Naming the Unspeakable

By John Conway | April 30, 2010 11:20 am

Two hundred thousand gallons per day of Gulf crude are leaking from a hole 5000 feet under the water’s surface in the wake of the still mysterious destruction of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform last week . How and when it will be stopped is entirely unknown. The mayonnaise-like oil is being blown ashore into the nursery for shrimp for the whole region and the home of hundreds of the other species. Welcome to what may turn out to be the worst single human-caused environmental disaster ever. (Unless you regard global warming in general as a single event. Semantics.)

leak

This thing is going to need a name. The Exxon Valdez incident was a spill – there was a finite amount of oil aboard the ship. A lot of oil: 11 million gallons (40 million liters). The new one in the Gulf of Mexico could blow past that, depending on whether present efforts to close the valve or drill a relief well work.

The fact that we called it the “Exxon Valdez” incident clearly indicates the responsible (if not guilty) party involved. So, though I like the moniker “Spill, Baby, Spill” from a political point of view, it doesn’t lay any blame and this thing is not a spill. It’s a leak, and BP leased the rig from Transocean LTD, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor. I think the responsibility has yet to be determined. If you rent a car, and wipe out a family in an accident because the steering was faulty, is it your fault or the car manufacturer’s? It may take some time, or even never be known, what happened a week ago to cause this tragedy.

The name of the rig was the Deepwater Horizon, but that doesn’t convey ownership or responsibility. Will this become known as the “BP Deepwater Horizon Spill”? The “Transocean/BP Leak”? The media seem to be stuck on “spill” and so I bet that will be in the name long term…and it will take a very long time to assess responsibility here.

My heart goes out to the families of the 11 lost on the rig, and to the thousands of fishermen and others whose livelihoods are in peril.

We’ve suspended new offshore drilling until we have understood this incident better. And no doubt a new debate about offshore drilling will ensue. This has certainly put the lie to those who claim that new modern drilling rigs are far safer than in the past, something even President Obama was saying as recently as April 2. Sigh.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, News
  • allen edwards

    “This has certainly put the lie to those who claim that new modern drilling rigs are far safer than in the past…”

    Well, yeah, because everybody knows that “safer than in the past” means “risk free, nothing bad will EVER happen again”. Scientist? Sigh.

  • James

    I find it unspeakable that a media source such as Discover can not report factual information. BP is not owner of the Deepwater Horizon! Transocean is the owner.

  • Mantis

    It is named Deepwater Horizon spill/incident as it should be since it was caused by Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

    The name of an event is not made to “convey ownership or responsibility” rather it is meant to describe the event as best possible.

  • df

    @James,

    It says right in the article that BP leased it fram Transocean. Try reading the article before you comment next time.

    @allen,

    I’ve had the same concern as you (that people are taking one incident and drawing a trend from it). However, I do think that the magnitude of this particular disaster suggests that once is more than enough to indicate we can’t afford to take these kinds of risks. The costs exceed the benefit.

  • Sili

    Who signed the paperwork allowing the drilling to go ahead?

  • James

    I should have been more thorough. I stopped at, “Two hundred thousand gallons per day of Gulf crude are leaking from a hole 5000 feet under the water’s surface in the wake of the still mysterious destruction of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform last week .”

  • Colin

    Actually, this is totally on BP. BP is the 100% owner of the well (not the rig) and, therefore, is the responsible party. Even BP will admit that much.

  • http://www.alteraeon.com Dennis Towne

    Your quote, “Welcome to what may turn out to be the worst environmental disaster ever” borders on the ridiculous. Nature by itself, without intervention from man, serves to generate substantially worse disasters on a regular basis.

    Is this really the same level of destruction as a 9.0 earthquake? How about a big volcanic eruption? The 300 year ‘little ice age’ caused by a low solar cycle? How many times in the past has natural tectonic upheaval released an order of magnitude more crude into the environment than this? Kill-the-dinosaurs asteroid strike anyone?

    Yes, it’s a problem, and yes we should probably do something about it. But we could do it just as well without over-the-top propaganda and fear mongering.

  • coolstar

    @ Dennis Towne Your general point is well taken by could be fixed by adding the modifier “human-caused” which was probably the author’s intent. There’s as of yet no definitive causal relationship between the “little ice age” in Europe and the Maunder Minimum.

