors. There's no room here for the little guy. Terrible, huh?

This brings us to offshore drilling. As we're all by now aware, the liability limit on offshore oil spills isn't $10 billion. It's $75m. Anything above that, and the taxpayer picks up the tab. There's a bill afoot in the Senate to raise the liability limit to $10 billion, but Republicans have blocked it twice, arguing that liability limits that high will push little mom-and-pop offshore drilling platforms and supertanker operations out of the business and reduce competition. And now it turns out that the Obama administration, though it criticises Republicans for blocking the bill, agrees that the $10 billion limit is too high.

Of all the priorities the American taxpayer has at the moment, is putting tens of billions of public dollars on the line to subsidise competition by small operators in the offshore-drilling business really on the list? What is the justification for subsidising insurance for offshore drilling, with its record of repeated spills, more heavily than we subsidise nuclear power, which has an excellent safety record? What is the justification for subsidising either of them more heavily than industries like wind and solar power, which pose no catastrophic risks?
so i guess to me the proof that anything has changed, kinda like with finreg, will be if massive industry subsidies are ever curtailed; it's not only that externalities are being exploited, but that this is being encouraged rather than punished!
posted by kliuless at 10:23 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


BP CEO Attributes Oil Spill Cleanup Workers’ Illness To Food Poisoning
posted by homunculus at 10:58 AM on May 31, 2010


Fisherman files restraining order against BP
posted by homunculus at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2010


Oh, let's just call up Galactus and get it over with.

"Earth? I'm not eating Earth! That thing is disgusting. Surfer! Find me a planet that's not gross."
posted by straight at 11:16 AM on May 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fisherman files restraining order against BP

Clearly, BP knows what it is doing better than any other party that could be brought in to fix this:

"At West Jefferson, there were tents set up outside the hospital, where I was stripped of my clothing, washed with water and several showers, before I was allowed into the hospital," Wunstell said. "When I asked for my clothing, I was told that BP had confiscated all of my clothing and it would not be returned."

The restraining order requests that BP refrain from "altering, testing or destroying clothing or any other evidence or potential evidence" when workers become ill.

Graham MacEwen, a spokesman for BP, said he could not comment on the restraining order, or on allegations that BP confiscated clothing.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't forget: uranium mining isn't all kittens and sunshine.

That's right. And did you know that kittens are a natural byproduct of coal mining? It's true. Come on by the mine and bring your bucket, and take some back with you!

This message brought to you by the Coal Institute.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


humanfont wrote: "@weirdo The titanic could not be sunk, the space shuttle was going to fly dozens of times a year, the Tacoma Narrows bridge was a wonder of modern engineering. New experimental technologies created at the limits of our engineering, operational and scientific capabilities are likely to have multiple Black Swan events as humans gain operational experience over them. It is much easier to tax gas at $2/gallon, build out our wind and solar capacity and focus on fuel efficiency."

Yeah, what you're refusing to see is that we have more experience with nuclear energy than almost any technology on earth. The physics are well understood. I take it you simply refuse to believe that it's possible to limit nuclear reactions through the physical configuration of the fuel?

Can you at least point to a proposed failure mode rather than making shit up?

And I don't know what world you're living in where it would be easy on anybody to pass and live with another $2 a gallon in gasoline taxes. I suppose if you're into major economic disruption that's a way to go about it.

Also, with some exceptions, mining is mining. The risks are well understood and mining just about any mineral works about the same way. Ironically, we could probably increase our proportion of nuclear power without doing any extra mining at all, only reprocessing. We've historically been pretty good at fucking that up in minor ways, though. It's not exactly irregular that workers get irradiated in the process. Of course, it's their own damn fault for taking shortcuts, but still, the process needs to be made idiot-proof. (My impression is that these days the (better) technology exists, but we haven't employed it here in the US, given that we have a law against reprocessing)

qinn wrote: "An atomic explosion on the sea floor would destroy the tube, but the light-weight muck surrounding it would just sprout [seep] countless new oil&gas leaks from the rez pressured by fuck-knows-what. Did you know that the effluent coming out is in the 100 celsius range? Which explains the white plumes of instantly boiling sea water frothing up the pictures."

Um, from what I read (on the Oil Drum) that's a fairly typical temperature for a reservoir. Also, from what I remember about PWRs, the boiling point of water is on the order of a thousand degrees C at 2000psi (the approximate pressure at the seafloor in that location) That said, there probably is a lot of methane boiling off as the pressure is reduced from about 8000 psi downhole to the 2600 psi it comes out of the riser at to the ~2000 psi ambient at the sea floor.

Quite true that a bomb isn't going to be any help in this situation, though.
posted by wierdo at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2010


Still don't see why somebody doesn't pull up a few tankers and start pumping oil straight out of those giant plumes while they're still comparatively localized. Might even be worth doing from a value recovery standpoint, let alone the fact that it's just plain stupid to just wait for the sea and weather churn them into unrecoverable environmentally destructive slicks. Call all the oil companies, call Venezuela, they're in the neighborhood. Hey everybody, free oil, get it while it's bunched up!
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:45 PM on May 31, 2010


BP CEO Attributes Oil Spill Cleanup Workers’ Illness To Food Poisoning

Were they eating fresh shrimp?
posted by mazola at 12:45 PM on May 31, 2010


BP's new plan risks worsening oil leak.
posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on May 31, 2010


George_Spiggott wrote: "Still don't see why somebody doesn't pull up a few tankers and start pumping oil straight out of those giant plumes while they're still comparatively localized."

