Environmental News Section

Saturday, June 26, 2010 - 8:44pm

The Largest Oil Spills in History, 1901-Present

 ChartsBin.com has a great flash animation on a page titled The Largest Oil Spills in History, 1901-Present.

 Check it out if ever you need to get an idea of the amount and placement of some of the largest oil-related disasters (aside from war) that the global ecology has had to endure.

These spills have an impact not only on any local environment affected but also on any systems that the pollutants pass through as they are dispersed far and wide through the ocean.

The current huge gusher in the Gulf will leave an ecological wound that will impact not only the local communities, but also other ocean-based life -- even if the oil remains relatively close in proximity. [more on affected species] And we already have plenty of indicators that "close proximity" is highly unlikely, with some predictions stating that the oil (including all the accompanying toxins and chemical dispersants) may ride the Gulf Stream for a trans-Atlantic boost to start impacting far-off places like Norway.  The more conservative estimates range from only affecting shores along the inner gulf to tainting shores along the eastern US seaboard.

It's not just oil itself that we have to worry about with regard to polluting our environment.  We have, as a species and particularly as a culture, often regard ourselves as masters of our environment, not subject to or impacted by it, the occasional wild storm tornado, earthquake, fire or flood notwithstanding.  Our habits and self-importance have led to an arrogance and disregard that is getting more difficult to ignore as our everyday overconsumption begins to stress, strain and compromise a variety of systems.  The impact of our negligence is becoming more difficult to ignore, too.  [pacific gyre, domestic drilling, mountaintop removal]

As a parting thought, here's a little something to think about: how much of an impact on our environment do we have simply in pursuit of pleasure? Here's a question and answer that may bear some further investigation, as well as some somber thinking:

 How much pollution do cruise ships dump into our oceans?

Now, I'm off to go wobble der wooblekint ("walk the dogs" in warped English-Germanesque).


Connecticut Man1
Friday, June 25, 2010 - 12:54pm

And thousands of good men and women in the military that are sitting idle when they, with a little training, could be deployed to take care of that Boom properly.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

There are a lot of things where I would just roll my eyes when both sides play political games. But this game that Jindal is playing is resulting in the physical destruction of part of the United States of America. Same can be said for any of the states that are holding back on using these soldiers that can and should be doing something very useful in this disaster. Because if you are doing this because you don't want the government to be seen doing the kind of things that it can and should do...

Then the government isn't broken in this case but you, Gov. Jindal,  are clearly busted:

It turns out Jindal's response was a lie.

But Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander in charge of the government's response to the spill, said Jindal is just flat wrong.

"There is nothing standing in the governor's way from utilizing more National Guard troops," Allen said.

In fact, the Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day. Now Jindal's office acknowledged to CBS News the governor has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed.

This is a very big deal. It exposes the fact that Jindal has been playing politics with the spill from day one. He's argued that the federal government has denied him the resources he needs to fight the spill, but even though he's had thousands of National Guardsmen at his disposal, he's only used a tiny fraction of them, allowing more than 80% of the resources at his disposal to go unused.

In light of Jindal's massive under utilization of National Guard resources, it's clear that his attacks on the Obama administration were motivated first and foremost by politics. More than anything else, Jindal wanted to take the heat off the oil industry and put it on the government.

And, Gov. Jindal, you are morally bankrupt too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - 7:59pm

The shutdown of the drilling operations is expected to have a substantial impact on the Louisiana economy, as the 33 rigs contemplated in last week's shutdown order probably employ 7,590 people, and each of those is believed to support four other jobs on land.

The Interior Department has released a list of 17 companies with deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico that are affected, but it has not disclosed the names of the prospects, rigs or locations, saying the information is proprietary

And of course today

Judge Blocks Drilling Moratorium
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A federal judge in New Orleans has blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects that was imposed in response to the massive Gulf oil spill.Source

There are existing deep water wells in the Gulf of Mexico where, following the discovery that the MMS and the oil industry really can not guarantee another Deepwater Horizon will not happen again, may warrant having an insurance policy in place. That insurance policy could be in the form of redundant relief wells. If an accident happens, the relief well is ready to go with no delay.

Until recently, when BP and other oil companies lobbied the Canadian government and the rules were relaxed in its favor, there had been a requirement for an operating oil rig to identify a rig capable of being mobilized to drill a relief well.

