Saturday, May 15, 2010
Gulf Oil Spill: will the blob surface by the GOP convention? by gimleteye
There are a thousand points of horror to consider about the abandonment of precaution in the proliferation of oil and chemicals in the environment and the subtle, gradual impacts to human health. One of the outcomes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is along the lines of not knowing-- at all-- what happens to a massive oil spill when it is released into cold water, 5,000 feet beneath the surface.
Although the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico spans a huge area, scientists believe that the visual measurement is only a fraction of what is pouring from an 18,000 foot deep hole in the earth that represents the height of hubris. No one knows where the rest of the oil is. That makes your guess as good as anyone else's, including Phd's consulting for BP or TransOcean or Halliburton or scientists at the University of Louisiana or RASMUS. This is why you have tough, enforceable regulations: to stop ordinary people from scratching our heads and wondering what happens next, with a few million gallons of oil sloshing around in the Gulf of Mexico.
President Obama inherited a decade or more of abandonment of the federal regulatory mission. Still, it is frustrating to watch the president's rising anger in view of the fact that his Administration ought to have implemented, as a matter of first responders to the devastated regulatory mission-- thoroughly neutered under Bush--a crash course in regulatory reform of the environment and new training and competency requirements for regulators. The house needed to be cleaned but it wasn't, because the president's top advisors didn't believe it was a priority.
How do you measure trace hydrocarbons in shrimp or any of the food chain; how do you know if volatile organic compounds are being sucked up into the rainclouds and deposited on land? What are you breathing, ingesting, and what happens if you go swimming in water where pollution isn't being measured? These are all questions that were not considered priorities, either by Congress or the White House, until catastrophe struck. Rahm Emmanuel et al. never gave time to these issues and especially in the area of staffing sub-Cabinet level appointees in regulatory agencies. You see, at the White House even under Democrats the environment is a lesser order of concern, mostly involving the political balancing act driven by large and wealthy corporate interests. Until it is not or, as in the case of Bill Clinton, a president leaves office.
First responders are claiming that the tar balls now washing ashore are like jello, similar to the consistency of political will when it comes to cracking down on polluters. It is easy to imagine that the oil is forming floating blobs or clouds underwater that will kill all marine life in its path, as it drifts in deep water currents. But where this subsurface ocean of oil is headed, and what happens to real estate values where it lands is up in the air. The oil is predicted to drift for decades and make landfall in Tampa in the summer of 2012 where the Republican National Convention will be meeting. Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, and the rest of the "Drill here, drill now, pay less coalition" will explain how many more billions are needed to compensate people for the costs of the Gulf Oil Spill. We might find out sooner or they might use another issue, like abortion for instance, to paper over damage done to fetuses from chemicals derived from oil.