Because the "giant plumes" don't (apparently) have very much oil in them. Supposedly we're talking parts per billion levels in the underwater plumes everyone is freaking out about. Also, from what I recall, what the researchers found was not specifically oil, but broad swaths of slightly lowered oxygen content. They said late last week that it would take a week or two for their analysis to be complete so they would know what is actually down there.

So really, we're talking about large plumes of slightly less oxygenated water that may or may not have hydrocarbons in it that may or may not be from the BP Gulf Oil Spill. (there are lots of seeps in the GOM which could be the source of dilute amounts of hydrocarbons)

Regarding the risk of the new procedure increasing the flow, the increase in flow will be minor unless they do something catastrophic like break the BOP completely, since it's significantly restricting the flow at the moment, while the riser kinks are doing very little in that regard.
posted by wierdo at 1:33 PM on May 31, 2010


And the spillcam has now been recovered and shut off. I got to see the last few minutes purely on random chance.

[...]

Wait, what? Now something else is broadcasting from deep underwater? What the hell is going on?
posted by Decimask at 2:38 PM on May 31, 2010


[few more comments removed - your options are metatalk or some time off, please leave the death threats out of this thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:00 PM on May 31, 2010


Yeah, what you're refusing to see is that we have more experience with nuclear energy than almost any technology on earth. The physics are well understood. I take it you simply refuse to believe that it's possible to limit nuclear reactions through the physical configuration of the fuel?

More than any technology on earth? That's quite a dramatic statement. How many operational pebble bed reactors are currently online? What's the end to end supply chain manufacturing and distribution process for your fuel supply, reactor spare parts. What is the wear cycle? The exercise in finding the millions of potential ways that human beings will screw up and dump radioactive waste in large quantities into the area is left up to the reader.
posted by humanfont at 5:18 PM on May 31, 2010


humanfont wrote: "The exercise in finding the millions of potential ways that human beings will screw up and dump radioactive waste in large quantities into the area is left up to the reader."

Well, I'll happily leave the millions of ways we can dump toxic waste in large quantities from the production of solar panels and wind turbines to you. It's not as if they rain down from the heavens fully formed.
posted by wierdo at 5:48 PM on May 31, 2010


Also, from what I recall, what the researchers found was not specifically oil, but broad swaths of slightly lowered oxygen content. They said late last week that it would take a week or two for their analysis to be complete so they would know what is actually down there.

One of those researchers at who was measuring oxygen levels (among other things) has a blog Gulf Oil Blog, and previously mentioned some analysis that would take a couple weeks, so perhaps it's her team to whom you refer. I'm sure they're still analyzing, but determining whether there's any oil in one of those underwater plumes they've been tracking turned out to not be so difficult. As Dr. Samantha Joye puts it, seeing a visible oil sheen on water collected from 1140 meters depth, and then observing that that filters through which the water is passed become visibly oily and smell strongly of petroleum, is "convincing evidence that the deep waters do in fact contain oil."
posted by sfenders at 7:15 PM on May 31, 2010


humanfront: again, you're throwing out hypothetical scenarios that simply aren't borne up by existing history. Even the old, dangerous plants are exceedingly safe, and there'd hardly be any radioactive waste at all if we allowed reprocessing. Nuclear power, at least in the West, has shown itself to be perhaps six orders of magnitude safer than fossil fuels, if you count the oil wars, and probably three magnitudes safer if you don't.

So, when people tell you that new reactors are even better than what we're already using, far less susceptible to operator error, you're harping about how terribly dangerous they are. That's just not supported by the evidence; you're saying that imaginary threats are worse than the very real and catastrophic threats from fossil fuels. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It appears to be purely an emotional argument, one completely divorced from the facts on the ground.

Look into the technology. Look at the safety records. They're not perfect, but they're just so much better than anything else that focusing on the lack of safety strikes me as willful ignorance.

Radioactivity is not the bogeyman. That whole reflexive horror thing is from lack of knowledge, and you can correct that. The degree of expertise and knowledge we have in that field, in our badly aging nuclear engineering community, is staggering. You can't even imagine how much those guys know until you've spent some time studying. I don't know how much exposure you've had to true expertise, but lemme tell ya, with many of those guys, it's the Real Deal.
posted by Malor at 7:31 PM on May 31, 2010


You know what's so crazy about this whole spill, is that the US is a major player in a spill in Niger that is reportedly just as big and possibly bigger and Shell is responsible. Because it doesn't directly affect our homeland we

1) don't hear about it in the media and
2) take no responsibility in actively cleaning it up like the spill in the gulf.

Here's the link to the article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell

Pretty sad.
posted by DiG. at 7:43 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, when people tell you that new reactors are even better than what we're already using, far less susceptible to operator error, you're harping about how terribly dangerous they are. That's just not supported by the evidence; you're saying that imaginary threats are worse than the very real and catastrophic threats from fossil fuels.

Bingo. Every source of energy has its cons, but in the case of fossil fuels one of those cons is "runaway climate change which will threaten all life on Earth." Even if nuclear meltdowns and radiation poisoning killed 100 000 people a year, that would still be better than coal.
posted by mek at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2010


BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes
posted by homunculus at 8:19 PM on May 31, 2010


humanfront: again, you're throwing out hypothetical scenarios that simply aren't borne up by existing history. Even the old, dangerous plants are exceedingly safe, and there'd hardly be any radioactive waste at all if we allowed reprocessing. Nuclear power, at least in the West, has shown itself to be perhaps six orders of magnitude safer than fossil fuels, if you count the oil wars, and probably three magnitudes safer if you don't.

