null_sequence

Posts Tagged ‘Gulf disaster

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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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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I Want to Say Just One Word to You…

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It’s probably not unreasonable to bet that there are some significant long term health syndromes ready to erupt out of the populations of the Gulf Coast. Having just seen the premiere of the hydro-fracking expose Gasland I’d add a few tens of millions of people to this pool. Over the next decade the only shocking thing will be if this toxin-dosed cohort does NOT present a variety of chronic neurological and diffuse systemic ailments.

Since we seem to be producing toxic pollution at an insane rate, perhaps toxicology or epidemiology might not be bad career choices these days. If of course, you can find a non-evil someone to pay your salary, here in the midst of the Great Recession.

Written by nullsequence

June 22, 2010 at 7:49 am

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Chuck it in, See What Happens

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As the manic addition of millions of gallons of dispersant into the core of the Gulf Gusher has apparently become the new normal, I suppose silly questions of lethality and toxicity have become the new quaint.

At the most extreme, stripped-of-consequence nub is a confusion of science with engineering, of knowledge with hacking. We assume that we can not only detect the perturbations but also measure their effects. Perhaps this might be possible if we even knew all the moving parts in the Gulf biology. But we don’t. Nor will we ever, it seems.

Medical researchers work within a very strict regulatory framework.A research proposal where you suggest measuring lethal toxicity by simply bathing your subjects in various concentrations of known toxins and waiting for them to twitch might be easily approved for bacteria, but not so much for animals and certainly not humans.

Yet we are doing that in the Gulf RIGHT NOW!

The oil is being mixed with the “dispersing” agent and sunken out of the line of sight of the TV cameras patrolling the sugar-sand beachfronts. This subsurface emulsion is destined to bioaccumulate up whatever hierarchy of marine life that is not poisoned outright. What this means here at the human end of the food chain is anyone’s guess. It probably won’t be yummy.

We’re now at the end of June. Given some serious drilling-fu and a double handful of pixie dust the blowout might stopped by August. So, depending on your pessimism level this Gulf Coast season might be either “The Lost Summer” or the previous season “The Last Summer”.
Either way, a comfortable normality has been traded away for the potential possession of a few days consumption of oil. And, maybe, a few reams of data on how much toxic crap an ocean biome can suck up before it dies, or morphs into something untasty. Which is something, I guess.

A cup half-full, of poison.

Written by nullsequence

June 21, 2010 at 7:39 am

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