Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


BP killed the well. Again.
August 4, 2010 12:49 AM   Subscribe

BP has stated that the static kill was successful.

As with the shut-in, this is not a permanent solution. That will have to wait for the relief well. It will make leaks at the wellhead less likely, as the pressure is now much lower at the top of the well, thanks to the weight of the mud, and it is no longer a blowout.
posted by wierdo (132 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
BP's press release(s).
posted by IvoShandor at 1:03 AM on August 4, 2010


Well finally some good news. So basically this means they have control of the well flow and pressure but can't yet cap it?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:12 AM on August 4, 2010


They've pretty much turned it into a "normal" well. For various reasons, they can't do a cement job from the top of the hole so it will have to be done with the relief well.
posted by wierdo at 1:23 AM on August 4, 2010


NYTimes: The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.
....
Assuming that the government’s calculations stand scrutiny, that looks increasingly unlikely. “There’s absolutely no evidence that there’s any significant concentration of oil that’s out there that we haven’t accounted for,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead agency in producing the new report.

BP now has the American government issuing positive press releases for them: the spill is just a fuzzy, cute, little bunny.

Jane Lubchenco is moreover intentionally misleading the public: "Evaporated and dispersed" is not the same thing as "captured." And there is no difference between diluted and dispersed/evaporated.
posted by three blind mice at 1:35 AM on August 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


tbm, NOAA also noted that they still don't know how much damage was done while the oil was in the water. The fact that it has mostly evaporated or dispersed to low concentrations doesn't affect that.

Here's what I would like to know:
1) What is the effect of highly diluted oil in the GOM ecosystem - does the prevalence of natural seeps mean that this is not a problem and will be biologically degraded?
2) What will be the long term effects of the damage done while the oil was concentrated in the Gulf?
3) What will be the long term effects of the oil on coastal areas?
posted by atrazine at 1:42 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


She emphasized, however, that the government remained concerned about the ecological damage that has already occurred and the potential for more, and said it would continue monitoring the gulf.

“I think we don’t know yet the full impact of this spill on the ecosystem or the people of the gulf,” Dr. Lubchenco said.


Explain to me how this is misleading?
posted by atrazine at 1:46 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Explain to me how this is misleading?

You're referring to something else she said.

This is misleading: "three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm."

Evaporated and dispersed are the same thing: the former means diluted in the air, the latter means diluted in the water. She doesn't have a clue about the risks of additional harm, but she proclaims it to minimal.

As for potential harm.... I knew a guy who bought a house in Pennsylvania. A few months after he moves in, he smells diesel fuel in his basement. Being somewhat alarmed by this he calls the fire brigade. They come, do some checking, and turns out there was an old 250 gallon heating oil tank buried on his property that was leaking.

No worries. He calls a company to dig the thing up and haul it away.

And then about a week later he gets a visit from the EPA who were alerted by the fire brigade. They tell him that he must drill four monitoring holes around his property so that they can see if the fuel was spreading.

So he works with his insurance company, they dig the monitoring wells, and the EPA comes back and says well so and so parts per million, etc. etc. etc. YOU MUST REMOVE ALL OF THE SOIL ON YOUR PROPERTY AND PAY TO HAVE IT INCINERATED. The clean-up job cost as much as the house.

Why isn't this same standard being applied to BP?
posted by three blind mice at 2:03 AM on August 4, 2010 [38 favorites]


Well fuck 'em anyway.

Who knows if it will someday start leaking, like the hundreds of other abandoned, but not yet permanently sealed wells.
posted by delmoi at 2:08 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


So he works with his insurance company, they dig the monitoring wells, and the EPA comes back and says well so and so parts per million, etc. etc. etc. YOU MUST REMOVE ALL OF THE SOIL ON YOUR PROPERTY AND PAY TO HAVE IT INCINERATED. The clean-up job cost as much as the house.

Well, the gulf naturally has oil in it, supposedly leaking from the sea floor. So it's not all that clear that the BP spill will increase the total amount of oil in the gulf all that much. The beaches, etc, will still need to be cleaned up. And they may hold them to pretty strict standards. We'll have to see.

What's funny is that BP, along with other oil companies, is now pumping a bunch of money into promotion of preserving wetlands in Louisiana -- with government money. Of course, if the wetlands are restored, the oil will get cleaned up in the process, without costing BP much, if anything.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also,

Evaporated and dispersed are the same thing: the former means diluted in the air, the latter means diluted in the water.

If one is in the water, and the other is in the air, then they are actually not the same thing. But also, the equivalent of evaporating in a liquid is dissolving. And the equivalent of dispersion in a gas would be, I guess, atomizing or maybe misting.
posted by delmoi at 2:15 AM on August 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oils well that ends well.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:16 AM on August 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


So he works with his insurance company, they dig the monitoring wells, and the EPA comes back and says well so and so parts per million, etc. etc. etc. YOU MUST REMOVE ALL OF THE SOIL ON YOUR PROPERTY AND PAY TO HAVE IT INCINERATED. The clean-up job cost as much as the house.

Why isn't this same standard being applied to BP?


Well, they're currently looking at paying $32.2 billion towards the costs of the spill, including the $20 billion compensation fund.

How much extra do you think BP should be paying?
posted by Mike1024 at 2:20 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jane Lubchenco is moreover intentionally misleading the public: "Evaporated and dispersed" is not the same thing as "captured." And there is no difference between diluted and dispersed/evaporated...She doesn't have a clue about the risks of additional harm, but she proclaims it to minimal.

Wait, who's being misleading? You are misattributing the first paragraph of the New York Times article written by Justin Gillis to Lubchenco. The only two quotes from Lubchenco in the article are as follows:

"I think we don't know yet the full impact of this spill on the ecosystem or the people of the gulf"

and

"I think we are fortunate in this situation that the rates of degradation in the gulf ecosystem are quite high."
posted by one_bean at 2:27 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is okay, but much work remains to be done to stem the flow of negative press, dilute the credibility of critics, and disperse money to legislators. The industrial ecosystem of the Gulf is incredibly delicate: it could take years to recover.
posted by Ritchie at 2:28 AM on August 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


Well, they're currently looking at paying $32.2 billion towards the costs of the spill, including the $20 billion compensation fund.

That sounds like a lot, but people may want to read that link carefully:BP's sales revenues for 2009 were $239 billion, so basically their $2.2B "penalty" will likely be less than 1% of the year's intake.

Regarding the compensation fund, the federal government and BP are working together to ensure that some who deserve recompense will not be paid:
In another example, Feinberg said the fund was not meant to pay out to all home owners whose properties had declined in value.

"There's no question that the property value has diminished as a result of the spill. That doesn't mean that every property is entitled to compensation," he said, adding: "There's not enough money in the world to pay everybody who'd like to have money."
It seems very unlikely BP will be paying out $20B in claims.

How much extra do you think BP should be paying?

Perhaps several their executives should enjoy a nice, long vacation in a non-country-club prison, particularly those executives who lead cost-cutting measures that lead to this and previous disasters, killing oil workers, destroying livelihoods and which likely damaging the ecosystem in the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean for many years, perhaps decades. Acknowledging criminal culpability might be a good start towards paying the bill, for a lot of folks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:49 AM on August 4, 2010 [53 favorites]


If one is in the water, and the other is in the air, then they are actually not the same thing.

Well if you don't count the water and the air as part of the same environment, your point is correct.

From my admittedly narrow-minded point-of-view land, sea, and air are all part of the environment and what was not "captured" was not captured and remains in the environment - dispersed, evaporated, or diluted.

Wait, who's being misleading?

The reporter is citing the government report produced by Dr. Lubchenko's agency. I do not think it is unreasonable to hold the head of the agency responsible for reports published by her agency.
posted by three blind mice at 2:55 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reporter is citing the government report produced by Dr. Lubchenko's agency. I do not think it is unreasonable to hold the head of the agency responsible for reports published by her agency.

You have not read the report, you're simply working from a summary made by a science reporter for the Times. You quoted the article as though it were Lubchenco making that summary. The only quote regarding harm from the spill from Lubchenco stated exactly the opposite of the sentence you cited.
posted by one_bean at 2:59 AM on August 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


From my admittedly narrow-minded point-of-view land, sea, and air are all part of the environment and what was not "captured" was not captured and remains in the environment - dispersed, evaporated, or diluted.