BP Sought To Ease Canada's Policy On Relief Wells - source
"An operator needs to demonstrate that there is a viable system that can be deployed to drill a well, a relief well, in the same season as the original well, should the original well go out of control,"

Canadian oil companies no longer need to have relief-well plans - source
he Harper government has watered down regulations governing oil drilling off Canada's East Coast so that oil companies don't need a backup plan to drill a relief well in the event of a blowout.

Under the previous federal regulations, companies were required to develop contingency plans and have equipment in place to deal with a range of emergencies, including "a situation requiring the drilling of a relief well."

Going back to when this disaster first happened, noladerf and I had a comment conversation where we tried to identify the deepest wells.

The world's deepest oil platform is the floating Independence Hub which is a semisubmersible platform in the Gulf of Mexico in a water depth of 2,414 meters / 8,000 ft.
Now I may have this wrong, (and I hope someone will correct me if I am) but I know that that in Australia a 'hub' connects to multiple wells. So looking at Independence 'hub' we find the following fields listed.
Independence hub 10 Projects (wells?)
Atlas and Atlas NW, Water Depth 2,700 m / 8,910 ft
Callisto, Water Depth 2,406 m / 7,940 ft
Cheyenne, Water Depth 2,739 m / 9,039 ft
Jubilee, Water Depth 2,682 m / 8,851 ft
Merganser, Water Depth 2,408 m / 7,946 ft
Mondo NW, Water Depth 2,549 m / 8,412 ft
Spiderman, Water Depth 2,700 m / 8,910 ft
Vortex, Water Depth 2,543 m / 8,392 ft
San Jacinto, Water Depth 2,392 m / 7,894 ft
ENI (NOC), Water Depth 2,416 m / 7,973 ft

Shell Perdido host are in about 8,000 feet of water
Perdido Silvertip, Water depth 2,812 m / 9,280 ft
Great White, Water depth 2,348 m / 8,045 ft
Tobago, Water depth 2,926 m / 9,656 ft
Trident, Water depth 2,953 / 9,745 ft

From the MMS weekly report of Current Deepwater Activity. It is these, I believe, which would have fallen under the moratorium. :
Tobago, Water Depth 9,627 ft
Great White, Water Depth 7,814 ft
Santa Cruz, Water Depth 6,526 ft
Triton, Water Depth 5,376 ft
Red Hawk, Water Depth 5,334 ft
Mensa, Water Depth 5,292 ft
Macondo, Water Depth 5,161 ft
Macondo, Water Depth 5,159 ft

Hoover, Water Depth 4,804 ft
Vito, Water Depth 4,038 ft
Mirage, Water Depth 4,000 ft
Princess, Water Depth 3,797 ft
Nansen, Water Depth 3,681 ft
Front Runner, Water Depth 3,350 ft
Glider, Water Depth 3,243 ft
Gunnison, Water Depth 3,152
Auger, Water Depth 2,862 ft
Lost ark South, Water Depth 2,722 ft
Appaloosa, Water Depth 2,642 ft
Pyranees, Water Depth 2,095 ft
Krakatoa, Water Depth 2,036 ft
Amberjack, Water Depth 1,030 ft
Boxer, Water Depth 750 ft

There is a list of all wells over 1,000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico, which comes to a totals as follows :
SubSea Boreholes in Water Depths Greater than 1,000 feet
64 wells 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet
46 wells 2,000 feet to 3,000 feet
59 wells 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet
26 wells 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet
Deeper than Deepwater Horizon Macondo well :
21 wells 5,000 feet to 6,000 feet
33 wells 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet
8 wells 7,000 feet to 8,000 feet
10 wells 8,000 feet to 9,000 feet
2 wells 9,000 feet to 10,000 feet

Deepwater Horizon was in water approximately 5,000 feet deep, however a similar blow out and gusher occurred last year in Australian waters which lasted around 3 months at a well depth of only 254 feet.
BP's Gulf Gusher, 'I've seen this movie before', 8 months ago

I have since also received the following map from vet laying out the location of the deeper wells.


There was some discussion that Norway operate their deep water wells with the requirement that every main bore must have a relief well already in place, just in case of accident, malfeasance or natural disaster. I cannot find a link showing this, and would appreciate confirmation or otherwise.

But the relationship between the MMS, the supposed regulator and the oil companies, has proven to be ineffective in protecting from catastrophic disasters as is now being witnessed on the Gulf Coast. When it comes to taking all care to ensure well engineering integrity, spill preparation, containment and clean up plans are in place, they have failed.