The reprocessing technology is not currently implemented anywhere despite enormous investments to try to make it work in places like Japan. A hypothetical nuclear plant that is a bigger such than speculating as to how it might break. Also a quick survey of google will demonstrate that there have been a numbe of cases where radiation leaks were not reported, thus I'm doubtful of safety claims. Mining and processing ore to get the uranium out and transported leaves an enormous mess. The nuclear industry's track record is about as terrible as the oil companies when it comes to truthfulness about the safety of their products. A smart electric grid, efficiency gains when combined with wind, solar and biofuels can give us all the power we need in a much cleaner way.
posted by humanfont at 9:41 PM on May 31, 2010


uranium mining isn't all kittens and sunshine
AIUI uranium mining is, broadly speaking, about as bad as coal mining. You just have to do a lot less of it.
posted by hattifattener at 9:48 PM on May 31, 2010


BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes

I'm kind of amazed this guy keeps opening his mouth. Not sure why they don't have a spokesperson to handle it so you don't have someone appearing to be oblivious or malicious running the show, particularly knowing how risk-averse so much of the corporate world is when it comes to PR. It may be a mixed blessing, however. At least the insulting justifications by the company responsible are laid bare for everyone to see, this time without the phony environmental marketing covering it up.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:08 PM on May 31, 2010


BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes

Clearly, BP knows what it's doing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 PM on May 31, 2010


humanfont wrote: "The reprocessing technology is not currently implemented anywhere despite enormous investments to try to make it work in places like Japan."

I think you might want to double check your facts there, friend.

Regarding the plumes, denying the possibility is stupid at this point. It is, however, perfectly reasonable to say that we simply don't fully know yet what the situation is. I'm hoping we get some hard data this week about concentration levels in these plumes. If it really is parts per billion, it's not that big of a deal, compared to everything else that's going on.
posted by wierdo at 11:51 PM on May 31, 2010


Maybe we're going about it all wrong. Instead of going for crude oil, or wind, or nuclear, or solar, maybe we should be using whale oil. It's natural, and comes from a renewable resource. Plus, market forces would prevent overwhaling, just as they have saved fish. And because whales eat algae, which eats CO2, it's carbon neutral.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:42 AM on June 1, 2010


The titanic could not be sunk, the space shuttle was going to fly dozens of times a year, the Tacoma Narrows bridge was a wonder of modern engineering. New experimental technologies created at the limits of our engineering, operational and scientific capabilities are likely to have multiple Black Swan events as humans gain operational experience over them. It is much easier to tax gas at $2/gallon, build out our wind and solar capacity and focus on fuel efficiency.

You're not paying attention at all. All of your examples are not on par with what we're discussing.

It's to the point where you either acknowledge that there are certain scientific things that we do understand, at least to the point of predicting results, or stop trying to discuss scientific ideas.

Saying that a pebble-bed reactor has no chance of melting down is exactly the equivalent of saying that a bucket of water has no chance of exploding if you sit it in the sun.

It's not the same as saying "the titanic cannot be sunk!" when any fucking idiot could say, "well, it'll sink if you punch a hole in these boxes..."

The equivalent of a pebble-bed reactor going critical would be "everything we have ever scientifically reasoned about the universe is wrong. Soon the earth will rip itself apart for lack of nucleic forces."
posted by odinsdream at 5:48 AM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry for not being in the know but is this 100% up to BP to fix or are they opening the forum to anyone who can come up with a solution--say an engineer at a university, foreign country, etc? Because if it's BP trying to save face, they need to focus on saving the gulf instead and let anyone come to the table with a solution.
posted by stormpooper at 7:03 AM on June 1, 2010


stormpooper: according to the sources I previously cited here, engineers from over 70 different oil companies have been actively involved in the response effort since the first week. It's not just BP going it alone. They just happen to be the ones running the robotic submarines and other equipment (because it's their equipment).

Dammit. This just sucks. And all the back and forth and bickering isn't making it suck any less.

I think it's unfair to suggest Obama was complicit in BP's media deception regarding the top-kill effort, because it seems pretty well established in the media accounts I've read the that the recovery response command was not informed that BP had suspended pumping as part of the top-kill effort. I really doubt anyone in the government--including the President--knew what was actually happening down there anymore than the rest of us did. BP controls the technology we depend on (the robot subs) to monitor what's going on down there.

To me, BP should be made to account for the delay in reporting the actual state of affairs, and if there's any hint of intentional manipulation, they should be punished for it. If they are held to account down the line, then I'll be happy. Not that I'm holding my breath, but it is still possible.

I am disappointed that the president isn't putting forth a clearer and more ambitious plan to get us off our fossil fuel dependence in the immediate term, though. We need a withdrawal plan with a specific pull out date for getting off fossil fuels, whether it's costly in the short term or not. This event alone to my mind proves that fossil fuels are not nearly as cheap as advertised in reality. It's time for an ambitious national initiative on the scale of the moon mission to get us off fossil fuels as quickly as possible--not "as quickly as possible" in terms of current economically contingent values of the term "possible," mind you, but in the the sense of "humanly/physically possible." All other considerations should be put aside for now. Weaning ourselves off fossil fuels as quickly as humanly possible needs to be the unifying national cause of the day, IMO. It's sad that even now, while this disaster is still ongoing, polls reportedly show a majority of Americans continue to support increased off shore drilling.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:18 AM on June 1, 2010


"The Exxons of the world handily make money in Norway, they can live with a Norwegian level regulatory regime in the Gulf."

Finally. It took 3/4 of the thread before someone said it. The way to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen is to regulate it properly, have regulators with proper powers and accountability i.e. they don't have to go to court to enforce minor items and they don't spend all day surfing for porn like some financial regulators we can all remember.

