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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We Must Stop This Oil Leak ASAP!

We must have:

1) Federal takeover of emergency operations to stop the leak. BP has it's narrow corporate interests and can't be trusted to continue to run this.
2) Complete openness and transparency. All information relevant to a solution must be made available to every person who could possibly contribute to a solution.
Now that BP's much vaulted "Dome Fix" has failed, a failure I predicted in the DailyKos 5/5 [1], it's time stop letting BP take the lead in solving this problem.

They clearly drilled this well without a clue what to do if it crashed and burned. [2] Since then they have put protecting their ass above solving the problem with slimy clauses in contracts [3], low-ball estimates about the extent of the damage or leak and a refusal to release underwater pictures or video of the main leaks. [4] They have also shown a particular interest in pursuing solutions to the problem that involve salvaging the oil and it's profits, like capping it with a funnel dome and pumping the oil to the surface for normal processing at refineries, or drilling a relief well (3 month out), as opposed to methods that just stop up the well forever.

It's time to take this disaster out of private hands. While BP clearly remains responsible for the costs of the disaster, this is quickly becoming a disaster of world historic proportions, and they cannot be left in control of the task of resolving it. Clearly their private profit interests are different from those of the Earth, that is why we have this corporate-made disaster in the first place. Hence the solution cannot be left in their hands!

President Obama should immediately organize a "Manhattan style project." This time not to create a force of immense destructive powers with all deliberate haste, but to stop the immense destructive powers that have already been unleashed by corporate greed. He should recruit the best people from the petroleum industry including whatever staff is required from BP and this project will "borrow" whatever facilities and capital equipment it needs from the industry to deal with the problem at hand.

Amiss the Republican shouts of "government off our backs" the point may be lost that one of the most fundamental and enduring functions of government is to provide a collective response to emergencies or disasters. No doubt, fire brigades of one sort or another started forming up not long after we learned how to make the flames on our own, and maybe even before, in response to lightening strike forest fires. The need for an organized and increasingly sophisticated ability to fight fires has been a force for the development of government in embryo. It has been a function of all sorts of governments throughout history be they democracies or dictatorships and the costs of fighting fires was one of the first costs to be socialized by the state. This is for a very good reason. Not only can a fire very quickly grow beyond the control of those that started it or may be most immediately damaged by it, it has the ability to spread and do very wide damage if it is not controlled. Therefore any out-of-control fire is an immediate social concern requiring a social response. Our ancestors understood this even before they could write.

Today we all take for granted that one of the most basic functions of government is to fight our fires. The social cost of fighting fires maybe the most irrefutable justification for taxes that can be named. We know that the minute our little trash can or kitchen fire gets out of hand, we call the fire department. We know that we can't turn the fire department away because we'd rather handle it ourselves. We know that the fire department may make decisions that are detrimental to our interests because their mandate is to minimize the damage to the neighborhood. We also expect our fire departments to work with our building code and inspectors to assure that no buildings are built without a plan or ability to get people out and fight a fire should one occur.

But when the neighborhood that is threatened is the whole planet and the fire is atop a wellhead with the potential output, according to BP of 60,000 barrels a day[5] , all of this experience and tradition goes out the window. Suddenly the private corporation is in charge of putting out the fire with the government helping out when and where BP will let it. The U.S. Coast Guard is suppose to be the lead government agency in this diaster and it has been lead and mislead by BP.[6] BP is completely unprepared to stop this leaking well, they are in completely uncharted waters and "try anything" mode[7] and the U.S. government is letting them handle it because they're the experts? [8]

We must also demand that BP immediately make available all underwater video, photographs, engineering studies and blueprints to any interested parties, i.e., the whole world, so that everybody knows what the real situation is and the best minds can be applied to a solution. The solution to this ongoing disaster cannot be left to the BP 'experts', it is they that have lead us here.

"Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow." This is one of the fundamental operating principles of the Open Source software community. It means that if you have enough people looking at a problem, a solution will be found through their collective effort. In Linux, that community has developed a very stable, robust and relatively bug free operating system. It has been able to sprint past proprietary systems like Microsoft's because there are no secrets in the Linux software. Everyone has access to all the tools and all the code and libraries that are used. In the Linux world bugs get reported and discussed on forums, the developers are involved, repair strategies are debated, anyone can suggest a patch and anyone can test a solution and sooner rather than later, the problem gets solved. It is not that way in the world of corporate proprietary software, as you may know. The point is that openness and discussion are critical to this sort of problem solving.

BP is responsible for what is quickly becoming one of the greatest environmental injuries of all time and instead of openness they give us secrecy, obstructionism and outright lies. They had first estimated the leak that was feeding the fire that started on April 20th at 8,000 bbl/d. After the rig burnt and sank they reported that the leak had miraculously stopped, a story widely repeated by Mary Landry of the Coast Guard on April 23rd. When it became clear that oil was still coming to the surface, first they said it was 1,000 bbl/d, then 5,000 bbl/d. Many independent scientists estimate the leak is really 25,000-40,000 bbl/d. but in closed testimony to Congress, BP said the leak could become as great as 60,000 bbl/d.

They have refused to release any underwater video or picture of the main leaks. The little they have released has been self serving. They are not being forth coming with much other information that people have been requesting and they won't even say how much oil they think is down in that hole, and that is information we desperately need to know even to gage the potential of this disaster. They have created a problem with the potential to effect the whole world and they are seriously limiting the number of eyes that can look at this problem. This cannot be allowed to stand.

This oil well leak in the Gulf is a national disaster and it requires national leadership. President Obama must act now!

Notes:
1.) News Flash: Dome won't work and BP knows it!
2.) BP Had No Plan for Responding to Deepwater Oil Disaster
While the company knows they need to address the oil spill on three fronts - at the sub-sea level, on the surface and on the shore - because they had no plan for such a disaster, they still haven’t a clue about how to contain it. They aren’t even sure how much oil is leaking at this point.

BP’s response to the disaster seems to be to throw darts blindly into the wind and hope that one hits the target. And their position on why they weren’t prepared? How could we be, this wasn’t predictable.
3.) from Unenergy's diary:
the rig workers who were told they couldn't call their families until they'd signed forms stating I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation, to the fishermen whose contracts for the "Vessels of Opportunity" jobs included a waiver of their right to sue, all touched by the spill meet the lawyers first.
BP tries to get Louisiana fishermen to sign indemnification waivers
Fishermen in Louisiana, whose livelihoods are on the line after the catastrophic BP oil spill, are desperate for cash. According to this report, hundreds appear to have been tricked into signing documents swearing that they will "hold harmless and indemnify ... release, waive and forever discharge the BP Exploration and Production, Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees, and independent contractors ... from all claims and damages" arising from helping to clean up the mess BP made.
4.) See CNN reports about lack of video and Daily Kos: BP releases still image, but maintains tight control over video of oil gushing from leak
5.) Amount of Spill Could Escalate, Company Admits
In a closed-door briefing for members of Congress, a senior BP executive conceded Tuesday that the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico could conceivably spill as much as 60,000 barrels a day of oil,
6.) Coast Guard: Oil Not Leaking from Sunken Rig
and RAW: Interview with Rear Adm. Mary Landry
On April 23, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry made the talk show circuit parroting what she had been fed by BP with statements like "The fact that there is no oil spilled other than that small amount we were able to work with, that's a good thing."
7.) BP struggles with list of ways to plug Gulf gusher
"There's a lot of techniques available to us. The challenge with all of them is, as you said, they haven't been done in 5,000 feet of water," BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told NBC's "Today" show Monday.
8.) NY Times:
BP officials said they did everything possible, and a review of the response suggests it may be too simplistic to place all the blame on the oil company. The federal government also had opportunities to move more quickly, but did not do so while it waited for a resolution to the spreading spill from BP,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

News Flash: Dome won't work and BP knows it!

