Oilpocalypse Update

Filed in National by on May 17, 2010

In the on-going slow-motion environmental disaster there’s good news and bad news. First, the bad news:

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.

Right now we’re performing a huge, uncontrolled experiment in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re pouring enormous amounts of oil, chemical dispersants and dispersed oil into the ocean. We really have no idea what effect this is going to have but it can’t be good. We’re used to pictures of oil-covered birds and shoreline. This time we have oil-covered shrimp, krill and plankton.

Now for the good news:

In a significant step toward containing a massive Gulf of Mexico oil leak, BP said a mile-long (1.6 kilometer-long) tube was funneling crude Sunday from a blown well to a tanker ship after three days of wrestling to get the stopgap measure into place on the seafloor.

Kent Wells, BP’s senior vice president for exploration and production, said during a news conference that the amount being drawn was gradually increasing, and it would take several days to measure it. Company spokesman Mark Proegler at the joint spill command center in Louisiana had initially said the tube was containing most of the oil coming from the pipe, which is contributing an estimated 85% of the crude in the spill.

I hope this works. The first step is to stop the leak, then we can assess the damage.

For an extra special bonus, “energy expert” Sarah Palin speaks:

And here’s part of a Palin speech on the topic:

“After inheriting a good pro-development GOP plan that opened up both coasts for drilling, the Obama administration halted development … and now we’re gonna study, more study of the South Atlantic and parts of the Gulf of Mexico … my goodness, folks, these areas have been studied to death … I have seen so many, many studies! I say, let’s send the White House this message: that, you know, we can save taxpayer time, save money and announce: there is oil and gas down there, and we can produce it safely and responsibly! We don’t need more studies, we need more action! Because energy produced in America is security for America, and it is jobs for American workers, jobs that can’t be outsourced. Let’s drill baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall!”

Yep, you read that right. We don’t need to study anymore, just drill! Obviously, we know all about how to stop oil spills in deep water since we were able to stop the leak right away…oh wait… Well, we do know the effects of oil on marine life…uh, move along…

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Opinionated chemist, troublemaker, blogger on national and Delaware politics.

Comments (5)

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  1. anon says:

    I didn’t realize how nice the beaches and resort towns were in the US Gulf Coast until I saw the BP coverage. There are tons of barrier islands and resort communuities with white sand beaches I didn’t even know about and had never considered as a destination. Bummer – I hope some if not all of them stay clean – I want to go now!

  2. donviti says:

    is Obama partly to blame for this one?

  3. anonone says:

    Obomba could have stopped this leak weeks ago instead of deferring to his corporate masters as usual. How? By blowing it up. Why didn’t he? Apparently corporate profits:

    “Brownfield: If we demolish the well using explosives, the investment’s gone. They lose hundreds of millions of dollars, from the drilling of the well, plus no lawmaker in his right mind would allow BP to drill again in that same spot. So basically, it’s an all-or-nothing thing with BP: They either keep the well alive, or they lose their whole investment and all the oil that they could potentially get from that well.

    As Brownfield explains, “We need to seal this thing off.” Desperately. But why hasn’t anyone been bringing a complete shutdown of the well to the table?

    Brownfield: Yes, I think — stopping the spill immediately. And the reason why we haven’t seen that option is because, frankly, BP is still at the helm. I think President Obama needs to take charge of this, bring all the assets of our military to bear, bring the U.S. Army Corps of engineers, bring the U.S. Navy, and bring in all the private-sector organizations that have the equipment for deep-sea operations to make this happen. Let’s explode this, collapse the well, and put an end to it.”

    During this fiasco, Obomba has been consistently been putting the interests of BP over the interests of America. Obomba is rapidly becoming an utter disaster as a President, and the impact of this dereliction of duty will be felt for decades.


  4. liberalgeek says:

    So, A1, do you know what type of explosive works best at 500 atmospheres? Me neither. And there probably aren’t many people that know, even theoretically, what would be required for that. Also, there is a risk that if you do that, you may actually widen the hole (with a crater) and accelerate the spill, with very little hope of containing it.

    The Russians have used nukes to seal gas wells, but are you really advocating the use of a tactical nuclear warhead in US waters? I heard an “expert” (I cannot find a link, so feel free to treat it accordingly) on the radio last week suggesting that if we used a nuke, there was a likelihood that we would open a fissure that would essentially drain the entire oil pocket feeding this well. That worst case scenario was called an extinction-level-event.

    So the stakes are high on this. Please get off of your high-horse and assume that Obama is appeasing the oil companies on this. Remember, the teabaggers are also running around with common sense solutions. Often, common sense isn’t that common.

  5. anonone says:

    UI, Why did Obomba wait for 4 weeks to assemble an independent team of govt scientists to evaluate the situation? Why did he not release the pictures of the oil flow immediately instead of weeks later? Why hasn’t imploding the well even been discussed as an option by the government or BP? I am not suggesting nukes, but you’re essentially saying that we’re helpless to clog a 21 inch hole.

    Why couldn’t an explosive charge be inserted deep enough into the well so it wouldn’t crater but would cause a collapse of the well? Somebody must know how to do this.

    This event may already be extinction level; no one knows. The plankton in the ocean supply most of the oxygen in the air we breath.