Oil and Water

Jesus, what a mess this is. In a lot of ways, it really does feel like a replay of Katrina. We seem to have all of the necessary acts, including a catastrophic threat lurking in the Gulf, a too-slow response by the Federal government, plenty of everyone-remain-calm patronizing, and lots and lots of coulda-shoulda-wouldas and passing of the buck.

Yesterday, I walked outside of work and into a permeable stench in the air--it smelled like a combination of melting asphalt and diesel fuel. Gee. I wonder what that smell could be, with an oil spill the size of Jamaica 15 miles off of our coast? And then we get to hear people on the radio and television news, downplaying the stench and implying that everyone around here is working themselves into hysterics and experiencing some mass olfactory hypnosis. (But just to be on the safe side, even though we're all crazy and imagining the smell, they have DEQ monitoring the air quality.) This morning on the news, I swear I heard one of the local reporters say that the smell could be with us for the next 30-60 days. Can you imagine how lovely that will be once the real heat and humidity of summer hit us? Imagine a 90-degree, 98% humidity day with the added bonus of a reek of oil in the air. Doesn't that sound delightful?

The fishermen, crabbers, oystermen, charter fishing captains, etc., are screwed. Sc-REWED. How are they going to survive this? How about the tourism industry? Do you want to come here and smell that smell for yourself?

Then, we find out via a Wall Street Journal article that there's an additional remote-control shut-off switch that could have been added to the oil well and is, in fact, required in two other major offshore oil-producing countries. But here, of course, Congress caved and decided not to require it when "oil companies questioned its cost and effectiveness." Do you think they were questioning its cost AND effectiveness? Or just its cost? According to the article, the cost of one of these last-resort acoustic switches is around $500,000. To stop a catastrophe like this, where we're talking about tens of thousands of barrels of oil that are going for $85+ on the market, is $500k really that much to spend? Hmm, let's see. What is BP paying now to try to curtail this catastrophe? Well, the replacement cost of the oil rig is $560 million, and BP currently reports that it's spending $6 million a day to try to stop this thing. That $500k looks pretty good now, doesn't it? Hmm, where have we heard this before? Oh yes--the cost to properly build the levees to Category 5 protection in the greater New Orleans area is estimated at $10 billion. No way in hell are the American tax-payers going to support that idea, right? We're not using our tax dollars to support those people--those lazy, shiftless welfare queens "in that part of the world." The cost to repair the damages from the natural and man-made destruction of Katrina? Over $80 billion. How much have the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars cost us to date? It was $988 billion when I checked at 9:06 p.m. tonight. Go check and see how much it is now.

A week ago, we were told there was nothing to worry about, as no oil was leaking from the rig. About five days ago, we were told by BP that there were approximately 1,000 barrels of oil a day being released into the Gulf. Yesterday, we were told, oops--it's actually 5,000 barrels of oil a day. Today, another article in the WSJ said that the actual amount of oil being released is probably closer to 20-25,000 barrels a day. That's over 1 million gallons a day. How did BP come up with the 5,000 barrels figure? Their spokesperson said it was a "guesstimate." A guesstimate, you stupid assholes?

And then tonight, I came across my most favorite article yet. An Alabama newspaper has reported that, according to a confidential government report, the amount of oil being released could go up to as much as 50,000 barrels, or 2.1 million gallons, a day, if the piping currently spewing forth the oil is further damaged and release of the oil becomes "unrestricted." But not to worry, right? They're spraying dispersants on that oil as we speak to cause it to break up, right? "The emergency document also states that the spill has grown in size so quickly that only 1 to 2 percent of it has been sprayed with dispersants." And if it comes to that, then what? Well, according to a former NOAA oil spill responder, that will result in a "tremendous offgassing of the coast." Your idea of what an offgassing is is as good as mine, but he follows that up with the statement that it would result in a "significant health concern." (Nothing to worry about, remain calm, we're monitoring the air quality. And the water quality, too, since you poor suckers have to get your drinking water from the Mississippi River.)

I just looked up what offgassing is. It's the "evaporation of volatile chemicals." Basically, it's bad stuff released into the air by chemical agents that you then have no choice but to inhale, seeing as how they're in your environment. Kind of like, oh, say, if you lived in a FEMA trailer that was making you sick and giving you nosebleeds and asthma attacks because of the formaldehyde fumes that were "offgassing" into your living environment. Wonderful. So how much offgassing might 2.1 million gallons of oil per day released into the atmosphere cause? Is it enough to result in the nation's largest displaced population since Katrina? Which was the nation's largest displaced population since the Dust Bowl? I don't know. Your guesstimate is as good as mine. I'm just trying to keep calm and carry on (H/T, Kelly).

So where do we go from here? I don't know. Do I sound hysterical? I'm not. But am I pissed? Oh yes. You bet I am. I'm sure if I wanted to, I could go looking for and find plenty of internet postings about how once again, God is punishing us for our sins and/or that this oil spill is us getting what's coming to us for being stupid enough to live here. I could probably find people suggesting new signs for the next NFL playoff game that the Saints are in: "[Insert Your Team Name Here]: Finishing What the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Started." (Can you tell I still hate that guy, seeing as how I keep linking to him? I know, get over it.) But I don't have the heart for it tonight.

Instead, I'll leave you with two final things. The words of the late, great, Ashley Morris. FYYFF. And the words of Creighton Bernette, one of the characters in HBO's Treme, describing the levee breaks in New Orleans after Katrina. (Incidentally, for anyone who might be reading this blog and not know it, the character of Bernette, played by John Goodman, was based, in part, on Ashley Morris.)

A man-made catastrophe. A federal fuck-up of epic proportions, decades in the making. Sound familiar?


Kelly said...

Maybe Sidney Torres can do something about the smell.

ALM said...

It would be nice if the Gulf were lemony fresh!