And if you were one of the world's leading environmental scientists, you would understand that the air and sea are different, and the same chemicals introduced into them can behave differently. It is therefore important to estimate how much has evaporated into the air, and how much has been diluted into the sea.
posted by one_bean at 3:03 AM on August 4, 2010


How much extra do you think BP should be paying?

Same as the homeowner. As much as it costs to return the Gulf to its pre-disaster condition. That was the attitude of the EPA towards my friend - why should it be any different towards a politically powerful, extremely wealthy company?

Of course, nothing can be done to return the lives of 11 men to their pre-disaster condition. The penalty for this should be prosecution for manslaughter.

What Blazecock Pileon said. If there is no pain - real pain - on executives and shareholders (sorry British pensioners, tough luck) there will be no change in the way BP or any other oil company does business.
posted by three blind mice at 3:05 AM on August 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


sorry British pensioners, tough luck

And US pensioners.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:14 AM on August 4, 2010


If there is no pain - real pain - on executives and shareholders (sorry British pensioners, tough luck)

US pensioners too. 40% of BP shares are held by US mutual funds or US individuals directly. BP is the result of a merger between Amoco (the *American* oil company) and British Petroleum. I imagine the 40% US holding is inherited from the original Amoco shareholders.

As an aside, I would be very interested to know whether the problems BP has been having in the US ultimately stem from ex-Amoco or BP employees. I have a suspicion that the real problematic safety culture lies in the ex-Amoco parts; British Petroleum itself supposedly got religion after the Piper Alpha fire back in the 80s.

Even if true, this wouldn't absolve the current company from any responsibility but it would show up the hypocrisy of those US commentators who insist on trying to make out that this is down to some foreign company (a British one no less!) rather than a problem that is in fact entirely home grown.
posted by pharm at 3:20 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


You have not read the report, you're simply working from a summary made by a science reporter for the Times. You quoted the article as though it were Lubchenco making that summary. The only quote regarding harm from the spill from Lubchenco stated exactly the opposite of the sentence you cited.

The NY Times would seem to be a credible source of information, but I will not argue this because the next step in destroying criticism is to attack me:

And if you were one of the world's leading environmental scientists, you would understand that the air and sea are different, and the same chemicals introduced into them can behave differently.

You forgot to mention land. And of course every organism reacts differently to pollution so until we have all the facts - peer-reviewed and un-assailable - we should not do anything that might make BP spend more money on clean-up than they should or to penalize them for any harm they might have caused.
posted by three blind mice at 3:37 AM on August 4, 2010


I hate BP and fear for the gulf.

But just one cheer for static kill?

yay
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:38 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a side note, my Dad recalled that there were tarballs washing up onto beaches in the Northeast up until the '60s - this is from all of the tankers sunk by Nazi subs during the Battle of the Atlantic.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:59 AM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:01 AM on August 4, 2010


My twisted mind is playing over the following particularly British sound bite, and I hope that no such request is granted:

"Again, again again again..."

.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:14 AM on August 4, 2010


Perhaps several their executives should enjoy a nice, long vacation in a non-country-club prison, particularly those executives who lead cost-cutting measures that lead to this and previous disasters, killing oil workers, destroying livelihoods and which likely damaging the ecosystem in the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean for many years, perhaps decades. Acknowledging criminal culpability might be a good start towards paying the bill, for a lot of folks.

If it can be proven they knew or should have known their actions would lead to this disaster, absolutely. But I don't think it is going to be that easy. As I remember it, the blow out preventer *broke*. Because methane gas froze on the insides and caused an explosion. If something like that never has happened before, how could they know it would happen?

I am not cool with wishing jail on people because we don't like them.
posted by gjc at 4:22 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The $32.2 billion includes the $20 billion compensation fund
This leaves $12.2 billion of possible expenditures towards clean-up
With the tax credit, their accountants essentially anticipate a worst-case exposure of $2.2 billion


From The Guardian: "Only the fines that might be imposed by the US authorities would definitely not be tax-deductible, according to tax experts."

"BP announced today that it is making a $32.2bn provision for the cost of the spill caused by the explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April.

That pushed BP's second-quarter results into a record loss of $17bn, compared with a profit last year of $3.1bn.

The company explained, however, that the net impact on BP's bottom line will only be $22bn because the company will be able to record a $9.9bn tax credit."

What ends up being paid of course is another matter but this is what is being reported currently.
posted by vapidave at 4:33 AM on August 4, 2010


How much extra do you think BP should be paying?

Same as the homeowner. As much as it costs to return the Gulf to its pre-disaster condition. That was the attitude of the EPA towards my friend - why should it be any different towards a politically powerful, extremely wealthy company?


Isn't that what the $32.2 billion is paying for? Returning the Gulf, as far as is possible, to its pre-disaster condition?
posted by Mike1024 at 4:34 AM on August 4, 2010


Yay! Does this mean we can go back to calling British Petroleum BP, and not giving a fuck about the thousands of barrels of oil spilled by Shell every year in Nigeria.
posted by seanyboy at 4:41 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's Royal Dutch Shell.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:43 AM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


What about the million gallons spilled by Exxon Mobil in May 2009. (ref). We can stop pretending we care about that too?
posted by seanyboy at 4:51 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Acknowledging criminal culpability might be a good start towards paying the bill, for a lot of folks.

No, no, no, you are pointing fingers and playing the blame game. We must all be moving forward, you know.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:16 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad they were able to stop oil from coming out of the spot they had cameras on. (still curious about the other leaks...and maybe the state of the sea floor.)
posted by samsara at 5:16 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It says a depressingly large amount about the media (and about us, consumers of their "news") that this has become such a huge story.

Don't get me wrong, if should have been, but anywhere else in the world and the US media wouldn't have given a rats arse. I'm not the UK media would either. And the US media wouldn't have been so aggressive if they couldn't link the company to being British.

Ah well... at least no-one has accused the oil rig of having bad teeth...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:40 AM on August 4, 2010


But instead of dialing back on dispersants and deploying more skimmers, BP decided to wage chemical warfare in the Gulf. Within three weeks of the blowout, the company had dumped 300,000 gallons of Corexit into the ocean. By mid-July, the total had surpassed 1.8 million gallons. BP argued that dispersing the spill reduced the number of brown pelicans and sea turtles coated in oil, and prevented it from reaching fragile shorelines, where it is difficult to clean and deadly to breeding grounds for shrimp and other sea life. But the chemicals also benefited the company by effectively covering up the spill, breaking it up into thousands of smaller slicks that don't look so bad on the nightly news. "It's about PR," says Steiner, the scientist whose expertise helped contain the Valdez disaster. "It's about keeping the oil out of sight, and out of the public mind, so fewer people really understand what is happening in the Gulf and get outraged by it." During the Valdez response, he adds, Corexit earned a telling nickname: "Hides-it."

From this article. So what about the fisherman? How long until we know if gulf seafood is safe?
posted by Splunge at 5:51 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


anywhere else in the world and the US media wouldn't have given a rats arse

So what you're saying is, things that directly and visibly affect the US are heavily reported in US media? Interesting theory you have there.
posted by inigo2 at 6:03 AM on August 4, 2010


Interesting theory you have there.

Never said it was original.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:11 AM on August 4, 2010


While the situation with oil may be getting better cosmetically it will take decades for the ecosystem to recover. At this point I am still skeptical about any information coming from the government or BP. But I have my fingers crossed hoping that we are in the final stages of finally capping the well. I also hope that reports of oil leaking out of the seafloor prove to be false.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:13 AM on August 4, 2010


These guys are fucking heroes! They finally managed to start stopping the spread of the gigantic cluster-fuck mess they caused! FUCKING HEROES MATE! Just as every cop is a hero after 9/11, every oil company driller, driver, PR flak, CEO, and pencil pusher (by pencil pusher I mean "regulatory obfuscator") is now a FUCKING GODDAMN AMERICAN HERO GODDAMMIT!

I am writing a script (Hollywood, are you listening, you fatuous cunts?) about a FUCKING HEROIC OIL-WELL SPILL CAPPING TEAM that CAPS FUCKING OIL WELLS HEROICALLY! BRUCE WILLIS will star, with FUCKING INFAMOUS LOUISIANA LAWMAN STEVEN "FLAB-ASS" SEAGAL IN A SPECIAL APPEARANCE AS THE GUY MICHAEL IRONSIDE USUALLY PLAYS!