  • Scott Belyea

    coolstar Says:
    April 30th, 2010 at 1:25 pm
    @ Dennis Towne Your general point is well taken by could be fixed by adding the modifier “human-caused” which was probably the author’s intent.
    =========================================

    First, then the author should have said so.

    Second, worse than Bhopal (to pick one)?

    I agree with Dennis Towne – there’s a near-hysterical tone here that’s inappropriate and unhelpful.

  • Hubbleuser

    @Scott Belyea
    Bhopal was (is) a human disaster. The long term environmental impact was rather limited in spatial scale. The gas dispersed.

    Dennis Towne does have a point, but also quite clearly an agenda. That some natural forces may have had a large impact on the environment in the past is not a compelling argument for why human activity does not and will not have a substantial cumulative impact.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    How about: “Obama’s Trade-Off”.

  • John

    I’ve modified the first paragraph of the post to say “worst single human-caused environmental disaster”. And note that it says “may well turn out to be” – we don’t know yet. But it’s bad, really bad, and the fact that single events like this can and now have happened really does raise the question of whether it’s worth it to get energy this way. It’s a value judgement. What do you value?

    [gopher65, you’re out of here – we run a civil blog and namecalling is way over the line.]

  • Observer

    Global Warming? Bah! The worst “human caused” blah blah blah is desertification caused by aboriginal tribes. I blame Nature for allowing homosapiens to evolve in the first place.

  • Brian Too

    What I can’t get past is that this spill would have been controlled much better if the oil booms had been deployed promptly. Everything about this spill speaks to a company and a wellsite that was inadequately prepared for the worst to happen.

    If you will recall, this same lack of preparation made the Exxon Valdez spill much worse. Same goes for the Ocean Ranger, same goes for the Piper Alpha disasters. “This rig is a wonder of modern engineering, we have multiple safety systems. Old rigs were bad but now we know better. And gosh, just look how big it is, nothing can go wrong!”

    These wellsites are virtually surrounded by fine, deepwater ports, with ships aplenty, as many as you are willing to pay for. Yet that’s always the rub, isn’t it? Safety costs money. Arrogance and money get in the way so many times.

    Only now do we hear about how deep the water is, and they’ve never really tried to shut off a well in water that deep, and my goodness that well is deep! That huge rig, touted as safe foremost because of it’s size, has now become a liability. Only now do we learn that they aren’t ready for the giant rig to turn against them.

    After the Ocean Ranger disaster, every single rig employee has been required, as a condition of employment, to practice an actual ditching at sea in survival suits. They practice in a pool, not the sea, in case you’re wondering, but everyone gets wet. Before the disaster? Safety was given lip service. Why bother practicing when the the rig is so big, it couldn’t ever sink, could it?

    Wasn’t that what they said about the Titanic?

  • kirk

    1) Lake Palin
    2) Jesus hates deep sea oil drilling – oil slick
    3) Lake Palin (the name so nice I used it twice)

  • John

    Lake Palin! Send it to Rachel Maddow!

  • dreamer

    Why does it look like a (barred) spiral galaxy?

  • http://tispaquin.blogspot.com Doug Watts

    Your quote, “Welcome to what may turn out to be the worst environmental disaster ever” borders on the ridiculous. Nature by itself, without intervention from man, serves to generate substantially worse disasters on a regular basis.

    This, as Wolfgang Pauli would say, is not even wrong. It is at best, dilatory, and at worst childishly evasive and playground gainsaying. But most important, it is not even scientifically correct. Why not say a full-on nuclear war is not a “big deal” because in the deep past Earth was sporadically pelted with mile wide asteroids? It would make about as much sense.

  • spyder

    I have a suggestion for those unfamiliar with the havoc a large oil slick has on an environment. Next time one occurs near you, get out and, if nothing else, pay attention to all that is happening (better get in and do some clean up). Oil leaks and spills quite literally change everything about a coastline environment for a very long time. Years later bubbles of oil still pop up from trapped pockets in the sands and rocks. Crude oil is especially carcinogenic to all life forms, and when measured in square miles of surface (and perhaps another half a mile below) the impact is terrifying.

    And yes i also wonder about the barred spiral galaxy formation.

