null_sequence

The Beginning of the End Game: What Oilspill?

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Late last evening, Tuesday August 3 2010, BP announced that the static kill procedure had tamed the blown-out MC-252 well at last. All that remains is a “permanent kill” to be performed by the 1st relief well in a few days.

This morning Carol Browner, the White House energy adviser, released a carefully weasel-worded statement seeding the meme that 75% of the 4.9 million barrels of leaked oil has been “cleaned up”.

On Monday the EPA released a carefully-phrased & spun report of its own, basically declaring that angst over unprecedented widespread use of 2+ million gallons of dispersants is all just silly clutching of pearls by silly fretters.

Those three announcements represent the core of a strategy to finally remove the BP Gulf Disaster from the headlines and newscasts. There is still the matter of money; the hyped-up $20B escrow fund is apparently not even partially in place, and the claims process is under fire.
But those are page 3 stories with only the occasional possibility of a frontpage/AC360/Maddow/Olbermann flare-up. Response management of any catastrophic social or ecosystem consequences of the months-long oil gusher is now being moved to the custodial care wing of the PR department.

It’s been suggested that unlike Exxon Valdez in 1989 or Ixtoc in 1979, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster is taking place in the Internet Age and that we will be privy to an emergent historical record more comprehensive than ever before. Perhaps.
But few things are more toxic to culpable corporations and government apparatchiks than transparency, so expect a continuing deluge of Gulf Disaster happy-marketing and general disinformatsia.

The Internet, more specifically the public-feedback channel of the blogosphere, will simply be ignored until it too can be tamed, perhaps via a net-neutrality legislative “top-kill”. We are after all living in a post-documentary age, where a politician or other public figure can proclaim absolute positions live on TV, and a short time later successfully declaim any such policy. Confirmable veracity is for the little people and whistleblowers such as the group of EPA scientists now brandishing research and complaining that their professional scientific concerns about of dispersant toxicity were ignored by the EPA heads and the BP/USCG/US “unified command”.

Now begins the next wave of barkers, apologists, deniers and the low-balling revisionaries. For a while they will magically pop up on the cable news channels, NPR, the local paper, everywhere. They will intone the authoritative verdict that everything is fine, that at long last It Is Over.
And pay no never-mind to silly grant-seeking people using elite & pointy-headed terms such as bio-accumulation, oxygen depletion and ecosytem disruption. It was just a little oil, and the fish love it: they swim through it and have babies.

Welcome to the new Gulf normal.

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*Of course George H.W. Bush was talking about caribou and oil pipelines

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Written by nullsequence

August 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Posted in news, travesty

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Shut-in Fever

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A few days ago, out of the carefully managed flow of hard information regarding all matters of the Gulf Gusher, came the sudden announcement of the “well integrity test”. This procedure would slowly close valves and vents on the newly replaced riser cap thereby “shutting-in” the well. Everyone sane person on the planet wants that gusher stopped, yet there have been constant warnings about the fragile condition of the well bore. Is it up to sustaining the pressure levels associated with a shut-in? Why risk it when the relief wells/kill bores are so close to intercept?

But Authorities decided they had an itch and an edge and rolled some lucky dice. The valves closed and for a full day now the gusher has been stopped, while the careful measurements of this well integrity “test” proceed. Pressures are less than favorable so far, yet not said to be particularly scary either. For now.

And so BP gets their headline: “Gushing Well Finally Capped”, and so forth, in papers and on websites worldwide.

Of course, whatever pressures that may reach out from deep inside the beleaguered Macondo well are surely dwarfed by the political pressure to keep those valves closed, and turn this “test” into a remedy. Indeed, you already see the media skipping the “test” characterization.

Experts caution that conditions may compel opening up the valves again, and urge that more monitoring time is needed, especially since the observed well pressures are lower than expected. And I think they will get their wish, though not because of any Official desire for additional data collection. Those valves will stay closed because a closed well today has been deemed worth the risk of a downhole blowout tomorrow: the bet has been placed. Perhaps one day we’ll learn who made it.

Written by nullsequence

July 17, 2010 at 5:40 am

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Sandboni Spumoni

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As the Gulf gusher moves on to day 80 of spewage, the relentless waves of oil emulsion continue to accrete poison strata on the beaches. And still the sand-washing “beach Zamboni” machines are not swarming all over, each and every night. Those machines have been tested and talked about for weeks (including a positive mention today in this excellent NOLA.com story), so what’s the deal?