Thanks, now I don't feel I shall have to swear the rest of the day.
posted by Mister_A at 6:26 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Q. How much do you think they should be paying?

A. All of it.
posted by TomMelee at 6:27 AM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm starting to think maybe this whole 'oil' thing is not such a great idea. Thankfully, we aren't too reliant on it.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:31 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, if should have been, but anywhere else in the world and the US media wouldn't have given a rats arse.

No, that's not true. The final government estimate for the size of the spill is 4.9 Million barrels, or around 62,000 BPD. That makes this incident by far the largest accidental release of oil into the environment in world history. The US and the media would have cared about a disaster on that scale regardless of where it happened.

As far as "the EPA" saying the impact is already largely mitigated, that's BS. These statements you cited, three blind mice, are a further example of the NY Times putting on it's trademark gloss (as it did with many intelligence reports in the run up to the Iraq War), not an accurate reflection on what the EPA has reported.

It's true that the EPA has reported that the majority of the oil has been dispersed (it has). It's not true that this means the oil is no longer a problem. That interpretation is exclusively BP's official spin, and NY Times is helpfully parroting it.

In fact, every statement directly from the EPA that I've seen has emphasized that we don't know how serious the impacts from the dispersed oil are and will continue to be, and that it's going to require costly, ongoing monitoring and testing to determine.

Also, regardless of whether they are found negligent or not, BP is on the hook for at least $1,000 per barrel spilled over the $20 billion settlement, so that's at least another five billion, and as much as 20 billion if they're found negligent. Additionally, there have been reports of hundreds of sea turtles (at least 425) being killed during the clean up operation; there are also fines of up to $50,000 per sea turtle killed, so that's another few million at least that we know about. There are lots of other costs still to be reckoned. BP would like to contribute to the impression that it's all over and done now, and the media is in some cases playing along, but this is far from over.

It's important, three blind mice, to be very precise about how you read these press accounts. The press here likes to put its own spin on news events, facts be damned, particularly those relating to technical reports that may be difficult for the public to synthesize.

The EPA reporting that 3/4ths of the oil has been dispersed into the Gulf isn't an example of the EPA carrying the water for BP; it's just an accurate assessment of the situation. The NY Times helpfully interpreting the EPA's factual statements to mean that the damage to the Gulf is already largely contained, however, does seem to be an example of the NY Times seeming to carry the water for BP. Which would make sense, since the private sector in America looks after its own.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:35 AM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gulf spill unleashed 4.9 million barrels of oil

I also hope that reports of oil leaking out of the seafloor prove to be false.

The initial reports of oil seeping up two miles from the well were followed up quite a while back with reports that these areas of seepage had been determined to be natural, slow seepage sites. The gulf has always had small amounts of oil entering from natural seeps; however, its the effects of large amounts of oil entering the Gulf all at once that creates a problem. This is the largest amount of oil that's been accidentally spilled all at once into any body of water, period, so we're going to be dealing with the consequences for a long time.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:41 AM on August 4, 2010


Now this report from BBC is more worrying to me, because it makes it pretty clear Carol Browner at least is taking the BP interpretation of the facts at face value. In fact, here Browner is quoted as saying: "The scientists are telling us about 25% was not captured or evaporated or taken care of by mother nature."

That's a stunningly misleading way to represent this information. Browner seems to be towing the BP line. From the very beginning BP has intended to use dispersant to keep as much oil locked up in the Gulf and out of site, knowing that it would be the more obvious, visible impacts that got people up in arms.

Meanwhile, random testing (as reported on this news station and elsewhere) has been showing concentrations of oil in the range of hundreds of parts per million even in areas where the water appears to be free of oil all along the Gulf. If the EPA is going to be focusing only on the appearances of oil damage, as BP would like, then yes, we've got a problem. To the extent this BBC report seems to put Browner on the side of BP's preferred spin of the situation, I'm nervous.

If this whole thing ends up being another white wash, I'm going to have to reconsider my positions on a few things.

Already there are reports that the already massive Gulf dead zone is being impacted by the oil.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:55 AM on August 4, 2010


out of site --> out of sight. ack.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:56 AM on August 4, 2010


As far as criminal culpability goes, I think that we've already discussed BP's long track record of ignoring safety measures in the name of saving money. I'm not going to dig for the articles right now, but we've already had statements from the drilling team that BP insisted on pumping sea water into the well instead of heavier drilling mud (over-rulling standard procedure and the recommendations of the drilling company) as a method of regulating the pressure in the well while it was being drilled, and this is regarded as one of the reasons why the blow-out happened in the first place. We've also read statements about how it had been unofficial policy for the blowout alarms to be set on silent mode "so the crew could get some sleep", a move which possibly allowed the natural gas to get so far up the drill pipe that it entered the engine room of the drilling platform and created the explosion. Combined with many previous accidents, many of them at land-based facilities run by BP and many caused by a corporate culture which places monetary gain above worker and environmental safety, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to believe that there is enough here to warrant a real criminal investigation.

I'm still curious about how this dispersed oil is going to affect the ecosystem of the gulf. The material in the water hasn't really left the water. Thanks to the mammoth amounts of dispersants used at the source, it is all broken into tiny tiny droplets and hanging in the water column. Articles I've read (again I'm not going to look for them, but I read them all in previous Gulf Oil Spill threads here on the Blue) have led me to believe that, as this oil is broken down by microbes, they will consume the oxygen in the water down to levels where larger animals will no longer be able to survive. These "dead zones" have been around in our oceans for a while now, thanks mostly to fertilizer run-off. But how long will this dead zone exist? How large will it be? How will this affect what used to be a vibrant fishing zone? And if fish and shellfish are able to survive in this water full of oil and dispersant, how will eating it affect human health?

I am pleased to hear that they've finally actually driven the oil back down into the hole they dug. But I think there are plenty of questions still to be answered about 1) why this happened in the first place and what changes in BP's approach to ALL future projects on land or sea will take place to prevent any further accidents anywhere, and 2) how long this is going to affect the ecosystem in which this particular incident took place. This isn't over yet.
posted by hippybear at 7:00 AM on August 4, 2010


jesus christ, sodium lights the horizon : ... And the US media wouldn't have been so aggressive if they couldn't link the company to being British.
i obviously can't speak for the us media, but bp being a british corporation has nothing to do with media coverage (or lack thereof). the focus of media coverage would greatly have diminished greatly if bp weren't a filthy rich corporation who caused a big-ass mess & got caught doing it. the british thing has little to nothing to do with it.
posted by msconduct at 7:02 AM on August 4, 2010


msconduct: from the UK side of things, US commentators seem to have a predilection for referring to the company in question as British Petroleum rather than it's current name, "BP". (a name change that was insisted on during the Amoco merger IIRC.)

Imagine if the UK media insisted on referring to Royal DutchShell every time they talked about oil spills in Nigeria. Do you think the Dutch would feel that we were being neutral about the issue?
posted by pharm at 7:11 AM on August 4, 2010


Everything's fine now.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:18 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dammit. The more of these latest reports I read, the more I get the sinking feeling that we really are going to just sweep this whole thing under the rug and pretend it's all okay now. The major media outlets definitely seem to be heading there, and the EPA and NOAA at the very least don't seem to be pushing aggressively to counter the preferred BP spin.

God, American-style capitalism is turning out to be such a horribly flawed system. It has a built-in tendency to value appearances over everything else and to subsume everything else into it. All anybody in the Gulf region seems to care about is getting back to business as quickly as possible. Fishermen are determined to get back to fishing and selling seafood as quickly as possible. Local officials are determined to get beaches open again as quickly as possible. All these things are understandable from the point of view of self-interest, but they conflict with the longer term public interest.

It really wouldn't matter if all these parties knew for a fact that the water was deadly toxic as long as the effects didn't show right away. They'd just point to the fact there's no visible oil in the water or on the beach and use that as a selling point.

All anybody cares about is the financial costs of the crisis--never mind the fact that the Gulf could be affected in less obvious but no less devastating ways for decades, or that seafood from the region really might pose a public health problem, considering it's almost certain to contain higher concentrations of mercury now (mercury already being at nearly unacceptably high levels in seafood anyway). All anyone cares about is the perception that the beaches are clean and the seafood is safe. And that's all our political and economic system requires.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:23 AM on August 4, 2010


Hooray! The oil has been captured or dispersed!

But wait. What does dispersed mean?

