Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Oily News That's Fit to Print: Welcome to the Future

Welcome to the future. More than any event so far, the BP oil disaster is a preview of the near future: A future of consequences, of dreadful crises--often more than one happening at once-- with no easy solutions and maybe no solutions at all, of media panic and Internet hysteria feeding on itself, people feeling pain needing someone to blame, with unrealistic expectations and the propensity to destroy the best they can ever expect to get. A future that will call for courage, imagination and self-awareness, the ability to step back, and to step up, to do what can be done. A future of unlikely and unknown heroes, and of perseverance in the whirlwind of self-destruction.

BP's Top Kill unsurprisingly failed, and as the company gets ready to trot out an even riskier fix, BP is further alienating scientists and the White House. According to this report in the Guardian, BP is challenging scientific findings of underwater oil plumes: "BP's claim is likely only to further anger environmentalists and the White House, which has grown increasingly suspicious of the company's claims to be frank and transparent on developments. The president's environmental adviser and director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Carol Browner, has accused BP of misstating the scale of the leak."

The Guardian also reports that "the US military has ruled out taking charge of the operation to stem the flow of oil from the blown-out BP rig. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, today said that military chiefs had looked at the available equipment and concluded that "the best technology in the world, with respect to that, exists in the oil industry".

However, the Guardian erroneously reports that "former US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said the military should step in because the crisis was now "beyond the capacity" of BP to stop." What Powell actually said was that the military might be able to help, but that current military leaders would know better if they in fact can.

Another report on the underwater oil:"researchers say the disaster in waters where light doesn't shine through could ripple across the food chain."Every fish and invertebrate contacting the oil is probably dying. I have no doubt about that," said Prosanta Chakrabarty, a Louisiana State University fish biologist.

"Recent discoveries of endangered sea turtles soaked in oil and 22 dolphins found dead in the spill zone only hint at the scope of a potential calamity that could last years and unravel the Gulf's food web."

Dispersing the oil lower into the water column protects beaches, but also keeps it in cooler waters where oil does not break down as fast. That could prolong the oil's potential to poison fish, said Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. "There's a school of thought that says we've made it worse because of the dispersants," he said."

President Obama meets Tuesday "with the leaders of a panel he created to probe the worst oil spill in U.S. history... as a giant slick from BP's blown-out Gulf of Mexico well poses a new threat to the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama."

Also today, "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will meet with federal prosecutors and state attorneys general in New Orleans. It will be Holder's first trip to survey the damage before what legal experts believe will be a criminal investigation into the disaster."

Meanwhile, the first named storm of the season, Tropical Storm Agatha, killed more than one hundred people in Central America, with torrential rains, and a sinkhole that swallowed a city building.

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