The world watched Katrina. UK government aid arrived from the other side of the Atlantic before US federal aid. Now we watch you unable to control a *group* of companies that don't bother to meet the low safety standards you require. Look at the 4,000 wells in the area? Look at the number of accidents and problems. Now refer to the rest of the world's track record. You are right there with Nigeria. Enjoy the flavor of crude with your seafood.

The same company meets the higher standards in the North Sea. Because we (i.e. civil society in Europe) do this kind of thing properly.

Stop focussing on evil corporations. They are amoral because they are the expression of the group will of their stakeholders. So OF COURSE they will do whatever works for their short term goals. They are not the cause of this.

Society exists to control corporations and right now the US' civil society refuses to do so.

Here's how to sort this out (and you won't like the prescription):

Fix your utterly broken democracy so that politicians do not polarise to the extremes. (In other words, stop the gerrymandering of congressional (and other relevant) districts and then wait 50 years).

After a few generations the standard of politics in the US will have begun to rise as politicians are not responsible to the extreme wings of their parties, but rather to the party as a whole. More importantly the party will not be fundamentally broken in the ways your Republican and Democrat parties seem to be.

(On a personal note - one of the most confusing things about "The Wire" was the political season where the politician put all their time into winning the primary - and then everyone said it was over when he won the nomination. Only when I understood just how broken and gerrymandered your democracy is did I understand why a city would automatically vote the democratic candidate in. "The Wire" is fiction but all my US colleagues confirm it's not unreal.)

With more centerist politics and a more sensible spectrum of politicians you will also begin to solve the levels of anti-democratic (i.e. anti-civil society) behaviour most recently seen by the previous administration. Just because Obama's a Democrat doesn't mean things are going to get better. He's just a US politician, and that means he is beholden to your broken system for his position.

The entirety of the US is at fault for this failure. You behave like Nigerians. You allow corruption. I have even been informed by a US-based colleague that "pork" is a *good* thing because it means every state gets some money!

Want to be Nigerian? Look at the amount of oil they swim in.
Want to be European? Our beaches are cleaner now than they were in 1900.

It's your choice as a nation.
posted by Hugh Routley at 8:40 AM on June 1, 2010 [25 favorites]


Hugh Routley:

I would favorite that comment a million times if I could.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:44 AM on June 1, 2010


Fix your utterly broken democracy so that politicians do not polarise to the extremes. (In other words, stop the gerrymandering of congressional (and other relevant) districts and then wait 50 years).

This wouldn't work. It's fundamentally impossible to gerrymander the US Senate, but it's still as polarized as anything else. I don't follow the research on this that closely, but the answer to "why so much polarization?" doesn't seem to be gerrymandering. It's more likely a combination of the underlying population becoming more polarized and the long-term consequences of the soft realignment of the 70s and 80s.

If anything, the actual empirical evidence says that the sort of reverse-gerrymandering you're implicitly describing (ie, drawing districts to maximize the number of seats that are competitive for both parties) would if anything create even more polarization.

(On a personal note - one of the most confusing things about "The Wire" was the political season where the politician put all their time into winning the primary - and then everyone said it was over when he won the nomination. Only when I understood just how broken and gerrymandered your democracy is did I understand why a city would automatically vote the democratic candidate in.

I can't for the life of me see why this would confuse you. Baltimore is two-thirds black and has a poverty rate about 50% higher than the national average. Why on earth would you expect more than a small minority of people to vote for a candidate from a party that by now explicitly caters to white racists and whose national platform calls for cutting or eliminating the programs that keep many Baltimore residents alive?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another containment dome
posted by Artw at 9:37 AM on June 1, 2010


Because we (i.e. civil society in Europe) do this kind of thing properly.

The entirety of the US is at fault for this failure. You behave like Nigerians. You allow corruption.

Sir, while your points make for compelling reading, it is hardly an irrefutable claim that Europe has the market cornered on efficient civil society, clean governance, freedom from corruption, and purity of political interest, as any random headline plucked from any number of European news services can positively attest.

I recommend that you read a little news from your own continent before making blanket assertions about the superiority of European to American democracy. I am not denying that my own country is politically bankrupt, but claiming that Europe as it currently governs itself is not dysfunctional is simply not borne out by the facts.
posted by blucevalo at 9:42 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the least that Canadian policy of requiring simultaneous drilling of a releif well would seem to be worth implementing.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on June 1, 2010


The entirety of the US is at fault for this failure.
What should I, personally, have done differently in my life to avoid being at fault for this?
posted by Green With You at 9:44 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't worry everybody, James Cameron is on the case!
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear Hugh:

Political parties in the US are not the same a political parties in most other representative democracies. Whereas in most cases the party controls the message and enforces orthodoxy here parties are basically just brands approved by the local election commission. It's my understanding that to belong to a party like Labour, one must actually pay dues, etc. You can vote Labour without belonging, but to belong (and have a voice) you pay dues. In my state, at least, I can run as a Democrat or Republican just by affixing that label to my name when I register. Granted, I won't get a whole lot of support from the mainstream of either party without playing ball with their establishment, but they can't revoke my label either. Heck, in some states there are open primaries such that Republicans can vote for who runs on the Democratic ticket and vice versa. In all cases, merely registering as a member of a party permits you a voice in selecting a candidate in the primary.

Electoral reform is one of my political hobby horses. It needs to happen. OTOH, many existing models, European or otherwise, don't really provide much in the way of analogy. I don't disagree that the US political climate needs a tremendous overhaul and that there is some inexplicable, and ill-fated, pro-corporate bias. I think eliminating gerrymandering (a roundabout way of ensuring some minority representation oddly enough) is a fine idea. I don't think any representative democracy (that I'm aware of anyway) has eliminated porkbarrel spending though.