"Fred McCallister, a whistleblower who claims BP is using dispersants to sink oil and hide it from the pesky media’s cameras, will testify before a Senate investigative panel...BP has...greatly diminished their PR liability by using dispersants like Corexit to coagulate the oil and sink it beneath the ocean’s surface where the media cannot photograph it, and BP won’t be fined for beach cleanup."

But sinking the oil can't be that bad, right?

"There, buried in the sea, the dispersants will likely alter the ecosystem – perhaps poisoning and killing ocean life – but by then BP will have fled the area, leaving future coastal generations to clean up their mess."

But we don't really know that right? Plus, the oil was already bad for the ecosystem anyways. Its not like the clean up is going to make it worse...

Oh wait, nevermind. Only counting COREXIT [the icky ultratoxic disperant] BP has deployed 7 Million gallons of just that one type. Corexit is a dispersant that "Exxon researchers had already acknowledged [was] significantly toxic for aquatic life".

But the EPA just released a study saying that the dispersant isn't that much more toxic to shrimp and fish that regular oil, didn't it? Well kinda. Something not being that much worse than oil for marine life doesn't make it good. Plus, the dispersants are actually breaking the oil into tiny toxic droplets small enough to infiltrate and contaminate the food chain. Oops.

But contaminate is a strong word right? I mean, Tony Hayward said Corexit had the same toxicity as dish soap. I mean, he meant dish soap that can "cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects" (in the case of both Corexit strains) or "injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver" (thats only for one of the strains used). But that sounds like the dish soap I use anyways, I think.

I don't want to bore anyone, but the EPA tests actually didn't test for actually conditions in the gulf, breakdown or longterm effect (according to experts, scientists) which seems pretty important to me (a non-scientist) and the experts, scientists(who are non-mes). It seems important because the big ol' deal with all this Corexit stuff, other than its weird toxic effects on "repeatedly exposed humans" [which sounds like the new doublespeak for 'residents'], is that it bioconcentrates.

You might find yourself asking, what is bioconcentration? Is that like a new type of adderall for kids who only don't pay attention in 9th Grade AP Biology? Actually, bioconcentration is ""accumulation of a chemical in tissues of a fish or other organism to levels greater than in the surrounding medium." Ok, dictionary dude, what does THAT mean. Well, that means that "substances that bioconcentrate tend to move from water into fish, where they can do damage to the fish itself, as well as be passed on to predator fish -- and on up the food chain, to human eaters."

That seems bad.

But out of sight, out of mind. We can't see the oil, so its definitely totally gone. In fact, it probably just "dissolved into seawater in the same way that sugar dissolves in tea." Other than the fact that that comparison is literally the dumbest thing ever and I also don't pour toxic dispersant into my tea (I find a spoon suffices), the oil isn't gone. It's merely gone underground.

Weirdo, your FPP was a good conversation starter, but there is a much larger story behind it.
posted by Chipmazing at 7:35 AM on August 4, 2010 [24 favorites]


So if 75% of the oil is gone that means there's only 1.2 million barrels floating somewhere off the beaches where I live. Well gee whiz, problem solved. I guess everyone can go home.

Fuck BP, fuck Thad Allen, fuck Obama, fuck the EPA, fuck MMS, fuck congress and collectively fuck the legislatures of LA, MS and FL.
posted by photoslob at 7:38 AM on August 4, 2010


from the UK side of things, US commentators seem to have a predilection for referring to the company in question as British Petroleum rather than it's current name, "BP".

That's because "BP" sounds like informal, sloppy, unprofessional language for the real name "British Petroleum." If they wanted to not be known as British Petroleum, they ought to have chosen a new name that was something other than the initials for British Petroleum.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: "Explain to me how this is misleading?

... So he works with his insurance company, they dig the monitoring wells, and the EPA comes back and says well so and so parts per million, etc. etc. etc. YOU MUST REMOVE ALL OF THE SOIL ON YOUR PROPERTY AND PAY TO HAVE IT INCINERATED. The clean-up job cost as much as the house.

Why isn't this same standard being applied to BP?
"

Are you saying that you think the EPA should force BP to remove all the water from the Gulf of Mexico and pay to have it incinerated?
posted by Bonzai at 7:43 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Correction to my post: I transcribed 7 million GALLONS. I meant LITERS. Large difference. My mistake.
posted by Chipmazing at 7:46 AM on August 4, 2010


The final government estimate for the size of the spill is 4.9 Million barrels, or around 62,000 BPD. That makes this incident by far the largest accidental release of oil into the environment in world history.

Not the largest ever , but it's definitely the largest single spill in the last 98 years.

However - Activist estimates calculate that between 9 and 14 million barrels of Oil have been dumped into Nigeria in the last 50 years. The conditions there are seriously a factor worse than the Gulf of Mexico, and they don't have anyone to listen to them or to clear it up.

I don't want to get into this too much, because there's little point in comparing your tragedy with that of people who live many miles away. Both are awful, and I'm dangerously close to giving the impression I don't give a shit about deepwater (when I do). But to say that the Deepwater spill is the worst spill ever is to ignore the actual environmental challenges being faced by less noisy countries than the USA.
posted by seanyboy at 7:55 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Browner seems to be towing the BP line"

Toeing. Toeing the line.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:56 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another thing I want to know is how is what happened in the Gulf going to impact the phytoplankton population.

As I posted about here, recent science has already determined that the global population of phytoplankton (which is responsible for 50% of the world's oxygen production and serves as the base of the ocean's food web) has declined by 40% since the 1950s, and is currently declining at a rate of 1% annually. That's probably why whale populations worldwide are in free-fall and why fisheries in general are becoming less productive.

As someone in that thread pointed out, there are possible strategies involving seeding the oceans with iron to stimulate phytoplankton growth to reverse the trend (possibly even to ameliorate some of the effects of global warming), but I have increasingly little faith that we're going to get our act together enough to do anything significant enough about those problems in time to prevent a total collapse of the food chain within the next 30 years or so.

The Gulf Dead Zone is already estimated now to be the largest on record, extending along more than half the Gulf Coast, and I can only imagine it's only going to get a lot worse in the near future.
The annual summer "dead zone" in the Gulf is fueled by farm chemicals carried by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoff stimulates algae growth in the Gulf.

When these tiny plants or fecal matter from animals that eat them settles to the bottom waters, decomposition of this organic material by bacteria consumes oxygen in the water, the consortium said.

The result, the researchers said, is oxygen depletion that forces many types of fish, shrimp and crabs to leave the area or suffocate. Animals that live in the sediments that can survive with little oxygen will die if the oxygen level falls toward zero.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:58 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Toeing. Toeing the line.

D'oh. And I know that, too. Ah well.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:59 AM on August 4, 2010


Not the largest ever , but it's definitely the largest single spill in the last 98 years.

No, it's the largest accidental spill period. That's being reported in every new report on the latest official estimates of the size of the spill. Even Ruper Murdoch's Market Watch reports, verbatim:
The latest estimate makes the Gulf spill the world's biggest accidental oil leak, the Financial Times reported. It is much more substantial than the estimated 3.3 million barrels spilled into the Bay of Campeche in 1979, the FT said.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:01 AM on August 4, 2010


BP has stated that the static kill was successful.

In all fairness, that's not what they said.

They said: "MC252 well appears to have reached a static condition."

The reason I point this out is that people will be running for the hills if the static kill does not work and say that BP "lied" about the the static kill being "successful."

It is important to be precise.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:03 AM on August 4, 2010


But to say that the Deepwater spill is the worst spill ever is to ignore the actual environmental challenges being faced by less noisy countries than the USA.

No, pretending this event was comparable to those other events, which involved leakage of similar quantities from multiple events over a decade or more, is to ignore the extent to which the Gulf spill was an unprecedented event that shouldn't be marginalized for any reason, as that only helps the side that wants to see the issue slip off the radar as quickly as possible.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:03 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The conditions there are seriously a factor worse than the Gulf of Mexico, and they don't have anyone to listen to them or to clear it up.

