American Elephants

The President’s Commission Suggests That Obama Reconsider! by The Elephant's Child

Will the President listen?  His National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has called on the Obama Administration to take another look at lifting the ban on drilling for certain rigs.  Business Week reported:

The commission wrote to Michael Bromwich, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, on Aug. 6, seeking information on the moratorium, according to a letter released today. President Barack Obama suspended drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet though Nov. 30.

Bromwich began a series of public hearings last week with industry people, academic experts and environmentalists.  The National Commission held its first hearing in New Orleans on July 12.  The Commission said their  panel does not have the resources or the ability to evaluate rig safety  or the ability of the industry to respond to future spills.

The Commission, chaired by Florida Senator Bob Graham and former EPA chief William Reilly, said prior to their first hearing that it would not be their charge to ” investigate the rationale, effectiveness or impact of the moratorium.” That was then and this is now.  They must have gotten an earful in the hearings.

It will be extremely interesting to see whether or not the President takes the Commission he appointed seriously.

ADDENDUM: I didn’t know this.  The President sent the Surgeon General to the Gulf to educate the public about possible mental-health problems that might arise from the spill. Now the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under Kathleen Sebelius has produced a new guide Tips for Talking To Children & Youth About the Oil Spill Disaster.  I really don’t search the web for things to make fun of the Administration.  They just appear.  How can I ignore them?

The Oil Spill is Getting Worse, Not Better! by The Elephant's Child

Simple math.  An estimated 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil erupt from the ocean floor each day.  On Monday, it was reported that 24,980 barrels were collected on-site, and a comparative tiny amount by skimming.  The spill is gaining on us every day, though that would seem to be unnecessary.

The skimming vessels are mostly a large number of hired shrimp boats, and only a small handful of dedicated Oil Spill Response Vessels (OSRVs) — that are equipped and suitable for the job.  The few OSRVs top out at around 4,000 barrels — but most of what they collect is water so it actually tops out around 4oo barrels a day.

Our government’s rejection of Europe’s offers is completely wrongheaded.  The ships Europe offered are far bigger than ours.  Norway’s Skril Herkule — 9,000 barrels a day capacity, Netherlands’ Hein — 22,000 barrels a day, Netherlands’ Geopotes 14 — 47.000 barrels a day.  All proven technology, but were kept away.  The A Whale is still being tested — 50,000 barrels claimed.

The Heritage Foundation has published a to-do checklist for President Obama:

  • Waive the Jones Act.
  • Accept more international assistance.
  • Waive or suspend EPA regulation.
  • Allow sand berm dredging.
  • Stop Coast Guard budget cuts.

Another item was to lift the moratorium on drilling, but the judge did. The administration has filed suit to reinstall it.

Keep this in mind the next time someone from the government offers promises.

Making the Catastrophe Worse, Step by Step! by The Elephant's Child

Seventy Days in:

The National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator have determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies.

The United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high-speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete…

Three days after the BP Deepwater Horizon Rig blew up on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill — one much larger than the spill that was then under way. The chairman of Spill Response Group Holland said that each Dutch ship had more cleanup capacity than all the ships the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that the equipment wouldn’t capture all of the oil gushing from the well, the Dutch also offered to help the U.S. with a contingency plan to protect Louisiana’s marshlands with sand barriers.  A Dutch research institute specializing deltas, coastal areas and rivers developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile long sand dikes within three weeks.

Why didn’t it happen? First of all there’s the Jones Act (the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) intended to protect maritime unions, which precludes a foreign flagged ship from operating near the U.S. Coast.  In the case of Katrina, the Jones Act was waived by the Bush Administration within 3 Days. That’s not all, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules.  The Dutch ships can suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water.  That is not good enough for U.S. regulators.  Better to have no oil soaked up than return water that has more than 15 parts per million of oil to the Gulf of Mexico.  Water that is not 99.9985%pure is just not good enough.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires regions to have minimum levels of equipment such as booms and skimmers.

Admiral Allen, the incident commander, said that there are “discussions we’re having across the entire country where we have equipment that’s out there as a requirement — legal requirement to cover spill response of those areas — and how we might free those up.  That’s a work in progress inside the administration right now. ”

The head of French oil spill response company. Ecoceane, said the Jones Act and other difficulties getting through to BP prevented his company from putting boats to work sooner.  He has boats to work offshore, but also smaller models to work in shallower inland waters.  In the end, he sold nine spill response boats to a Florida company last week.  That makes them American boats and gets around Jones Act problems.

The spill is tangled in a web of red-tape, with way too many officials in charge of conflicting regulations, conflicting power, conflicting responsibility.  Allen may be the incident commander, but apparently he does not have any overriding authority, so everything winds up in endless debates and discussions.  A textbook case of how to bungle a crisis.  One of the first things they did was to send down a bunch of lawyers.

Kevin Costner’s Oil-Cleanup Machine Works! by The Elephant's Child

Kevin Costner has spent 15 years and invested $20 million promoting his oil-separating centrifuge machines, and at last it has paid off. BP was so impressed after putting the machines through a test run, that it has ordered 32 of the machines to help with cleanup efforts on the Gulf Coast.

The centrifuges are capable of processing 128,000 barrels of water a day. Costner and BP CEO Doug Settles recently held a press conference.  Settles said:

We tested it in some of the toughest environments we could find, and actually what it’s done — it’s quite robust.  This is real technology with real science behind it , and it’s passed all those tests.

Needless to say, Kevin Costner is quite pleased that someone is finally willing to listen and test.   We do have an odd prejudice that movie people are a little flaky about the real world.

(h/t: Planet Gore)

Inaction from the White House Enrages Gulf Officials! by The Elephant's Child

In Louisiana, Plaquemines parish president Billy Nugesser is furious.  The Obama administration has asked for a halt on dredging sand berms off the Chandeleur Islands that started just last week.  They want to relocate the project farther into the Gulf.  It’s once again U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Nugesser fired off a letter urging President Obama to step in and do something, or face a tongue-lashing on national T.V.

Dammit, it took us long enough to get the permit, now they are going to throw rocks at us.  They all need to rot in hell for this.

Some brilliant individual said we think a mile out is not enough, it may scowl the island, or it may subside.  So let’s shut it down.

Senator George S. Lemieux (R-FL) also slams the President on the spill.  There are plenty of skimmers available, he says.  They are just not doing anything about getting them to where they will protect the coastlines,  the beaches and the wildlife.  Inaction and delay while the president plays golf.  It’s all so very hard, and President Obama needs the relaxation.

Reluctance to take action — for fear of the risk of damage to one’s own career  by the possibility of being wrong — are typical of government bureaucracies.  There are those (straw-man alert) who think the president is refusing to take action in order to promote his cap-and-trade bill, but surely this is the kind of crisis that one would allow to go to political waste, isn’t it?

Lord Christopher Monckton on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster by The Elephant's Child

Lord Christopher Monckton has been traveling the world, speaking on the science — and the failure — of the alarmist case  for global warming. He’s a witty, fun speaker and it is always a pleasure to hear from him.

On the 6 of May, he testified before Congress.  His testimony is here.  His testimony began:

The Select Committee, in its letter inviting testimony for the present hearing, cites various scientific bodies as having concluded that —

  1. The global climate has warmed;
  2. Human activities account for most of the warming since the mid-20th century;
  3. Climate change is already causing a broad range of impacts in the United States;
  4. The impacts of climate change are expected to grow in the coming decades;

The first statement requires heavy qualification and, since the second is wrong, the third and fourth are without foundation and must fall.

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