Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Spill Plugged?

It appears that BP has not found enough mud to jam in that hole to put an end to what has become a continuing environmental disaster. The 39 days of prior leakage has provided (depending on who you talk to) either 39 million gallons or 100 million gallons to mess up the Gulf of Mexico and the shore line from Louisiana to Florida. It has the potential to bring devastating consequences to a huge variety of wildlife and businesses whose livelihood depends on those creatures.

The good people of Houma, Louisiana in Terrebonne Parish long ago learned to live with disaster. The bayou, just a stone’s throw from our place of business, was famous for storms changing the direction of flow in a few hours. Our clientele often showed up bandaged, medicated or limping from one of the many dangerous jobs they routinely performed. They laughed it off, prepared for next encounter with the exigencies of life, and assured us that: “it soon be OK Cher.” They knew enough not to hobble into their local gun dealer for sympathy or a shoulder to cry on. That was 25 years ago but those folks don’t change much over time.

About ten years after we left, in 1994, NOAA created a plan to handle potential oil spills in the gulf. Essentially it amounted to the use of “fire booms” to corral the spills and burn them in place. As federal regulations pushed newer platforms further and further from the continental shelf into the deepwater Gulf, the availability of the “booms” was in inverse proportion to the increased activity. When the Deepwater Horizon blew 39 days ago, there were none available to meet the threat--not a single one in the entire Gulf. It would have been a perfect solution to isolate the oil at the surface and let it harmlessly burn in mid ocean as they worked to cap the well. There is also little evidence that the government required BP to have emergency plans in place. Perhaps BP thought that they had actually efficiently implemented the “fire boom’ plan.

Obama’s famous remark, “just plug the damn hole!” was an equally ineffective gesture. Every man involved with any phase of recovery who had a hint of a solution would have offered it immediately and worked tirelessly to accomplish it. From the executives down to the “monkeys” on the platforms, and at every level in between the entire focus is on production and in this case containment. Keep in mind the motive which BP has is to effectively recover oil. There is no profit in dumping it into the sea.

Before the blowout, the president issued a press release to the affect that regulations governing drilling restrictions on the continental shelf adjacent to the coast lines of Alaska, the Gulf, and specific locales in both our oceans to the astonishment of everyone who has followed his pronouncements. Many who heard the words were cheered by them and truly believed that an epiphany had occurred in the White House. Hosanna! He had finally listened to the people, long oppressed by escalating gasoline and other petroleum prices and offered relief from foreign oil. His approval ratings went up consistent with the hopes of the people. When he made that proclamation I admit that I was astonished. Could it be that he had seen the light and was actually doing something for the people?

Within a very few days as various officials and drilling companies debated the wisdom of extending drilling opportunities, there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig which took the lives of eleven and 89 others were spared. It struck me pretty hard because, if not possibly the same guys, they were of a type I had come to enjoy in my gun shop in Houma. Typically they were fun-loving yet serious hard working guys. A little rough around the edges but otherwise the kind of men any man is proud to know. Most of them worked two and two (two weeks on and two weeks off) and sometimes other long term combinations. When they came into Cochise Trading Co. we picked up the conversation where it had left off.

There are many people with a vested interest in determining the cause of any accident on the platforms at sea—or land for that matter. Owners, workers, families, insurance companies, regulatory agencies, and investigators from multiple police agencies to OSHA; all are possible participants in curiosity about the cause of the disaster. In all the written material on this particular tragedy I have missed a comprehensive report on any on-going investigations. I would certainly appreciate a link if you have seen something I have missed.

My suspicious mind leads me to ask who exactly had the most to gain from this mis-hap. In the spirit of “never let a crisis go to waste” it is ready made for the crowd who wish to discourage off shore drilling. Ask yourself how it is that the worst oil spill in the nation’s history—yes, it exceeds that of the Exxon Valdez—comes so shortly on the heels of the expanded drilling announcement? A reminder here that a common staple of law enforcement is to seek that person or special interest who has the most to gain from the commission of a crime. It appears there is no shortage of possible villains to be investigated here. As you consider this, remember that dollar gains are not the only ones that count. Ideology, revenge, elimination of a competitor, and enhanced status are often valid in the mind of the perpetrator to act in a senseless manner.

When this was posted earlier we were under the false impression that the capping of the well was a fait acompli.  Unfortunately we were reacting to an overly optimistic report.  Although they are making huge progress it is not complete.  Whenever that occurs, we pray that the investigators learn the actual cause, we can all rest easier.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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