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Why Not Crowdsource Oil Disaster Cleanup Ideas?

12:39 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

crowdsourcingSince the start of the response to BP’s oil disaster, the company and government have solicited suggestions from the public for ideas to stop the gusher, cleanup oil, or otherwise improve the current cleanup operations.

Today Thad Allen announced the creation of a new working group to filter and evaluate the more than 20,000 ideas already submitted:

The Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program workgroup, newly established by the National Incident Commander for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, announced here Friday a new effort to collect and review oil spill response solutions from scientists and vendors.

The IATAP and the RDC will screen and triage submissions based on technical feasibility efficacy and deployability. This will be a federal process to ensure a fair, systematic, responsive and accountable review of alternative response technologies by interagency experts.

The IATAP workgroup, established by Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, includes the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture.

The Deepwater Horizon Response website reports that of the 20,000+ ideas submitted, 100 have been selected for further review by a team of 30 experts. It’s unclear if only 100 have been set aside because 19,900 ideas sucked, or if there’s no manpower to read through all the ideas.

Either way, there may be a better, more efficient solution. There are clearly hundreds of people with expertise on all parts of the disaster unfolding in the Gulf. Some are on this very blog, and there are dozens of oil experts crowding the comments at The Oil Drum blog and elsewhere online.

Why not set up a website with all of the submitted ideas and allow the public to evaluate proposals? The government (or BP, or whoever’s in charge today) can display the submissions and supporting information, sort by type of idea, and establish set criteria for the evaluations to be filtered, and then let the best ideas as determined go up for further review to whaetever experts the government determines.

Crowdsourcing these ideas will rapidly accelerate the review process, empower people online to help with the response, and let the public see what’s in the 20,000+ submitted ideas.

At the very least, the government can release the submissions, and some enterprising developer or organization can build the infrastructure to allow for review of the documents.

(photo by asgood on flickr)

Dispatch from Louisiana: It’s Dire, Folks

9:39 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Hey everyone. I’m going to post a longer update later today but first wanted to let everyone know that I’ve been in Louisiana for about 24 hours to cover the BP oil disaster.

It ain’t pretty.

Louisianans are rightly pissed. Many are frustrated to the point they have to stop talking about the oil and its long-term effects. Fishermen are distraught. Folks from the Lower Ninth Ward, where I’m staying, down to Venice are taking out their anger with handwritten signs. "Damn BP, God Bless America" said one. Another urged people to call "David ‘Oil’ Vitter" and "Mary ‘Oil’ Landrieu." One van was spraypainted with "Drill Baby Drill: This is War."

People are unsure about what to expect, but nearly everyone is united in seeing that the response to the spill from BP and the government is far, far from what’s needed.

I’m heading down to Grand Isle right now to see where oil’s hitting the shore, and then I’ll be talking to some fishermen. Stay tuned.

I’ll leave you with this photo from last night.


Sen. Barbara Boxer Explains Video of BP’s Straw into Main Oil Gusher

12:58 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy, Government, Legislature by Michael Whitney

During today’s Senate hearing on the BP Oil Spill with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Barbara Boxer unveiled a new video of the underwater pipe gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In this video, Boxer explains that the pipe to the left is gushing oil, with a robot on the right holding the "straw" into the large pipe. You can see the thin straw in the lower third of the video. The flame-like flare coming out of the left of the straw is actually chemical dispersant being sprayed at the source of the oil.

Watch the video:

New Videos: Underwater Oil Volcano Continues to Erupt [UPDATED]

11:52 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

The office of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) today released previously unseen video of the oil volcano erupting from the failed blowout preventer (BOP) of the Deepwater Horizon. In 20 minutes of video posted to his YouTube channel, we get the best look yet at the disaster unfolding more than a mile underwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is the first footage of the underwater oil disaster in process since the White House and BP consented to the release of 30 seconds of video taken earlier this month. Once that video was released, scientists were quick to revise estimates of the disaster from 200,000 to 3 million gallons of oil released every day.

