President Obama will be visiting the Gulf Coast for the fourth time (and making his first spill-related visit to Florida), giving a speech from the Oval Office and meeting with BP executives in the next few days. He has written a letter to Gulf Coast residents and talked with British Prime Minister David Cameron about not undermining the oil company’s value.

Whatever it takes
Clean-up efforts have begun in earnest, with everything from rakes and tractors to… paper towels?

Though the workers referred to them as paper towels, they are indeed slightly thicker, oil-absorbent pads. … These are very fancy towels that a few dudes are dropping along the shore to combat the multimillion-gallon spill.

Workers are constantly developing new innovations to mop up the trickier, dispersant-laced oil.

Designed by Gerry Matherne, a BP contractor and nearshore task force leader, the idea is simple.  A shrimp boat with outriggers on each side drags mesh oil-collection bags made of perforated webbing near the ocean surface.  As the boat trawls to collect oil patches, the bags, attached to an aluminum frame, collect oil.  When filled, the bags are disconnected from the frame by crew on support vessels, and then towed to a lift barge for hoisting into a collection barge.

For the collection of heavy, thick, dispersant-treated oil, this new mechanical recovery system is far more efficient than hand scooping and better suited than traditional (oleophilic) skimmer systems.  Traditional skimmers are best used to collect less viscous oil that can be pumped from the skimmer into a collection tank.

“This is a great example of the heart and soul of the response … finding creative ways to get the oil offshore, which increases our effectiveness alongside traditional skimmers,” said U.S. Coast Guard Incident Commander Capt. Steven Poulin.

The device was designed and built in a single week.  The technology is now being duplicated for wider use in the response.

Who’s to blame?
One man points a finger:

This isn’t the fault of BP or Transocean. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry.

It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life.

If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle.

Get ‘em while you can
Gov. Charlie Crist announced Friday that recreational scallop season would begin June 19 instead of July 1.

That was good news to marina operators in Steinhatchee, a popular scalloping spot for area residents and for fans of the tasty mollusk who travel to Steinhatchee for the harvest.

“Opening it early will hopefully offset some of the numerous cancellations we’ve had because of the media saying that the oil is in Florida, when it truly is not in Florida,” said Sea Hag Marina owner Charlie Norwood. “We’ve had around $18,000 in cancellations for motels and rental boats.”

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has already begun closing some state waters to fishing.

The sins of others: While other states profit from offshore drilling, Florida pays the price.

Too cheap: The true cost of a gallon of gas.

The cost of inaction: Will Congress pass an energy bill? Perhaps. A climate bill? Perhaps not.

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