Further, porkbarrel spending is not really all that evil. The wrongs inherit in the US system evolve out of private financing of open-ended campaigning. Parties and individuals fund a sizable amount of their campaigns. As federal matching funds continue to stagnate in the face of increasing campaign spending, more candidates will follow Obama's choice and eschew federal matching funds and their attached strings. This puts candidates in a position to be *very* attentive to donors. Corporations have lots of ready cash and a desire to generate self-serving policy and the Supreme Court has basically loosed the spigot on this money recently. Before that corporate heads often took the role of 'bundlers' who practice soft coercion on relations and employees which gives them a lot of face time with candidates.

The easy solution--regulating campaigns and their financing--is complicated in the United States by the First Amendment right to free speech and the Supreme Court's equivocating money with speech. The only two ways out of this, I feel, are amending the Constitution to specifically exempt political campaigning from free speech protections or an informal agreement to conduct campaigns in shared, limited capacities. The former is a huge undertaking. The latter is never going to happen in an environment of recrimination and hyper-competitive angst that surround the current US parties.

Like I said above, it's not that I disagree with you in principle, it's just that I think your assertions about US polity is wildly naive. Well, that and the idea that Nigerian and United States political environments are the same, in the same ballpark, in the same league, or even playing the same sport as completely laughable.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:07 AM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Don't worry everybody, James Cameron is on the case!

In a storage bay deep beneath the earth's surface, a button has been pressed, and the revivification monitor on Michael Crichton's suspended animation pod has begun to flicker with a green and brightening light.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:31 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW at this point: Obama Promises Exhaustive Gulf Spill Investigation
President Obama said an independent commission investigating the Gulf oil spill will follow every lead "without fear or favor" and that if U.S. laws were broken, those responsible would be brought to justice.

Obama spoke in the Rose Garden after meeting with the co-chairs of the panel looking into the April 20 Deepwater Horizon accident and the subsequent effort to control and contain the undersea gusher that has poured untold barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

"If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed," the president said.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:58 AM on June 1, 2010


I just wish he'd make an unambiguous call for this disaster to serve as the impetus for a renewed and reinvigorated national effort to wean ourselves off fossil fuels completely in the shortest possible time frame. Whether the timing off such an effort is politically or economically convenient or not.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:03 AM on June 1, 2010


There's also this tidbit from Scientific American:
Also on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will meet with federal prosecutors and state attorneys general in New Orleans. It will be Holder's first trip to survey the damage before what legal experts believe will be a criminal investigation into the disaster.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:09 AM on June 1, 2010


What should I, personally, have done differently in my life to avoid being at fault for this?
I think most people on the planet are implicated in the Gulf disaster. We need the oil for gasoline for not only our cars, but also to fuel the intricate logistics system that underpins modern life. I'm typing on a plastic keyboard, staring a polymer screen. Etc.

It would be interesting to compare the potential wealth that could be generated by that one lost oil rig that started this whole mess, with the loss of wealth (in pure financial terms) caused by the disaster. I would argue that the wealth of the Gulf economy far outweighs whatever could have been produced by this well.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:26 AM on June 1, 2010


Maybe if you take the exact disaster we had as a given, but the comparison we should be making is the expected value or mathematical expectation given all the possible disasters and their probabilities. As for the disaster, it's pretty easy to quantify the damage to the Louisianna fishing and tourism economy, but the whole is harder to calculate, as a lot of those dollars will just flow elsewhere. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if there will ever be agreement on the value of the ecological damage.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:52 AM on June 1, 2010


KokuRyu wrote: "I think most people on the planet are implicated in the Gulf disaster. We need the oil for gasoline for not only our cars, but also to fuel the intricate logistics system that underpins modern life. I'm typing on a plastic keyboard, staring a polymer screen. Etc."

Of course, we could just make the oil to do those things. Or rely on land-based wells. If only we didn't suck up huge amounts of the oil for cars, trucks, and trains. (I give airplanes a pass because there's not much in the way of alternative fuel for them)

I think that explicitly calling for a wholesale shift from oil is probably not a great idea at this point in time. That said, it would be utterly excellent if we started spending money like that was our goal. We could provide subsidies for electrification of rail lines, more research on the battery technology we need to replace gas powered cars, improvements to electricity transmission infrastructure, and so on. We should be acting like it's what we're going to do without coming out and saying it. We don't need spooked markets.

The money will be well spent, as we not only get the technological and infrastructure improvements we're directly paying for, but it acts as a back door stimulus that will both increase employment and stave off deflation.

Economic disruption will not help us reach our goal.
posted by wierdo at 1:43 PM on June 1, 2010


Breaking: U.S. launches criminal probe into BP spill
posted by saulgoodman at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2010


FWIW, as I understand it, since there is now officially a criminal inquiry, the liability cap on damages will no longer apply.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:10 PM on June 1, 2010


Robert Reich: Obama Needs To Put BP Under Temporary Receivership
posted by homunculus at 2:40 PM on June 1, 2010


From Reich:

Five reasons for taking such action:

1. We are not getting the truth from BP.
2. We have no way to be sure BP is devoting enough resources to stopping the gusher.
3. BP’s new strategy for stopping the gusher is highly risky.
4. Right now, the U.S. government has no authority to force BP to adopt a different strategy.
5. The President is not legally in charge. As long as BP is not under the direct control of the government he has no direct line of authority, and responsibility is totally confused.

