The Gulf Oil Spill

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Message 1003733 - Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 18:05:36 UTC - in response to Message 1003641.  
Last modified: 13 Jun 2010, 18:09:31 UTC

I'm not even going to start picking apart your logic or reasoning other than to Same the Limbaughesque tranference syndrome is clearly at work. Bush a Progressive? Liberals Pushed them further offshore? I'm going to stop short of calling everything you've typed in your last post as a bald faced lie. This really is pathetic. Post so much crap that it takes hours to research it and in the end you'll just deny it.


It gets old, doesn't it? I don't see any logic in engaging people like Dena in a discussion.
There's no give and take in any exchange with her. It's just a one way pipeline coming straight from the far right talking points issued by Fatface Limbaugh and the getting fatter by the day Beckerhead.

Why regular people would take their marching orders from super rich ideologs is a question I can never answer.

There is no give and take in the constitution. If there was, why bother writing the document? If you don't understand the United States founding documents, please refrain from commenting on them.


Excuse me? Since your education and experience in history and constitutional law is limited to "reading a few books", you are hardly qualified to tell anyone what they do or do not understand.

I once swore an oath and served in the military to defend your right to freely express your views. You have no right to tell anyone to "refrain" from expressing theirs.

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Message 1003771 - Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 19:45:41 UTC

BP made a mess. They make a show out of cleaning some sand and ducks.

My personal opinion: Privatize the oil skimming, Have BP buy it at any and all
docks on the coast at full market value. Give anyone skimming full salvage rights as it were.

They abandoned every drop that is left floating. Let it pay to whoever "finds" it, and the jobs on the beaches will perhaps become possible.

BP has shown no real interest in stopping the flow. Only in collecting as much of it as they can.
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Message 1003848 - Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 23:43:39 UTC

What puzzles me, is why all the industry experts (not the politicians) have not come together and worked towards the common good. After all, this could happen to any 'rig', potentially - more so, if common contractors were used for specific work. There again, silly things like 'Jones Law' (Merchant Marine Act 1920 Sect 27) probably don't help much in this case - protectionist legislation from the 1920's, is actually working against the immediate interests of the US in this case and it needs to be waived. The Senate needs to engage it's collective brain and let the industry people do their job, without stupid hinderances.



Don't take life too seriously, as you'll never come out of it alive!
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Message 1003849 - Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 23:48:16 UTC - in response to Message 1003834.  

BP has shown no real interest in stopping the flow. Only in collecting as much of it as they can.


That's not entirely fair. The problem is that they simply don't have the technology to deal with the problem. Which is why they shouldn't have been given an off-shore licence to drill in the first place.


If they spent half the effort to stop the leak as they have to tap it,
it would have been stopped long ago. What you consider unfair, I consider
obvious. Their dog and pony show of "well look at all the oil we recovered
that is not goint into the gulf" as well as their intentionally understating
and hiding how much was actually spilling only adds to the deception.

If they lack the technology to deal with a mishap, turn it over to the army corp of engineers. And find another business that they are actually capable of.

Let them move "beyond petroleum".
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Message 1003917 - Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 5:20:57 UTC - in response to Message 1003095.  
Last modified: 14 Jun 2010, 5:32:48 UTC

... Obama said every move BP was making to correct the problem had to be approved by the government. Could that be why things are moving so slow?

I doubt it.

The news indicates that it is considered cheaper to pollute the Gulf than to hire bigger tankers to contain the full amount of oil that can already be collected!


Two things for sure: The oil companies have been contemptuously running fast and high risk for far too long, and the government has been far too weak to force them to stay safe.

Hence, people have died and most of the Gulf may well yet die.

Trying to save the Tuna from extinction may well be a moot point if they are all to die whilst in the Gulf...


All a criminal mess!


Perhaps the only way such companies will learn to be less aloof and less reckless is if BP and EVERYTHING associated with BP is hit with a world-wide boycott. The real question is whether that is even possible with our dependence on oil.

Regards,
Martin

And It all goes back to Republicans saying that industry can police Itself and to Republican Higher ups liking deregulation and less Government(Less capable of fighting Industry like Teddy(Theodore) Roosevelt did(I like and respect TR), And Teddy was a Republican, A real one, Bully), Execs like spending as little as possible, Why? The bottom line, Sheer Profit, Some is ok, But they do It to excess, 6 Super Tankers and Kevin Costners pumps could start sucking up those sub surface oil plumes, But what did BP Execs say? It would cost too much(of their profits), BP also denied at first that the plumes even existed and then they poo pooed NOAA Scientists and said the plumes were smaller than that and still no action as some of the Execs are in the way, Government wants the mess cleaned up and I guarantee the ordinary workers in the oil industry do too, Just not some of the penny pinching Execs, If An Exec says NO or says something is too expensive, I say arrest them for obstruction of Justice and find someone who will do what their told. Even the head of BP We all see is spouting more PR than any action, Workers along the beaches could be tripled, But that hasn't happened, Florida has not seen any booms and some area has started beach cleanup with a machine and BP wouldn't approve of that(too expensive, Profit is all important) and now It's rumored that BP will go Bankrupt, I say seize control of BP and keep BP out of our courts.