In fact so ineffective that the MMS rubber stamped safety plans where 90% of the content was the same for five oil companies.

We have also learned today, though, that, according to documents released by Congress, other big oil companies have very similar spill response plans. Shell and Chevron said they could take care of 200,000 barrels a day.

And it turns out BP is not the only company that plans to protect walruses in the Gulf. Four of the five oil companies have plans that call for protecting walruses, which, by the way, were not spotted in the Gulf -- well, actually, they were last spotted in the Gulf about three million years ago, according to what I have read.

One more shocker: Three of the companies said they were getting information from an expert, a scientist who has been dead for years.

Four of the companies have plans to protect walruses in the Gulf from a spill -- walruses not having been here for three million years. And then there's this. This is what BP calls its quick guide to a regional oil spill plan. Now, there's a section on safety and a section on spill assessment.

Take a look at this sheet, all right? That's what it looks like. Now check out this one. This is ExxonMobil's quick guide to an oil spill plan in the Gulf. Does it look familiar? It should, because it is virtually identical to the sheet from BP.

Now let me show you Chevron's solution. This is their quick guide to a regional spill. And wouldn't you know, and except for different fonting and maybe a change in a word or two, identical to the versions from BP and ExxonMobil. Finally, ConocoPhillips with a carbon copy of the other guides.

These are -- I mean, these are companies that are making billions of dollars each. - Source

Is it not then solving more than one issue, putting those rig workers who through no fault of their own, are impacted by the moratorium, back to work. By implementing safety standards which require relief wells for all wells over a certain depth or under certain criteria.
I don't know what that depth would be, but with those 21 wells identified above as Deepwater activity lining up with the 20 wells from 7,000 to 8,000 feet, maybe that is a start.

Drill relief wells to give residents of the Gulf Coast the peace of mind, that after they stop the Gulf Gusher at Macondo prospect, if another one occurs, it wont be months and months before it can be stopped because they are waiting for the 'luck of the draw' relief well first getting to depth, then locating that 7 inch bore in 18,000 feet of rock.

Saturday, June 19, 2010 - 1:44pm

With all the recent changes in our world, and the impact of those changes upon our nation, perhaps it's time to adjust some of the songs of old to better reflect our current state of being. Let's start with "America the Beautiful" for example:

O beautiful for spacious polluted skies,
For amber waves of grain oil,
For purple flattened mountain majesties
Above the fruited poisoned plain!
America! America!
God The GOP shed his grace shat mightily on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood sown thy guv'mint with trait'rous greed
From sea to shining dying sea!

Mmmmm...that seems a lot less positive. More accurate? Sure -- but not very positive.

Too bad they still have enough power to prevent any attempts at undoing their damage.

Image from RLMiller's Daily Kos diary.

Connecticut Man1
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - 1:08pm

Doug Suttles of BP: Well, Tom, I'm not the best expert on the technology but I think events like this typically advance the technology by leaps and bounds....I think that probably part of the reason is there have been so few big spills. The events haven't driven the technology change that's out there. I think this event probably will.

Apparently it is because < shakes my head > they claim  they have not had enough oil spills to practice on:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Meanwhile and exhibiting its infinite wisdumb in disaster manipulations, BP has decided to hire the Vampire Squid, among others, to teach them how to navigate the Gulf Gusher fall out:

With Need to Limit Liability, BP Hires Goldman Sachs

Slipped into this Reuters piece is the news that BP has hired Goldman Sachs as “advisers” for unknown purposes, in addition to Pete Peterson’s Blackstone Group and Credit Suisse Group. (Tip o’ the hat to Brad Johnson)

BP has hired investment banks Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs Group and Credit Suisse Group as advisers, a source familiar with the matter said, without identifying the purpose of the advice.

It’s funny because if the Vampire Squid lived in the Gulf of Mexico, it’d be choking to death on BP’s oil. Assuming, of course, it doesn’t actually thrive on crude oil.

If anyone can teach BP to turn a disaster of their own creation into some kind of uber-profitable venture in disaster capitalism or make it an endless corporate welfare gravy-train at the American taxpayers' expense...

Well? Let's just say that I would not be surprised if BP is about to become an acronym for Beyond Petro-dollars.


"We knew how to profit, not how to protect."

