Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The BP Disaster: A Whale Of A Tale & Other Tarballs From The Gulf of Mexico

The latest outraged conservative talking point concerning the BP oil spill disaster is that President Obama has dragged his feet in dispatching the largest oil skimming ship in the world to the Gulf of Mexico.

The reality, of course, is rather different.

The ship in question is a Taiwanese-owned, Liberian flagged monster dubbed the "A-Whale." It stands 10 stories high, stretches 1,115 feet in length and with a 200-foot beam displaces more water than an aircraft carrier.

A-Whale's owner retrofitted the oil and iron ore transport in the wake of the BP spill with 12,16-foot-long intake vents on the sides of its bow designed to skim oil off surface waters and claims that it would float across the Gulf "like a lawn mower cutting the grass" and ingest up to 500,000 barrels of Deepwater Horizon oil-contaminated water a day.

So far so good, but there is a wee problem or two that has delayed engaging the A-Whale, which is en route to the Gulf: It's technology is untested at so huge a scale and the ship has yet to get Coast Guard approval.

The A-Whale kerfuffle is part of a large anti-Obama meme: That the president is refusing help from foreign nations.

The fact of the matter is that several foreign nations have sent ships and cleaning equipment to the Gulf. The offers that have been refused are for things of which there already is an abundance.

Obama was relatively quick to offer federal financial aid and to mobilize the National Guard in Gulf states to help with the cleanup, but the response of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been uh . . ., peculiar, while the response of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbor has been uh . . . insane.

Jindal, who was one of several conservative Republican governors to refuse stimulus money last year and then quietly took it when no one was looking, vetoed a bill last week that would have required him to make public and to preserve all his office's documents involving the spill.

He claimed that the legislation would have hurt the state's position in future litigation against BP, but it sure smells like a cover-up in a deeply corrupt state that has regularly rolled over and let oil giants scratch its tummy since Jindal himself as demanded that BP release certain records.

Then there's Barbour, who has continued to insist that Mississippi's beaches are unaffected even as tar balls wash ashore and the Mississippi Sound turns a putrid orange.

This because there is no skimming -- none, zero, nada, zilch -- going on, while Barbour has only mobilized 58 of the 6,000 guardsmen available to him.

"The most important thing right now is the 2010 elections," presidential candidate wannabe Barbour said unashamedly. "We can’t wait until 2012 to take back our country."

David Helvarg, president of the Blue Frontier campaign:

"The metastasizing spill in the Gulf is like cancer and the activity 90 miles offshore at the source like a messy surgery. The millions of gallons of toxic dispersants are like chemo, the burn offs, radiation.

"No metaphor is perfect but when I hear Louisiana's treasurer repeat a common claim among locals that they are in a two-front war against BP's oil in the marshes and the president's moratorium on new deepwater drilling (overturned by a Louisiana judge) I think about my mother when she discovered she had lung cancer. First she went around the house tearing up her cigarette packs and cursing Chesterfields. Later she shrugged, went to the store and bought a new pack.

"It's unclear if America is really prepared to kick its addiction to the 16th and 19th century combustibles of coal and oil. They're clearly much more addictive than nicotine."


jwest said...

Concerning the A-Whale, I am confused as to what the objection is.

You state that the technology isn’t proven on this large of a scale……??? O.K., what do you foresee as the problem? If the ship tries and fails, what is lost?

Honestly, I would like to know why you are not as upset by the delay in deploying any means of attempting a cleanup as the conservatives are.

As far as the Coast Guard inspection, couldn’t we just assume they have sufficient life preservers for the crew?

Also, unmentioned in the article is the EPA’s objection to releasing water that is only 99.5% clean as opposed to 99.998% clean. Let’s put this up to a vote among Gulf Coast residents.

Shaun Mullen said...

There is no objection to A-Whale per se, only that it is an unproven vessel and there may be some risk involved with the BP oil spill being its maiden voyage.

The objection -- or mine, anyway -- is that Obama is again being unfairly blamed.