How long will it take before somebody raises the question? Could we be lucky? Is the Gulf Oil Spill turning out to be something less than the worst possible case?
Let me start by stipulating that it is certainly a horrible calamity when eleven people die suddenly. The families of the victims, should they chance to hear about this article, should be assured that they have my deepest sympathies. If current evidence that the event was caused by negligence holds up, I will also sympathize in their anger and hope for a measure of justice on their behalf. I have nothing good to say about the operations people who seem to have cut corners left and right on this operation to make a buck, or the system that encouraged them.
Having said that it is a calamity and a travesty, I will also stipulate that it is a disaster, in the sense that a large number of people and a large swath of territory is adversely affected. If anybody is foolish enough to claim that this is good news, or less than a disaster, it isn’t me.
But that all said, we seem, so far, to be avoiding anything like Exxon Valdez scale impacts. It’s time somebody spoke up and said this. I’ve gotten tired of waiting and am hereby proceeding to bell this damned cat.
Will everybody I like hate me if I advocated a position supporting the Obama administration’s position on the Horizon spill, supporting BP’s assertion that the exact flux of oil is unmeasurable and of secondary importance, claiming that (aside from the initial and tragic loss of life on the platform) the present event is far less destructive than the Exxon Valdez, noting that the early evidence from this event is that accidents only result from an egregious violation of technical protocols, and arguing that deep water drilling should proceed?
I find the statements by Waxman & Markey grotesque, the breathless coverage by NPR irresponsible, the spin by Climate Progress and co. grossly excessive, even the NY Times going overboard, and while there’s still plenty of prospect for it to come out very badly, the news from the gulf seems, so far, basically reassuring.
The size of the slick has essentially equilibrated. This means that whatever comes to the surface is disintegrating in the hot subtropical sun so quickly that very little hits the coastlines. The stuff that’s under the surface is probably tremendously diluted. I see no reason to suspect that what’s gushing out of the pipe isn’t mostly methane by volume, and so of little direct consequence. We didn’t really dodge a bullet, but we did dodge a cannonball I think, and what’s even more politically incorrect, this all makes it look to me like deep drilling accidents are both avoidable and surmountable. If the operations were as badly mismanaged as it is alleged, that means the engineering protocols were sound, and the entire operation as designed (rather than as carried out) was safe.
As far as I can tell everyone I respect thinks I shouldn’t dream of saying such things. But the way the whole thing is being processed is really starting to bother me a lot.
I mean, look at the pictures of Prince William Sound from the Valdez disaster, or the Santa Barbara spill. Nothing like that is happening here, at least not yet. We don’t have miles of beach getting a lube job. We do have little puddles of goop on a few isolated beaches if photographers go out and look for them. Not good news, but not of the same order at all.
Furthermore, if nothing much happens to Gulfport, Mobile or Pensacola, which seems to me quite likely, there’s a fine example of environmentalist overreaction for all those red-staters to point to. I promise you those towns aren’t happy with the loss of tourist business for a whole month and counting while nothing much happens. So I figure I’m nowhere near as peeved as they are.
And this stuff about the loop current? Give me a break. The loop current is on the order of 5 Sv. or something over a billion gallons per second. So I get that the worst case figures people are bandying about amount to the entire flow to date over a month being comparable to a tenth of a second’s flow of the loop current, or about a sixtieth of a second’s flow of the gulf stream. If every single drop of the worst case flow got into the loop current, it would be diluted by a factor of about 25 million to 1. The stuff getting into the loop current would just shear it out and dilute it. I have never heard of an oil spill being transported to distant beaches by large-scale current systems. I think it’s pure fantasy.
What’s more, I’m afraid to say anything. I figure the disapproval I’ll get will not be worth it. But what’s that all about?
“I’m not a warmist. I’m a scientist.”
So to hell with correctness. Explain to me why I need to believe that this is the biggest disaster ever. Why all this eagerness to panic?
Update: The response website