The latest spill extent graphic from NOAA shows an increasingly staggering area impacted by the Horizon well leak by mid-week. Winds have reversed now, spreading the slick Westward, and temporarily relieving fears that the slick could migrate to the East Coast though Atlantic fisheries could still be impacted.
The slick is now so large that space-based resources such as those held by NASA are needed to monitor it. The Coast Guard conceded days ago that there is no exact way to know how much oil has spilled. Simply multiplying the current best-guess flow rate from the three well leaks by the number of days since April 22 would place the total spill volume in excess of 2 million gallons of oil. Confusion reigns as to what magnitude of disaster we are really seeing as some note that the spill is not the worst in history in terms of volume of oil spilled, whereas others rely on potential economic and environmental ramifications.
… "We don’t know what the event that has allowed for this massive oil to be released," Perry said. "And until we know that, I hope we don’t see a knee-jerk reaction across this country that says we’re going to shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, because the cost to this country will be staggering." — Texas Governor Rick Perry, calling the spill "just an act of God" — Note to Rick: If God created an environmentally disastrous offshore oil spill, couldn’t that be God telling us to stop offshore drilling? etc
… “This bill was strongly criticized by hard-core environmentalist wackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants,” said Limbaugh of the yet to be unveiled Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate and energy bill.
“What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?” Limbaugh asked. “I’m just, I’m just noting the timing here.” — Rush Limbaugh, Department of Unfoundable and Unforgivable Insinuations.
… What I want people to know is this isn’t Katrina. This is not Armageddon. I did this for the Coast Guard many years ago. Yeah, it’s bad. And it’s terrible that there’s a spill out there. But I would remind people that the oil is twenty miles from any marsh. … That chocolate milk looking spill starts breaking up in smaller pieces … It is tending to break up naturally …" — Representative Gene Taylor, confusing the milk his mommy put in his lunchbox with the oil spill he was flying over.
… "This is exactly what they want, because now he can pander to the environmentalists and say, ‘I’m gonna shut it down because it’s too dangerous,’" Brown said. "This president has never supported big oil, he’s never supported offshore drilling, and now he has an excuse to shut it back down." — Michael "Brownie" Brown, taking a break from managing the Arabian horse club long enough to help confuse and muddle the response to another Gulf disaster.
Bill Kristol apparently thinks that the disaster wouldn’t have been an issue if the drilling was only closer to shore. Note to Bill: the drilling was far offshore because that is where an accessible, desirable location in the Tiber oil field was located. "Fox News" probably shouldn’t ask Bill about oil drilling anymore if he makes statements so stupid that one doesn’t even need to point out his ideologically bent worldview to expose him as a fool. Bill doesn’t seem to grasp that it was BP that told us everything was fine drilling in deep water location offshore, that BP sought permission to explore and drill in these waters, and that it is the oil industry that wants deep water drilling, not a conspiracy of liberal environmentalists who think deep water is OK just not right off the beach.
Finally, we have a truly ominous statement from Robert Gibbs, the Obama administration mouthpiece:
"The president was specific in ordering [Department of Interior] Secretary [Ken] Salazar to look at all the possible aspects of what could go wrong in this instance [and] to report back to him in that thirty day period," Gibbs said in response to a question from the Huffington Post. "This is an administration that is going to take any information we can get from that and have that dictate our decision making going forward. I think it would be premature to get too far ahead of where Secretary Salazar’s investigation is."
The fact that the Obama administration is doing anything besides going full speed ahead in rolling back their previous support for more offshore oil drilling, even as this terrible spill is in its early stages, is very disheartening. Furthermore, Gibbs seems to be indicating that Obama views Ken Salazar, a drilling proponent, as the "lead" figure in the investigation. That too is frightening. It’s not clear what is premature about a spill that now requires NASA and NOAA satellite resources to monitor, its so huge.
The coming weeks are going to show us a lot about President Obama. I think many of us will agree that, if we emerge from the spill of the Deepwater Horizon with anything less than a permanent moratorium on expanded offshore oil drilling, and climate change energe policies moving forward without this drilling built in, that Obama will have permanently discredited himself with the environment, and, further, as a guardian of the public interest.
Greenpeace has moved online and on-the-ground resources into place in the Gulf area. On its web site Greenpeace has taken a step I find quite laudable in the charge to raise awareness about the implications of this spill. View their oil spill site. Note that partway down the page Greenpeace has assembled a high-quality graphic displaying "maps" of Horizon-like spill extents if they were to happen in other proposed drilling sites. I encourage everyone to spread this graphic around, go viral with it. This is exactly the kind of easy, visual, and immediate representation of what can happen around any of these proposed drilling sites we need right now, supportable by what has factually happened in the last two weeks.
The Sierra Club has on its web page a replay of the burning rig photo from the first two days of the Horizon fire, that has a "donate money to help" statement printed over it. The Sierra Club has had high-ranking figures present in online media but it appears that the Club is going to use the disaster as a fundraising bonanza. I’d give the Sierra Club an "F" if it wasn’t for a few written pieces I’ve seen from them in recent days on the widely-read Huffington Post. Instead, I’ll give them an "E", for "Exploitation", that is, their apparent intention of prioritizing their fundraising in the disaster. They might as well sell sea turtle meat by the seashore. They interleave the picture of a Northern Gannet being scrubbed of oil with the burning rig picture. With all their resources, do they not have a single photographer on the ground in the Gulf getting their own pictures for them?
Oceana has built up a presence in the issue that deserves its own web log entry. I encourage people to watch what Oceana does wit this disaster. Likewise, the NRDC appears to be going full throttle on raising awareness, they are showing up over and over in mass media coverage.
As 3/4 of the boom available to contain the spill fails in rough weather – and it was an insufficient amount by far – BP has prepared the first of three "containment chambers" they hope to mitigate the spill’s extent in the months remaining before their intervention well can be drilled. Looking at the image of the rusty, improvised, clunky four-story steel box that is to be lowered into a mile of water even after we know that most of the spilled oil can never be cleaned up I ask myself: how did it come to this?
Couldn’t the 350 million dollars that went into the building of the Deepwater Horizon have resulted in a response to a predictable disaster that didn’t boil down to the panicked attempt to construct a crude steel box to lower over a spewing well leak? This is the real story here – how did two hundred-billion-dollar-plus corporations (BP and Transoceanic), with massive engineering resources available, working within a supposed Federal regulatory environment, produce a spectacular high-tech failure and ecological disaster and the only response that the Federal government and BP have together is an insufficient amount of boom breaking down under moderate wave action at the coastline, and a rusty four-story steel box intended to sit under a mile of water over a high-tech well with a 450,000 kilogram blowout preventer that never activated? I believe that the answer to that question will be sufficient, once made clear, to permanently block or end deepwater offshore drilling.