Gushing oil in the gulf

By Tom Putnam | Jun 09, 2010

In case you haven't become aware of this by now, Tom's Take articles are about ego: human ego, human behavior. Read on.

A terrible environmental disaster has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico: an offshore oil well being tapped and plugged for later use by British Petroleum blew up on April 20. Methane gas had developed in the pipe that entered the mile-deep seabed location and then exploded. The leased Deepwater Horizon drilling platform blew up with significant loss of life. Various amounts of crude oil, from 5,000 to 200,000 barrels per day, have been reported to be spewing into the Gulf ever since. The required and in-place safeguards failed. The environmental effects on the fishing industry, coastal wetlands, wildlife, and tourist beaches will be devastating and now there is the possibility that the Gulf Stream will carry crude oil up along the Atlantic Coast with similar devastating effects Everyone agrees this has become a tragedy of unique and epic proportions.

Since the April 20 occurrence, BP has been trying to stem the flow of this particularly heavy crude oil. Success has been elusive. As an experienced oil company, it should possess and understand how to use the most sophisticated equipment to stem the flow of the crude and prevent further destruction of the adjacent natural resources. Certainly, one would expect the company would be more able to cap the leak than any federal government, be it China, Europe, South America or the United States.

Now let's switch to the news wonks who have uninformed opinions about many things. Turn on the tube or radio today and all are screaming that President Obama should kick BP out and take over the operation himself.

Not wanting to be labeled a "do nothing" and "unperceptive" as was his predecessor in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama has sent various ministers to the site and also visited himself. Like everyone else, including BP, they pronounced this explosion and deepwater leak a horrific disaster (now that's doing something). As was suggested in the Katrina incident, "W" should have gone down to the Louisiana Coast and held up his hands to fend of Hurricane Katrina and then clean up after his efforts failed. And Obama should elbow BP out of the way and swim down a mile below the surface and plug the ruptured pipe himself. Has anyone ever thought of double bubble gum?

Seriously, it is easy to point the fingers of blame as long as they aren't at oneself. All the wonk chatter continues to advise and wring hands: Obama should get rid of BP (the one organization that at least has some ideas and equipment that might plug the leak) and let the U.S. government do the job. I wouldn't be surprised if BP would like that too. Yes, it is going to rightly suffer catastrophic financial losses, but it could claim, and rightly so, that the U.S. government has taken over the job of capping the spewing deepwater oil well. Then let us all sit back and listen to the wonk chatter emanating from our media with all of the outrage and expertise. (Well I guess it does bring income ...)

The federal government should wake up and begin to follow its own rules for granting permission to explore and drill offshore, and enforce its own restrictions and conditions for so doing. In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers should stop dragging its feet over the requests from Mississippi and Louisiana to dredge artificial barrier islands to block the flow of oil into the wetlands. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked BP to use a less toxic dispersant, not that it has an alternative one to suggest; and all agree that the effect of the dispersant is one of the few positives so far.

The soundest advice would be for members of the U.S. government to get down from their podiums and begin to work with BP. Let us form a "partnership" with the company and truly attempt to plug the well in as short a time as possible. BP has the equipment and more expertise than the federal government. Let us recognize reality and work together; and attempt to minimize and repair the damage to our coastline, wetlands, wildlife and country.

Finger pointing never provides any useful activity except in perhaps determining who will be elected to seats in Congress in the next election. That hand-activity statement also applies to the media wonks who, having so many time slots to fill and thankfully so few really devastating news stories, join in on the cacophony of blame.



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