First is a long shot of the BOP, taken during the late night of Saturday May 15. The pipes you see extending to the right are part of the collapsed infrastructure of the Deepwater Horizon The point from which the oil is gushing is the top of the BOP. Watch it:

The second clip definitely seems more frightening, even though it’s the same shot as the above. This video is a closeup of the BOP and clearly shows the extent to which dark oil is erupting from the failed blowout preventer. Watch it:

(You can see the whole video from which the previous two clips were cut, as obtained by Senator Bill Nelson, here.)

As kgrandia posts at the Seminal, this video, taken yesterday, is the reality of the complete ineffectiveness of the straw supposedly sucking up 20% of the oil. Ha! This video shows the big pipe, and what is effectively a small straw inserted into the oil gusher. Watch it:

Two more clips. Here is a video similar to the one first released by BP and the White House that shows a black cloud of oil gushing from the pipe.

And finally, a shot of the oil volcano from May 10.

White House Allowed BP to Keep Video of Gushing Pipe from Public for Three Weeks

6:51 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

The White House allowed BP to hide its video feed of a gushing oil pipe in the Gulf of Mexico from the public for three weeks, all the while that same video played live in the White House Situation Room, ABC reports.

This startling revelation comes just as Obama prepares to get really angry in public about the spill – just in time to cover up his administration’s collusion with BP to hide the true extent of the massive disaster in the Gulf.

Brian Ross and John Soloman of the Center for Public Integrity discussed ABC’s quest to obtain the video of the oil pipe and revealed that the White House consented to the release of a 30 second clip of the pipe.

"At the end of the day, the White House finally acquiesced to the 30 second piece because they understood the political and media pressure," said CPI’s John Soloman. "Why not sooner? It’s been going on for three weeks. People have seen this internally within government almost every day. Why can’t the American people see it?"

The release of even the 30 second video clip showing the oil spewing uninhibited into the ocean immediately led outside observers to conclude the disaster was far worse than the 210,000 gallon estimate of the NOAA and Coast Guard. One scientist predicted to NPR that the rate is more in the range of almost 3 million gallons a day based on an analysis of the video released by BP.

The revelation that the White House and BP kept the true extent of the oil disaster from the public coincides nicely with last night’s news that Obama plans to get "angry" in front of the White House press corps tomorrow about BP’s role in the disaster and its clean up. Don’t be fooled, though. The evidence is mounting that the White House is working in concert with industry to hide the truth about the extent and cause of the spill.

Scientist: Oil Pipe Pouring 2.9 Million Gallons Per Day

6:13 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

The broken oil pipes of the sunken Deepwater Horizon are pouring 70,000 barrels of oil into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico daily, according to a scientist who analyzed the video of the pipe released by BP. At 42 gallons per barrel, that’s 2.9 million gallons of oil every day, or the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez every four days.

But sophisticated scientific analysis of seafloor video made available Wednesday by the oil company BP shows that the true figure is closer to 70,000 barrels a day, NPR’s Richard Harris reports.

That means the oil spilling into the Gulf has already far exceeded the equivalent of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

The analysis was conducted by Steve Werely, an associate professor at Purdue University, using a technique called particle image velocimetry. Harris tells Michele Norris that the method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent. That means the flow could range between 56,000 barrels a day and 84,000 barrels a day.

This new estimate is far higher than the 210,000 gallons estimated by the NOAA and Coast Guard, a figure released early on in the disaster. Behind closed doors yesterday, oil executives privately told members of Congress that they feared the leak could release up to 60,000 barrels daily.

Unfortunately, an analysis of BP’s own video by show the oil executives’ estimate is a conservative one. One analysis suggested the disaster could leak as much as 100,000 barrels a day, or 4.2 million gallons.

But hey, It’s just a tiny part of the ocean. Nothing to see here, move along people.