Updated at bottom.

British Petroleum claims that it has placed a valve over one of the Horizon well leaks, halting or containing the flow of oil from that leak. This is good news in that there are only now two (known) leaks remaining, however, even BP is having to admit that closing this particular leak has not substantially impacted the overall spill rate. As BP continues work on containment chambers for the remaining two leaks, NOAA and BP have attempted the untested approach of undersea deployment of different types of chemical dispersants. These dispersants were directly injected into the leak flows undersea at a rate of 9 gallons per minute. Over 200,000 gallons of these dispersants are available if the approach is deemed "successful", "success" in this case meaning that addressing a toxic oil spill relies on injecting 200,000+ gallons of chemicals into the Gulf waters in a technique that still leaves hundreds of thousands of gallons of dispersed oil waste in the water. It doesn’t have to be a slick to be toxic, and it is a disheartening thing that the best potential short term approach to the leaks is injecting more unnatural chemicals into the water in great quantities.

The threat to wildlife is fairly large. The Fish and Wildlife Service can count up to 34,000 birds alone that are in principle threatened by this disaster. This enumeration leaves out of consideration all marine life affected from the microbial size to the size of a sperm whale.

As the shorelines and coastal waters of Louisiana are threatened by the Horizon oil spill, Louisiana’s two Senators – David Vitter and Mary Landrieu speak out in favor of continuing offshore oil drilling.

Here’s Mary Landrieu:

… “We must continue to drill,” she said.

She has compared the disaster in the Gulf to two previous disasters – the nuclear meltdown at three mile island and also the Challenger space shuttle explosion.

In the case of three mile island, she said, the US essentially shut down its nuclear program and now is worse off for it – behind the French and others in nuclear energy, dependent on foreign oil.

She also brought up the Challenger explosion. But as a counterpoint to three mile island.

“What we did not do is end the space program. We did not stop launching. We did not stop exploring,” she said.

“We have to find a way to make sure it never happens again, strengthen our resolve and… continue to be the world leader,” she said of offshore drilling.

“I am not saying that to minimize this disaster… There may be those who need to be held accountable,” said Landrieu, but she argued that offshore drilling leads to less pollution than other actives.

“We don’t think that burying our head in the sand and pretending that our country doesn’t need this energy is the way to go,” she said …

And here is David Vitter talking to "Fox News":

… Vitter said that the administration shouldn’t back off its plans to allow increased energy exploration despite the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has spilled onto his home state of Louisiana.

"I don’t think that there’s any argument that we should just start shutting down activity now, or even start shutting down new activity that’s planned," Vitter said Sunday during an appearance on Fox News. "Clearly there have got to be changes made because of this incident. But we certainly shouldn’t start shutting things down."

The administration has sent signals, most prominently by White House senior advisor David Axelrod during an appearance Friday on "Good Morning America," that it would halt starts on new exploration projects until an investigation into the causes of the current spill could be completed.

"I think that was the wrong approach," Vitter said, adding that it was his belief that the president itself had walked back that pause on new drilling to some extent. …

They call it "the best government money can buy". Since being elected in 1996, Mary Landrieu has accepted at least 2/3 of a million dollars in oil industry campaign donations. In the current Congress, she has been the #15 largest recipient of such donations – Blanche Lincoln being the #1 largest recipient this year, and holding a career total over half a million dollars in donations. In his short time in the Senate, David Vitter has accepted at least 1/4 of a million dollars in these donations.

And my, how those donations make party lines seem irrelevant. Below is a table showing how Vitter and Landrieu have voted lock step together on legislation of interest to the oil industry, ranging from voting against profit tax increases on the industry through legislation expanding offshore oil and gas exploitation.

Oil Industry Donations to Senators 1998-2010 (source: opensecrets.org)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 1996-)
David Vitter (R-LA, 2004-)
$662,505
$225,300
Key Energy Votes of Senators
Bill
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
David Vitter (R-LA)
S-3044
N
N
S-3711
Y
Y
S Amdt 4825
N
N
S Amdt 4207
Y
Y
S Amdt 1704
N
N
S Amdt 1566
Y
Y

  • S-3711: Expand Gulf offshore oil drilling
  • S-3044: Increase taxes on oil company profits
  • S Amdt 4825: Carbon Cap and Trade
  • S Amdt 4207 to S Con Res 70: Offshore natural gas development
  • S Amdt 1704: Alternative energy subsidies
  • S Amdt 1566: Offshore drilling in Virginia

Let the people of Louisiana listen to their elected Senators selling them out to the oil industry even as the slick continues to grow and their environment and livelihoods are threatened. And those of us who want to know how Louisiana became so defenseless to the oil industry can start by looking at Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, sponsored by British Petroleum and numerous other oil interests.

Finally, let’s not forget that Barack Obama and John McCain were the 2008 top recipients of oil industry donations. While McCain had in excess of $2,000,000, Obama still managed to haul in over $800,000 in one year, about the same as the career sum totals of Landrieu and Vitter combined.

With that bit of information in place, is there any doubt as to why it is that Barack Obama led the charge on embracing offshore oil drilling as the first and foremost part of his national energy and climate change policy?

And with officials this easily bought off, even the highest officials in the country, is there any doubt as to what sort of regulatory framework the oil industry can buy for itself, and how as a result we can have no response capacity between the Federal government and the entirety of the oil industry sufficient to respond to an easily predictable disaster?

Update 1:
Joseph Lieberman has declared that expansion of offshore drilling will still be part of the energy bill in the Senate:

… Sen. Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., said today offshore oil and gas drilling provisions will remain in a draft Senate climate and energy bill he has coauthored, despite a massive Gulf Coast spill that has given fresh ammunition to drilling critics.

"There were good reasons for us to put in offshore drilling, and this terrible accident is very rare in drilling," Lieberman said. "I mean, accidents happen. You learn from them and you try not to make sure they don’t happen again."

When asked whether the spill would change any of the drilling language he and Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have developed, Lieberman said, "I don’t think so; certainly not to lead us to remove it." He said the draft would allow drilling as close as 75 miles from the U.S. coastline.

Lieberman said the goal of their plan is less dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels in general, adding that the bill ensures greater environmental protection regarding drilling than current law. "I think the arguments are there," he said …

The famously reprehensible Lieberman is back and in action. The man is like a cross between Dr. Evil and the Energizer Bunny.

Nancy Pelosi is already signalling progressive House capitulation to the oil industry:

… Meanwhile, in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., remained optimistic — even determined — that Congress can pass an energy bill this year. "Certainly the risk presented by offshore drilling is something that has to be taken into consideration," said Pelosi, speaking to reporters. "But we must pass this bill. And we will find our area of agreement… between the House and the Senate — to pass it.

"I don’t think this [oil spill] is something that will stop it," Pelosi added. …

Pelosi, since assuming the House Speaker role, has become a broken record of capitulation, compromise, and failed progressive leadership. I really wish she would step down from her position.

Finally, Steny Hoyer is unsurprisingly unwilling to get in the way of Obama’s oil drilling plans:

… Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., later echoed those sentiments. "We cannot be hostage to those who sell us oil, who may or may not care a whole lot about our security," said Hoyer. "So, it’s very, very critical that we continue to move ahead on energy independence." …

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