We are drowning in it.

These two firefighters had been working on the damaged pipeline that is causing a catastrophic oil spill in China. One fell in to the thick crude and the other jumped in to rescue. One died. The other was pulled to safety.  This photograph was published yesterday in the China Daily.

Apparently Stalin had occasion to suggest that “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” This is only true to the extent that one death can be imagined. Please let’s not fail to imagine this. As, Diane DiPrima, Poet Laureate of San Francisco has written, “the only war that matters is the war against the imagination.”


Well Casing Wrecked, Unified Command Has Known for Several Weeks

After a weekend of scant real news and only rumors of impending doom regarding the BP catastrophe on the Gulf coast, it was learned late yesterday, June 29, that one of those rumors, that of a damaged well casing below the seafloor, is true.

It has been a month since the so-called “top kill” operation failed, and since the first report that the well casing below the seafloor had been breached. Drilling mud apparently escaped from the pipe into the surrounding formation, through what BP booster Thad Allen characterized as a possible crack. Although Senator Bill Nelson of Florida also described this situation to Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC – the official story prevailed, courtesy of BP spokesmodel Toby Odone, who maintained 12 days ago that his company could offer no information. “We don’t know” anything about the condition of the underground portion of the well, Odone told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “We don’t know whether the casing inside the well is damaged”.

Today, however, we see in the Los Angeles Times, that the Department of Energy has known for a month that the well casing was wrecked, probably during the initial blowout and explosion – pieces of pipe were found side by side in the wreckage of the blowout preventer.


As it has developed throughout this long and tragic affair, real lives are cut short – human and wild – and the people at UniCom are revealed, again, as liars.

While this comes as no surprise, it does help solidify conclusions drawn from observation of a pattern.

We know that damage will be concealed, denied and that those who try to expose it will have their reputations ransacked in the public eye – think of what Rachel Carson faced from agri-business after publishing Silent Spring, or those who saw first hand the disease and mutations around Three Mile Island after that ‘accident.’ Think of the fate of most whistleblowers. Think of how ExxonMobil has all but skated from its responsibility in Prince William Sound while oil is still present, buried on the beaches twenty years later.

We know with certainty that Industry has only one thing on its agenda – maximizing profit.

And we also have those who make excuses for the State, for Industry – protecting the hand that feeds them. And UniCom demonstrates again, that it fully understands which side of its bread is buttered.  They could side with the people, they could side with wildlife, they could side with the victims, but they do not. They side, now, as ever, with the perpetrator.

What is needed, now and for the foreseeable future, is strong support for independent scientists and citizens to bring the true story forward, the story of the cost paid by the ecosystems of the Gulf coast, the sea, and its lives, plant and animal, human and wild.


Why do we rehabilitate oiled wildlife?

Why do we rehabilitate oiled wildlife?

A very easy question, actually. For the same reason that we rehabilitate any orphaned or injured wild animals.

And what is that reason?  If you find someone in jeopardy you try to help.

If your best effort doesn’t help you try to discover why. You change your approach. You learn your lessons. You improve your result.

It is very simple really. What more needs to be said?

The cost of treating injured wild animals doesn’t come from some general fund set aside for issues related to wildlife, pre-established and limited.

No. It comes from the fund that is generated by those who agree that such treatment be available, and those people are few, and funds are scarce.

If it were not for all of those animals that will never be found, the thousands and thousands of dead, it would seem to be a rare moment of justice in a nation as built on wholesale destruction as is the United States, that the party who injures is the party who pays, as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 demands.

 Now,  should the party who injures be in any way construed to be the party who cares? Absolutely not.

Dear BP, the only thing you have to give is money. Otherwise, butt out, shut up, and wait for your trial.


Lies, obfuscation, and propaganda, or, It’s leaking however much we say it is…

     It’s been a pretty bad week on the Gulf coast, with no progress made on slowing, containing, or otherwise interfering with what is now being estimated as 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 gallons per day flowing from the blown out well. Yes, BP is capturing some oil, maybe as much as 20%. These numbers, however, are not exactly useful. So far the only reliable information coming from the Unified Incident Command (which amounts to a large part of the Federal government and BP) has been that information from the Unified Command is at best misinformed, more likely, propaganda. These official estimates of the flow of crude oil place the volume at a level that was intially reported by SkyTruth and Dr. Ian MacDonald of Florida State University on 27 April and eventually published in the NY Times on 22 May. Meanwhile, the CEO of BP Plc has been seen on media all over the world, denying science, blaming food poisoning as the cause for clean up workers sickened  on the job, and publicly complaining that this catastrophe has interferred with his personal plans.
     The latest attempt to capture oil – the so-called Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) – which of necessity increased the flow when engineers cut the crimped part of the original riser off, was immediately said to be capturing twice the amount that BP had previously maintained was the total flow, and plenty of oil still seen to be not captured at all. Apparently, you can say anything. And also apparently the oil will continue to flow, at some rate greater than 1,000,000 gallons a day until the relief wells have been drilled, with a completion date estimated by Unified Command to be August.  Of course, as former president and petroleum industry enthusiast, GW Bush, once ‘remarked’, Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.


How the media is missing the real drama of the Oil Spill – by Bill McKibben of 350.org

How the media is missing the real drama of the Oil Spill — Please Share (We can be our own media!)

When a well started spewing oil off Santa Barbara in 1969, it spurred the first Earth Day, which in turn launched the environmental movement and a fundamental questioning of the balance between humans and the rest of nature. It turned out, in other words, to be a real Moment.

It makes one wonder if there really shouldn’t be a little more depth to the endless coverage of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf. (Which, just to be semantic for a moment, isn’t really a “spill,” or a “leak,” unless you’d also call a knife wound a “bloodspill,” or a gunshot to the carotid a “bloodleak.” BP has punched a hole in the bottom of the sea.)

Yes, the obvious story is important: There’s oil spewing out, BP has demonstrated infuriating nonchalance, shrimpers are watching the sheen wash up on the coastal marshes, etc. This all needs to be covered, and is being covered with the incredible agonizing boredom that only 24-hour cable channels can bring to any issue.

And there’s a “political angle,” which as usual has been about atmospherics. Is Obama angry enough? Is he connecting with “real people”? This sort of thing is conventional good fun for political reporters (especially when Obama plays along, announcing he’s consulting with various academics in order to see “whose ass needs kicking.”). But isn’t there something more? Isn’t this potentially a Moment too?

Let’s think about the stories that are suggested by this trouble.

One has something to do with peak oil. BP has gone to all this trouble for a well that taps into what they now think may be 100 million barrels of oil. And that’s… five days supply for the U.S? Does that give you any sense of the precariousness of the arrangements under-girding our economy right at the moment?

Another — even more important — has to do with global warming. Let’s assume that the oil from the Deepwater Horizon made it safely onshore and was refined and then burned in the gas tank of your car. What then? Well, the CO2 in the atmosphere would be doing at least as much damage as the oil spreading across the Gulf. Consider the following things that have happened since the Deepwater exploded:

* Asia and Southeast Asia have each recorded their hottest temperatures ever — 129 degrees in Pakistan, and 117 in Burma. India is having the worst heatwave since the British started keeping records — people are dying by the hundreds.

* We’ve seen the biggest rainstorms ever recorded in lots of places, from Nashville to Guatemala — the clear result of an atmosphere made 5% wetter because warm air holds more water vapor than cold.

* Satellite data has shown that Arctic ice is now melting even faster than in the record year of 2007.

* NASA has released new statistics showing that the past 12 months were the warmest on record and that 2010 is almost certain to set the title for the warmest calendar year yet.

All of these, it seems to me, could be considered parts of the Deepwater Horizon story because they demonstrate that fossil fuel is everywhere dirty. They change the political question from “is Obama angry enough” to “can Obama lead a credible fight for real energy and climate legislation?” More to the point, they connect with the mood of existential despair and anger that the oil spill has set off across the country. People are sad and bitter only in part because they see those pelicans oiled; mostly, they sense correctly that our leaders have yet to deal with what is clearly the biggest problem we face: the transition off of fossil fuels.

The questions that the Gulf spill raises, in other words, go well beyond: How big an idiot is Tony Hayward? What will happen to the tourist economy of the Gulf? How cool is James Cameron’s minisub? The questions are more like: How out of balance with the natural world are we? And what would it require to get back in balance?

You’d need to interview not just oil execs and colorful shrimpers, but nature writers, solar pioneers and psychologists.

There’s nothing pat about what’s going on in the Gulf. It’s the most vivid sign we’ve yet had that we are running into the kind of limits that people started talking about way back at that first Earth Day. But its meaning risks disappearing beneath the endless stories about Top Hat and Junk Shot. BP’s great victory will come if it need merely confess to technical overreach and pay a few billion in fines — if that happens, it can get back to making serious money, and the planet can get back to burning.

— Bill McKibben, Cross-posted on Neiman Watchdog.

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