The Gulf of Mexico Mess

May 4, 2010

I'm a little bit down right now about this whole Gulf of Mexico oil well thing.  I know you probably are, too.

I've always wondered what being on one of those off-shore drilling rigs was really like, and I saw too clearly in the picture on April 20th as one of the British Petroleum rigs in the water 45 miles off the Louisiana coast had a still-unexplained explosion, caught fire, burned and sank, taking eleven lives as it went.

The rig itself was massive.  I watched the firefighting efforts on the Internet and saw sizable firefighting ships that pumped ocean water onto the fire.  Those ships were stationed all around the rig, streaming water onto the flames, trying to get the fire under control. 

The pictures made clear the size of that offshore rig was best described as massive.  Sadly, the only thing that big in the area is the oil spill that is still coming out of the well.  The oil is still gushing (not sure that's technically the right term, but what else to use?) at a rate of about 800,000 liters per day, into the no-longer pristine waters.  Expect a hike in the price of wild shrimp this coming season.

The well below the surface is 5000 feet down.  BP claims it is doing everything and anything it can to shut off the well, but I heard it compared to doing some sort of surgical procedure using robotic arms with chopsticks at the end, underwater, in the dark and at a depth that most of mankind will never get close to.  It sounds pretty difficult.

The U.S. Coast Guard says rough seas are hampering efforts to clean up the slick, which reached Louisiana's shore on Saturday.  The President of BP-America was on ABC News' “This Week” on Sunday saying that his company along with other oil producers are doing everything they can to try to get it shut down. 

On that same program, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior said that he thinks it could be 90 days before a “relief well” is drilled, enabling them to cap the one that is leaking.  BP-America's Lamar McKay said their company had some technology in development that might be able to stop the flow in 6 to 8 days.  But let me point out that BP-America, in procuring the lease, had promised that a “worst case scenario” leak in this area would never get this big nor reach Louisiana's coast. 

Perhaps I wonder at a time like this, is this the worst case scenario yet?  Or did this happen just in time to stop us from drilling more, polluting more, wasting more and using more of our natural resources?  Considering this accident in that light is the only sense I can make of all this waste: the hope that somehow we might learn just a little more of the lesson we seem to need restated over and over again.


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