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What Happens When Amateurs Panic?

Sarah's picture

Nothing pretty. Hysterical squalling over the airwaves aside, though, the grown-ups brush off the panic and pursue solutions.

To his credit, today the President announced that the panic is unwarranted and announced that he's put a stop to further offshore exploration drilling while the crisis response to the Deepwater Horizon oil release -- spill is such a damn inadequate word, when you're talking about polluting not just the Gulf of Mexico, but the Atlantic itself thanks to the Loop Current -- continues. There will be new rules when the operations (if? Well, no. We've spent 35 years thumbing our noses at Jimmy Carter, thanks to big oil and corporate media, and in his 18 months at the helm Obama hasn't actually got the trend reversed. He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts, as the charming comic Wanda Sykes famously reported) do resume, though, and we've already seen one MMS division chief lose her job.

Hence, as a West Texan who still lives on the edge of an oil patch (though not in the Permian Basin anymore) I'm inclined to listen to the guys who do know what they're talking about. That would NOT, I repeat NOT, be Chris Matthews or Wolf Blitzer -- anymore than it ever is or has been Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, or the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Karl Rove. Given that he is NOT an oil patch guy, even nominally, I'm surprised at how good a job President Obama's done in responding

to this disaster in the Gulf, and he's not done yet.

Lambert's earlier hat tips to The Oil Drum are well deserved. The guy I'm currently listening to on CNN Live is Don Van Nieuwenhuise, a professor of petroleum geoscience at the University of Houston.

This wild well that got out of control for BP 40 days ago? Yeah, BP did some stupid things in the drilling, apparently especially in the late stages (at the shut-in stage, with Deepwater Horizon packing its bags to move out of the way for a production rig).

It also appears that the entire Gulf oil industry is trying to work together to fix this:

At a shareholders' meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, continues to provide assistance to BP in dealing with the disaster. "We are eager to support efforts to determine how such an incident can be prevented in the future," he said.

Chevron Corp. (CVX) Chief Executive John Watson said at his company's shareholder meeting in Houston on Wednesday that the industry is going to learn "a great deal" from the spill.

"If there's something we have to adopt, we will adopt it," he said.

What do I want to see next? Criminal investigations. Eleven deaths happened on that rig. The operators / owners of the Deepwater Horizon, the Transocean crew, argued with the British Petroleum rig boss before the well blew. One of the most highly respected outfits in the oil patch is Schlumberger -- they are the go-to guys in testing in oilfield work -- and they were not asked to do a critical final test to verify that Halliburton's cement job down hole actually would hold. That's not Halliburton's fault -- it's British Petroleum's.

Compared with Ixtoc I, back in '79, when a Mexican well went wild in half as deep a section of the Gulf and poured oil into the water for nine months ... how are we doing? Remains to be seen.

But make no mistake. Tony Hayward and British Petroleum aren't owned by the Mexican government, so yes, there should be serious consequences for their actions in the Gulf. By the bye, they're not off the hook in Alaska either -- yesterday the Alyeska pipeline up there had to be shut down to clean up another huge spill.

To reinforce my optimism regarding the EPA's new direction,

"I have to admit, I moved to Texas without really understanding how big the problem is," says the Kansas native, who earned a degree in environmental policy from the University of Kansas in 2004. "The biggest surprise to me, when I got here, was that TCEQ doesn't do what the name says. It was a shock to discover how flawed our state agency really is. They're set up to protect our best interests, and the fact that they don't infuriates me. Even Oklahoma does a better job." Hernandez drives across the state weekly – to Abilene, to Bay City, to Houston, to any coal-fight front where she can help local communities organize and take action to protect themselves from the unhealthy air pollutants that a new TCEQ coal-plant permit will bring. She glows as she describes fighting the good fight: "The exciting thing about it is we can win!" As this story went to press, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threw a historic punch in that fight. See "Breaking News: EPA Takes Control of Permit."

and my good feelings about how our current government's better than its immediate predecessor, though, the feds have stepped in and overriden the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which normally just winks at oil company pollution, and denied a permit because the Flint Hills Refinery in Corpus violates the Clean Air Act.

Photo by Overprocessed, stolen from Environment News Service.

Naturally Rick Perry's in a snit. Bonus, from my perspective.

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Comments

Submitted by ralphb on

that they get to be in charge of evaluating and fixing the problem. After all, just like the Banksters, they are the ones who know what caused it so they are the best qualified to make sure it doesn't happen again. In FantasyLand maybe!

As a commentor at the Confluence said, they now understand why the WTC hasn't been rebuilt yet. We're waiting on Bin Laden to do it, while sending occasional sternly worded memos.

This oil tsunami is worthy of a bit of panic.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

that was enacted in '91, after Exxon Valdez, that makes the company the responsible party for the cleanup.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Appears to be a tad selective...for example, it's not within our laws for him to decide he can assassinate "terrorists" on the street. Even Bush didn't go that far.

Submitted by lambert on

And the amateurs -- hysterical caterwaullers though they may be -- have been right more often than the extremely professional journalists, public relations flaks, CEOs, Coast Guard admirals, et cetera et cetera.

Wonk the Vote's picture
Submitted by Wonk the Vote on

...the president (who was supposed to be a quick study) has over a month of evidence to the contrary and still thinks BP's interests are "aligned with the public interest"?

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Submitted by Sarah on

driving cars, riding planes or buses, using gas stoves, or having electric or coal-oil lights unless we could prove the source of the electricity is either wind or solar, then we can put outfits like BP out of business.
As a bonus we can create non-outsourceable-jobs for US workers in pulling up drill string and pipelines and filling the trenches back in, not just on land but under the ocean and in the Arctic.
A side benefit of this would be that we'd reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That would help stop acidifying the oceans, and that would help stop killing the krill and the coral.

But of course all that would assume we had the grit as a people to tell the corporations to go Cheney themselves, and then back up our words with our dollars and our sweat.

As Atrios often says, "Na ga ha pun."

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Submitted by Sarah on

(gasp) the media might actually have to admit that Obama is not to blame for not putting on a diving suit the day the rig went down and stuffing The National Fanny Cyst into that hole, headfirst.

Pretty fair conversation over at The Oil Drum. If you haven't yet, go over to DKos and read Fishgrease's diaries.

Submitted by lambert on

.... of administration critics as characterizing BP critics as hysterical squallers. In fact, the hysterical squallers have turned out to be much more likely to be correct, starting with flow rate, and continuing down along the line to the top kill and the junk shot. I have no doubt that administration criticism will turn out the same way, given Obama's corporatism.