The President should temporarily take over BP’s Gulf operations. We have a national emergency on our hands. No president would allow a nuclear reactor owned by a private for-profit company to melt down in the United States while remaining under the direct control of that company. The meltdown in the Gulf is the environmental equivalent.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:30 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


How big the spill would look if it were where you are right now
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on June 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


humanfont: The reprocessing technology is not currently implemented anywhere despite enormous investments to try to make it work in places like Japan.

They have multiple methods, and most (all?) of them work. We don't do it in this country because it's somewhat cheaper to externalize costs and stick the government with the disposal problem. But it's not a lot cheaper, and really just needs a good solid nudge to get started. We can reduce our nuclear waste burden by over 90% with existing technology, stuff that's existed for decades. With some of the newer techniques, we can cut that by 90% again, leaving about 1% of the original problem. The second 90% reduction is probably very expensive, but that first 90% doesn't cost that much more than digging out a whole mountain and dragging the stuff across the country.

I looked it up on Wikipedia, and the reason Ford and Carter banned reprocessing was fear of nuclear proliferation, because one of the waste products is plutonium. According to Wikipedia, Reagan unbanned it again, so it strikes me that we ought to be pushing to get it restarted. It's better to spend a little more and get rid of the great majority of the problem. The second 90% reduction probably isn't cost-effective, but if we've got a real drive to do it, we might be able to figure out cheaper methods.

A hypothetical nuclear plant that is a bigger such than speculation as to how it might break.

Dude, that's pretty much 90% of the job of the nuclear engineers, trying to figure out ways it might break. They did such a good job in the old generation that even a total meltdown event caused no external hazard at all.

Handwaving from a position of near-zero knowledge doesn't do any good. You need to get more knowledgeable, you need to talk about specific failure modes and specific impacts. It's not even that difficult to attain basic knowledge about how things work... what the inputs are, what the outputs are, and the expected failure modes and planning for them. Just doing that basic research will give you a tremendous level of respect for many of the engineers involved. They appear to have a few blithering idiots, like most professions, but their competent people are pretty amazing.

It's not difficult. You can get up to basic speed in a couple of weekends. If you can be specific in your criticism, instead of just handwringing, you'll be far more credible.

Also a quick survey of google will demonstrate that there have been a numbe of cases where radiation leaks were not reported, thus I'm doubtful of safety claims.

Well, I took a quick look, and I don't see much. I see a little bit of tritium possibly escaping from some pipes in Vermont, but that's about it. I went and looked up tritium, and it's only a danger if it's ingested, like polonium, and has a half-life of about 12 years. They don't mention quantities, but they say "500 times the Federal limit".... but depending on what that limit is, that could still be a very small amount. The regulations on plants are pretty insane, and it seems quite likely to be a very small leak indeed.

I also see some hysterical handwaving about radiation at Three Mile Island, which is the usual media bullshit frenzy over absolutely nothing, to get eyeballs. Nothing gets eyeballs like fear and spectacle, and 'radiation leak at Three Mile Island!" is great for that.

Thing is, if it was a leak, it was so tiny they can't find any residue. One of three atmospheric contamination detectors showed a brief blip, while the other two showed nothing. One worker was showed as having taken 12 millirem of exposure... an X-ray is about 6Mrem. And that's it. That's all. Nothing escaped the plant, one worker got two x-rays, and that's headline news.

Fear and spectacle.

Mining and processing ore to get the uranium out and transported leaves an enormous mess.

Sure, but it's way better than coal. It takes much less of the stuff to get the same amount of power, and all the contamination is local. You don't get plumes of uranium in the air like you do out of coal plants.

The nuclear industry's track record is about as terrible as the oil companies when it comes to truthfulness about the safety of their products.

That is a huge assertion. Cites please? How many people have died and been injured from civilian nuclear power?

Back that up or retract it.

A smart electric grid, efficiency gains when combined with wind, solar and biofuels can give us all the power we need in a much cleaner way.

That's just bullshit. They can help, absolutely they can help. But there is no possible way we can switch our electric infrastructure to renewables anytime in the next fifty years, maybe not for a hundred. There isn't enough energy density in solar and wind power to sustain industry, at least in their present form. Plus, solar and wind are variable, and what electric grids need more than anything else is stable, reliable power that can always be counted on. Electric grids are fragile things, easily disrupted, and solar and wind can't be counted on for the baseline requirements to keep the grid operational. They can be used for peak power demands, especially solar, because its peak coincides with the demand for cooling power, but only in some areas of the country.

Basically, again, this is just handwavy wishful thinking. I don't think you actually know very much about power. You're making these wild assertions that don't work if you really examine them, and worse, you seem absolutely certain about them, even though your actual knowledge doesn't appear to support that certainty.

You'll find, if you dig into what I'm claiming, that it's solid. I'm just a layperson, not an expert, so I may be slightly off in spots, but not substantively.

Oh, another note: biofuels are barely better than oil, because still take fertilizer to grow, which comes from oil. Further, there's a shortage of arable land, and that means poor people are going to be displaced. They'll be starving because we'll be pouring those calories into our hugely inefficient cars. That may not bother you, but it strikes me as a poor outcome.
posted by Malor at 6:33 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only acceptable biofuels are algae-based ones. All the others are red herrings. Ethanol is a bad joke.
posted by mek at 6:40 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oops, I said 6Mrem, instead of 6mrem, for an X-Ray. 6 megarem wouldn't just kill you, it would retroactively kill your great-grandparents. :)
posted by Malor at 6:50 PM on June 1, 2010


Don't worry everybody, James Cameron is on the case!

That's not actually quite as stupid as it sounds. Between him and his brother, they've actually designed underwater robotic stuff before -- ISTR that they designed and built the little ROVs they used to film inside Titanic.

