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The Expansionist
Friday, July 02, 2010
 
Incompetence on Oil Spill. Every day that goes by without anyone containing BP's grotesque, massive oil spill, I am astonished at the stupidity of British Petroleum and the U.S. Federal Government. There have to be ways to contain the leak, but the best BP has managed in 2½ months was to capture around half (if that), before its employees stupidly and incompetently caused a mini-submarine to stop even that collection rate. I'm not even sure there has been any reattachment of the cap that was working partially for a while. Certainly the video we see every day does not appear to show a cap in place.
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Why is this so difficult? Oil is lighter than water, so would rise even without pressure from deep under the sea floor, which expels it forcefully and directly upward. So why can't BP simply place a circle of barges around the surface area onto which the rising oil erupts, with deep and tall booms between barges, as to create a capture field from which skimmer hoses can remove it to nearby tankers? Why can't they put a giant funnel over the broken pipe? A funneling structure need not be solid metal, but could be a metal ring with some kind of heavy sheeting — plasticized canvas, plastic, light aluminum sheets cobbled together somehow. It need not even feed into a pipe connected to a tanker hose, but just control the flow to channel it into a floating containment area created by barriers of size, say 20 feet below water, 10 above. Barges could serve as the above-water bulwark. They could lower and hold in place curtain walls underwater. Skimmer hoses could then vacuum up the oil from that containment area. Reports early in this emergency indicated that what had been a larger oil spill in the Persian Gulf had been successfully contained by a circle of tankers, skimming. Why wasn't that plan followed?
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I don't know how far above the sea floor the broken pipe is. If it were very near the floor, you'd think we could just dump the kinds of huge rocks we build jetties from and fill in the spaces between them with sand and mud, then inject concrete as well to encase the leak in a chunk of artificial sea floor. Instead, they tried to seal the leak mechanically by injecting various materials into the blowout "preventer" alone, in a single weekend. Might they have been able to create a new, artificial sea floor over the entire area by now, after more than two months?
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I'm certainly not an expert in containing oil leaks, but it is plain that BP and the Federal Government aren't either. Both should be, and they should have a stockpile of many alternative methods ready to deploy, ten or fifteen deep, not one or two.
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Beyond containing the spill, there is cleaning it up. We were told, early on, that there are bacteria that can eat oil, but we now hear nothing about bacteria being sprayed onto the oil, not at the source, not as it floated away, not even just as it approached landfall. Are they using bacteria or not? All I have heard of, being sprayed onto the oil at sea, is chemical dispersants. It would not astonish me if the chemical dispersants actually kill oil-eating bacteria, so stupid have the oil executives proven in this calamity, tho I haven't heard anything at all about the compatibility of the two things: that is, whether dispersant and bacteria would work together, in double-whammy fashion, or one would interfere with the other.
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The pressure from media and government seems to have moved completely away from the idea of containing the oil, to merely cleaning up what gets to shore instead. Here again, we hear not one word about oil-eating bacteria. Bacteria being what they are, if they really work you don't have to use a lot in any one area, because if they eat oil and there is lots of oil to eat, they will naturally reproduce massively, to take advantage of that food source.
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What we see is frustration from the public and abysmal incompetence from BP and the Government. Shouldn't there be some kind of governmentally-coordinated Task Force of ALL the major oil companies, to bring together the best minds and the resources of oil-spill experts and equipment available at BP, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and every other major oil producer?
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The Louisiana government is actually spending time, money, and energy trying to increase the exact same kind of deep-sea oil drilling that blew up in Louisiana's face, and the people of Louisiana have been split into people so worried about unemployment in the oil industry that they do not unite to insist that the vast unemployment in other industries produced by oil catastrophes is just not worth the relative few jobs in deep-sea drilling. Divide and conquer is still the rule. BP sets the public against the Federal Government to take the heat off itself and its incomprehensible stupidity and incompetence. And it's actually working. The people who caused the problem are not being held to account for it, but are blaming the Government for something in which it has no expertise. Should the Federal Government have such expertise? It would appear that now, and going forward, it must. But the Feds didn't blow up that oil well.
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There are two things we have in excess: incompetence and spilled oil. What the public does not have is a clear sense of whom to blame, and whose heads, if any, should roll, come this November's Congressional elections. Republicans in Congress and the Louisiana or nearby state governments haven't come up with any more solutions than have Democrats in the White House, Congress, or Department of the Interior. Indeed, many Republicans have taken a kneejerk pro-business, pro-laissez faire capitalism stance that says it is BP's job to explore for oil, not clean up its mess, which we are to believe is the Government's responsibility — even tho Republicans aren't supposed to want Government to do even more than it has already been doing, as a general principle. That tack is at present producing backlash on the part of people in the areas affected or threatened by the present oil mess. But it's a lot easier to blame the Federal Government for not cleaning things up in a hurry than it is for Republicans to admit that laissez-faire capitalism is a monster that devours everyone and everything, and spits out toxic waste.
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It's easier to fix blame than to fix oil spills. There is an expression in the South, "fixing [or "fixin'"] to" do something. The Republicans are fixing to win a majority in both houses of Congress by fixing blame rather than fixing the problem. Will it work? Is blaming more valued by the electorate than solving? We shall see in November — especially if the relief wells, after their anticipated completion in August, do NOT stop all the oil.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,411 — for Israel.)



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