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Still Crying Over “Spilled” Oil

in energy, environment, louisiana, science & technology, we are not ok, wtf

If you’re a politician and argue that America must regain its educational primacy, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, don’t even think about saying the things below. What is happening on the Gulf of Mexico coast is bad enough without your adding to the pain and embarrassment. Let’s not forget that half of you don’t even believe in the science behind how oil is created in the earth, but will happily benefit from its extraction.

I also ask you, the reader, this: In talking and reading about the oil spill, keep track of and keep separate what falls under explosion, rig fatalities, oil spewing from the riser and disaster response at the site and onshore. This way you keep yourself and others honest. This way you stop being intellectual prey.

1. “Anytime you look at any exploration, whether it’s energy or space, there are inherent risks. We just saw 29 miners killed in West Virginia, getting coal.” — State Sen. Mike Haridopolos (R-FL)

Comparing the deaths of 29 coal miners to a 5000-barrel-per-day oil gusher that has very different and farther-reaching implications in terms of geography and time scale shows that Sen. Haridopolos should probably not extend his political career beyond the Florida state legislature. But, since the senator went there, here are some cold hard numbers: From 2001 to 2010, the mining industry had 313 deaths [source: MSHA]. In contrast, there were 404 oil & gas fatalities just between 2003 and 2006 [source: CDC], while there were 128 coal mining deaths in that same time frame [source: MSHA]. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 alone, 120 oil and gas workers died vs. 30 coal miners.

The oil industry suffers considerably more immediate fatalities than coal mining. On top of this, there are long-range consequences on the Gulf’s living environment, air quality, JOBS, local food sources, sensitive marine and onshore flora and fauna and the general emotional well-being of an entire American region that is still reeling from prior natural and unnatural disasters including hurricanes, floods, rapid wetland erosion, failed disaster response and government-bureaucratic incompetence. The real treachery here, of course, is using the tragic and needless deaths of 29 West Virginian coal miners to justify what is now happening in the Gulf. Like that is somehow alright and, therefore, this is, too.

There are inherent risks in being an American in the post-colonial world, which include horrific incidents all the way from 9/11 to assholes wearing bomb-laden underwear onto our jetliners. Using Sen. Haridopolos’s logic, I would say we shouldn’t do anything about that, either.


2. “That chocolate milk looking spill starts breaking up in smaller pieces … It is tending to break up naturally.” — Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS)

Way out in the middle of a vast ocean, spilled oil can break up or denature naturally over a very long period of time, not without doing some damage to proximal marine ecosystems in the process. The Gulf Gusher, however, happened extremely close to land and has already hit the shore, damaging fisheries and sensitive habitats in the process, not to mention that once it really hits sand, soil and rocks, the oil is going to be so hard to remove from surfaces and pores.

BP’s incident responders, the Coast Guard and the rest of the cleanup crew know the exact consequences of “letting it break up naturally,” which is why they’re out there working day and night flaring and skimming or, for the linguistically-challenged, getting the shit out of the water as soon as they can. But, since Rep. Taylor thinks it’s harmless like chocolate milk, I invite him to help remove some of it by drinking it. It does a body good.


3. “President Obama waited to respond to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because he wanted an excuse to shut down offshore drilling.” — Michael Brown, former FEMA head.

Is this guy still around? Why? That’s like someone saying President Bush waited to respond to The Flood in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina because he wanted an excuse to shut down New Orleans. Oh, Brownie, who gives two Arabian horse shits about you?


4. “The oil spill is natural” and an “act of God.” — RushBo and Rick Perry

First of all, God didn’t drill to 18,000 feet and it’s not his blowout preventer that failed to suppress seriously high pressures that hit a rig, killing eleven people and sending 200,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and its immediate coastline. If you believe in God, stop blaming him for our mistakes. (The inherent dissonance between the hardline championing of predestination and the exertion of human free will in drilling for hydrocarbons notwithstanding, but that’s a topic for another post).

Secondly, natural oil seeps do happen, but not at these obscenely-high pressure and gallon numbers. Oil seeps happen slowly along relatively-shallow natural breaks in the earth and generally ooze out onto the sea floor (often consumed there by oil-loving bacterial colonies). If oil and gas “naturally” and routinely burst forth from great water and rock depths, oil companies would not have to pay companies like Transocean up to $500,000 per day to drill one well.


Louisiana may never stop drilling for oil and gas. It is a source of economic power and pride for way too many, rich and poor. But, folks elsewhere are rethinking Drill, Baby, Drill saying that “the risk is much greater than the money is worth.” Well, Louisiana, we’ll always be here as your customers, but is it worth it?

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