The rate of spillage plays an important role in the environmental impact of oil in the environment. When oil is released into the environment more slowly, over a period of years, the environment can deal with it more effectively--there are organisms in the ocean that naturally feed on hydrocarbons. But when the release of oil is large scale and sudden, the effects on the environment can be much worse, because the ecosystems can't manage the damage on their own as effectively. The combination of the scale of the spill and the time frame of the spill make this such a significant event. Considering only the total amount of oil released without regard for how quickly it was released into the environment is to miss the point.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:10 AM on August 4, 2010


Lemon lemon, lemon difficult
posted by eeeeeez at 8:19 AM on August 4, 2010


"Regarding the compensation fund, the federal government and BP are working together to ensure that some who deserve recompense will not be paid:
In another example, Feinberg said the fund was not meant to pay out to all home owners whose properties had declined in value.

"'There's no question that the property value has diminished as a result of the spill. That doesn't mean that every property is entitled to compensation,' he said, adding: 'There's not enough money in the world to pay everybody who'd like to have money.'
"


Deserves is the tricky part there. If I own a gas station 200 miles from the cost whose value drops because the number of people travelling to the gulf for vacation drops and I don't sell as much gas and water do I deserve compensation from BP? Rarely does compensation extend to such secondary add on devaluations. It seems unlikely that compensation will be forth coming unless oil directly touches your property or business. Vague "my property/business/lifestyle declined in value because of the localized economic down turn caused by the spill" claims are unlikely to be successful.
posted by Mitheral at 8:26 AM on August 4, 2010


Senate Democrats can't get votes to pass Gulf oil spill bill
posted by homunculus at 8:26 AM on August 4, 2010


Mission Accomplished
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 8:27 AM on August 4, 2010


apologies to all her majesty's subjects, but the *only* thing about bp being a british company that the u.s. media might possibly delight in is that it isn't yet another american company getting caught with its pants down.

as far as the media & the u.s. gov't getting on board the bp pr train: is anyone really surprised? i worked for mms for a number of years. my perception was always that mms was working for, rather than regulating, offshore drilling. (and i wish i could find a cite for the pr office mms opened in pensacola about 10 years ago to convince floridians that drilling in shallow water (i.e., closer to shore) isn't really all that bad.)

don't know about the $20b fund except that a couple million went to coastal states' departments of tourism, and when i watch tv i see an awful lot of 'come to alabama the water's fine!' ads. meanwhile, money for food, cash assistance, and emergency counseling is running out. some folks are also concerned because of that 'relief money' total, It is not clear how much money is available to pay for mental health treatment for parents and children.
posted by msconduct at 8:33 AM on August 4, 2010


As for potential harm.... I knew a guy who bought a house in Pennsylvania. A few months after he moves in, he smells diesel fuel in his basement. Being somewhat alarmed by this he calls the fire brigade. They come, do some checking, and turns out there was an old 250 gallon heating oil tank buried on his property that was leaking.

No worries. He calls a company to dig the thing up and haul it away.

And then about a week later he gets a visit from the EPA who were alerted by the fire brigade. They tell him that he must drill four monitoring holes around his property so that they can see if the fuel was spreading.

So he works with his insurance company, they dig the monitoring wells, and the EPA comes back and says well so and so parts per million, etc. etc. etc. YOU MUST REMOVE ALL OF THE SOIL ON YOUR PROPERTY AND PAY TO HAVE IT INCINERATED. The clean-up job cost as much as the house.

Why isn't this same standard being applied to BP?


I'm calling bullshit on this story. First of all home heating fuel tanks are regulated at the state level and are exempt from the federal regs. Secondly PA has a Underground Heating Oil Tank Cleanup Reimbursement Grant Program under which your "friend" should have only had to pay the $1,000 deductible.

And the same standards get applied to BP, every day, across the country on the thousands of cleanup sites they operate.
posted by Big_B at 8:48 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


largest accidental spill yes, not largest spill though. the Saddam's Kuwait operation spilled almost 12.5 million barrels (520 million gallons), an oil slick 4 inches thick over 4000 square miles of ocean.
posted by edgeways at 8:49 AM on August 4, 2010


a couple million went to coastal states' departments of tourism, and when i watch tv i see an awful lot of 'come to alabama the water's fine!' ads. meanwhile, money for food, cash assistance, and emergency counseling is running out.

While I agree with most of your sentiment, I'm not sure where you believe the long term recovery going to come from without a reconstruction of the lost industry? They only have three main ways of making money on the gulf coast and fishing and oil are in a sort of limbo state for a bit.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2010


Wow. saulgoodman - you're pretty eager to prove me wrong there. Anyway - no conflict here. I'll just tell you my sources, and how I came to some of my conclusions.

No, it's the largest accidental spill period.
I know wikipedia isn't the best source for info, but this seems quite reliable: Lakeview Gusher

Considering only the total amount of oil released without regard for how quickly it was released into the environment is to miss the point.
I'd factor it in if only for the following. Firstly, a lot of people in this and related threads seem to say that the environmental impact will be felt for generations. If so, then a sudden spill can probably be compared to a cumulative spill.

Secondly, and more importantly, you've got articles like this:
The oil spews from rusted and aging pipes, unchecked by what analysts say is ineffectual or collusive regulation, and abetted by deficient maintenance and sabotage. In the face of this black tide is an infrequent protest — soldiers guarding an Exxon Mobil site beat women who were demonstrating last month, according to witnesses — but mostly resentful resignation.

Small children swim in the polluted estuary here, fishermen take their skiffs out ever farther — “There’s nothing we can catch here,” said Pius Doron, perched anxiously over his boat — and market women trudge through oily streams. “There is Shell oil on my body,” said Hannah Baage, emerging from Gio Creek with a machete to cut the cassava stalks balanced on her head.
posted by seanyboy at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2010


The Crime of the Century: What BP and the U.S. Government Don't Want You to Know, Part I

Democracy Now: Environmental Activist Jerry Cope on "The Crime of the Century"
posted by homunculus at 8:54 AM on August 4, 2010


Vague "my property/business/lifestyle declined in value because of the localized economic down turn caused by the spill" claims are unlikely to be successful.

Can't speak for the rest of the Gulf, but here in Florida the Governor's office issued an executive order intended to provide a mechanism whereby BP will pay for decreases in property values directly related to the spill. If our property appraiser determines that our property has declined in value some amount for no reason other than the spill, BP is supposed to compensate us for that. And apparently there is precedent for such compensation claims.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:57 AM on August 4, 2010


seanyboy: sure, there's terrible environmental devastation worldwide. but if we always point in another direction everytime somebody says to look at any one particularly egregious example of it, then deliberate or not, that just gives people another the world another excuse to look the other way. this is a major, unique ecological event on its own terms, and while the Gulf shouldn't capture our attention to the exclusion of the broader environmental problems you rightly mention in other parts of the world, the Gulf still deserves at least as much focus, because it remains a singular event. This isn't just the US's problem, whether it happened off our coast or not. Granted that's true of Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, but that's no reason not to keep our eye on this situation now. Especially since there seems to be such a great risk of this shameful episode being trivialized like all the others. None of these situations should be trivialized for any reason, period, let alone on the specious reasoning that bad situations cancel each other out rather than amplifying one another.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:10 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman: I don't think we should ignore it, and I'll repeat that I'm not trying to minimise the tragedy of this event. However, I do have problems with blatant "worse spill ever" statements when these are patently not true. If I gave the impression that "that bad situations cancel each other out", then I'm sorry. I was initially trying to go for a small, simple, satirical comment about the amount of focus First World problems get compared to those in poorer parts of the world.

the Gulf still deserves at least as much focus
I'd be more than happy with this.
posted by seanyboy at 9:33 AM on August 4, 2010


When are people going to understand that there is no such thing as "dispersing" or "evaporating" a pollutant to get rid of it? You can never get rid of pollution like that. You cannot "throw something away" because there is no "away," there is just "someplace else." This is one of the most fundamental aspects of environmentalism. For example, say your city has a big garbage problem, your dumpsites are filling up rapidly, so you build a big incinerator and burn all the trash. The problem went away, right? No, the earthbound garbage pollution became airborne pollution, it went somewhere else: downwind. But that solves your problem, your trash and pollution is gone, dumped on someone else. That works out great for you, until the city upwind from you does the same thing. This is The Tragedy of the Commons. Haven't people learned this yet?

This is the fallacy of BP's statements about the oil evaporating. Yeah it evaporated. But it is still pollution, just in a different place. It was water pollution, then it evaporated and became air pollution. If you add dispersants, it will disperse, it won't be a local pollutant, it will become a global problem. It no longer appears to be a local problem, it's too diluted to see it anymore. But it has become everybody's problem.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:39 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


with blatant "worse spill ever" statements when these are patently not true

But it is true, as I said it: This is the largest accidental spill ever, and the second largest spill in absolute terms ever.