Connecticut Man1
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - 9:18am

I love sites like Campaign for America's Future or Think Progress because they provide near infinite resources to the left leaning kind of people like myself that, in the past, were fighting so many of the big political arguments of the day without the benefit of any credible sources for research material. But they are not perfect.

Where else but Think Progress' The Progress Report are you going to find a page of material sent to you in your email inbox with pre-fact-checked material that is almost always timely and insighful. I.E. and from yesterday's (June 1st) The Progress Report:


CONGRESS -- HOUSE APPROVES COSTLY WEAPONS PROGRAM THAT PENTAGON DOESN'T WANT, CUTS PROGRAMS FOR LAID OFF WORKERS: On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a major jobs bill that extended popular unemployment benefits and tax credits. Although the bill will have a positive impact on the American workforce, it is worth noting that conservatives successfully weakened it before final passage. They scaled down the bill from its original version, which extended jobless benefits through the end of the year and included Medicaid assistance to states and expanded COBRA health insurance subsidies for jobless workers. These bolder provisions were jettisoned following intense negotiations with congressional conservatives who demanded that the bill be made cheaper. However, as the House was demanding that a popular jobs bill be made less costly, it did manage, in a separate bill authorizing Defense Department funding for 2011, to approve a second engine for the F-35 fighter that both the Pentagon and the White House didn't even want. An amendment stripping the engine funding from the defense authorization bill unfortunately failed by a 193-231 vote. Defense Secretary Gates has suggested to Obama that he should veto the defense bill. As the Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo concludes, "Can you imagine another agency coming before Congress, expressly asking that a particular program be cut because it's unnecessary, and having that request denied? It's a completely absurd situation."

A great contrast and comparison of two separate bills going through the Congressional sausage factory and exemplifying the absurdity of Deficit Peacocks on the conservative side of the political aisle, GOP and Dems (Blue Doggies, no doubt) alike:

March of the Defiit Peacocks
Published: January 28, 2010

Last week, the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, published an acerbic essay about the difference between true deficit hawks and showy “deficit peacocks.” You can identify deficit peacocks, readers were told, by the way they pretend that our budget problems can be solved with gimmicks like a temporary freeze in nondefense discretionary spending.

One week later, in the State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a temporary freeze in nondefense discretionary spending.

Wait, it gets worse. To justify the freeze, Mr. Obama used language that was almost identical to widely ridiculed remarks early last year by John Boehner, the House minority leader. Boehner then: “American families are tightening their belt, but they don’t see government tightening its belt.” Obama now: “Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same.”

What’s going on here? The answer, presumably, is that Mr. Obama’s advisers believed he could score some political points by doing the deficit-peacock strut.

Yes, even the big thinkers of our day can get useful information from places like those that produce Think Progress' material.

But sometimes I am really disappointed at the information they share. While I understand that this, from the same Progress Report yesterday, is based on information garnered from the IAEA... What they are reporting on here is, in fact, that Iran has made nuclear fuel that is nuclear power plant grade:

The IAEA reported yesterday that Iran has now produced enough nuclear fuel that, with further enrichment, would be enough to make two nuclear weapons. The report bolsters the Obama administration's case for new U.N. sanctions against Iran and undercuts Tehran's recent deal with Brazil and Turkey to ship its fuel abroad as, according to the IAEA report, Iran would still retain enough for a single weapon.

IMHO, people that frame this kind of stuff as a serious national security threat, when you look at it from the perspective that Iran desperately needs to find sources of power into the future considering their own economic realities of Peak Oil and the fact that there are no treaties I know of that Iran has gone against, they are kind of the War Peacocks. Many of them are the same kind of people that would have been arguing that Iraq had WMDs years ago, though I do not believe that anyone at Think Progress or their mother-ship Center for American Progress would have been among that insane group at the time.

This just some food for thought, and you can correct me if I am factually wrong on any of this, as I am just shooting from the hip on this post.

And that is part of why I am asking "How Would You Read this?"

But I don't like War Peacocks any more than I like Deficit Peacocks. Especially when the stuff they say looks like trying to score cheap political points.

And even worse, when the two Peacocks interbreed to make specious arguments that can and do lead to never-ending budget bloating wars.

I kind of look at what is going on, with Iran needing new sources of power and revenue and look at what we need in America (JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!) and see opportunity.

