Friday, May 14, 2010

Fortunes Sinking

Kevin Drum examines some of the guesses computations on the scale of the BP-Halliburton-TransOcean oil spill:
That would be about 2 billion gallons of oil. If all of this floods out, it would be the biggest oil spill in history by a huge margin and 20 times bigger than the biggest previous spill in the Gulf of Mexico. From the National Geographic piece: "The 1979 Ixtoc oil spill, also in the Gulf of Mexico, took nine months to cap. During that time the well spewed 140 million gallons (530 million liters) of oil — and the Ixtoc well was only about 160 feet (49 meters) deep ... Even if the well is capped, this is going to be a huge spill. The spill rate, originally estimated at 50,000 gallons a day and then 210,000 gallons a day, might actually be as much as a million gallons a day — or maybe even more. But it's hard to tell because BP is using chemical dispersants to send most of the oil to the bottom of the sea. This keeps it off the shore, but might end up doing more damage in the long run. Nobody seems to know for sure. [emphasis mine]
So, to summarize: a smaller spill, one that was easier to contain than this one, continued vomiting oil for three-quarters of a year, so we should expect to be enjoying this one even longer.

BP can't seem to give a straight or consistent answer as to the scale of this current spill, except to agree with everyone else that it is, like crazy huge, dude! and will surely dwarf the Exxon Valdez spill if it has not already done so.

Devoutly attentive to the need to appear to care about this tragic act of god unknowably colossal fuck-up, BP has thoughtfully prioritized managing this public relations disaster ecological catastrophe by sinking the oil to the sea's floor, thus minimizing damage to beach vistas sea life. It's a good thing for them the sea floor is such an ecological and commercial nullity. Who's to say a thick layer of unprocessed crude oil and toxic dispersant wouldn't be just the thing to liven it up?

As no one could have predicted an oil spill of such unknowable magnitude or technical complexity, BP and its corporate partners stand as flummoxed as the rest of us. If only there had been some way to foresee that such could could befall the work of their happy industry! Truly the eyes of man see as through a glass darkly.

We can recognize the sink-the-oil "solution" no less than its originating problem from the recent financial collapse, which featured the same dynamic of corporate lawlessness and regulatory laxity followed by excuses, half-measures, mewling claims of helplessness, and professions of regret joined with a resolve to change nothing but press ahead until the next catastrophe. Both magnificently symbolize the times in which we live.

(Image Source)


Bungle Jerry said...

I'm wondering ultimately how BP will be held responsible for this. I mean, as far as corporate accountability goes, big petrol always seems to get a buy-out. But surely BP will have to pay pretty heavily, won't they?

Dale said...

Bungle Jerry, who knows? One would expect BP and its partners to have to pay through the nose over this, but I have nothing like trust in the institutions that would make it happen. Time will tell.