Archive for the ‘news’ Category

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.


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


Written by nullsequence

August 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

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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 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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Heavy Metal Thunder

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Chemistry happens, biology is a structure and ecology is… Everything.

The entire ocean life is just loaded with a series of contaminants, most of which have been released by human beings…


If whale populations really are terminally poisoned by heavy metals and other toxins, I guess we’ve finally shown those blubbery sentience upstarts just who’s boss. More likely, as we dose ourselves into oblivion, we are mere disposable meat puppets for those damn scheming jellyfish. Enjoy the planet guys and try to keep the tentacle pr0n down to a minimum. Cthulhu’s watching.

Written by nullsequence

June 25, 2010 at 6:04 am

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Burn Baby, Burn

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Yesterday it was announced that BP would be burning off “excess oil” captured by the LMRP top hat. There were difficulties in ramping up the collection capacity and anyway there was a lot of water in the oil so it would be more costly to process. So they decided to burn it.

Um, What?

Can’t BP capture the oil, process and sell it? They ARE an oil company, right?

Seems odd, bordering on insane.

  • Pollute the Gulf with a possibly lethal dose of crude oil: check!
  • Dump in millions of gallons of toxic dispersant chemicals, actually banned in the BP’s UK home country: check!
  • Burn off inconvenient oil offshore: checkaroony with a banana!

A lawyer buddy of mine once mused that behind every insane corporate act is a legal constraint rubbing against a balance sheet.

If BP can get away with this burning we might as well just go ahead and absolve them of all damages and liabilities, in perpetuity. Maybe we already have.

Written by nullsequence

June 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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5 Minutes

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Television and other traditional media sources have certainly degraded dramatically over the last decades, so it’s refreshing to see an old-school incumbent like CBS News delivering some meaty reportage.

On Sunday, the 60 Minutes program aired a dramatic interview with  a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. There were a lot of shocking facts and claims that will be no doubt debated (and litigated) for years to come.  So good work there.

Tonight’s regular CBS Evening News program also delivered a couple of choice bits of news, including new video clips of the gushing well site.

Apparently CBS, using FOIA requests, forced BP to cough up recent clips including the siphon-in-riser and of new gushing leaks in the bent-over portion of the riser-BOP junction. Those two clips demonstrated very clearly that there is a LOT of oil blasting out, from multiple well site locations and that whatever quantity captured by the siphon assembly is a minor portion of the total.

The program also included confirmation that BP has been monitoring the entire site for weeks, and a bombshell-like claim that BP would be releasing “the rest of the video” tomorrow.  Call me skeptical, but…should be interesting.

Finally CBS showed some ugly, ugly scenes of oil-fouled beaches and marshes, and amazingly,  one of their reporters being turned away from investigating a damaged area by some sort of posse comprised of Coast Guard personnel and “BP contractors”. I’m not sure what that means; perhaps if they had spent more than 48secs on that segment there would be less mystery.

Which is the whole point.  I know there are a variety of political and entertainment industry issues afoot today, but the entirety of the Gulf disaster coverage in tonight’s broadcast was rushed through in just over five minutes.  f i v e m i n u t e s . Would it really have hurt to have devoted ten?

Written by nullsequence

May 19, 2010 at 4:53 am

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