You need to get your political parties correct. Bush, McCain and Teddy Roosevelt were progressives as is Obama. When a conservative is a progressive, it's called a compassionate conservative. If it's a liberal the term is progressive or liberal. The problem with the term liberal is that it was hijacked and the liberal after the 1900's is a whole different animal than the one before the 1900's. There are very few classical liberals in congress today and most of them are called Blue Dog Democrats. Also don't forget that most of the laws that started the problem were passed under Bill Clinton. As I said, there is plenty of blame to pass around so don't start picking side because the democrats have as much or more fault in this because they wanted the environmental vote so they pushed oil drilling into very deep water where the risk of something like this happening was far higher.
If you want to seize BP, the you remove the restriction from the government to seize anything that you own personally. The law applies both ways and in my case I want as much protection from a power mad dictator as possible. FDR locked up the Japanese Americans with an executive order and the courts had been so loaded by that time that no move was made to stop him. Woodrow Wilson did the same thing to people who opposed him during World War One. Tell me if you want your Freedom or Revenge. You can't have both at the same time.


I never said the word seizure or even mention It, so where did You get that? As arrest does not mean seizure, I've found out that BP doesn't own any gas stations, So I'm not going to participate in any useless Boycott of BP, Should BP be broken up? Possibly. My mother wrongly hated people of Japanese descent until the day She died, I imagine She wasn't the only one either, Me I don't, I have enough problems, That at least isn't one of them. Bush a Progressive? His party and Teddy's party had different goals I'd think, todays Republican party Bigwigs always seem to want to pander to the far right libertarian wing of the party as McCain did which caused Him to lose the election, Thankfully Schwarzenegger can't run for President at least, He's largely finished in California though, He could move to Arizona which kinda resembles some of His Movies and run for Governor there. And as to Her Megness wanting to run California more like a business, CEOs are used to having dictatorial type powers, In Government that doesn't exist, As Government is by consensus as this story from the Washington Post Here talks about.

If only the government worked like a business, the executives-turned-candidates are fond of telling us, we'd all be better off.

The trouble is, by and large, CEOs have turned out to be pretty mediocre politicians.
[snip]
CEOs, used to getting their way and having underlings jump at their commands, can be ill-equipped for the slow, frustrating grind of politics: the go-nowhere meetings; the vote wrangling; the years to get the simplest thing done. Not to mention an end to the privacy they enjoyed behind their hedges in the Hamptons.

"It's a whole different language," said longtime Democratic consultant Tad Devine. "Many of them do get exasperated." As so many have learned the hard way, that often leaves voters feeling the same way about them.

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Message 1004003 - Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 13:09:19 UTC - in response to Message 1003967.  

If they lack the technology to deal with a mishap, turn it over to the army corp of engineers. And find another business that they are actually capable of.


I don't think that anyone anywhere has tried and tested technology to cap leaking wells at 5000 feet under water. It's all experimentation at the moment. Relief wells do work as they have since the 1920's, and in fact were part of BP's response plan filed last year with the federal government. More info here ...

Relief wells


Yeah and BP isn't even the Deepest well drilled according to CNN, That honor belongs to Shell Oil.
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Message 1004099 - Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 17:27:28 UTC - in response to Message 1003917.  

... Obama said every move BP was making to correct the problem had to be approved by the government. Could that be why things are moving so slow?

I doubt it.

The news indicates that it is considered cheaper to pollute the Gulf than to hire bigger tankers to contain the full amount of oil that can already be collected!


Two things for sure: The oil companies have been contemptuously running fast and high risk for far too long, and the government has been far too weak to force them to stay safe.

Hence, people have died and most of the Gulf may well yet die.

Trying to save the Tuna from extinction may well be a moot point if they are all to die whilst in the Gulf...


All a criminal mess!


Perhaps the only way such companies will learn to be less aloof and less reckless is if BP and EVERYTHING associated with BP is hit with a world-wide boycott. The real question is whether that is even possible with our dependence on oil.

Regards,
Martin

And It all goes back to Republicans saying that industry can police Itself and to Republican Higher ups liking deregulation and less Government(Less capable of fighting Industry like Teddy(Theodore) Roosevelt did(I like and respect TR), And Teddy was a Republican, A real one, Bully), Execs like spending as little as possible, Why? The bottom line, Sheer Profit, Some is ok, But they do It to excess, 6 Super Tankers and Kevin Costners pumps could start sucking up those sub surface oil plumes, But what did BP Execs say? It would cost too much(of their profits), BP also denied at first that the plumes even existed and then they poo pooed NOAA Scientists and said the plumes were smaller than that and still no action as some of the Execs are in the way, Government wants the mess cleaned up and I guarantee the ordinary workers in the oil industry do too, Just not some of the penny pinching Execs, If An Exec says NO or says something is too expensive, I say arrest them for obstruction of Justice and find someone who will do what their told. Even the head of BP We all see is spouting more PR than any action, Workers along the beaches could be tripled, But that hasn't happened, Florida has not seen any booms and some area has started beach cleanup with a machine and BP wouldn't approve of that(too expensive, Profit is all important) and now It's rumored that BP will go Bankrupt, I say seize control of BP and keep BP out of our courts.

