In for the long haul
BP’s cap has succeeded in siphoning some 10,000 barrels a day from the leaking well to a tanker on the surface. Depending on which numbers you use, that could be roughly half the volume of gushing oil. But even if the cap remains successful and the relief wells work properly in August, the cleanup efforts are expected to take months:
The well, like a raging undersea beast, has continued to stymie BP and government officials. One technician, amazed at the power of the oil gushing from its depths, called it “one hell of a well.”
Adm. Thad W. Allen, the Coast Guard commander, said on “Face the Nation” on CBS that BP officials were working to secure the cap over the wellhead and to gradually increase the amount of oil recovered. But he said the only solution to the problem would be the successful completion of relief wells to finally stop the flow from the bottom of the 18,000-foot-deep well, a job that will not be completed until August at the earliest.
“The spill will not be contained until that happens,” Admiral Allen said. “But even after that, there will be oil out there for months to come. This will be well into the fall.”
He added: “This is a siege across the entire gulf. This spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but physically. And it has to be attacked on all fronts.”
The ecological impacts, meanwhile, could last much longer.
Just a stunt?
With cleanup crews mobilizing in the panhandle and monitors watching for oil from Pensacola to the Dry Tortugas, some Floridians are questioning whether the state and federal governments were prepared, and whether BP is doing enough to protect the coast.
Late in the afternoon, with storm clouds overhead, a BP cleanup crew descended on a short stretch of the tar ball-tainted shore. Wearing protective gloves, the workers used empty plastic water bottles, cut in half, to scoop some of the blobs into black plastic bags.In less than an hour, they were back on the bus.
Watching was Pensacola City Council member Larry B. Johnson. He was not impressed.
“My anger is off the charts,” he said, glaring at the departing crew. “This was nothing but a PR stunt. What did they accomplish with 20 people in 45 minutes? This is beyond ridiculous.”
Some Floridians are taking out their anger on BP filling stations.
Andy Kroll asks whether BP is “hanging Florida out to dry.”
Can we change our ways?
The spill has stoked latent fears about peak oil.
In the U.K. Sunday Times, Andrew Sullivan wonders whether oil-addicted Americans are getting the message:
Alas, what won’t change is the oil addiction that has forced the US to drill deeper and deeper in more and more treacherous waters, where techniques carry more risks precisely because the terrain is brand new. If you want to assign real, structural blame, it belongs in the end to the American people, who simply refuse to wean themselves off carbon and want to continue having the cheapest petrol in the West. This habit bolsters America’s enemies, empowers oil-rich Islamic states and is slowly cooking the planet.
Meanwhile, the climate change bill passed in the House of Representatives remains stalled in the Senate. Because deep-sea oil exploration was a key way to get some Republicans on board for the package, the bill that might in the long run have prevented the same thing happening again has been killed by the BP gusher and a suspension of deep-sea drilling. The obvious solution — some kind of carbon tax — remains anathema. Remember that America is a country whose de facto leader of the opposition, Sarah Palin, ran on a slogan of “Drill, baby, drill!”
Bill McKibben hopes Obama can “seize the energy moment.”
Meet the mole: An anonymous BP employee lifts the veil on the company’s attempts to manipulate the narrative.
Dangerous job: Why don’t these men have safety masks?
Chain reaction: The spill menaces nuclear power plants along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Prosecutor’s playbook: David M. Uhlmann explains the case against BP.