Yes, there's been more oil leaked in Nigeria over the last 50 years from many, many spill events, and yes, Saddam Hussein deliberately dumped more oil during the Iraq invasion, but regardless of how you may feel about the characterization, it is literally true--not even debatable--that the Gulf spill is the largest accidental release of oil into the environment from a single event. Why do you feel the need to undermine or qualify that fact? How does it help clarify anything to equivocate one singularly enormous accident with the cumulative effects of hundreds of other much smaller accidents?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:39 AM on August 4, 2010


"As a side note, my Dad recalled that there were tarballs washing up onto beaches in the Northeast up until the '60s - this is from all of the tankers sunk by Nazi subs during the Battle of the Atlantic."

Yeah, I remember tar-balls mixed up with sea weed at the high water mark on the beaches on the West Coast of Ireland in the '60s. I always wondered where they came from.
posted by marvin at 9:42 AM on August 4, 2010


It's a minor point, but I'm sticking with my earlier assertion that it's not the largest accidental spill ever.
posted by seanyboy at 9:54 AM on August 4, 2010


Yeah, I remember tar-balls mixed up with sea weed at the high water mark on the beaches on the West Coast of Ireland in the '60s. I always wondered where they came from.

Could have been this too?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:56 AM on August 4, 2010


(10th- Not sure about that- The Gulfstream carries all kinds if shit from the N Atlantic and dumps it on Euro shores. The Torrey Canyon was at the mouth of the English channel- some way down stream from Ireland)
posted by marvin at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2010


I went to Louisiana at the end of June. I walked the beach at Grand Isle among the Tyveked crowds looking for oil. I chartered a light plane and flew at 200-500 feet along the coast at the heart of the spill. I talked to locals who know the area well. My impression based on what I saw first-hand was that it's going to be OK for the most part.

I suspect some of the bigger fish and mammals may have issues with bio-accumulation over time, and that could be a serious problem- maybe. There may be unknown dangers that we just can't see yet, as it's still early. But the vast majority of living things in the Gulf- including the commercial species I went to see, are short lived, prolific reproducers (shrimp, crabs, and oysters). It is a VAST area. While dilution is an imperfect solution, it sure helps.

The spill has had a tremendous impact economically for a lot of reasons. Some people and businesses will never be the same, and BP should be held accountable for this. However, I think quite a lot of what we are seeing now is hyperbole, alarmist speculation, and good old fashioned money grubbing.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:06 AM on August 4, 2010


It's a minor point, but I'm sticking with my earlier assertion that it's not the largest accidental spill ever.

By all means, stick to it. Never mind that it's a point apparently based on a citation to an article from two months back, when daily flow estimates were still in the 15,000 BPD range--the current official estimates, in contrast, being 62,000 BPD--an article that even then, notably, was entitled: "BP oil spill likely to pass the Lakeview Gusher as the worst ever"


What really worries me most are the cumulative global effects of this disaster and the countless others that we've had and will continue to have post-industrial revolution. It's serious business that the ocean's phytoplankton population is declining so precipitously. Life on Earth as we know it literally depends on phytoplankton. We claim to be worried that terrorists are going to bring about an end to our way of life in America, and yet, a story about a much less ambiguous and even more real threat not only to the "American way of life" but to life on earth in general barely even merits a passing mention where the media and most of the public is concerned.

That's why I'm now increasingly convinced we aren't going to make it in the long run--not because we couldn't, but because we're too busy doing other things.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:10 AM on August 4, 2010


However, I think quite a lot of what we are seeing now is hyperbole, alarmist speculation, and good old fashioned money grubbing.

I would say "Fuck You," but then you talked to some people in Louisiana so you must know what you're talking about.

Money grubbing? Yeah. BP continues to do a lot of that.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on August 4, 2010


You can never get rid of pollution like that

Except that there are bacteria and other organisms that eat the oil. If the oil is in giant slicks, the bacteria can't really get at much of it. If it's in tiny globs freefloating in the water, they can. And yes, it then goes away.

The overall environmental balance of dispersants and oxygen deprivation that has been mentioned higher up in the thread versus allowing the oil to remain isn't clear, but oil is not a permanent thing the way you are thinking about it.
posted by cschneid at 10:17 AM on August 4, 2010


saulgoodman: OK, give me the Gallon or Barrel total we're currently at. 'cos we still seem short.
posted by seanyboy at 10:19 AM on August 4, 2010


f the oil is in giant slicks, the bacteria can't really get at much of it. If it's in tiny globs freefloating in the water, they can. And yes, it then goes away.

Yes, and so does the oxygen in the water that those tiny hydrocarbon gobbling bacteria occupy.

The bacteria that eat hydrocarbons are the same bacteria directly responsible for causing the enormous Gulf dead zone, so no, just saying that these bacteria will eat the hydrocarbons does not mean we no longer have a problem. Also, these bacteria tend to push out phytoplankton, which make up the base of the Gulf's food web.

Also oil contains toxic components that build up in biological organisms, like mercury--these constituent chemicals will impact the food supply as well.

Oh, and also, no one actually knows how/if the dispersants will effect those little hydrocarbon gobbling bacteria.

And finally, it isn't yet clear that those hydrocarbon cobbling little guys can gobble down this much excess hydrocarbon, and nobody knows what, apart from causing larger oxygen-depleted dead zones, the follow-on impacts of major increases in the population of those helpful hydrocarbon-gobbling, oxygen depleting microorganisms will be.

The problems are anything but solved now--they aren't even understood yet. Just because we can't see the pollution easily doesn't mean it won't have serious long-term consequences. We couldn't see the aerosol molecules that caused the hole in the ozone layer either.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:31 AM on August 4, 2010


Ironmouth wrote: "The reason I point this out is that people will be running for the hills if the static kill does not work and say that BP "lied" about the the static kill being "successful.""

You're right. It's the same thing (the point of a static kill is to bring the well to a static state), but there are people who will choose to misunderstand if you give them an inch. (I hate that, because it gives BP more room to work their PR magic)
posted by wierdo at 10:34 AM on August 4, 2010


The Torrey Canyon was at the mouth of the English channel- some way down stream from Ireland

The Scillies, where the Torrey Canyon wrecked, are near where the Rennell current sweep up from Brittany towards the west of Ireland. In this study done in the 1920's, the test bottles set adrift from the Scillies wound up on the West coast of Ireland.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:42 AM on August 4, 2010


saulgoodman: OK, give me the Gallon or Barrel total we're currently at. 'cos we still seem short.

Okay, in absolute terms, fine, the Lakeshore gusher reportedly dumped more oil in total (9 million barrels), but it did so in the middle of a desert, over the course of 18 months, while the Gulf spill released more than half as much oil over the course of only a fraction of the time.

Th Gulf spill released just under 5 million barrels in less than four months. And again, the rate of release is what makes the crucial difference in terms of environmental impact. That, and the fact that the ecological health of the Gulf and the adjacent marshlands is more critical to the economic well-being of the Gulf states than any desert.

This is still by far the largest event of its kind to impact the ocean.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:49 AM on August 4, 2010


saulgoodman: "
Can't speak for the rest of the Gulf, but here in Florida the Governor's office issued an executive order intended to provide a mechanism whereby BP will pay for decreases in property values directly related to the spill. If our property appraiser determines that our property has declined in value some amount for no reason other than the spill, BP is supposed to compensate us for that. And apparently there is precedent for such compensation claims.
"

The governors office has issued an executive order instructing property assessors to "give property owners an updated assessment on their homes and businesses if they believe they have lost value because of the spill. Property owners could use the document to file a claim for damages against BP". Allowing property owners to sue BP isn't really providing a direct mechanism to making BP pay compensation to owners who don't actually have oil contaminate their property or business. It'll be interesting to see if any of those lawsuits are successful in court; especially the stigma based ones.
posted by Mitheral at 10:58 AM on August 4, 2010


I would say "Fuck You," but then you talked to some people in Louisiana so you must know what you're talking about.

Money grubbing? Yeah. BP continues to do a lot of that.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on August 4 [+] [!]


I didn't just talk to people, I visited the spill site. I would suggest that I know a bit more than those sitting at home learning what to believe from TV, the Internet, and blogs.