You need to get your political parties correct. Bush, McCain and Teddy Roosevelt were progressives as is Obama. When a conservative is a progressive, it's called a compassionate conservative. If it's a liberal the term is progressive or liberal. The problem with the term liberal is that it was hijacked and the liberal after the 1900's is a whole different animal than the one before the 1900's. There are very few classical liberals in congress today and most of them are called Blue Dog Democrats. Also don't forget that most of the laws that started the problem were passed under Bill Clinton. As I said, there is plenty of blame to pass around so don't start picking side because the democrats have as much or more fault in this because they wanted the environmental vote so they pushed oil drilling into very deep water where the risk of something like this happening was far higher.
If you want to seize BP, the you remove the restriction from the government to seize anything that you own personally. The law applies both ways and in my case I want as much protection from a power mad dictator as possible. FDR locked up the Japanese Americans with an executive order and the courts had been so loaded by that time that no move was made to stop him. Woodrow Wilson did the same thing to people who opposed him during World War One. Tell me if you want your Freedom or Revenge. You can't have both at the same time.


I never said the word seizure or even mention It, so where did You get that? As arrest does not mean seizure, I've found out that BP doesn't own any gas stations, So I'm not going to participate in any useless Boycott of BP, Should BP be broken up? Possibly. My mother wrongly hated people of Japanese descent until the day She died, I imagine She wasn't the only one either, Me I don't, I have enough problems, That at least isn't one of them. Bush a Progressive? His party and Teddy's party had different goals I'd think, todays Republican party Bigwigs always seem to want to pander to the far right libertarian wing of the party as McCain did which caused Him to lose the election, Thankfully Schwarzenegger can't run for President at least, He's largely finished in California though, He could move to Arizona which kinda resembles some of His Movies and run for Governor there. And as to Her Megness wanting to run California more like a business, CEOs are used to having dictatorial type powers, In Government that doesn't exist, As Government is by consensus as this story from the Washington Post Here talks about.

If only the government worked like a business, the executives-turned-candidates are fond of telling us, we'd all be better off.

The trouble is, by and large, CEOs have turned out to be pretty mediocre politicians.
[snip]
CEOs, used to getting their way and having underlings jump at their commands, can be ill-equipped for the slow, frustrating grind of politics: the go-nowhere meetings; the vote wrangling; the years to get the simplest thing done. Not to mention an end to the privacy they enjoyed behind their hedges in the Hamptons.

"It's a whole different language," said longtime Democratic consultant Tad Devine. "Many of them do get exasperated." As so many have learned the hard way, that often leaves voters feeling the same way about them.

I don't understand what the difference is between seizing a company and replacing the management of a publicly owned company that the government owns no shares of without a court order. If they are doing something illegal, the courts should be happy to issue what ever paper work is required. Without the courts, you are crossing into dictatorship. Arrest the guy if you have the charges but it is BP's job to replace the management unless you have a court ordered takeover.
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Message 1004372 - Posted: 15 Jun 2010, 7:57:35 UTC

NASA's Earth Observatory

Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico



Satellite view of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
on June 12, 2010, from the Aqua satellite.
NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team.

On June 12, 2010, oil from the still-leaking Deepwater Horizon well was particularly visible across the northern Gulf of Mexico when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image at 1:55 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Oil appears to have reached beaches and barrier islands in Alabama and the western Panhandle of Florida.

Close to the location of the well, the oil appears gray, but to the northeast, it is bright silver. The increased brightness does not necessarily mean the oil is thicker or more concentrated there; it may simply be that the oil is located in the sunglint region of the image—the spot where the Sun’s reflection would appear if the water surface was as perfectly smooth as a mirror.

Normally, waves blur the Sun’s reflection, diffusing its brightness. Oil smoothes the water surface, making it a better mirror. When the slick appears in that part of the image, viewing conditions are ideal, and the patches and ribbons of oil are extremely bright. When the oil slick is not in the sunglint part of the image, however, it may be imperceptible against the dark background of the ocean.

Read more here ...

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=44295
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=44295
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Message 1004444 - Posted: 15 Jun 2010, 13:52:12 UTC

BP is owned by the Uk and USA being 40% Uk and 39% USA who owns the rest i have no idea? This is not just a Uk problem, maybe both countries should pay for the dissaster as greed seems to be the order of the day. Both countries are at fault, and the environment pays the price for the greed. Just my Opinion!
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Message 1004449 - Posted: 15 Jun 2010, 14:08:42 UTC - in response to Message 1004444.  

BP is owned by the Uk and USA being 40% Uk and 39% USA who owns the rest i have no idea? This is not just a Uk problem, maybe both countries should pay for the dissaster as greed seems to be the order of the day. Both countries are at fault, and the environment pays the price for the greed. Just my Opinion!


Not just the governments' problem. Their problem was in not regulating and monitoring BP. BP's problem was being reckless and unprepared. Lots of blame to go around. As most taxpayers, I object strongly to any suggestion that governments should pay more than their share of the corrective actions. BP has a big chunk of responsibility, and the cash to pay for it. They are not too big to fail.

