Congressional hearings have taken place, President Obama has issued harsh words, Dick Cheney is now allergic to TV cameras, environmentalists are lobbying for new Pacific Coast oil drilling legislation, the White House wants to break up the oil industry regulatory agency, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal suddenly wants all the federal government help he can get, yet I can count the number of oil industry engineers and geologists I’ve seen on prime time news on one hand…
…and have fingers left over.
The explosion at the BP offshore oil rig last month resulted in a leak that is likely to dwarf the Exxon Valdez oil spill several times over. After several dramatic attempts to stop oil from flowing through ruptures in the damaged riser pipe 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, the beleaguered oil company seems to have finally found a way to lessen the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.
BP PLC reported success containing some of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, as a mile-long tube siphoned oil and gas from a leaking pipe on the sea floor to a ship on the water’s surface. Kent Wells, BP’s senior executive vice president, cautioned that the tube is not capturing all of the leaking oil – he doesn’t yet have “any idea” how much is being recovered – and it is not a permanent solution.
In the face of this catastrophe, the controversy over the amount of oil that has been leaking into the Gulf for the past 27 days continues to rage. BP has had to back off of its initial approximation of a leak of 1,000 barrels a day after watchdog group Skytruth.org successfully challenged the company’s estimate. BP officials later testified to Congress during hearings that as many as 60,000 barrels per day could potentially be flowing into the ocean. Incredibly, BP has refused any assistance to more accurately measure the rate of oil flow from the main leak, insisting that this information is not relevant to repair or cleanup efforts. Now, scientists around the world are questioning whether the revised estimate of 5,000 barrels a day is far too low after 10 mile long plumes of oil have been sighted underwater in the Gulf.
While BP asserts there’s no way to know, marine experts say that if the oil giant would but release more video from its submersible ROVs and provide a little data on the well itself, they could deduce the magnitude of the leak, as well as inform the effort to plug the leaking well pipe.
There is no emotional drama of a drunk captain asleep at the wheel, or the utter devastation of miles and miles of oil slicked coastlines, or the heart rending images of thousands of oil covered birds being scrubbed by multitudes of environmentalists, animal lovers and volunteers to imbue this tragedy with the kind of visceral images the Exxon Valdez oil spill generated. The population that lives along the coast in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are largely in limbo, waiting to see just how bad this spill will turn out to be, while the politicians who have gone to Washington to represent them will be mobbed by lobbyists eager to make sure the Gulf Coast congressmen understand BP’s side of the story. But with those all-important political bellweathers otherwise known as opinion polls beginning to show that a majority of Americans blame Congress for playing a role in the BP disaster, clean energy legislation has suddenly become a part of every representatives wish list.
On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and BP America Chairman Lamar McKay will appear before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to assess the response to what some lawmakers are calling a “catastrophe.”
“We will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead, the spill is cleaned up, and the communities and natural resources of the Gulf Coast are restored and made whole,” Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement Sunday.
Oil spill response to be assessed on Capitol Hill CNN