This week was full of news about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: the Macondome didn’t work, the media says that the leak may be much worse than thought, oil company execs blamed each other, and Obama blamed capitalism (but got it right when noting that the Minerals Management Service had been too cozy with the industry – but cronyism is not capitalism).
I’ve been getting about 30 emails per day from the “Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center”, most of them garbage about Federal officials holding press conferences or briefings about the “Administration-wide” response. Some of the emails contain great photos with captions that contain snippets of information. Then there are some that make me wonder about how bad the effects of the spill may be – they sent an email announcing ”Rehabilitated bird to be released”. Either it’s really bad and there’s only one bird still alive, or it may not be as bad as the media says – regardless I find it interesting that the U.S. Government deems it necessary to issue a press release about _a_ bird.
We get linked from other blogs , and sometimes they’re pretty good – here’s AL FIN. They’ve posted some insightful thoughts about the spill, including “New Estimates of Oil Leak Rate Stoke Widespread Hysteria”:
New media estimates of leakage rates from the Deepwater Horizon seafloor gusher range from 20,000 barrels per day up to 100,000 barrels per day. These estimates were hastily arrived at by various remote methods by a number of academics: a mechanical engineer at Purdue, an astrophysicist at Berkeley, an oceanographer at Florida State University, and others who are willing to go on record with a public estimate. The official NOAA estimate of the leak rate remains constant at 5,000 barrels per day…
If the Deepwater Horizon gusher has been spewing 100,000 barrels a day for the past 24 days, it would have released 2.4 million barrels of hydrocarbon, or about 100 million gallons (roughly 300,000 tons)…
So if one ton of oil spreads to cover an area of 12 km2, 300,000 tons of oil would cover an area of 1.6 million km2 (or about 600,000 sq. miles). The entire surface area of the Gulf of Mexico is 1.5 million km2.
Of course much of the short chain hydrocarbons will have evaporated, and some of the oil has sunk beneath the surface. But dispersants tend to spread the remaining oil across a larger area, somewhat magnifying the apparent area of the slick. In other words, had as much oil been released as is claimed by the mechanical engineer, the astrophysicist, and the oceanographer, would it not be reasonable to assume that virtually the entire Gulf would be covered by now?
Here is the rub: a very large part of the hydrocarbon release is in the form of natural gas, which evaporates into the air straightaway. Without knowing the proportion of gas to oil fairly reliably, one cannot truly predict how much oil is being released by watching (or taking rough measurements of) the seafloor gusher. And the lighter the crude oil, the more quickly the short chain hydrocarbons will evaporate in the warm Gulf waters. So one must also have a good idea of the type of crude that is leaking…
Information about the causes of the disaster are slowly coming to light, and there will be plenty of time for judging the actions of those involved. But for now, whatever the rate and composition of oil leak — it needs to be stopped.
Good stuff. I encourage you to read the whole thing, and while you’re there check out the other posts.
The U.S. Government cannot just blame BP et al and leave the clean up to them – it’s OUR oil and OUR beaches and OUR seafood and OUR environment. The MMS leased the drilling rights to BP – but the ultimate responsibility for the stewardship of the oil is the Government. The (probably) corrupt bureaucrats at MMS who approved drilling WITHOUT an environmental impact statement or WITHOUT adequate risk planning need to go to jail.
Obama plans to split the MMS “into two parts: one charged with issuing permits and collecting royalties from drilling operation; the other responsible for safety and environmental enforcement”. We’ll see if that solution is effective, but I’ll bet it won’t be as effective as prosecuting a few bureaucrats.
In other news, Swiss-based Transocean hired a lobbyist, former Representative Bill Brewster (D – OK).
The company has not been a prominent political spender up to now. Since 2008, the company has spent less than $100,000 lobbying Congress on tax issues, documents filed with the Senate Office of Public Records show.