Thank you, Sister Wolf, for inviting me to blog about the Gulf Oil Catastrophe. None of the words I use seem powerful enough to convey the complete and utter horror of the situation. Catastrophe will have to suffice. It is certainly not a “spill.” PLEASE stop referring to it as a spill. It is a hemorrhage.
I live in Metairie, which is a suburb of New Orleans, and about 80 miles north of the Gulf Coast. That’s close enough to smell the oil when the wind is blowing in from the south. Some days it’s worse than others. I was pretty freaked out the first time I smelled it; I can’t even imagine how intense it is down there in all of the coastal communities.
A couple of weeks ago, I started reading about the controversial chemical dispersant BP is using to break up the oil. It’s been banned in the UK, but BP already had stockpiles of it and couldn’t use it at home, so they’re using it here. The EPA has ordered them to stop, but they refuse. I saw a local news interview with a fisherman who has been helping spread boom, and he said he felt like he was going to die. He went to a doctor, who upon examination said the man’s lungs looked like he’d had 3-pack-a-day smoking habit, but the man had never smoked in his life. Corexit 9500 can cause central nervous system depression, nausea, and unconsciousness. It can cause liver, kidney damage, and red blood cell hemolysis with repeated or prolonged exposure through inhalation or ingestion. A friend’s parents live in Grand Isle, and she said they’ve all had sore throats for weeks. And suspiciously, many people that I know in the New Orleans area have been complaining of increased headaches and respiratory problems. Here’s a link to a Daily Kos piece about the horrors of Corexit: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/5/13/866201/-Its-basically-a-giant-Experiment:-Corexit-9500,-Oil,-just-Add-Water-Column
Then there are the repeated failures on BP’s part to stop the oil. Containment Dome, Top Hat, Junk Shot, Top Kill — all of it, about as cleverly planned as if a 5th Grade Science class were in charge. Why oh why was there not a tried and true emergency protocol in place before the drilling even started? How is it even possible that anyone allowed the first deep water oil well to be tapped without a reliable disaster plan? The plan they did have was irrelevant boilerplate that mentioned seals and walruses!!! This isn’t the sort of situation where “winging it” is acceptable! The amount of corruption involved here is staggering. So now, they’re going to try to cap the blowout preventer (we get lovely technical drawings on the front page of the paper every day), which will be another failure, no doubt. And BP regrets to inform us that in the process of undertaking that measure, more oil will flow than usual for a few days. Oh joy! Meanwhile, they are drilling two lines down on either side of the busted pipe so they can intercept the oil at the base of the well, effectively cutting off the leak before it starts. And then they claim they’re going to pour cement down the pipelines, sealing the well forever. While I find that about as believably as the Tooth Fairy, we’ll have to wait until AUGUST to even see if they can drill to the right location.
And guess what yesterday was? The start of Hurricane Season! Hooray! This year was already predicted to be more active than usual, but now there are serious concerns about the effects that the oil will have on any storms that develop. For one thing, the oil is keeping the water warmer than it would be, and the warmer the water, the stronger the storm. Then, there’s the bonus question: what will happen if any hurricanes hit land while carrying all the oil and dispersant toxins? Here’s what Russian scientists thinks about that: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128113§ionid=3510203. For those of you who didn’t click the link, here’s the opening line to the article: “The British Petroleum oil spill is threatening the entire eastern half of the North American continent with ‘total destruction,’ reports say.”
So we have the disaster, the failure to fix it, and the ominous predictions for future effects, and to compound that, we have the esteemed Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, and his insulting lies. The endless stream of toxicity that comes out of his mouth mirrors what’s happening in the Gulf. Sometimes he sounds like a spoiled brat, “I want my life back!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTdKa9eWNFw. And other times, he sounds like a doddering buffoon from a Monty Python sketch: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/post_6.html. In response to allegations that the toxic dispersants and oil were making people sick, he had this to say:
“I’m sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill,” Hayward said. “You know, food poisoning is clearly a big issue when you have a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps, temporary accommodation. It’s something we have to be very, very mindful of. It’s one of the big issues of keeping the army operating. You know, armies march on their stomachs.”
Finally, people keep asking why Obama hasn’t taken charge yet. While I do agree that the government does need to take a heavier hand, they don’t have the expertise or the resources to solve the problem. Apparently, BP doesn’t either, but they are supposed to! I’ve read a few articles and heard on NPR that Saudi Arabia had a situation in the early 90s a lot worse than this. It was kept secret from the rest of the world until recently, but their solution was to get supertankers out there to suck up all the oil on the surface. They were even able to salvage 85% of it. I can’t for the life of me understand what in the hell BP is waiting for. That seems like the easiest, most obvious solution ever. While we’re waiting until August (or later, which is more likely), why can’t they at least dispense with the dispersants and suck out that oil as fast as it’s bleeding out???
Thousands of people have lost permanently their livelihoods, many are damaging their health every day, and countless animals have died. When will BP stop wasting time and fix this???