The disaster in the gulf is much bigger than anyone is letting on. We are now are being told that the BP well is spilling as much as 2.5 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf a day. {thanks to readers for the correction} The best hope for capping this runaway oil well in less than 3 months is the so-called containment dome that BP is building in Golden Meadow, LA. This scheme isn't even realistic.

First, it should be pointed out that if these new estimates of 60,000 barrels are day are correct, then even the very best case scenario for the Dome fix leave three-quarters of the oil escaping. According to very positive story from Fox News about the Dome:
It should be on the seabed by Saturday, and as early as Sunday should start pumping oil up to the Deepwater Enterprise, which is capable of storing 139,000 barrels of oil, processing it at a rate of 15,000 barrels per day.

That means that a tanker capable of holding a little over two days of spill is able to suck up only a quarter of the oil that may be leaking. That's the best case scenario and even that is out in LaLa Land.

This dome is much more about BP appearing to be working towards a quick solution, than it is about a real solution. The chance that this dome will work are very slim and this reality is being withheld from the public by BP, the government and the media. Consider Deleted "The $600 million Deepwater Horizon drilling platform sunk directly over the well head." There is a big pile of junk over the well head. That is the problem that will complicate the efforts to stop the leak and almost certainly means that current efforts to construct a dome to drop over the well are for public consumption and not a serious attempt to solve the problem. Examine these reports from this mornings newspapers and draw your own conclusions. From the NY Times we have this interview with Gregory McCormack, the director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas about the use of such domes to cap wells:

Q. What are containment domes, anyway? Have they been used successfully before?

A. These are large concrete and steel structures that trap oil leaks on the sea floor and funnel them through a pipe to the surface. The oil then can easily be recovered at the contained area on the surface. They have been used in shallow waters under 1,000 feet previously and have functioned effectively.

Q. How likely are the domes to work? What could go wrong?

A. There is no reason to believe that these structures will not work as well in deep water as in shallow water. They need to be able to be placed directly over the leak so that the oil will rise to the surface. Any obstruction that prevents this placement will be a problem. Severe weather could handicap both the placement and oil recovery operations.

I put the next to last sentence in bold because in this morning's Dallas Morning News they carried an article about why the Blowout Preventer [BOP] failed and the difficulty in fixing that problem, in which they let this little piece of info out. Again I have put the important statement in bold:

"We have a collapsed pile of steel on the well bore," said Brian Petty of the International Association of Drilling Contractors. "It's hard to get to the BOP."

These are two very authoritative sources, quoting people who seem to know what they are talking about. You put two statements together and you realized that while their rig is still spilling oil, BP is blowing smoke. They punched a hole in the Earth at a depth of 5,000 ft. and they don't know how to plug it. They have been experimenting with the Earth and our government let them do it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Paint It Black

The political satire and song of Charlie King & Karen Brandow at Frank & Jane Dorrel's last Saturday has inspired me to try my own hand at song writing. So here goes..

Paint It Black

Word my Clay Claiborne, Music by the Rolling Stones


I see a coastline and I want it painted black
No wildlife anymore I want them to turn black
Oil makes me more than you'll ever ever know
If fish get in the way then they'll just have to go

I see a line of cars and they're all paying me
If you don't like it then just go and hug a tree
I see the world go bye, it's seen it's brightest day
It won't last too long with those oil spills in the bay

I look inside and see my corporate heart is black
In the name of profits mother Earth I will attack
I'll not fade away so you'd better face the fact
If I'm not overthrown then your whole world is black

No more will your green sea turn a deeper blue
It'll all be covered with oil before my work is through

Making a fortune this way is just a little bit creepy
But we don't worry cause the government trusts BP

I see a coastline and I want it painted black
No wildlife anymore I want them to turn black
Oil makes me more than you will ever ever know
If fish get in the way then they'll just have to go

Hmm, hmm, hmm,...

I wanna see it tainted, tainted black
Black as oil, black as coal
I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it tainted, tainted, tainted, tainted black
Yeah!

Hmm, hmm, hmm,...