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Message 1006748 - Posted: 21 Jun 2010, 0:52:23 UTC

More from the mouth that roared.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/37479318#37479318
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Message 1006906 - Posted: 21 Jun 2010, 15:13:33 UTC

the one thing BP has not tried to do, because all their efforts have been to GET the oil.. Is completely destroy the well pipe.
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Message 1007065 - Posted: 21 Jun 2010, 21:05:57 UTC - in response to Message 1006906.  
Last modified: 21 Jun 2010, 21:09:04 UTC

the one thing BP has not tried to do, because all their efforts have been to GET the oil.. Is completely destroy the well pipe.


Actually, that's what the blowout preventer was supposed to do. Two opposed shaped pistons are forced together by hydraulic fluid to cut through and seal the well pipe. Wedges are then forced behind the pistons to prevent them from sliding open again. Great when it works.


Here's an excellent explanation.



Some have suggested planting explosives around the pipe. There was even a suggestion of planting a small nuclear device. So far, these have been rejected. There is a (quite reasonable) fear that such a method would only result in a large crater on the sea floor....with a hole at the bottom spewing oil.

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Message 1007067 - Posted: 21 Jun 2010, 21:12:31 UTC - in response to Message 1007065.  

if they could explode from the inside out. I doubt that would happen.

Another obvious method would be basically a Giant self taping screw. Nothing like that has been tried. Because it would stop and abandon the well. Something BP does not want to do. They want to get the oil OUT. regardless of the harm that is occuring.
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Message 1007613 - Posted: 23 Jun 2010, 23:31:47 UTC - in response to Message 1000995.  

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The ones who should sued in court are those who gave these companies licences to drill in deep water, when it should have been obvious that they didn't have any ability to deal with an emergency. How many dollars have changed hands under the table?


Coal mining kills more miners every year than the entire oil industry.

If the greenies are right burning coals kills more people every year than coal miners.

A few decades ago the US lost an entire coal mining town to an underground coal fire. No towns are in danger of disappearing because of this spill.

Back when oil drilling was just starting spills on land were common. Even into the 1950s they occurred. People learned to prevent them.

Fact of life is one has to have spills to develop ways to prevent them. Learning comes from experience not from hypotheticals. The track record on deep ocean wells is incredibly good. You can count the serious leaks on one hand.

The world needs oil. The US needs oil. It is only to be found where it is known to exist. In the US it happens to exist in the Gulf and is in fact that far down these days. Efforts to keep drilling far from shore means the wells are deeper almost by definition.

The fishing industry in Mississippi is due in large part to the oil industry as the all the rigs abandoned and new create artificial reefs.

Hysteria is not a substitute for reason.

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Message 1008281 - Posted: 25 Jun 2010, 20:09:26 UTC - in response to Message 1006906.  

the one thing BP has not tried to do, because all their efforts have been to GET the oil.. Is completely destroy the well pipe.


Actually, that what they are afraid is happening just due to the high pressure oil/sand mixture being forced up through the well casing. There is some concern that during the initial blow out the high pressure gas may have cause cracking of the well casing or have caused the drill pipe to whip violently against the well casing. Both of these might have reduced the integrity of the well casing. The constant abrasive action of the oil/sand mixture may further erode the casing and result in a rupture of the casing into the surrounding geological structure.

BP stopped trying to shut down the well from the top because they were concerned any increase in back pressure on the flow could either breach the well casing or further increase the size of any existing rupture. You need to notice that in all the video pictures coming from the Gulf none are showing the seafloor around the BOP. If the well casing is compromised this is where seepage will be evident.

The other concern if seepage is present is that it could impact the ability of the seafloor to support the BOP. If this happens then the BOP would loose stability (some have said it is already leaning), tip over and cause the well casing to pinch shut. Again the resulting increase in back pressure has the potential of causing a rupture in the well casing.

Nothing is easy.

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Message 1008286 - Posted: 25 Jun 2010, 20:25:04 UTC - in response to Message 1007065.  

Actually, that's what the blowout preventer was supposed to do. Two opposed shaped pistons are forced together by hydraulic fluid to cut through and seal the well pipe. Wedges are then forced behind the pistons to prevent them from sliding open again. Great when it works.


Your view of the BOP is slightly in error. The two pistons are not really RAM (pinch) devices but two knife style blades on each side of the drill pipe and designed to shear the drill pipe. These two blades would then continue until they completely overlap and seal the well.

One major issue with this is that is a drill pipe joint happens to be at the point where the shear blades are located they will not be able to shear through the increased thickness of the pipe joint. A BOP can be equipped with two sets of blades offset some to allow for the pipe joint situation. The BP BOP only had one set of blades.

