Thursday, June 3, 2010

Perspective on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Oil has been spilling for 45 days. The estimated rate is between 500,000 and 1,000,000 gallons per day. That's a lot of oil. (And a pretty loose estimate.) So, that's somewhere between 22.5 million and 45 million gallons so far. Horrifying!

But ten times as much oil was deliberately spilled from Kuwaiti wells by retreating Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War. Ixtoc I spilled 140 million gallons in 1979. The collision between Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain, also in 1979, spilled nearly ninety million gallons. Those figures are taken from a slideshow at Popular Mechanics: 10 Biggest Oil Spills in History.

Meanwhile, in Alabama,

Gov. Bob Riley complained that there are hundreds of private boats ready to get out in the waters with skimmers to try to protect the shoreline from oil. But they're waiting on authorization from the U.S. Coast Guard to be able to do so.
And in the White House, a panicky Obama is shutting down much of the industry in the Gulf. He has no idea of what to do, but knows that he must be seen to be doing something, and if he can do something that will damage the economy even further, then that's the way he will go.

A dyspeptic observer might say: Change!… Bush Restored the Iraqi Marshes – Obama Destroyed the US Marshes.

On a personal note, I recall that when I was a kid in the 1950's, a visit to the beach always entailed removal of black stuff from the feet. Kerosene was the usual solvent. We didn't have sunblock in those days, either, so fun in the sun was always followed by painful peeling sunburn and tarry feet. We loved it anyway.

Update: 3 brilliant comments by Bruce Hayden at Althouse. Start with this one.

Another update: Nuke it. Dan Foster at NRO:
It was September of 1966, and gas was gushing uncontrollably from the wells in the Bukhara province of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. But the Reds, at the height of their industrial might, had a novel solution. They drilled nearly four miles into the sand and rock of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, and lowered a 30-kiloton nuclear warhead — more than half-again as large as “Little Boy,” the crude uranium bomb dropped over Hiroshima — to the depths beneath the wellhead. With the pull of a lever, a fistful of plutonium was introduced to itself under enormous pressure, setting off the chain reaction that starts with E = MC2 and ends in Kaboom! The ensuing blast collapsed the drill channel in on itself, sealing off the well.

The Soviets repeated the trick four times between 1966 and 1979, using payloads as large as 60 kilotons to choke hydrocarbon leaks. Now, as the Obama administration stares into the abyss of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and a slicker of sweet, medium crude blankets the Gulf of Mexico, slouching its way toward American beaches and wetlands, Russia’s newspaper of record is calling on the president to consider this literal “nuclear option.”
In the NYT: Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says. Is it a crisis, or not? We can do some things, but we'll have to see environmental impact statements for those berms, and we can't have just anyone going out in boats with skimmers. Skimmer skippers and crew must be properly trained. That could take months.

More from Foster, at The Corner:
a properly-executed 20-30 kiloton detonation beneath a solid layer of impermeable rock would let virtually no fallout escape into the waters of the Gulf. I am surprised that Green, like Wonkette, is treating one itty-bitty A-bomb as Vishnu, Destroyer of Worlds. Bikini Atoll, which was nuked to the high heavens in the 40s and 50s (twenty times, all told) has some radioactive coconuts to be sure, but is even as we speak safely inhabitable, and the waters around it are no worse for wear. In the Gulf case, BP has a detailed knowledge of the stratigraphic situation down there, and already has two ideal delivery sites in the form of the relief wells. The U.S. government has 60-plus years expertise in sub-surface nuclear detonations. Put all that together and this isn't "crazy." This is workable.
I wonder if the nuclear option is off the table because our nuclear weapons have not been maintained. They have not been tested in decades. Who's to know? Maybe none of them work any more, and Deepwater Horizon is calling our bluff.

3 comments:

Trooper York said...

That's nothing. At Coney Island we had to wade through medical waste and the occasional Chinese Immigrant who washed up on shore from the Golden Venture.

Trooper York said...

These kids today have it way too easy I tell ya!

Marianne Black said...

And we LIKED it!

~Dana Carvey