When you drive from NO airport to Houma, a lot of the billboards are lawyers advertising that they will get you some BP money. On TV, more lawyers saying "Call me, we'll go after BP together." The local newspaper ads were dominated by lawyers advertising the same. One local shrimper I talked to at a local bar spent ten minutes badmouthing BP for not paying him, only to admit later that he hadn't been shrimping in years because of a bad back.

Please don't mistake my post as defending BP. It sure seems like they took some shortcuts that may have played a part in the spill. All I'm saying is maybe the ecology of the Gulf is more resilient than we think.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 11:04 AM on August 4, 2010


Except that there are bacteria and other organisms that eat the oil. If the oil is in giant slicks, the bacteria can't really get at much of it. If it's in tiny globs freefloating in the water, they can. And yes, it then goes away.

Like I said, people just don't understand the concept of The Tragedy of the Commons. They haven't even read it, you certainly didn't. If you had read it, you would have seen where Hardin specifically addresses the myth of the "self-cleaning" environment. Yes, the environment might have been able to clean itself, back when it was pristine and untouched by man. But now every place in environment is already loaded with too much pollution to be self-cleaning, adding more pollutants just makes it impossible. There is no other place to throw things away.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2010


All I'm saying is maybe the ecology of the Gulf is more resilient than we think.

I would tend to agree with you, but this is going to take decades. Like 25-50 years to get back to normal; maybe even longer. To gloss over this fact is kind disingenuous don't you think. Not only that but we also have the unknown variable of the corexit dispersant. It has never been used to this extent and we don't know what it's long term effects are going to be.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:26 AM on August 4, 2010


Allowing property owners to sue BP isn't really providing a direct mechanism to making BP pay compensation to owners who don't actually have oil contaminate their property or business. It'll be interesting to see if any of those lawsuits are successful in court; especially the stigma based ones.

Floridians have been instructed to file these kinds of claims directly with BP, not to file a lawsuit. Granted, a lawsuit may follow if all the claims are denied, but from the government in Florida, the word is we are supposed to consider loss of property value due directly to the spill as a legitimate damage claim against BP and follow the normal filing process to be compensated for it (now with the help of a property appraiser's report confirming the loss of value). The "specific mechanism" I was referring to consists in the fact that our property appraisers have been instructed to provide the documentation property owners require to file such claims with BP (it's not just some hand-wavy, 'I think my house isn't selling due to the spill' claim, in other words, but one the governor's office at least regards as legitimate in certain circumstances). At a minimum, we're supposed to be entitled to compensation for the difference between our property tax liabilities on the pre-spill versus the post-spill values of our taxable property.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:33 AM on August 4, 2010


I didn't just talk to people, I visited the spill site. I would suggest that I know a bit more than those sitting at home learning what to believe from TV, the Internet, and blogs.

I've lived on the Gulf my entire life and am close friends with an Oceanographer at FSU who's been conducting core sampling along Pensacola beach.

I know a little bit more about the situation than someone who's been following the news on tv, in the papers and on the blogs too, you smug, condescending ass.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:35 AM on August 4, 2010


10th:

"tar-balls mixed up with sea weed at the high water mark on the beaches on the West Coast of Ireland in the '60s"

"in the 1920's, the test bottles set adrift from the Scillies wound up on the West coast of Ireland." Blimey, where did you dig that up?

It was Donegal to be more precise, battered by prevailing Westerlies- I remain a bit doubtful about the Torrey Canyon hemorrhage being the source.
posted by marvin at 11:43 AM on August 4, 2010


All I'm saying is maybe the ecology of the Gulf is more resilient than we think.

As long as you're willing to take that chance, I'm good. Okay everyone, thread over. Pack it up.
posted by Splunge at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2010


All I'm saying is maybe the ecology of the Gulf is more resilient than we think.

As long as you're willing to take that chance, I'm good. Okay everyone, thread over. Pack it up.
posted by Splunge at 11:49 AM on August 4 [+] [!]


Excellent example of the hyperbole...
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:04 PM on August 4, 2010


I visited the spill site.

I'm curious about this remark, and your use of the definite article here. For someone who claims to know so much about the spill, you sure do come across as ill-informed here when you refer to "the spill site" as if there were only one, in the entirety of the Gulf coast.

But then, it's getting harder and harder to get any specific information these days, since everybody's eager to get back to business.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:36 PM on August 4, 2010


I think he means he went down in a submarine and saw with his own eyes what only little undersea robots and cameras had seen until that moment.
posted by hippybear at 12:45 PM on August 4, 2010


OK saulgoodman, you got me. The actual spill site(s) is(are) very deep underwater, so perhaps I over-reached... Point taken- no human has been to the actual site of the spill.

Since you asked, a colleague and I flew in a small plane from Houma to East Bay, then all along the coast to Terrebonne Bay before flying back to Houma. The part of the shore I flew over is where the spill-response teams were centered at the time, and where the oil was reported to have caused problems. I also walked along several of the beaches in Grand Isle, the beach Obama (and ever other important person) walked, and where the operations center for spill response is located. I also boated over oyster grounds in the Bayou near Lake Mechant.

Again, what I'm reporting are just my personal observations. I could be wrong.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:51 PM on August 4, 2010


Patapsco Mike: I'm sorry for being so prickly. But this is an issue near and dear to my heart for the reasons I've already mentioned. There have been reports of oil washing up all along the coast--even in places like Panama City beach.

Pensacola beach, even after cleanup, has been found to have a continuous layer of oil about two inches thick about three feet below the surface of the beach, as lower concentrations of oil particles have filtered down and accumulated under the sand as the water reached the shore.

Visible or not, there's still a ton of this stuff out there. Even taking the EPA's statements at face value--that is, even if 75% of the oil is "accounted for" (accepting for now, the specious claim that the mere fact BP applied dispersant to that oil means "mother nature has taken care of it," as Carol Browner has reportedly said)--the remaining 25% that by all accounts is still "out there" in undiluted form still amounts to more oil than constituted the entire Exxon Valdez spill. So there's not much cause to celebrate yet.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:06 PM on August 4, 2010


Like I said, people just don't understand the concept of The Tragedy of the Commons. They haven't even read it, you certainly didn't. If you had read it, you would have seen where Hardin specifically addresses the myth of the "self-cleaning" environment.

You mean the Tragedy of the Commons that has had 40+ years of research debunking and revising it? The one that got Elinor Ostrom a Nobel Prize in economics for challenging it? The Tragedy of the Commons that Hardin himself regretted coining? That Tragedy of the Commons?

Anybody in this thread who thinks they know what is happening in the Gulf due to the oil is full of shit. The head of NOAA, the most respected scientist in the world working on this disaster, has stated very clearly: we don't know what the long term effects are. It is possible that the oil has dispersed and the environment truly will be resilient. It is also possible that the dumping of Corexit will have a multiplicative effect with the original spill that will raise cancer rates in the Gulf states for generations. But anybody in here trying to take a side in that fight is being delusional. Nobody knows what's going to happen. It could be terrible. It might not be. It's certainly not good. But your opinions one way or the other are based entirely on pre-existing political biases.
posted by one_bean at 1:40 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Except that there are bacteria and other organisms that eat the oil. If the oil is in giant slicks, the bacteria can't really get at much of it. If it's in tiny globs freefloating in the water, they can. And yes, it then goes away.

Agreed. Also look at cases like PCBs. The chemical structure of the pollutant is important - PCBs are much more toxic than a bunch of elemental Chlorine and soot, which is what is left after proper incineration.
posted by benzenedream at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2010


I'd like to know if the EPA has done any testing into Corexit's potential toxicity to hydrocarbon-eating bacteria. I know they've recently released the results of tests into its toxicity to shrimp and certain other larger marine animals, but if the dispersant proved to be toxic to the ocean's oil-eating microbes, that would be another problem.

As this McClatchy piece notes:
Another potential problem is that when microbes eat oil, a byproduct is carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas. In an area as large as the Gulf, could it be enough to hurt the ozone layer?

"We don't have that answer,'' Grimes said.
So while I agree with the obvious fact that, we don't know what the full scale of the long-term impacts from this event will be, I still feel obliged to stress it is far from clear that "mother nature" has already taken care of the bulk of the problem. And it strikes me as incredibly stupid that anyone would want to help promote that deception.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:14 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


could it be enough to hurt the ozone layer?