We could do more for our national security and jobs by reducing our need for oil and in creating newer and greener energy sources. Develop the kind of green energy and they become our most powerful weapon in our arsenal in that "best offense is a good defense" kind of way.

The thing about developing less disastrous sources of energy - I am talking non-fossil fuel and non-Nuclear here - is the fact tht if we really wanted to know the intentions of countries like Iran... We would know the day we develop safer energy sources and make it available to them.

If we could supply them with the wind and sun energy resources that could do everything a nuclear power plant could do for them and they still pursued the nuclear options then I might  say the "Iran No Nukes" crowd,  that appear as nothing more than War Peacocks to me right now, might have a real and honest argument.

All of this is part of why I view this "best offense is good defense"  move that is needed towards developing green jobs here and now as no longer just part of a "tree hugging lefty wishlist"  but as an national security and job security imperative.

Instead of building jet engines we don't need or funding endless wars appropriately titled O.I.L. (Operation Iraqi Liberation), all the while killing the American dream of just staying economically afloat these days, we need to sink huge sums of money into a new economy and new national security strategy that is on par with or even surpasses moonshots and Manhattan projects in its hopes, dreams and results.

A couple of videos from Vote Vets:


Connecticut Man1
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 1:20pm

Via MSNBC, a report that I read this morning in Bloomberg Businessweek and might be worth your eye contact for a few moments.

The tort lawyer and the BP oil disaster.

By Ken Wells

Fri., May 28, 2010

Daniel Becnel Jr., speed dialing over a speaker phone, places a call to a lawyer for a defendant in the British Petroleum-Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill.

"This is the king of torts calling," he says when he reaches the attorney's executive assistant.

"Oh," she says. "Then it must be Danny Becnel."

Becnel, adjusting his gold-rimmed glasses, nods appreciatively from his mahogany desk strewn with an impressive pile of legal papers. It's from here, in a French colonial-style office in Reserve, La., population 10,000, that he orchestrated the filing of the first federal lawsuit eight days after the Apr. 20 blowout, and where he tracks the legal squadrons gathering to sue BP and its contractors for claims that experts say could add up to a half-a-trillion dollars or more. About 110 suits have been filed so far, according to Becnel, and dozens more appear to be on the way.

I am trying to remember which party is always talking about tort reform - except when they are calling it a government takeover of healthcare - and who would benefit from it the most? It is not like keeping caps on Big Oil's disaster costs low has helped stop any disasters as evidenced by the history of BP and other repeat offenders. This is part of why I have always viewed the idea of tort reform in healthcare that the GOP, mostly, has pushed for as an invitation to even greater healthcare disasters when healthcare remains in the hands of the private sector profiteers.

When you cap Big Oil's responsibilities for disasters at a mere 75 million dollars  - as the GOP and some Blue Dogs have fought to keep in place - it destroys the free market's and the government's ability to hold the worst offenders accountable:

The Obama administration has made it very clear that it intends to force BP to pay all of the costs associated with the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But that might be easier said than done, thanks to a law passed by Congress in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill that puts a $75 million cap on liability for spills.

The costs associated with the Deepwater Horizon spill are numerous. BP is already spending $6 million a day on clean-up efforts. The government is  expending millions as the Coast Guard and numerous state and federal agencies rush to provide back-up. The spill has halted local fishing, an industry that brings in $41 billion to the Gulf region every year. It also threatens to seriously harm the region's tourism industry, which brings in $100 billion for Gulf states annually. And then there are damages that are more difficult to measure. The blast killed 11 workers and injured 17 others, and hundreds of gallons of oil are still seeping into the Gulf every day, standing to destroy fragile coastal ecosystems. It's hard to put a dollar figure on such losses.

Not long after the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which imposed a fee on oil companies—currently  8 cents a barrel—to be paid into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The federal government uses the fund to cover losses from oil accidents—such as  the destruction of wildlife and fisheries—up to $1 billion per incident. It looks very likely that this particular incident will far exceed that limit; current estimates are as high as $8 billion. But the 1990 law also capped the liability of companies at just $75 million for all costs claimed by parties injured in an accident, including individuals, businesses and government agencies.

This means that it could be very hard for the government to force BP to pay for all the expenses stemming from the spill. A trio of anti-drilling senators on Monday introduced the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act," a measure that would raise the liability limit on spills to $10 billion per incident.

I am darned certain I don't want Big Oil's irresponsibility to humanity to spill over into healthcare.