I'm not saying it isn't stupid. Just not as stupid.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:33 PM on June 1, 2010


Yeah, Aliens of the Deep is pretty impressive.

They construct a sub with an acryllic sphere capable of containing the immense pressure of Cameron's ego.
posted by Artw at 7:52 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Malor wrote: "You can get up to basic speed in a couple of weekends."

Just reading one of the many books about Three Mile Island will bring a person up to speed with at least basic knowledge of the safety systems involved in 1960s-style PWR plants and most of the failure modes they have.

humanfont, are you the one who was advocating the dismantling of industrial society in an earlier thread?
posted by wierdo at 9:03 PM on June 1, 2010


In Gulf Spill Aftermath, Oil Workers Lack an Advocate
posted by homunculus at 11:54 PM on June 1, 2010


The only acceptable biofuels are algae-based ones. All the others are red herrings. Ethanol is a bad joke.

How do you explain brazil's use of ethanol?
posted by delmoi at 2:17 AM on June 2, 2010


delmoi,

Ethanol derived from corn is energy negative once you account for the fertilizer spent growing the stuff. But sugar apparently grows much nicer down in Brazil, and you get some single digit multiple more ethanol per acre out of sugar vs. corn. So the latter is energy positive while the former, you might as well just burn the fertilizer, you'll get more fuel.
posted by effugas at 3:28 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


effugas: I know that. But it's not compatible with Ethanol being "A bad joke". Also it's not all that clear that corn ethanol is net negative, different studies say different things. But it doesn't get a very good return compared to sugar cane ethanol, or whatever. It's also based on the fuel used to harvest/process the corn, not the energy you would get from burning the fertilizer (which may not have any energy in it... that's not how fertilizer works)
posted by delmoi at 4:50 AM on June 2, 2010


it's not all that clear that corn ethanol is net negative

From an economic point of view, unless the price of a barrel of oil gets over about $120 to $150 USD, it is. It's also not clear if ethanol is net energy positive. That depends on farming practices and transportation costs. It is a net negative in terms of water use, which is a concern in places like the North American prairies, where water is scarce.

Sugar cane in Brazil is about 9x more productive for sugar in comparison to corn in the US. Part of that is the plant, part is the number of growing cycles per year.

Ethanol from corn makes sense in terms of politics and GHG reduction, but has real challenges from an economic, energy efficiency and ecological impact points of view.
posted by bonehead at 6:33 AM on June 2, 2010


the diamond saw failed. it's stuck
posted by angrycat at 8:02 AM on June 2, 2010


Saw stuck in ruptured Gulf oil pipe
posted by homunculus at 8:55 AM on June 2, 2010


Rep. Tom Cole (R.-OK) on oil spill: ‘Acts of God are acts of God.’
posted by ericb at 9:00 AM on June 2, 2010


Worst-Case Scenario
posted by homunculus at 9:08 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


At this point, after flirting with a more optimistic position after the initial reports seemed to suggest the top-kill would succeed after all, I'm returning to my previous prediction that the only thing that's going to stop this leak is the well running dry.

Dammit. I hate to say it, but I think it's the truth. With today's reports that it's probably only a matter of hours before oil makes landfall on Pensacola beaches, the prospects of my own home state coming through this mostly untouched seem slimmer all the time.

But at least now, there's a decent chance someone will go to jail over this fiasco, with yesterday's announcement of a criminal investigation into negligence leading up to the spill.

It's hard to face this, but it's probably been more or less a given since day one that this leak couldn't really be stopped, short of drilling the relief wells (and even that could be iffy). The Gulf is screwed.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:09 AM on June 2, 2010


Rep. Tom Cole (R.-OK) on oil spill: ‘Acts of God are acts of God.’

WTF? At what point does God become the party responsible for the maintenance of an oil well constructed so far beneath the ocean it can only be reached by means of fucking robotic submarines when things go wrong due to operator cost-cutting and negligence?

Jesus. We deserve a prize for being such a stupid, stupid species. And I'm astounded that some of us are actually dense enough to rationalize away even this glaring example of our collective tendency toward short-sightedness, irresponsibility, and inability to consider and/or effectively manage even the most obvious possible unintended consequences of our actions.

Meanwhile, future presidential contender Sarah Palin would like us to know she places blame for this entire disaster squarely where it belongs: At the feet of the nasty liberals and environmentalists who didn't embrace her visionary "Drill, Baby, Drill!" campaign. Fucking brilliant.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:24 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


It just occurred to me what could have caused the spill
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's Cover The Moon in Solar Panels
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2010


Breaking: Obama calls for new commitment to Clean Energy production and proposes "rolling back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies."
posted by saulgoodman at 10:23 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Ignore Her": The BP Press Lockdown Continues
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2010


Sarah Palin is nuts
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2010


Dying, dead marine wildlife paint dark, morbid picture of Gulf Coast following oil spill

"There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don't want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It's important to me that people know the truth about what's going on here."
posted by homunculus at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2010


There's a great president in Obama, if they'd only let him out. I can see glimpses here and there... if he would just stop waffling and do what he really believes in, he could be the guy they talk about in a hundred years, just like we talk today about FDR and Lincoln. Please please please please...
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:50 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds like another criminal charge to me: conspiracy to cover up criminal negligence.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:51 AM on June 2, 2010


Agreed seanmpuckett. I'm really hoping Obama's new push to roll back the tax breaks to oil companies and redirect those funds toward investments in clean and renewable energy production will get some traction and get us there. It's going to take some political support from the public though; if too many people have already resigned themselves to writing President Obama off instead of getting behind this new policy push, we'll be missing a big political opportunity.