The other issue is that if the shear blades do not completely close (as appears to have happened in the BP incident), the force of the oil/sand mixture will erode the blades over some period of time and they become useless. The period of time can be anywhere from a few (10?) minutes to days. It depends on the well pressures and the amount of sand and other "stuff" coming up from the well. Obviously, activation of the Ram/Shear is time critical and should not be delayed. My understanding is that BP used an ROV to examine the shear device and while one side appeared to have activated to it full extension, the other side hadn't moved. This same report said that hydraulic fluid appeared to be leaking from a fitting on the Ram/Shear device that hadn't activated.
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Message 1009087 - Posted: 28 Jun 2010, 3:21:18 UTC




Gulf Oil Spill: A Hole in the World
By Naomi Klein, The Guardian, June 19, 2010

Everyone gathered for the town hall meeting had been repeatedly instructed to show civility to the gentlemen from BP and the federal government. These fine folks had made time in their busy schedules to come to a high school gymnasium on a Tuesday night in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of many coastal communities where brown poison was slithering through the marshes, part of what has come to be described as the largest environmental disaster in US history.

"Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to," the chair of the meeting pleaded one last time before opening the floor for questions.

And for a while the crowd, mostly made up of fishing families, showed remarkable restraint. They listened patiently to Larry Thomas, a genial BP public relations flack, as he told them that he was committed to "doing better" to process their claims for lost revenue ? then passed all the details off to a markedly less friendly subcontractor. They heard out the suit from the Environmental Protection Agency as he informed them that, contrary to what they have read about the lack of testing and the product being banned in Britain, the chemical dispersant being sprayed on the oil in massive quantities was really perfectly safe.

But patience started running out by the third time Ed Stanton, a coast guard captain, took to the podium to reassure them that "the coast guard intends to make sure that BP cleans it up".

"Put it in writing!" someone shouted out. By now the air conditioning had shut itself off and the coolers of Budweiser were running low. A shrimper named Matt O'Brien approached the mic. "We don't need to hear this anymore," he declared, hands on hips. It didn't matter what assurances they were offered because, he explained, "we just don't trust you guys!" And with that, such a loud cheer rose up from the floor you'd have thought the Oilers (the unfortunately named school football team) had scored a touchdown.

The showdown was cathartic, if nothing else. For weeks residents had been subjected to a barrage of pep talks and extravagant promises coming from Washington, Houston and London. Every time they turned on their TVs, there was the BP boss, Tony Hayward, offering his solemn word that he would "make it right". Or else it was President Barack Obama expressing his absolute confidence that his administration would "leave the Gulf coast in better shape than it was before", that he was "making sure" it "comes back even stronger than it was before this crisis".

It all sounded great. But for people whose livelihoods put them in intimate contact with the delicate chemistry of the wetlands, it also sounded completely ridiculous, painfully so. Once the oil coats the base of the marsh grass, as it had already done just a few miles from here, no miracle machine or chemical concoction could safely get it out. You can skim oil off the surface of open water, and you can rake it off a sandy beach, but an oiled marsh just sits there, slowly dying. The larvae of countless species for which the marsh is a spawning ground ? shrimp, crab, oysters and fin fish ? will be poisoned.

It was already happening. Earlier that day, I travelled through nearby marshes in a shallow water boat. Fish were jumping in waters encircled by white boom, the strips of thick cotton and mesh BP is using to soak up the oil. The circle of fouled material seemed to be tightening around the fish like a noose. Nearby, a red-winged blackbird perched atop a 2 metre (7ft) blade of oil-contaminated marsh grass. Death was creeping up the cane; the small bird may as well have been standing on a lit stick of dynamite.

And then there is the grass itself, or the Roseau cane, as the tall sharp blades are called. If oil seeps deeply enough into the marsh, it will not only kill the grass above ground but also the roots. Those roots are what hold the marsh together, keeping bright green land from collapsing into the Mississippi River delta and the Gulf of Mexico. So not only do places like Plaquemines Parish stand to lose their fisheries, but also much of the physical barrier that lessens the intensity of fierce storms like hurricane Katrina. Which could mean losing everything.

How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be "restored and made whole" as Obama's interior secretary has pledged to do? It's not at all clear that such a thing is remotely possible, at least not in a time frame we can easily wrap our heads around. The Alaskan fisheries have yet to fully recover from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and some species of fish never returned. Government scientists now estimate that as much as a Valdez-worth of oil may be entering the Gulf coastal waters every four days. An even worse prognosis emerges from the 1991 Gulf war spill, when an estimated 11m barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf ? the largest spill ever. That oil entered the marshland and stayed there, burrowing deeper and deeper thanks to holes dug by crabs. It's not a perfect comparison, since so little clean-up was done, but according to a study conducted 12 years after the disaster, nearly 90% of the impacted muddy salt marshes and mangroves were still profoundly damaged.

We do know this. Far from being "made whole," the Gulf coast, more than likely, will be diminished. Its rich waters and crowded skies will be less alive than they are today. The physical space many communities occupy on the map will also shrink, thanks to erosion. And the coast's legendary culture will contract and wither. The fishing families up and down the coast do not just gather food, after all. They hold up an intricate network that includes family tradition, cuisine, music, art and endangered languages ? much like the roots of grass holding up the land in the marsh. Without fishing, these unique cultures lose their root system, the very ground on which they stand. (BP, for its part, is well aware of the limits of recovery. The company's Gulf of Mexico regional oil spill response plan specifically instructs officials not to make "promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal". Which is no doubt why its officials consistently favour folksy terms like "make it right".)

If Katrina pulled back the curtain on the reality of racism in America, the BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order fish species to survive, or brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks). No amount of money ? not BP's recently pledged $20bn (?13.5bn), not $100bn ? can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing their illusions fast.

"Everything is dying," a woman said as the town hall meeting was finally coming to a close. "How can you honestly tell us that our Gulf is resilient and will bounce back? Because not one of you up here has a hint as to what is going to happen to our Gulf. You sit up here with a straight face and act like you know when you don't know."

This Gulf coast crisis is about many things ? corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. During Thursday's congressional testimony, Hayward said: "The best minds and the deepest expertise are being brought to bear" on the crisis, and that, "with the possible exception of the space programme in the 1960s, it is difficult to imagine the gathering of a larger, more technically proficient team in one place in peacetime." And yet, in the face of what the geologist Jill Schneiderman has described as "Pandora's well", they are like the men at the front of that gymnasium: they act like they know, but they don't know.

BP's mission statement

In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive, usually taking the form of a mother. Europeans ? like indigenous people the world over ? believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate "the mother", including mining.

The metaphor changed with the unlocking of some (but by no means all) of nature's mysteries during the scientific revolution of the 1600s. With nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts could be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity. Nature still sometimes appeared as a woman, but one easily dominated and subdued. Sir Francis Bacon best encapsulated the new ethos when he wrote in the 1623 De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum that nature is to be "put in constraint, moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man".

Those words may as well have been BP's corporate mission statement. Boldly inhabiting what the company called "the energy frontier", it dabbled in synthesising methane-producing microbes and announced that "a new area of investigation" would be geoengineering. And of course it bragged that, at its Tiber prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it now had "the deepest well ever drilled by the oil and gas industry" ? as deep under the ocean floor as jets fly overhead.

Imagining and preparing for what would happen if these experiments in altering the building blocks of life and geology went wrong occupied precious little space in the corporate imagination. As we have all discovered, after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, the company had no systems in place to effectively respond to this scenario. Explaining why it did not have even the ultimately unsuccessful containment dome waiting to be activated on shore, a BP spokesman, Steve Rinehart, said: "I don't think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we're faced with now." Apparently, it "seemed inconceivable" that the blowout preventer would ever fail ? so why prepare?

This refusal to contemplate failure clearly came straight from the top. A year ago, Hayward told a group of graduate students at Stanford University that he has a plaque on his desk that reads: "If you knew you could not fail, what would you try?" Far from being a benign inspirational slogan, this was actually an accurate description of how BP and its competitors behaved in the real world. In recent hearings on Capitol Hill, congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts grilled representatives from the top oil and gas companies on the revealing ways in which they had allocated resources. Over three years, they had spent "$39bn to explore for new oil and gas. Yet, the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention and spill response was a paltry $20m a year."

These priorities go a long way towards explaining why the initial exploration plan that BP submitted to the federal government for the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well reads like a Greek tragedy about human hubris. The phrase "little risk" appears five times. Even if there is a spill, BP confidently predicts that, thanks to "proven equipment and technology", adverse affects will be minimal. Presenting nature as a predictable and agreeable junior partner (or perhaps subcontractor), the report cheerfully explains that should a spill occur, "Currents and microbial degradation would remove the oil from the water column or dilute the constituents to background levels". The effects on fish, meanwhile, "would likely be sublethal" because of "the capability of adult fish and shellfish to avoid a spill to metabolise hydrocarbons". (In BP's telling, rather than a dire threat, a spill emerges as an all-you-can-eat buffet for aquatic life.)

Best of all, should a major spill occur, there is, apparently, "little risk of contact or impact to the coastline" because of the company's projected speedy response (!) and "due to the distance to shore" ? about 48 miles (77km). This is the most astonishing claim of all. In a gulf that often sees winds of more than 70km an hour, not to mention hurricanes, BP had so little respect for the ocean's capacity to ebb and flow, surge and heave, that it did not think oil could make a paltry 77km trip. (Last week, a shard of the exploded Deepwater Horizon showed up on a beach in Florida, 306km away.)

None of this sloppiness would have been possible, however, had BP not been making its predictions to a political class eager to believe that nature had indeed been mastered. Some, like Republican Lisa Murkowski, were more eager than others. The Alaskan senator was so awe-struck by the industry's four-dimensional seismic imaging that she proclaimed deep-sea drilling to have reached the very height of controlled artificiality. "It's better than Disneyland in terms of how you can take technologies and go after a resource that is thousands of years old and do so in an environmentally sound way," she told the Senate energy committee just seven months ago.

