Friday, April 30, 2010

Spill, Baby, Spill

The horror of the oil spill out in the Gulf of Mexico is now becoming fully apparent. What's incontestable is that this accident is going to be a environmental catastrophe that will be a benchmark for our despoliation of the planet in the same class as the Exxon Valdez and Santa Barbara spills of storied memory. The early estimates--and where did these come from, one wonders? Could it have been BP? Or the government?--the early estimates could not have been more mistaken. (And lest we forget, 11 guys who worked out on that rig died.)

It really doesn't matter who put out the first word, it's clear that the initial estimates which minimized the extent of the spill, and hence the difficulty of containing the spread of the oil, the danger to the coastal environment, the amount of time it would take to contain the spill, and the resources that would be needed, these estimates were pretty far off base. Remember the initial announcements? They said nothing about any oil spilling at all. In fact, they led you to believe that the well had been capped off. Well, it was not long before we got disabused of that notion. But up until late yesterday, the reporting did not seem to have any sense of urgency about it. Well, that's gone. Oh, it's urgent now, alright. This oil spill has the potential to be the worst that's ever happened on the globe.

How bad is this? It's frigging off the chart, that's how bad:

Ian MacDonald, professor of oceanography at Florida State University who specializes in tracking ocean oil seeps from satellite imagery, said there may already be more than 9 million gallons of oil floating in the Gulf now, based on his estimate of a 25,000 barrel-a-day leak rate. That's compared to 12 million gallons spilled in the Valdez accident.
Interior Department officials said it may take 90 days to cap the leaking well. If the 25,000 barrels a day is accurate and it leaks for 90 days, that's 2.25 million barrels or 94.5 million gallons.

Listen, I'm from South Louisiana. I grew up in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The oil business was always offshore, where you could not see it. But what you could see was the incredible bounty of the Gulf waters and the tidelands: oysters, crawfish, shrimp, crab, redfish, flounder. These creatures and all the wonderful birds and other swampland creatures were always there, too. They defined the state, and to a certain extent they defined everybody who was bred and raised in south Louisiana. Which is why, I think that this oil spill which is now certain to wreck unspeakable havoc on the Louisiana coast  has hit me here in Oklahoma much harder than I could have ever imagined. This thing is just so outrageous; it makes me furious with the Fates that decreed this. It makes me furious at the mindless idiots screaming "Drill, baby, drill" during the presidential election.  It makes me furious at Obama and his caving to the goddamn oil companies. It makes me furious that we industrial sophisticates are apparently helpless to prevent what's going to happen to the Gulf coast from happening. All that, but at the same time I want to cry. I want to weep out loud because of the profound ugliness of this mess, because of humankind's cruelty to this earth and to its creatures who sustain us. Because the fragile and threatened coastal wetlands of my home state are going to be irreparably damaged. Just because of the death this spill deals and represents. Death. Who would not cry?
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