Sunday, May 30, 2010
In the tradition of Godzilla vs. Mothra and Alien vs. Predator -- contests where neither contestant is all that wonderful -- NOAA has published a Q&A regarding the upcoming hurricane season and the massive and continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (original document here in .pdf format).
According to NOAA, the slick won't "appreciably affect either the intensity or the track of a fully developed tropical storm or hurricane," although climate expert Al Gore has yet to offer his opinion. The only potentially positive note I can see in the Q&A is the bullet point stating: "The high winds and seas will mix and 'weather' the oil which can help accelerate the biodegradation process." It is, however, "difficult to model exactly where the oil may be transported," so storm track clearly matters a great deal.
This is one contest which we hope has no sequels.
I suspect all the geniuses that Obama has gathered together - action movie style - to tackle this problem actually will NEED a hurricane to increase the drama and improve the sale of the movie rights.
That was just sarcasm. These guys have already run out of ideas in GOOD weather. A storm will probably help.
There are several different -- and sometimes conflicting -- lessons we can draw from Deepwater.
Deepwater is a near exact repeat of the worst oil drilling disaster ever - the 1979 Ixtoc blowout which was also in the Gulf, but off the coast of Mexico. It took ten months to stop Ixtoc even though Ixtoc was only in 150 feet of water.
Accidents happen. They can be reduced in number, but risk is still there. A Deepwater blowout was a foreseeable risk. Now here's what's inexcusable:
Part of the 1994 Master Plan for dealing with the risk of another Gulf blowout was to use fire booms to corral the oil near the spill and then burn it off. If I have this right, drillers in the Gulf were taxed to fund the Master Plan but the US government never bought the equipment. You can blame any or all of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations for this.
Fire booms would have worked here. "[former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oil spill response coordinator Ron Gouguet -- who helped craft the 1994 plan] speculated that burning could have captured 95 percent of the oil as it spilled from the well."
You can blame BP, but you can't let the Federal Government off the hook.
ps. Ixtoc was a Pemex project. As to US damage claims, especially in Texas, Mexico claimed sovereign immunity and didn't pay a dime.
A Category Four hurricane landfalls near New Orleans, creates a storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain that breaches the levees,and so floods out 160,000 homes in New Orleans. On the Hurricane Intensity Index it's ranked Number Three all-time. Katrina? no ... it was Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Katrina is ranked Number Five on the all-time hit parade. New Orelans was devasted both times. In 1965, LBJ got credit for personally travelling to New Orleans to promise aid.
One lesson we should have drawn was not to build houses below sea level next to Lake Pontchartrain levees ... and/or build stronger levees.
The Boy Scouts say: Be Prepared. Our federal government says "... Not !"
I'm not anti-government per se. But I do think our federal government is next to useless at a lot of things. It's too far removed and too unaccountable.
Unlike LBJ with Betsy, Bush got blamed for Katrina. Because of Iraq, I'm convinced. It was too early for a lot of MSM types to criticize Bush openly and directly over Iraq -- that would come later.
Obama's getting blamed for Deepwater -- but I suspect other things are in the mix as well.
"You can blame any or all of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations for this."
Sadly it's not that easy. If a Federal Agency has a line item in their FY1998 budget that says "1.34 million dollars - Purchase of 34 left-handed flumdigits", then at the end of FY1998, they are most probably going to be in possession of them, or a *great* deal of Congressional huffing and puffing will ensue. After all, the purchase of these gadgets all come from specific Congressional Districts, and the Congresscritter from that district likes to get their credit come election time. Therefore the blame can be spread over quite a few Democrat and Republican thick skulls in both houses who found "better" things to do with the money. (See Highway Funds, FAA Funds, etc...)
Revised repost from below:
There's a blogger on DailyKos getting some attention re: Deepwater. "Fishgrease" claims to be a leftie who has worked in oil exploration for 30 years. He's nuttier than even I am, but may be legit -- stranger personal profiles are out there. Here's what he says:
Proper nearshore booming would significantly mitigate the problem. "Boom" is just a big containment skirt.
Fishgrease has a good explanation of proper nearshore booming HERE . The diagram says it all. i.e. you need a lot of boom to create overlapping channels to direct the oil into collection areas. A single line of boom offshore isn't effective.
"There's not enough boom, rope nor anchor on this planet to properly boom the Northern Gulf of Mexico. There should be! It's not that much an expense! Really! It's not!"
So the Coast Guard's current nearshore "single line" booming efforts are just for photo op -- and the Coast Guard knows this. Obama should know this too. It's a joke.
It wouldn't have taken much money to have had enough boom on hand beforehand. We fucked up. [ I'd add that we could have manufactured enough boom in a month, had we been on this from Day One on a war footing. ]
So if we had had offshore fire booms and nearshore collection booms, we could have mitigated Deepwater significantly.
As I write, I'm hearing that Obama is sending Holder down to the Gulf Coast with a view to exploring criminal charges against BP.