Drilling without thinking has of course been Republican party policy since May 2008. With gas prices soaring to unprecedented heights, that's when the conservative leader Newt Gingrich unveiled the slogan "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" ? with an emphasis on the now. The wildly popular campaign was a cry against caution, against study, against measured action. In Gingrich's telling, drilling at home wherever the oil and gas might be ? locked in Rocky Mountain shale, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and deep offshore ? was a surefire way to lower the price at the pump, create jobs, and kick Arab ass all at once. In the face of this triple win, caring about the environment was for sissies: as senator Mitch McConnell put it, "in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas, they think oil rigs are pretty". By the time the infamous "Drill Baby Drill" Republican national convention rolled around, the party base was in such a frenzy for US-made fossil fuels, they would have bored under the convention floor if someone had brought a big enough drill.

Obama, eventually, gave in, as he invariably does. With cosmic bad timing, just three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blew up, the president announced he would open up previously protected parts of the country to offshore drilling. The practice was not as risky as he had thought, he explained. "Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." That wasn't enough for Sarah Palin, however, who sneered at the Obama administration's plans to conduct more studies before drilling in some areas. "My goodness, folks, these areas have been studied to death," she told the Southern Republican leadership conference in New Orleans, now just 11 days before the blowout. "Let's drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall!" And there was much rejoicing.

In his congressional testimony, Hayward said: "We and the entire industry will learn from this terrible event." And one might well imagine that a catastrophe of this magnitude would indeed instil BP executives and the "Drill Now" crowd with a new sense of humility. There are, however, no signs that this is the case. The response to the disaster ? at the corporate and governmental levels ? has been rife with the precise brand of arrogance and overly sunny predictions that created the disaster in the first place.

The ocean is big, she can take it, we heard from Hayward in the early days. While spokesman John Curry insisted that hungry microbes would consume whatever oil was in the water system, because "nature has a way of helping the situation". But nature has not been playing along. The deep-sea gusher has bust out of all BP's top hats, containment domes, and junk shots. The ocean's winds and currents have made a mockery of the lightweight booms BP has laid out to absorb the oil. "We told them," said Byron Encalade, the president of the Louisiana Oysters Association. "The oil's gonna go over the booms or underneath the bottom." Indeed it did. The marine biologist Rick Steiner, who has been following the clean up closely, estimates that "70% or 80% of the booms are doing absolutely nothing at all".

And then there are the controversial chemical dispersants: more than 1.3m gallons dumped with the company's trademark "what could go wrong?" attitude. As the angry residents at the Plaquemines Parish town hall rightly point out, few tests had been conducted, and there is scant research about what this unprecedented amount of dispersed oil will do to marine life. Nor is there a way to clean up the toxic mixture of oil and chemicals below the surface. Yes, fast multiplying microbes do devour underwater oil ? but in the process they also absorb the water's oxygen, creating a whole new threat to marine life.

BP had even dared to imagine that it could prevent unflattering images of oil-covered beaches and birds from escaping the disaster zone. When I was on the water with a TV crew, for instance, we were approached by another boat whose captain asked, "Y'all work for BP?" When we said no, the response ? in the open ocean ? was "You can't be here then". But of course these heavy-handed tactics, like all the others, have failed. There is simply too much oil in too many places. "You cannot tell God's air where to flow and go, and you can't tell water where to flow and go," I was told by Debra Ramirez. It was a lesson she had learned from living in Mossville, Louisiana, surrounded by 14 emission-spewing petrochemical plants, and watching illness spread from neighbour to neighbour.

Human limitation has been the one constant of this catastrophe. After two months, we still have no idea how much oil is flowing, nor when it will stop. The company's claim that it will complete relief wells by the end of August ? repeated by Obama in his Oval Office address ? is seen by many scientists as a bluff. The procedure is risky and could fail, and there is a real possibility that the oil could continue to leak for years.

The flow of denial shows no sign of abating either. Louisiana politicians indignantly oppose Obama's temporary freeze on deepwater drilling, accusing him of killing the one big industry left standing now that fishing and tourism are in crisis. Palin mused on Facebook that "no human endeavour is ever without risk", while Texas Republican congressman John Culberson described the disaster as a "statistical anomaly". By far the most sociopathic reaction, however, comes from veteran Washington commentator Llewellyn King: rather than turning away from big engineering risks, we should pause in "wonder that we can build machines so remarkable that they can lift the lid off the underworld".

Make the bleeding stop

Thankfully, many are taking a very different lesson from the disaster, standing not in wonder at humanity's power to reshape nature, but at our powerlessness to cope with the fierce natural forces we unleash. There is something else too. It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to BP's live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth's guts gush forth, in real time, 24 hours a day.

John Wathen, a conservationist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, was one of the few independent observers to fly over the spill in the early days of the disaster. After filming the thick red streaks of oil that the coast guard politely refers to as "rainbow sheen", he observed what many had felt: "The Gulf seems to be bleeding." This imagery comes up again and again in conversations and interviews. Monique Harden, an environmental rights lawyer in New Orleans, refuses to call the disaster an "oil spill" and instead says, "we are haemorrhaging". Others speak of the need to "make the bleeding stop". And I was personally struck, flying over the stretch of ocean where the Deepwater Horizon sank with the US Coast Guard, that the swirling shapes the oil made in the ocean waves looked remarkably like cave drawings: a feathery lung gasping for air, eyes staring upwards, a prehistoric bird. Messages from the deep.

