Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Yup- More About the Oil; Note on the Israeli Raid

Hey! How's everyone doing?
Sorry that the blogging has been so light, but it's been sort of a rough few days. I've been on a bit of a roller coaster in terms of being sick and then feeling better and then feeling sick again. On the whole, I guess I recommend against the whole sickness thing.

So what's going on in the world? Well, there's still oil coming out of the ground. Into the ocean. So much for top kill and junk shot and some of those other operations with cool sounding names. Most recently, they've been using deep water robots to cut through the pipe with diamond tipped saws so they can put a new collection device and pipe on top. It sounds pretty cool, but last I heard they were having problems with the saw getting stuck in the pipe as it was making the cut. Meanwhile, the oil slick is now reported to be moving toward the Florida coastline.
I also read in a recent Joe Klein column from Time that Vice President Dick Cheney presided over the weakening of drilling regulations, including the exclusion of remote-shut-off switches (such as the ones used in the North Sea oil fields), which might have prevented the disaster (assuming that all of the equipment was in proper working order at the time of the accident).
Obama, of course, could have (and should have) acted more aggressively to reverse such deregulation upon entering office, but the fact that the Bush Administration took a leadership role in initially rolling back these safeguards probably ought to give pause to some of Obama's critics who keep trying to lay the primary blame for this fiasco at the president's feet (Klein, in fact, goes so far as to say that this catastrophe isn't Obama's Katrina- it's really Bush's second Katrina).
Anyway, yeah, the whole thing is intensely frustrating and depressing. Truly.

And it was made even more depressing as I watched the Rachel Maddow Show toward the end of May and they talked about the Ixtoc I spill in the Gulf of Mexico in June of 1979. The circumstances were quite similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the attempts at bringing the oil spill under control employed methods which are pretty similar to the methods currently being employed at our new site (they tried containment domes and junk shots and top kills and relief wells). In the end, only a relief well actually allowed the Ixtoc I spill to finally be capped, and even after a relief well was drilled it took 3 months for the flow to subside. All in all, it took about 10 months for the Ixtoc I well to finally be capped. I just can't imagine how much damage American coastlines and the ocean itself will suffer if it takes ten months to cap the current spill.
But my bigger point is that it seems pretty ridiculous that we haven't come up with any new technologies to deal with these sort of disasters in the thirty years since Ixtoc I. We've continued to allow drilling in deeper and deeper water, into areas that are much more difficult to operate in, and we haven't developed any new technology to deal with accidents since the last big one occurred. If we're going to be allowing corporations to create potential disasters, it seems like the very least we should do is expect them to have some sort of viable plan for dealing with the situation if things go wrong. Knowing that all of these same recovery operations (containment domes and junk shots and whatnot) have proven ineffective in at least one big prior disaster (it was a big enough mess to inspire the founding of Earth Day) makes the current situation feel like that much more of a slap in the face.

Okay. That's it with the oil talk. At least for today.

Or wait. I just read that they freed the robot saw! Hope springs eternal....

And Israel is raiding Palestinian aid flotillas, killing about 9 people in the process) and everyone is mad at them because of it. Israel, in their own defense, says that they've established a blockade around Gaza to try to stop the import of rocket launches and other weapons that have been used against Israelis, and that the Palestinians have plenty of other ways of importing supplies, assuming they're willing to pass through land-based security checkpoints. I'm not sure what to think about the whole situation, but I know that I don't like the idea of the U.S. getting sucked into another conflict right now (especially a conflict in which the overall world opinion right now seems to lean toward support of the Palestinians and not the Israelis).

Well, that's it for now. I hope you guys are doing okay.


Ryan S. said...

Re: Israel v. Palestine

With N. Korea torpedoing S. Korea subs and the powder keg that is Gaza, I keep wondering which event is going to be our "oh, it seems as archduke has been assassinated in Sarajevo. Well, no worries for us, I suppose."

Jason said...

Yeah, well given the fact that the U.S. seems to have a vested interest in so many different potential hotspots around the globe, I agree that it sort of feels like it's just a matter of time before we get sucked into one conflict or another. See, this is why I actually think the UN is a good idea (well, in theory, if not always in practice). I like the whole model where the U.S. can be just a part of a unified global response in these situations instead of having to play world police.
It just feels like things have been getting a little precarious lately.