See Spot Run. Of course, it’s only a spot if you look at it from space. If you look from a closer vantage point, say…two or three thousand feet above the Gulf of Mexico, it’s more the size of a state or small continent. “Spot”, for the purposes of this column, is the ever-growing oil spill in the Gulf, the result of a deadly explosion on an ocean oil rig. British Petroleum, long known as BP, is the self-insured owner of the disaster.
Now look, I’m no tree-hugger, though as a New Hampshire native who spent a good chunk of my childhood in the White Mountains, I have a healthy respect and affection for natural beauty. Not just our own, but the world over. I have never been opposed to off-shore drilling, and remain so. I am not a global warming nut or Al Gore acolyte. I do believe that a cleaner planet is a better planet, that we should be taking strong yet measured steps to wean ourselves of the need for foreign oil, and that we are beholden to future generations to be responsible stewards of the planet for that time which we are upon it.
In a world that has an appetite for crude such as ours, accidents are inevitable. We are only human, afterall. But the Gulf disaster is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking.
First, the Obama administrations delayed and weak-kneed response is astonishing. Knowing how Bush got hammered for his administrations clumsy and delayed response to Hurricane Katrina, common sense would dictate that Job 1 for the federal government in a disaster is immediate and heart felt response. Perhaps Obama knows he has a Teflon shield when it comes to the press. Maybe it is the deviant relationship that both political parties have with Big Oil. Maybe he is simply inept as a President. There is ample evidence prior to the spill that would deem that plausible. Hey…maybe it’s not the governments job to get involved, but of the very few things that I would like to see the federal government involved in, this type of thing would be one of them. If the company that owns the business is clearly in over their head, and pardon the pun, and the ramifications of not dealing with the problem effectively and quickly are magnificent, as they are here, then I want the feds in there with the Corps of Engineers, Navy Seals, or whatever it takes.
I was delighted to see James Carville, with whom I agree on almost nothing politically though I admire his humor and spunk, come unwound on national television telling Obama “we’re dying down here”. And I mean he was yelling, passionate. He’s a New Orleans native and I’m sure that has something to do with it, but still, it’s just as frustrating to watch from up here in New Hampshire. The notion that there was no fail-safe for this type of failure, nothing on the safety checklist, is pathetic and inexcusable. BP is everything that Captain Sullenberger is not. Clearly no contingency plan for huge disasters on oil derricks.
And here is some PR advice for BP. If the best plan you can come up with is shoving golf balls and rubber chips down the pipe to try and stop the fountain of crude, best to keep that under your hat. Are you kidding? Look, folks got no confidence in you guys as it is, but when you begin rolling out plans like that, we expect to see Wily Coyote and an ACME suitcase nearby. Next it was spreading hay over the slick, which as of this writing(Thursday 6/10) is only seven miles from the Florida coast. The thinking was hay would act as an absorbent and also make cleaning up easier. It reminds me of a Three Stooges episode where Curly is trying to stop a “leak” in a bathtub. The “leak” is the merely the faucet and he begins to add lengths of pipe and elbows, increasingly frustrated to see that the leak continues to come out the end of the pipe. The scene ends with him completely caged in and finally drilling holes in the bathroom floor to let the water out. I just can’t help but thing that we are approaching a similar ending in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lawyers will make lots of money. Washington sent an attorney down there, apparently more concerned with getting the lawsuit underway than stopping the river of oil pumping into the Gulf. An already devastated area will see their fishing industry destroyed. Miles of coastline and hundreds of cities that rely on beach tourism for their livelihood will be decimated. The “clean-up” will costs tens of millions of dollars and will never really be “cleaned up”. For all the accolades about the Exxon Valdez clean-up, and how nature “cleans itself”, like a cat I suppose, if you dig down one foot on the coast of Alaska, near the Valdez spill, you will see a layer of oil. Forever, just like a diamond.
It will be interesting and sad to watch this unfold. Just days ago, the latest attempt, to “saw” the end of the pipe, only saw the “saw” get stuck. It took two hours to free up. How would you like to be that guy? That will get you two fingers in the eyes from Moe.
A sad comedy of errors, compounded by the complete absence of a “plan”, will undoubtedly blossom into the single worst environmental disaster this country has ever seen. They are talking August now, before the leak may be contained. They claim to be unable to determine the rate of flow, but as Dennis Miller pointed out, this from a company that “charges me three dollars and 9/10ths of a penny for gas”. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?