16 May 2010

Attempts to "Thread the Needle" on the Seafloor Continue

Efforts continued early Sunday morning to insert a mile-long tube into a ruptured pipe that has been gushing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than three weeks. The tube is meant to help siphon the oil to a surface vessel.
BP official Doug Suttles cautioned that the tactic is designed to contain the flow, not stop it. _CNN

An undetermined quantity of oil and gas continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts to diminish the flow of hydrocarbons by threading a suction tube into the leaking riser pipe continue into the third day.

The blowout preventer (BOP) at the well head is reducing the flow of oil somewhat -- which has caused decision makers at the site to stay away from the BOP for now, in their efforts to stem the gusher. Eventually, however, they will have to bite the bullet and go to the source to stop the flow. The "junk shot" or "top kill" approach seems most likely at this point -- sometime in the next two weeks.

Even if the ongoing "siphon tube" approach reduces the spill rate by half, the sense of urgency to do something more definitive to stop the leak is mounting. Some news outlets describe "monstrous underwater oil plumes", Obama administration officials are describing this as possibly the worse Gulf environmental disaster in history, the lawyers are lining up in New Orleans, and some academics are predicting that the Gulf could be a dead zone for many decades.

In reality, oil has been present in Gulf of Mexico waters for hundreds of millions of years at least. The oil itself contains the interlocking bacterial colonies which will break it down to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Most of the hydrocarbons being released at the Macondo well will evaporate into the air and disperse with the wind. Much of the rest will form into "tar balls", which interact only very slowly with the environment. A pelican will not dive into a tar ball looking for fish, for example. Solid tar balls will not coat the feathers of sea birds or the fur of sea mammals.

Regardless of the extent of environmental damage from this spill, the usual suspects will present it as a complete apocalyptic collapse of nature. That is the best way to get academic grants, to receive the largest jury awards at trial, to inflate your bureaucracies' budgets as much as possible, and to sell as much ad revenue as possible for your newspaper or broadcast outlet.

It is this culture of hysteria -- the ability of cynical politicians, lawyers, journalists, academics, and activists of all types to manipulate the public at will -- which holds entire societies on the circular treadmill of stasis. This type of stasis cannot survive a real crisis. And a real crisis is on the way.


Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts