Friday, May 21, 2010

It Will Be Horrific

A month has passed. At the edge of our sight, the next nightmare grows by the hour. Nobody has good numbers any more. BP says 200,000 gallons per day. Others say a million per day. The truth is somewhere in middle, I hope.

BP's sole success (a 4" pipe siphoning off some of the flow from one of the leaks) is diminishing the horror by 20%. At most. Perhaps a fraction of that.

At this moment, they're lowering a "kill" rig in place. To pump 50,000 gallons of "mud" into the pipes. Hoping to gum the works. A technique which has never succeeded at this depth. And the attempt could take upwards of two days. While everyone on every coastal city watch the grainy Internet feed from a mile down and pray to our prospective gods for salvation.

But the sad truth is that the cleanup is destined for failure. It will be horrific. We know from recent testimony that the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez was futile.  Dr. Jeffrey Short of Oceana testified in a 2009 hearing that:

Despite heroic effects involving more than 11,000 people, two billion dollars, and aggressive application of the most advanced technology available, only about 8 percent of the oil was ever recovered. This recovery rate is fairly typical for a large oil spill. About 20 percent evaporated, 50 percent contaminated beaches, and the rest floated out to the North Pacific Ocean where it formed tarballs that eventually stranded elsewhere or sank to the seafloor. 
8% success rate? Our ecosystem will drown in the rest. Wildlife. Commercial fishing. Tourism. All of it needs to learn to swim in crude, or die trying.

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