  • Anonymous_Snowboarder

    Wow.. talk about hyperbole…

    @DF suggest you look up the definition of lease and operate

    This spill is tiny in the history of big spills – just look up largest oil spills in wikipedia. But being in the good ol’ US of A it gets 24/7 media coverage with endless eco-handwringing. Yeah, its not pretty. Is it the end of the world? No.

    I remember when I was a kid the Cadiz broke up off Gaul – over 200K tons or about 67 million gallons. This thing is nothing compared to that.

    And by the way.. its called the Exxon Valdez because that’s the name of the boat not because Exxon owned a boat called Valdez.

  • Brian137

    Anonymous Snowboarder is right about the relative magnitude of the current “spill.” Here is a link to a chart of the ten largest oil-leak disasters:
    http://envirowonk.com/content/view/68/1/

    From the article: “But it will likely surprise you to know that the Valdez spill was actually only the 34th largest oil spill in history.

    Still, the fact that worse things have happened does not negate the expressed concerns.

  • ludpatti

    Who really cares who handles it!…You are all at fault…take responsibility..and FIX the dam issue before it grows to …ahhh..WE fixed it!….Politics! You all took part..you all Fix it!…JUST save us from more disaster! yes..we say our responsibility to make the earth more liveable..we recycle..we do our parts..less water, more involvement..yet WE let this happen?…….We meaning all of us!~..

  • Russell

    @dreamer #18,
    That was exactly my first reaction, then I read the test to go along with and, I thought, “that thing is really really lame.” What a let down.

  • John

    It’s not even so much about the amount of oil, which could be a lot more than we have seen so far. The fact that the Gulf coast is such an important ecological zone is what makes this particular disaster so bad, and the fact that the marshy coast is so fractal-like in nature. It’s not a beach or rocky shore. IT will be a long time before bacteria or anything else removes the oil, and the effects on the ecosystem will persist for many years to come.

    And when will the oil stop gushing out? Will a relief well do it? Can they close the valve at those depths or is it damaged? I certainly hope this does *not* become one of the greatest environmental disasters , human caused or otherwise. No matter what it will serve as a cautionary tale when we consider the potential downside to offshore drilling. Drilling at sea is fundamentally different from doing it on land.

  • Carl Brannen

    As far as worst human caused environmental disasters, I’ll put WW2 up.

  • Charon

    Anonymous_Snowboarder’s confusion highlights why it’s not a good idea to include the term “spill” in the name (although it does seem to be inevitable). As John pointed out, this isn’t a spill. It’s still going on. And it could get much worse, given that the flow rate is currently substantially smaller than it would be if the wellhead failed. And we have no experience in capping a wellhead at these depths – we’ve failed to do it thus far.

    The potential volume of oil is far, far larger than any supertanker or refinery. We have no idea how long this will go on.

    And it’s in a very environmentally sensitive area, as has also been pointed out.

  • Mikael

    Global warming is a scam. When will you realize it?

  • slw

    I certainly did not expect such a gratuitous amount of demagoguery and total disregard for facts from this blog. I am disappointed.

  • wds

    I really think you’re going a bit overboard here. Yes, this is a disaster. But it is a fallacy to think that every disaster should have a guilty party. It’s natural human instinct to want to blame someone, but sometimes shit just happens. BP might have made mistakes, but it’s important to weigh all the evidence, including whether they could’ve predicted a scenario like this was possible. Sometimes people work mistakenly on what is received wisdom, such as Obama was clearly doing. Perhaps there was something different about the size of this rig or the depth it was drilling at. Or perhaps people were just wrong about rigs being safe enough. Right now, this looks to me more like one of those “shit happens” moments, and less like one those “gross corporate malfeasance” spills. I hate to sound like an apologist for an oil company of all things (ewww), but I always hate hearing people get all emotional when right now is the time you should be at your most rational.

    Not to mention the data will still show oil rigs to have an excellent track record even after this spill. In that respect, I just can’t get behind your last sentence. I think you are just plain wrong, this does not put the lie on those who say modern drilling is quite safe, because it is still safe! You don’t hope to argue aviation is not safe because planes go down like clockwork all over the world do you?