The public has to show it overwhelmingly supports this new proposed policy shift or it won't happen. Congress and the legions of lobbyists congress answers to won't let it. And the bully pulpit is only as powerful for advancing a particular policy aim as the public support for the policy makes it.

The fact is, in all likelihood, nothing can or ever could be done to stop this leak. No human being can even get down to physically inspect the source of the leak! Drilling at such depths is just inherently risky, as the President himself noted in these latest remarks. So all that really matters now is where we go from here.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:04 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm joining the Green Party in Philadelphia
There will be probably some ideas there I'm not fond of (like no nuclear plants) but nonetheless, a green agenda has to be this country, nay, this world's driving force.

If anybody, any White House staffer, is reading these threads, please: Help us organize, help us help.

Obama's reaction to the spill will be in the history books. Let's pray to whatever gods we have that in a hundred years, people learning about it will admire what he's done, as we admire Lincoln.

Please, Mr. President.
posted by angrycat at 11:53 AM on June 2, 2010


So that'll be a no then.
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2010


On the page homunculus linked to upthread, there are Google ads based on I guess keywords in the story or headlines. When I view the page, the ad reads: "Pipe Replacement - Low-price guaranty with a 25 year warranty, serving North Carolina." Maybe they should see if that outfit has an office in Louisiana.

Or better yet...Joe the Plumber, where are you? Your desperate country turns its eyes to you.
posted by marxchivist at 3:09 PM on June 2, 2010


"There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don't want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It's important to me that people know the truth about what's going on here."

BP have the best people working hard 24/7 to cover this up. It's important that we let them do their jobs, unimpeded by government oversight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:24 PM on June 2, 2010


Time-Lapse Satellite View of Growing Oil Spill (through May 24)
posted by gman at 3:28 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


BP have the best people working hard 24/7 to cover this up. It's important that we let them do their jobs, unimpeded by government oversight.

No, it's not. And thank god that's not what we're doing.

Now that there's a pending criminal investigation into the spill and the response effort--and importantly, a binding legal order that all parties preserve and retain records and other materials for possible evidence of wrong-doing--things are different. So on the bright side, no, we don't have to leave them unimpeded by governmental oversight, and we haven't.

BP's just been really damn cagey up until now about throttling the flow of information coming from their response teams and out of the proprietary systems they use for deep sea operations, IMO. Of course, it's BP's engineers who control the cameras mounted to those submersible robots that are doing all the work. Current law is clear that BP is supposed to provide the muscle for the response effort, with Federal authorities assuming oversight powers.

No doubt, BP's primary concern is with minimizing its financial liability. To the extent they've been covering up evidence of their own negligence, and spinning the politics of the situation to their benefit, they should be criminally prosecuted for it. But any concerns they may have had about limiting their financial liability are moot now, with a criminal investigation pending. For better or worse, the government really is in charge of the response operations now. And the statutory limits on the drilling rig operator's financial liability for the clean up and recovery don't apply when there are allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

I wouldn't be surprised if BP (and possibly one or more of the other companies involved in running the rig) really does end up being toast before this is all done. At least, I wouldn't mind too much if that's how it turned out. To the extent BP, Transocean and Halliburton each played any role in this, they should be required pay the full costs for their failures, even if that leaves them nonexistent. It's about time we let some companies fail for their mistakes.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:26 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nuke, baby, nuke.
posted by empath at 10:00 PM on June 2, 2010


Nuke, baby, nuke.

The writer is even suggesting using the relief well as a pathway for delivering the nuclear weapon into the main well. So if the weapon fails, then that would set clean-up efforts even further back.

Hopefully, BP will be left in place manage to mess this up. There isn't any other company with the expertise and equipment to fuck things up this badly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:56 AM on June 3, 2010


Government officials call nuclear option "crazy."

The article notes that the Soviet attempts did not involve oil wells, nor did they take place a mile underwater.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2010


Obama orders firms to change drill plans that mimic BP's
posted by homunculus at 8:48 AM on June 3, 2010


The pipe is cut, but apparently they used a shear, and using it, "rather than a finer diamond-laced wire saw, as the slicing instrument resulted in a jagged cut, meaning that the containment cap will fit less snugly."
posted by insectosaurus at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2010


BP Forced Clean-Up Workers To Sign Contract Forbidding Them From Talking With Media.

BP And Halliburton Build Legal Teams, Attempt To Buy Off Government Officials.

Barbour compares small animals suffocating from oil to people covered in toothpaste.

Contractor: BP Is Trying To Hide Dead Animals, Since The Ocean Will Eventually Wash Away The Evidence.
posted by ericb at 5:10 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess the conversation has now shifted to this newer FPP.
posted by ericb at 5:11 PM on June 3, 2010


Frustratingly, yes.
posted by wierdo at 9:38 PM on June 3, 2010


We live over here in the Destin, FL area of the PanHandle and numerous friends on Facebook are making trips to the beach today in hopes of seeing our crystal white beaches for the last time..... this is so sad......it's going to kill the jobs of so many people I know in the tourism industry. This is nothing like the Exxon Valdex incident, not a remote area of a smally populated area. BP will be remembered poorly for this in the history books.
posted by kickingback77 at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Link to leaked BP spill response plan (PDF, 29MB, almost 600 pages), June 2009
via Boingboing

Highlights:

"No statements shall be made concerning any of the following: promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal."

Corexit oil dispersant toxicity has not been tested on ecosystems, according to the Oil Spill Response Plan. "Ecotoxilogical effects: No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product."

"leaked". No pun intended.
posted by _dario at 2:48 AM on June 5, 2010


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