And this is surely the strangest twist in the Gulf coast saga: it seems to be waking us up to the reality that the Earth never was a machine. After 400 years of being declared dead, and in the middle of so much death, the Earth is coming alive.

The experience of following the oil's progress through the ecosystem is a kind of crash course in deep ecology. Every day we learn more about how what seems to be a terrible problem in one isolated part of the world actually radiates out in ways most of us could never have imagined. One day we learn that the oil could reach Cuba ? then Europe. Next we hear that fishermen all the way up the Atlantic in Prince Edward Island, Canada, are worried because the Bluefin tuna they catch off their shores are born thousands of miles away in those oil-stained Gulf waters. And we learn, too, that for birds, the Gulf coast wetlands are the equivalent of a busy airport hub ? everyone seems to have a stopover: 110 species of migratory songbirds and 75% of all migratory US waterfowl.

It's one thing to be told by an incomprehensible chaos theorist that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. It's another to watch chaos theory unfold before your eyes. Carolyn Merchant puts the lesson like this: "The problem as BP has tragically and belatedly discovered is that nature as an active force cannot be so confined." Predictable outcomes are unusual within ecological systems, while "unpredictable, chaotic events usual". And just in case we still didn't get it, a few days ago, a bolt of lightning struck a BP ship like an exclamation mark, forcing it to suspend its containment efforts. And don't even mention what a hurricane would do to BP's toxic soup.

There is, it must be stressed, something uniquely twisted about this particular path to enlightenment. They say that Americans learn where foreign countries are by bombing them. Now it seems we are all learning about nature's circulatory systems by poisoning them.

In the late 90s, an isolated indigenous group in Colombia captured world headlines with an almost Avatar-esque conflict. From their remote home in the Andean cloud forests, the U'wa let it be known that if Occidental Petroleum carried out plans to drill for oil on their territory, they would commit mass ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff. Their elders explained that oil is part of ruiria, "the blood of Mother Earth". They believe that all life, including their own, flows from ruiria, so pulling out the oil would bring on their destruction. (Oxy eventually withdrew from the region, saying there wasn't as much oil as it had previously thought.)

Virtually all indigenous cultures have myths about gods and spirits living in the natural world ? in rocks, mountains, glaciers, forests ? as did European culture before the scientific revolution. Katja Neves, an anthropologist at Concordia University, points out that the practice serves a practical purpose. Calling the Earth "sacred" is another way of expressing humility in the face of forces we do not fully comprehend. When something is sacred, it demands that we proceed with caution. Even awe.

If we are absorbing this lesson at long last, the implications could be profound. Public support for increased offshore drilling is dropping precipitously, down 22% from the peak of the "Drill Now" frenzy. The issue is not dead, however. It is only a matter of time before the Obama administration announces that, thanks to ingenious new technology and tough new regulations, it is now perfectly safe to drill in the deep sea, even in the Arctic, where an under-ice clean up would be infinitely more complex than the one underway in the Gulf. But perhaps this time we won't be so easily reassured, so quick to gamble with the few remaining protected havens.

Same goes for geoengineering. As climate change negotiations wear on, we should be ready to hear more from Dr Steven Koonin, Obama's undersecretary of energy for science. He is one of the leading proponents of the idea that climate change can be combated with techno tricks like releasing sulphate and aluminium particles into the atmosphere ? and of course it's all perfectly safe, just like Disneyland! He also happens to be BP's former chief scientist, the man who just 15 months ago was still overseeing the technology behind BP's supposedly safe charge into deepwater drilling. Maybe this time we will opt not to let the good doctor experiment with the physics and chemistry of the Earth, and choose instead to reduce our consumption and shift to renewable energies that have the virtue that, when they fail, they fail small. As US comedian Bill Maher put it, "You know what happens when windmills collapse into the sea? A splash."

The most positive possible outcome of this disaster would be not only an acceleration of renewable energy sources like wind, but a full embrace of the precautionary principle in science. The mirror opposite of Hayward's "If you knew you could not fail" credo, the precautionary principle holds that "when an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health" we tread carefully, as if failure were possible, even likely. Perhaps we can even get Hayward a new desk plaque to contemplate as he signs compensation cheques. "You act like you know, but you don't know."

I do not fight fascists because I think I can win.
I fight them because they are fascists.
Chris Hedges

A riot is the language of the unheard. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Message 1009546 - Posted: 29 Jun 2010, 0:08:45 UTC

I lifted this from the Facebook wall of a friend who is also a SETI@Home member.
You will be sickened to your soul and enraged.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPnJT5DQikU


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I fight them because they are fascists.
Chris Hedges

A riot is the language of the unheard. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Message 1009550 - Posted: 29 Jun 2010, 0:15:07 UTC - in response to Message 1009546.  

I lifted this from the Facebook wall of a friend who is also a SETI@Home member.
You will be sickened to your soul and enraged.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPnJT5DQikU


The kittyman cries....
"Freedom is just Chaos, with better lighting." Alan Dean Foster

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Message boards : Politics : The Gulf Oil Spill


 
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