Look, I doubt that their cleaning operation is perfect, or for that matter speedy or cheap. But those beaches are getting fresh gunk-loads with each passing day and it’s pretty obvious that the scrape & hide strategy is not a winner. If those sand washing vehicles have any restorative utility at all it seems lame to not use them.
While we wait for the Super Magic Pixie Dust to arrive how about running three shifts of Sandbonis up and down Santa Rosa Island? Because a big toxic, nasty batch of petrochemical-laced cookie dough is no one’s idea of a vacation spot. Or an ecosystem.

Written by nullsequence

July 8, 2010 at 5:54 am

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Ah, the Nurturing Goodness of Mercury Water

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Drink up, Bay Area!

…the study showed that the fish in the San Mateo County lake – which collects rainwater as well as water piped in from Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir – had some of the highest mercury levels in the state.

( SF Chronicle )

I have the feeling that there would be a lot of unwelcome surprises in store, were we to perform a comprehensive toxin assay survey across our “pristine” water sources here in the US. Anyone think that’s likely to happen?

Written by nullsequence

July 7, 2010 at 6:19 pm

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It’s Always the Cover-up

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According to a variety of videos made by Gulf Coast locals, someone is using heavy equipment to plow over oil deposits on beaches. The clips show that you can easily dig down a few inches and strike gunk.

As each day sees more and more oil emulsion fouling beaches it probably won’t take too many days of mixing before the beach is less “sugar-sand” than tar-oil-sand aggregate, flavored with dispersant chemicals.
The beaches in the videos are apparently still open.

There are arguments that suggest it’s better to let the oil build up on the beaches, and to scrape them less frequently. Replacement sand would presumably need to be dredged up offshore and may be even more oil-laden than the beach it is to replenish, so scraping may need to be kept to a minimum.

Of course tourist beaches need to be open for business, so frequent scraping may be driven by the hard economics of summer.

But for sure, mixing the Gulf coast beaches into one big toxic, nasty batch of petrochemical-laced cookie dough is a killing blow to the beach tourism industry.

Written by nullsequence

June 30, 2010 at 4:18 am

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A Gift that Keeps on Dosing

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Forecasts, at least for the moment, are predicting a mostly westward trajectory for tropical storm Alex. Such tracking should keep it away from the bulk of the Deepwater Horizon spill and thus avoid or at least delay the massive toxin emulsion mixing experiment everyone fears. Fortune, for now.

There are worries over oil-laced rainfall from whatever storms that DO hit the large, ever-increasing spill area. Already there have been a couple of (frustratingly ambiguous) video clips of sheening rainwater from a thunderstorm in New Orleans.

But I’d expect that the biggest danger would come from a heavy storm surge that could dump massive amounts of oil emulsion over significant chunks of coastline. Those sickening photos of the beaches at Pensacola and Gulf Islands park (Ft. Pickens area) convey only a fraction of the damage that might occur even in a moderate storm surge. Having seen the reach of such surges at that very spot I am especially prone to gloom right now.

During hurricane Katrina, storm surge effects in the New Orleans area acted to stir, transport and distribute large quantities of toxic sediments across land and waterways. Even a medium size hurricane churning around the ever-increasing DWH spill area could easily surge our new batch of toxins over wide areas. The result of that toxin dosing won’t be subtle or ambiguous, and will linger for years. Those Chernobyl comparisons might not be far off the mark. Wormwood, indeed.

Written by nullsequence

June 27, 2010 at 7:38 am

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Anyway, Water Makes you Fat

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Like a lot of people I watched the premier of the stunning documentary Gasland the other night. While the ugliness of hydraulic fracturing was not entirely unknown to me, the scale of the current practice, as well as the manic increasing rate HF-based NG drilling was shocking.

According to the excellent investigative journalism organization ProPublica, 2008 saw 52,616 new HF-NG wells drilled in the US. Yes, 52616 new wells. The previous year saw 49220 new wells drilled, 47984 in 2006 and, well you get the picture.

Tens of thousands of fresh wells drilled every year. Tens of thousands.

For 2008 (ProPublica’s most recent data) that means about 144 new wells drilled each day in the US, or about 2.8 per day for each of the 50 states.

And for those water consumers out there (you know who you are), consider these tasty little data nuggets:

…as much as 85 percent of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is being left underground after wells are drilled…

That means that for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than 3 million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater could be left in the ground forever.

(link)

That’s up to 3 million gal/well, 8.4 million gal/state-per-day or 420 million gal of toxin-laced drilling fluids and waste-water left underground each day in the USA.

And of course “forever” would assume no possible fluid communication between the traumatically fractured rock formations and aquifers. Right.

Sometimes even a chronic optimist such as myself is throttled by the notion that perhaps it really is a Doomer world, and we’re just dying in it.

Written by nullsequence

June 25, 2010 at 6:53 am

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