    On the longer term, we are currently reliant on oil and we should definitely make every effort to make ourselves less reliant on oil. But you can’t just drop drilling altogether. Think about how pervasive oil is in our lives; partial independence is decades away, full independence quite possibly a lot longer. This is the world we live in. We can push for new solutions but in the meantime we *have* to keep drilling, we simply do not have any other choices.

  • wds

    On second thought, you should get emotional. But you shouldn’t let your emotionality compromise your rationality. If you do that, you end up with pretty much every stupid “think of the children” law people ever came up with.

  • http://www.alteraeon.com Dennis Towne

    @Hubbleuser: “Dennis Towne does have a point, but also quite clearly an agenda.” Yes, I do have an agenda. I dislike in the extreme fear mongering and distortion of facts, whether it be regarding natural disasters, religion, or fear of terrorists.

    This same kind of fear and propaganda has kept nuclear power out of active development for the last three decades, and in no small part has helped to make us all the more desperate for that oil now floating on the surface of the ocean. I really do hope for better out of a scientific blog.

  • Brian137

    I have a question about the politics and economics of oil distribution. I sometimes hear oil drilled off our shores referred to as “our” oil, enough of which could lead to “energy independence.” In what sense would this oil be “ours.” To use British Petroleum as an example, don’t they just sell the oil on the open market to the highest bidder in an effort to maximize their profits? Does the United States have any claims or priority rights related to this oil? I guess we would benefit from lower shipping costs. What mechanics come into play?

    There are a lot of well-informed people who frequent this site, so I am sure that one of you could give me a good answer. Thanx in advance.

  • wds

    @Brian137: oil isn’t really an open market, since OPEC holds a sizable part of it and can manipulate prices through production quotas. I think part of the rationale is that the US gulf coast is slightly more stable, politically speaking, than central Iraq though. The theory would be that prices wouldn’t show such huge spikes, if more of US oil came from its own coasts. (OPEC’s true influence on oil price is debatable, apparently)

  • http://lablemming.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    “Drilling at sea is fundamentally different from doing it on land.”

    Have a browse through the results of an internet search for “niger delta oil spill”. Onshore drilling has already done more damage to a major river estuary than this incident could ever possibly do.

    Look at what the Gulf War did to the tigris-euphates delta.

    This even is only unusual in that it is happening close to cameras connected to web 2.0.

    This should put the spill into perspective.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    I’m still not one for expanding offshore drilling. Nor on-land drilling. Pointing out that this isn’t the worst thing that ever happened strikes me as a tad pathetic. Take it as a cautionary example, and consider the cumulative impact of events like this. Let that sink in, and maybe consider accelerating adoption of alternatives, even if it hurts in the short term. Because it’s rather self-defeating, in my estimation, to expand the problem close-to-home because it causes us and others problems if we get it from elsewhere. Oil is fungible, true. So are its liabilities.

  • thomas

    @wds: Instead of kneejerk corporate apologetics, why don’t you try reading the news.

    BP could have chosen to spend another ½million$ on a failsafe that would have prevented this. Such failsafes are required by every other country that allows offshore drilling. As such, BP is wholly responsible. In fact, Dick Cheney is responsible for the lax regulations that allowed this to be built.

    Fortunately, BP is legally responsible for the cost of cleanup under a law passed in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill. So, it will only cost taxpayers lost revenues from ruining stuff and preventing economic activity.

    Anyway, I agree with Spill, Baby, Spill. It accuses neoconservatives of eagerly cutting corners to try to ignore the geopolitical consequences of America’s continued dependence on oil, with disastrous consequences.

  • wds

    @thomas: I believe in weighing the evidence. If BP did wrong, then they should be blamed. It’s in my post, if you reread it. Actually I think that law that requires BP to pay for the cleanup is an excellent idea.

    “kneejerk” indeed.

  • Anonymous Snowboarder

    @charon: I have no confusion over what this is but you apparently do – it is *not* an oil spill (the term that is used generically whether from a boat or from a well) of epic proportions nor is it likely to be based on a) the rate of release and b) the probability they are able to cap or otherwise shutdown the flow of oil. Nor is the Gulf coast of the US the only environmentally sensitive area to have suffered the effects of an oil spill.

    But my primary point is that people are, frankly, acting hysterical about this. Yes, its a concern and no, we would all rather it had not happened. There will be plenty of time to determine what went wrong and why without speculation and accusation with few facts. Likewise people are projecting damage scenarios which are still a good way off from realization. How about we all take a deep breath and hope for the best?

  • Ellipsis

    Take a barge, half filled with fast epoxy resin and the other half with hardener, out to above the wellhead. Mix them together. Then drop into the water, so the hardening (and waterproof) glue falls onto the wellhead.

    If you have a better idea, then share it..

  • http://www.baz.com/quark Brett Thomas

    It was made as an aside above, but I think it’s an important point to note that the Exxon Valdez incident isn’t so named because Exxon owned a ship named Valdez but rather the whole, complete name of the ship in question was Exxon Valdez.

    That said, it certainly seems likely that people will want to call this the BP Deepwater Horizon spill by analogy, not realizing that “Exxon” was the first part of the craft’s name, not a statement of who was involved. Much the same way every misdeed after Richard Nixon’s scandal has the suffix “gate” appended to it; do school children now wonder what he did with water to get in so much trouble?

  • DP in CA

    Carl Brannen Said: “As far as worst human caused environmental disasters, I’ll put WW2 up.”

    Not a bad offering, but I can top it. Start at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and drive west. Cross Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. If you actually look and think, you’ll see ecological devastation on a scale so vast it staggers the imagination. For TWO DAYS at freeway speeds you’ll see almost nothing but corn, soybeans, and wheat, fencerow-to-fencerow for over 1300 miles. It won’t stop until you reach Wyoming. Or you could start in northern Minnesota and drive south until you reached Louisiana. How large is that area? Can you see it from space? You can certainly see it on Google Maps. Total devastation of the ecosystem that was there before humans utterly destroyed it… and nobody who lives there can even SEE it. I grew up in Iowa, and never noticed how bad everything was until I left and came back.

  • Scott B

    “This has certainly put the lie to those who claim that new modern drilling rigs are far safer than in the past,…”

    I wouldn’t say so. If the chances of an accident went from 1% to .1%, then it’s safer. Accidents still happen though. Personally, I don’t see what the big issue is here. Did anyone guarantee an accident would never happen? If so, they were idiots. It’s an accident that BP will pay dearly for. It will be cleaned up to the best of our ability and new safety measures will be taken to keep this from happening again. Then we will learn from the next accident.

  • John

    I’ve noticed a distinct lack of those “we have to drill offshore now” TV commercials lately from the oil companies…

    Solar/nuclear -> hydrogen. Now. It could have been done long ago.

  • Homer

    It is interesting how the various media channels call this a “spill”. Possibly to try and soften the effect of this tragedy. There has been similar language tactics used in earlier media. One that comes to mind is the phrase “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” which is used in place of “Shell Shock”. One clearly carries a softer tone and does not excite urgency.

    I think there are times when the softer approach does more harm than good because it diminishes the sense of urgency that is needed to get people involved in the effort.

  • http://rdpmd.com/ Roger D Paterson

    I find it compelling reading in the 45 comments above.
    You might try summing it up this way:
    1. It is a disastrous LEAK.
    2. The THREAT to eco-systems is great, but unknown as yet.
    3. The MAGNITUDE as yet unknown.
    4. The very nature of off-shore drilling is such that ACCIDENTS will always happen…no matter how much “safer” the technology currently may be.
    5. Someone can always be found to which BLAME can be attached.
    6. Someone is going to pay dearly for this…and unfortunately, it is usually the TAXPAYER.
    7. There has to be a mixture of GREED, COMMERCE, ENERGY, POLITICAL GAIN, to think about.
    8. And, finally, there is so darn much nonsense bandied about on the THEORIES of Global Warming, Eco-friendliness, Green Mandates, and saving all the poor species that are going extinct, plus a million more schemes…that maybe we had better get off to some quiet place and figure out what life is all about in the first place.

  • Raymundo

    @43: Yes, the people exploiting this well were idiots. BP did not buy disaster insurance for this operation (according to NPR of last week). I read somewhere that when they were getting approval for this well, they virtually guaranteed that the rig was 100% safe.

  • Brian Too

    One more thing. As my father likes to say, “your car never breaks down on a fine, sunny summer day in the middle of the afternoon. It breaks down in winter, in a snowstorm, at the height of a record cold snap, and quite likely at night.”

    Trouble with mechanical systems almost always happens in the worst of the bad weather, and is either caused by or exacerbated by those bad conditions.

    Now what do we see? Seas too rough to deploy oil control booms. Booms already deployed are getting damaged by the heavy weather. Ugh.

  • Brian137

    In post #22, I gave a link to a list of the ten greatest “spills” of all time, all of which seem to dwarf, for instance, the Exxon Valdez disaster. I repeat the link here for convenience:

    http://envirowonk.com/content/view/68/1/

    Discounting the deliberate opening of valves in Iraq, the most massive leak/spill on this list occurred off the coast of Mexico in 1979. Here is an new article presenting several reasons why the current mess may be worse than the 1979 leak near Mexico, a leak the article refers to as Ixtoc 1.

    http://www.physorg.com/news191927060.html

    Experts in oil spills have drills every few years to practice their response for spills of “national significance.” One of those practice runs took place just last month in Maine. The Gulf of Mexico leak is a “combination of all the bad things happening” and makes it far worse than any disaster imagined in the drills, said Nancy Kinner, director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

    If we can get the thing capped, the prognosis would improve drastically, but the people who seem to know the most about the situation are pessimistic in their public statements.

  • Brian137

    Maybe some progress?

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6424KO20100504

    Separately, BP said crews in Louisiana have finished building the first of three massive steel and concrete containment domes the company plans to lower in place over one of the three leaks on the ocean floor.

    “We will load that on a ship tomorrow along with other associated equipment, and transport it to the site,” Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP’s exploration and production unit, told reporters on a conference call.

    Good. I hope this works, at least to some extent. With all our geniuses – at least by their own accounts – maybe we can find a way to ameliorate this.

  • RonBon

    Call it Deep Doo Doo.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “Right now, this looks to me more like one of those ‘shit happens’ moments, and less like one those ‘gross corporate malfeasance’ spills. I hate to sound like an apologist for an oil company of all things (ewww), but I always hate hearing people get all emotional when right now is the time you should be at your most rational.”

    Actually, the time for the “most rational” thinking was when BP was planning this well and could have put 20 different safety mechanisms to stop this type of occurance from happening, but chose not to in order to put a buck or two in their pockets. They chose not to act rationally in the event that a clearly foreseeable event like this happened. (It takes no great shakes of imagination to say, “what would happen if… this thing caught fire and sank? How could we shut the well down in the first hour?) Instead, they valued their own over-inflated profits over other people’s livlihoods and the eco-system.

    So, no, this is not a “shit happens” event; this is a “gross corporate malfeasance” event. Actually, this is corporate criminal negligence on a grand scale and if there were any justice, BP execs would be behind bars right now. But, since this is the grand ol’ U S of fucking A, all those profits from BP and the rig owner were privitized for years, but the true losses to all the locals, fisherman, etc. (save a relative pittance that BP will pay for “clean up”) will be socialized.

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  • wds

    @woody tanaka: Guess what? BP (and other oil companies) did everything you are saying they should’ve. You don’t drop a rig off the US coast without showing that you’ve thought about security. That’s why they believed the rig was safe, because there are tons of failsafe mechanisms on these things.

    Perhaps there should have been more. We’ll have to wait for the inquiries to know more. In any case, I stand by my post.

  • Woody Tanaka

    @wds”
    “Guess what? BP (and other oil companies) did everything you are saying they should’ve. You don’t drop a rig off the US coast without showing that you’ve thought about security. That’s why they believed the rig was safe, because there are tons of failsafe mechanisms on these things.”

    If they did everything I am saying they should have, there would not be this spill. What they did was the minimum that they had to by law (law which they and their industry weakened through political means so they did not have to do more).

    There should have been procedures in place to deal with every contingency possible, and they should have been ready to go from minute one. The fact that they’ve been taking so long to construct this dome that maybe, hopefully, fingers-crossed, knock wood, might work to solve the problem is indicative that they didn’t do everything right. If they did everything I said they should have, why wasn’t this dome already built and standing by, ready to deploy on day one? Why wasn’t it tested before the well was drilled, in order to ensure that it will work if called up?

    It seems to me that, on day one, in thinking of the safety concerns, the first question is “What if we lose everything and the oil’s still gushing out. What do we do then?” It is not an acceptable answer to say “We’ll figure something out,” or “We’ll pay a couple million to clean it up and film more ‘beyond petroleum’ commercials to make the suckers believe we give a damn about the environment”

    This dome that they’re building now should have been only one of 10 or 20 different methods to tackle this situation, which were though up, manufactured, tested and made ready to go BEFORE the well was dug. And there should have been an equal number of proven, effective solutions for every kind of situation that may have put oil in the water. THAT is what I’m saying that they should hav done.

    But that would have cost money, and the execs in this company and industry would rather put lives and livelihoods on the line (not their own, of course. Let the peons suffer…) rather than spend the money to make it safe. And if they can’t do that, or are unwilling to do that, then they should not be permitted to drill. Period.

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  • spyder

    Just a side point, the Exxon Valdez was carrying BP oil for which BP had provided proof that it could protect the coastline. In truth, the system BP allegedly had in place had been replaced by a virtual one to increase the profitability of the company.

    A new name: how about American Tragedy

  • Richard J

    Seems like a lot has been covered here, but what irkes me is that the author made a lot of assumptions and stated a few outright lies in the article. Starting off with calling BP British Petrolium. British Petrolium changed its name to BP almost two decades ago as part of their global business plan. Oh, before I get too far into this, I live in the New Orleans gulf coast area so my information is probably not media filtered or in some cases filtered as much. As for a name, Wikipedia already has it listed as the “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill”. I thnk it will end up just being called the Deepwater Horizon Spill”.

    ” The mayonnaise-like oil is being blown ashore into the nursery for shrimp for the whole region ” Nope, not being blown ashore then or now. Yes, some oil balls about the size of your finger nail were found yesterday on some barrier islands but you have to look for them as there are not that many at the moment. Shrimp nurseeries? News to everybody down here. The shrimp and oyster beds are just fine, the problem is that the fishermen cannot get to the beds to harvest them. Good and bad, the bad being that the fishermen are losing money, the good is that we will have some super jumbo seafood when they do open up again.

    What most people don’t realize is that Obama suspend new off shore drilling for only 30 days. It might get another 30 day extention but none of it matters as the oil companies do not have anything ready to drill anyway.

    Few days ago we learned that the explosion was a result of methane gas from the hole. Learned this morning that the trigger that ignited the gas was the Federal mandated blowout preventer. I can see the blame game now starting to point to Washington as being the responsible party.

    And as a closing thought, the Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well in the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico when in just 160 feet of water it had a blowout in 1979 spilling 3,000,000 barrels of oil over the course of 9 months. That too was caused by gas travelling up the pipe because its blowout preventer also failed to work. That is ranked as the second largest spill in history behind the gulf war spills. That oil covered a large part of the Gulf of Mexico and reached the United States.

    Gas dropped 23 cents overnight at all the stations in the region, time to fill up.

  • barjac

    How about the Big BurP?

  • John

    Ah, Richard J, what a difference a month makes. Sigh.

  • litchik

    I find it appalling that on a Discovery Mag. blog’s comment section people are spouting whatever myths they’ve heard without the slightest regard for the science involved. You cannot wish away global warming – or, as it is more aptly called, catastrophic climate change – by closing your ears and saying “Nah nah , I can’t hear you.” Nor can you make this disaster in the gulf less my citing other disasters. this one isn’t even over, people. Not only is the gulf being severely harmed, but that harm may well be spread up the coast come hurricane season. Yes, the Niger Delta disaster was enormous and the impact is still on going. That only tells me that there is no way you can judge the impact of this disaster as the oil is still gushing. And it is NOT a spill, it is a man made geyser of crude oil.

    And yes, if you have not been reducing your carbon footprint over the last 30 years you share the blame. Our ridiculous demand for oil brought this on. The administration’s signing off on the rig, sans protections, is responsible, BP is responsible. Now we have to deal with it. So grow some ovaries, turn off your ac, your plasma screen TV, your smart phone, sell your SUV for parts and get real.

    Offshore drilling is more dangerous than ever because the easy oil is gone. BP didn’t drill this deep a well to prove it could, it did it to get at oil not already tapped. It all gets harder from here. You don’t have to like it, but one way or another, you will deal with it.

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