Whoa, bad reporting. CO2 doesn't do shit to the "ozone layer". Now if there was a giant industrial refrigerant leak in the gulf that might be a different story.
posted by benzenedream at 2:25 PM on August 4, 2010


You mean the Tragedy of the Commons that has had 40+ years of research debunking and revising it? The one that got Elinor Ostrom a Nobel Prize in economics for challenging it? The Tragedy of the Commons that Hardin himself regretted coining? That Tragedy of the Commons?

Yes, that's what I mean, also I refer to all the subsequent scholarship and applications around it, just as you referred to. The revised theories all apply here too, just as I said. My point is, the environment is not self-cleaning once it is already saturated with pollution beyond its ability to recover. No revised theory is going to change that.

On another note from another poster:

Whoa, bad reporting. CO2 doesn't do shit to the "ozone layer". Now if there was a giant industrial refrigerant leak in the gulf that might be a different story.

Back around 1990, I had a job typesetting newsletters from Rainforest Action Network, I was shocked at what I read. Mitsubishi had manufactured hundreds of thousands of cars with the wrong refrigerant in their air conditioners. Many were all sitting on the docks ready to ship, many were already in the midst of delivery to dealers. But instead of bleeding and recovering the ozone-destroying freon, they just dumped it into the atmosphere and refilled them with the right refrigerant. RAN said it was the largest single dump of freon in history, equivalent to many years of normal freon escape into the air. Of course Mitsubishi thought they could get away with it because it was invisible pollution. And they did get away with it. Oh I wish I'd saved a copy of that newsletter so I could verify the details. I can find no other documentation that this incident existed, and it was pre-internet so even RAN doesn't have anything on their site.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:21 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this mean the hysteria can stop?
posted by A189Nut at 3:30 PM on August 4, 2010


Yes, that's what I mean, also I refer to all the subsequent scholarship and applications around it, just as you referred to. The revised theories all apply here too, just as I said. My point is, the environment is not self-cleaning once it is already saturated with pollution beyond its ability to recover. No revised theory is going to change that.

Except you only linked to the original Hardin text. The point is: this is not a commons. BP had unequal access to the Gulf provided by the government, and local peoples had no say in the matter (in the U.S., let alone other countries that have shorelines along the Gulf). We also don't have enough evidence, one way or the other, as to whether the Gulf is now polluted to the point of saturation. I believe the current findings coming out are beginning to suggest that's not the case.

The great unspoken fact of this whole tragedy is that the Gulf was in serious trouble long before April 20, 2010. As saulgoodman and others have pointed out, there was already a giant dead zone due to run off from industrial farms in the Mississippi river valley, the waters were over-fished and fished with mechanisms that destroyed reefs and other structures that provided habitat for dwindling species of fish. While a five year moratorium on fishing would be an economic disaster for the Gulf states, it would likely (again, if the oil hasn't polluted the area "past the point of no return") result in a huge rebound for commercial stocks.
posted by one_bean at 3:47 PM on August 4, 2010


So, hands up who has reduced their oil usage since this started?
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've lived on the Gulf my entire life and am close friends with an Oceanographer at FSU who's been conducting core sampling along Pensacola beach.

I know a little bit more about the situation than someone who's been following the news on tv, in the papers and on the blogs too, you smug, condescending ass.


Best. Pot/Kettle. Ever.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 3:53 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why is anyone claiming that everything is going to be ok? The ecosystem in proximity to the Exxon Valdez spill has recovered but it is nowhere near pre-spill condition. This spill is decidedly worse than what happened in the case of the Exxon Valdez. It seems kinda suspect when we have people telling us that everything is going to be ok without prefacing that claim with the fact that it will be ok 20 to 30 years from now. Decades people...decades. Don't let BP, the government, or anyone else blow smoke up your ass. Shit is not ok shit is fucked up and will be fucked up for a long time. End rant.

On top of that we have the unkown factor of the dispersants which may or may not be highly toxic. You would think that the govt. would have required some impact studies before giving BP the go ahead to use this shit to basically hide the majority of the spill.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:58 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


While there's still a long road of cleanup ahead, there is a big difference between a spill in Alaska and a spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For one thing, it's warmer in the Gulf, which speeds up decomposition of the oil.

Those differences don't mean that once the relief well is finished everybody can just go back to the way things were, though. It may just take less time. Of course, some people will be ruined forever from this and will never recover, but the ecosystem should recover more quickly. That presumes, of course, that Corexit doesn't turn out to be as bad for sea life as some have speculated it may be.
posted by wierdo at 6:02 PM on August 4, 2010


This is an interesting choice.
posted by wierdo at 6:07 PM on August 4, 2010


Before folks trivialize the remaining oil, that 25% or so means we're still talking about 50 million gallons, give or take, floating out in the Gulf.

In short, I'm happy BP's finally controlled the leak, more than two months later, but I'm appalled that the government's high-fiving BP and claiming "mission accomplished."

Seriously, when was the last time someone looked relieved because only 50 million gallons of oil are floating in one of the richest fishing locations on the planet? It's an unmitigated disaster for which we've seen just the start.
posted by FormlessOne at 6:48 PM on August 4, 2010


Best. Pot/Kettle. Ever.

Well. Whatever. Maybe I am coming across as smug, but I promise I feel anything but secure and self-satisfied in my view of this situation. If I was being an ass, sorry about that, too. But half my family has lived on and made its living on the Gulf as fishermen and oyster men since the late 1800s. My uncle, before he died a couple of years ago, was featured in anthropological articles about Florida's so-called "Forgotten Coast" as East Point's last traditional oyster tong maker. So maybe the situation here just isn't as remote and theoretical to me as it is to some. I've also got a young son, and the fact that we're currently destroying the oceans with an industrial efficiency we probably couldn't match if we were trying, and the majority of people don't even seem to notice, much less care, doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in this newly emerging "conventional wisdom" about how the Gulf is already well on the way to recovery.

Or, what FormlessOne said. It's becoming obvious we still aren't prepared to learn any lessons in humility from this disaster. All it takes, it seems, is the faintest plausible possibility that things will all somehow work out okay in the end to keep us feeling fat and happy, regardless of how much we actually screw things up in practice. I don't suppose anything will ever change that particularly frustrating and inflexible aspect of the human temperament.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:29 PM on August 4, 2010


Here's some more relevant reporting on this story:

Scientists question government team's report of shrinking gulf oil spill

A couple of relevant highlights (emphasis mine):
"There's a lot of . . . smoke and mirrors in this report," said Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University. "It seems very reassuring, but the data aren't there to actually bear out the assurances that were made."

. . .

Those facts [in the report] did not seem to support a statement that White House climate and energy czar Carol M. Browner made Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show. An initial assessment showed that "more than three-quarters of the oil is gone. The vast majority of the oil is gone," she said. At best, the report shows that three-quarters of the oil could be on its way out: It does not say that it has vanished.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2010


Feds Giving Spill Data to BP—But Public Stays in Dark
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2010


BP says it might drill again in spill reservoir
posted by homunculus at 2:12 PM on August 6, 2010


With well shut, next worry is health of cleanup workers
posted by homunculus at 2:15 PM on August 6, 2010


PowerPoint Reveals Tesoro Recruiting Other Oil Companies, Including BP, To Repeal CA Clean Energy
posted by homunculus at 9:05 AM on August 7, 2010


The BP Cover-Up: BP and the government say the spill is fast disappearing—but dramatic new science reveals that its worst effects may be yet to come.
posted by homunculus at 10:56 PM on August 10, 2010


DOJ gags scientists studying BP disaster.
posted by homunculus at 10:57 PM on August 10, 2010


Scientists Say as Much as 79% of Oil Remains in Gulf of Mexico

Gulf oil spill still a threat to seafood, study indicates
posted by homunculus at 9:20 AM on August 17, 2010


Is the Spill Victims' Fund Keeping BP and the Feds in Bed?
posted by homunculus at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2010


BP and Transocean Point Fingers as Giant New Oil Plume Found
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2010


Questions Mount About White House's Overly Rosy Report On Oil Spill
posted by homunculus at 3:47 PM on August 20, 2010


Corexit Found In Swimming Pool Of Sickened Florida Family
posted by homunculus at 9:13 AM on September 1, 2010


Offshore oil rig in Gulf explodes; west of BP rig, says Coast Guard
posted by homunculus at 8:45 AM on September 2, 2010


« Older Me and Bobby McGee...  |  "Abwärts is a West German post... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments