Follow by Email

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill/Jones Act Debate: Obama Defenders Blindly Support Their Chief

You don't have to search far on Google for links to pages on top of pages of commentary on the Jones Act and whether it is or is not inhibiting the clean-up effort in the Gulf. On the right, you have people who will say it's all Obama's fault (as I have vaguely suggested here) and on the left you have just the opposite. FactCheck.Org has sallied forth with an analysis that claims the criticisms are all a right wing conspiracy to discredit the President. So, what's the truth?

If you're one of the President's and the Administration's big defenders I'm quite certain you won't believe me when I tell you that the Jones Act was and is continuing to inhibit efforts by foreign ship owners to assist in the clean-up. But this doesn't mean that the arguments posted by FactCheck.Org and the President's supporters are completely wrong. On the contrary, most of them are right. For example, "Obama hasn't refused to suspend the Jones Act." And, "the Coast Guard and the Administration haven't refused offers of help from foreign-owned vessels." There are some 45 foreign vessels working in the Gulf, and the maritime industry and Coast Guard professionals who are quoted in the commentary said what they believe to be true.

All facts. All carefully worded.

Unfortunately, the facts really don't tell the story, nor do the facts matter very much when the perceived restrictions of the Jones Act are just as inhibiting as those that are legally imposed and binding.

The owners of the Super-Skimmer A Whale have come out and said they can't start operations without a waiver or exemption from the federal government. Does it matter that they're wrong about the Jones Act applying to them if they perceive that it does and the perception has curtailed their effort to aid in the clean-up? Of course not.

In fact, I don't care what FactCheck.Org is saying. The Jones Act has prevented large oil recovery ships from aiding in the clean-up and/or from mobilizing in a timely matter. The 45 or 23% foreign owned vessels reported to be part of the clean-up fleet are what, exactly? Are they large, special-purpose recovery vessels that can actually make a difference, or are they almost-useless little skimmers and boom tenders that U.S. companies don't really care about? Perhaps some of them are large specially-rigged offshore oil service vessels that have been here on a Jones Act waiver all along and are part of a previously established oil exploration mission. These in the latter category are here, have been here for awhile, but are not specially designed for oil recovery operations. Again, no threat to American labor interests.

What is the big deal of temporarily suspending the Jones Act? If all these defenders of the Administration are so convinced the Jones Act isn't impeding the clean-up effort, then why not suspend it temporarily. Why hassle with the waivers, the applications, the paper work, the perceptions, the delays, the bureaucracy? What's the harm in suspending it? The precedent is there. If you ask me, it's because if the President suspends the Jones Act at this late date, more than two months after the catastrophic explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, people will see the truth for what it is: the Administration not wanting to give up even one inch of government control.

If I were a foreigner who owned an Very Large Offshore Recovery Vessel (VLOSRV) or two that cost $50,000 to $100,000 or more a day to run, I would want to send it to the site of an oil spill disaster as soon as possible, but not out of the goodness of my heart. I would do it for the work, for the money. If it takes ten to twenty days to get it from the Persan Gulf or the North Sea to the U.S. Gulf Coast, I'm looking at some serious costs. Why would I order my fleet to move without knowing from the start I could put my ships to work and get my crews paid?


Monday, June 28, 2010

Jones Act vs Oil Spill

According to Todd Hornbeck, CEO of Hornbeck Offshore, U.S. Cabotage Law, specifically The Jones Act, is not a factor in restricting the use of foreign flagged vessels in the Gulf of Mexico clean-up effort. He says there are 45 or more foreign flagged skimming vessels currently in operation. The Offshore Marine Services Association (OMSA), a marine service business advocacy organization, supports this assertion. However, these comments are coming from people who are staunch supporters, as I am, of the Jones Act. But unlike me, they have a hell of a lot to gain by proving to the public that the Jones Act is not a hindrance to the clean-up effort.

What Todd Hornbeck said on Fox News is true: The Jones Act does not prohibit a foreign vessel from cleaning up oil at sea, even on waters over the U.S. continental shelf. But it does stop that vessel from bringing a product to multiple ports in the U.S., and it may prohibit the vessel from making multiple stops at multiple U.S. ports during the course of operations.

The Jones Act doesn't specifically prohibit a foreign vessel from recovering the oil/water mix at sea, but it prohibits the vessel from entering U.S. ports once its hold is full. So where does the ship go to unload its cargo? Who will pay the crew and the ship owners? The Jones Act prohibits U.S. companies and/or the U.S Government from paying foreign vessels and foreign crews for work in U.S. waters. So, yeah, the vessels can clean-up oil, as long as they do it just once and head back to their home ports. And as long as they don't expect to get paid.

This is a national emergency calling for a temporary suspension of the Jones Act, as President Bush enacted after Hurricane Katrina. President Obama needs to announce a temporary suspension now. A temporary suspension will not weaken the power of the Jones Act and will not threaten the livelihoods of American workers and businesses. It's just plain stupid for vessels like the Super Skimmer A Whale to have to wait and apply for a waiver or exemption. And it's equally stupid to think that a temporary suspension will have anything other than a positive effect on the overall spill response effort.

Had the President announced a suspension of the Jones Act two months ago, it's conceivable that foreign owners of specialized foreign vessels would have sent their fleets into the Gulf while the oil was still at sea.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Interesting Boats: Giant Super-Skimmer A. Whale Sails to Gulf

It's now time for Obama to get off his ass, stop protecting U.S. organized labor, tell the E.P.A. and U.S.C.G to get the hell out of the way, and give this vessel and crew a chance to clean up the mess in the Gulf. All it needs is an OK from the E.P.A., the U.S.C.G. and a temporary exemption from the Jones Act, the latter requiring Presidential authority. Duh! Like what the hell is he waiting for?

The A. Whale is a Liberian flagged, Taiwanese-owned supertanker that was just retrofitted in Portugal as a humongous skimmer. According to the vessel's owners, it can skim and recover 500,000 barrels per day of an oil/water mix. It can process the mix on board and pump mostly water back into the ocean.

Although this vessel is untried and unproven, it is a potentially life-saving addition to the Gulf of Mexico clean-up effort.

This vessel fueled-up in Norfolk yesterday and is en route to the Gulf today. However, it can't start operations without Presidential action.

Please, Mr. President, stop worrying about those Union heads who helped get you elected and make this happen.


Day 68: BP Oil Spill Numbers

It should be obvious by now that nobody really knows for sure how much oil is leaking into the Gulf. What we do know is the following:

BP says is has recovered or flared approximately 365,500 barrels of oil via the containment systems on the blown-out well head. It also claims to have recovered 610,000 barrels of an oil/seawater mix from the surface of the Gulf, which probably amounts to about 200,000 barrels or less of oil. In addition, it has eliminated 239,000 barrels in controlled burning. That's a total of 804, 500 barrels of oil.

If the well head has been leaking 35,000 barrels per day, the total amount of the spill to date is about 2,360,000 barrels.

If the well head has been leaking 45,000 barrels per day, the total amount of the spill to date is about 3,035,000 barrels.

If the well head has been leaking 60,000 barrels per day, the total amount of the spill to date is about 4,046,000 barrels.

And if the well head has been leaking 100,000 barrels per day, the total amount of the spill is about 6,700,000 barrels -- or 281,480,000 gallons, more than twice that of he Ixtoc I spill.

There are 42 gallons in a barrel.

I don't think it's 100,000 barrels per day. I think it's more like 45,000 to 60,000 barrels per day, an estimate based on the maximum success we can expect from the current recovery/remediation effort.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Good News for Whales: From the NRDC

I have fantastic news: the International Whaling Commission (IWC) announced yesterday that it is delaying action on a deal that would have legalized commercial whaling for the first time in a generation.

The IWC's decision is a huge victory for whales -- and for activists like you -- against very long odds. And it was made possible by more than 100,000 NRDC Members and BioGems Defenders like you who helped ignite a worldwide outcry against this potentially disastrous policy change.

Just weeks ago, Pierce Brosnan kicked off NRDC's public mobilization campaign by alerting you to this deadly deal and asking you to make your voice heard in opposition. At that time, an end to the ban on whaling seemed virtually inevitable.

The deal had been negotiated for years in secret, closed-door meetings. The talks were spearheaded by key governments, including our own, which believed that lifting the ban on whaling would rein in rogue whaling by Japan, Iceland and Norway.

But, in fact, the proposed deal was a capitulation to the whaling nations, conferring legitimacy on their slaughter of whales after they'd defied international law for years.

The deal would have suspended the whaling ban for 10 years and opened up a designated whale sanctuary to commercial whaling. And it would not have put binding measures in place to stop whaling nations from killing whales under legal loopholes like "scientific permits."

Worst of all, the deal would have given moral cover to the notion that we can save whales by killing them -- instead of by banning their slaughter.

Fortunately, a worldwide outcry helped halt this headlong rush to legalize the slaughter of whales for profit. It shone a spotlight on the secret proceedings and put pressure on anti-whaling nations -- like the United States -- to toughen their stance in negotiating with the whaling nations. That last-minute shift produced a whale-saving deadlock.

This fight is not yet over. The IWC has left the proposed deal open on its agenda, meaning that it could be revisited in the next two days. More likely, the IWC will opt for a year-long "cooling-off
period" and take up the issue again next year. We'll be ready to mobilize again whenever this proposed deal is put back on the table.

In the weeks and months ahead, we'll be urging the IWC to focus its conservation efforts on emerging threats to marine mammals that are growing with each passing day: from entanglement to ship strikes, from noise pollution to global warming.

In the meantime, I want to thank you for helping secure this important victory for whales -- and for making sure that the slaughter of whales for profit will remain illegal.


Peter Lehner
Executive Director
Natural Resources Defense Council

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Obama, The Jones Act and the Gulf Oil Spill. Or, Why We Aren't Seeing An Internatinal Effort to Help Clean Up This Mess.

You want to know why there aren't more ships and crews working to clean up this mess. It's because President Obama was elected in part by the Labor Unions, and the Labor Unions don't want him to suspend the Jones Act.

The Jones Act prohibits foreign crews and foreign vessels from working in U.S. waters. President Bush suspended the Jones Act two days after the hurricane Katrina's landfall. The temporary suspension helped the U.S. receive assistance from 70 foreign countries that pledged aid and support.

Many foreign countries, e.g. the Netherlands, have offered assistance in the form of oil clean-up ships, equipment and crews. Unfortunately, because of the Jones Act, they can't send ships, boats or crews.

Here we are 64 days after the start of the spill, and President Obama remains firmly seated on his laurels about the Jones Act.

On an equally irritating note, Paul Rubin reports in the WSJ that 16 barges were ready to be deployed as oil clean-up vessels but were sidelined by the U.S.C.G. because C.G. Inspectors hadn't checked the life jackets on the barges.

Of course, if you go to The White House Blog Page, you'll find a completely different spin on The White House Response:

The White House Blog

The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill: June 21, 2010

The Obama Administration today sent a third bill for $51.4 million to BP and other responsible parties. As a responsible party, BP is financially responsible for all costs associated with the response to the spill, including efforts to stop the leak at its source, reduce the spread of oil, protect the shoreline and mitigate damages, as well as long term recovery efforts to ensure that all individuals and communities impacted by the spill are made whole.

Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.

Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill
Prepared by the Joint Information Center
UPDATED June 21, 2010 7 PM

In the Past 24 Hours

Admiral Allen Provides Operational Update on the BP Oil Spill Response
National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen provided a briefing to inform the American public and answer questions on the progress of the administration-wide response to the BP oil spill. A transcript is available here.

Administration Sends Third Bill to BP for $51.4 Million
The Obama Administration today sent a third bill for $51.4 million to BP and other responsible parties. As a responsible party, BP is financially responsible for all costs associated with the response to the spill, including efforts to stop the leak at its source, reduce the spread of oil, protect the shoreline and mitigate damages, as well as long term recovery efforts to ensure that all individuals and communities impacted by the spill are made whole.

In order to provide full transparency of the ongoing efforts and to ensure that the American public is not held accountable for the costs of response and recovery activities, the federal government bills BP and the other responsible parties regularly. BP and other responsible parties have paid the first two bills in full—totaling $70.89 million.

Secretary Salazar Swears In New Offshore Energy Management Leader
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today swore-in former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich to lead reforms that will strengthen oversight and policing of offshore oil and gas development. Bromwich will oversee the fundamental restructuring of the former Minerals Management Service, which was responsible for overseeing oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

A Secretarial Order (pdf) signed by Salazar renames the Minerals Management Service the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement as it undergoes reorganization and reform.

NOAA Research Ship Thomas Jefferson Releases Initial Observations
The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson returned to Galveston, Texas, on June 11 from an eight-day research mission to investigate the presence and distribution of subsurface oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. While initial observations found the presence of anomalies in the water column, further analysis of water samples from Jefferson and the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter is required before drawing conclusions.

NOAA continues to conduct a variety of research missions to study the impacts of the BP oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico—part of the federal government’s ongoing effort to engage the best scientific minds to inform response and recovery efforts.

Federal and Local Officials Hold Open House Meeting for Louisiana Residents
As part of continued efforts to inform Louisiana residents on the BP oil spill response and available assistance, representatives from the Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA and state and local governments today held their fourth open house meeting in Jefferson Parish.

Experts from the various agencies participating in the BP oil spill response were on hand to discuss a variety of topics with Parish residents—including the claims process, volunteer and contracting opportunities, environmental quality, worker safety and the various tools, equipment and strategies being used in the response. Previous meetings were held in Cameron Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and St. Mary’s Parish.

NOAA Expands Fishing Restriction in the Gulf; More than 64 Percent Remains Open
As part of continued efforts to ensure the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and protect consumers, NOAA has expanded the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to capture portions of the oil slick moving beyond the current boundaries off the Florida panhandle and due south of Mississippi. The closed area now represents 86,985 square miles—approximately 36 percent—of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. This closure does not apply to any state waters. This leaves more than 64 percent of Gulf federal waters available for fishing. Details can be found at

Fish and Wildlife Continues Efforts to Recover and Rehabilitate Oiled Wildlife
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife is leading wildlife and habitat recovery efforts in response to the BP oil spill—which includes aerial and ground surveys to assess the damage and recover oiled or injured wildlife and rehabilitation centers, where animals are cared for in preparation for release into their natural habitat.

On Sunday, FWS released 38 brown pelicans and one tern at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and rescue and recovery teams responded to a total of 95 calls to the Wildlife Hot Line reporting oiled or injured wildlife along the Gulf Coast—including 25 in Alabama, nine in Louisiana, 20 in Florida, and six in Mississippi. To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401.

Successful Controlled Burn
In recent days, favorable weather conditions have allowed responders to conduct successful controlled burn operations. As part of a coordinated response that combines tactics deployed above water, below water, offshore, and close to coastal areas, controlled burns efficiently remove oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife. In total, 255 burns have been conducted to remove more than 6.3 million gallons of oil from the water.

BP Continues to Optimize Oil Recovery Rates from its Leaking Well
Under the direction of the federal government, BP continues to capture some oil and burn gas at the surface using its containment dome technique.

In addition to the Discoverer Enterprise, which is linked by the riser pipe to the wellhead, and the Q4000, which continues to flare off additional oil and gas being brought up through the choke lines—a method that was also put in place at the government’s direction.

Approved SBA Economic Injury Assistance Loans Surpass $5.5 Million
SBA has approved 88 economic injury assistance loans to date, totaling more than $5.58 million for small businesses in the Gulf Coast impacted by the BP oil spill. Additionally, the agency has granted deferments on 441 existing SBA disaster loans in the region, totaling more than $1.96 million per month in payments. For information on assistance loans for affected businesses, visit the SBA’s Web site at, call (800) 659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or email

Administration Continues to Oversee BP’s Claims Process
The administration will continue to hold the responsible parties accountable for repairing the damage, and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss as a result of the BP oil spill. To date, 66,825 claims have been opened, from which more than $111.1 million have been disbursed. No claims have been denied to date. There are 720 claims adjusters on the ground. To file a claim, visit or call BP’s helpline at 1-800-440-0858. Those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BP’s resolution can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118. Additional information about the BP claims process and all available avenues of assistance can be found at

By the Numbers to Date:

  • The administration has authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states to respond to this crisis; to date, 1,612 have been activated.
  • Approximately 33,900 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines.
  • More than 6,000 vessels are currently responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
  • Approximately 2.51 million feet of containment boom and 4.04 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 585,000 feet of containment boom and 2 million feet of sorbent boom are available.
  • Approximately 24 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.
  • Approximately 1.43 million gallons of total dispersant have been applied—959,000 on the surface and 468,000 subsea. More than 465,000 gallons are available.
  • 255 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing a total of more than 6.32 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.
  • 17 staging areas are in place to protect sensitive shorelines.
  • Approximately 173 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline is currently oiled—approximately 34 miles in Louisiana, 41 miles in Mississippi, 39 miles in Alabama, and 59 miles in Florida. These numbers reflect a daily snapshot of shoreline currently experiencing impacts from oil so that planning and field operations can more quickly respond to new impacts; they do not include cumulative impacts to date, or shoreline that has already been cleared.
  • Approximately 87,000 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters remain closed to fishing in order to balance economic and public health concerns. Sixty-four percent remains open. Details can be found at
  • To date, the administration has leveraged assets and skills from numerous foreign countries and international organizations as part of this historic, all-hands-on-deck response, including Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization and the European Union's Monitoring and Information Centre.


  • For information about the response effort, visit
  • For specific information about the federal-wide response, visit
  • To contact the Deepwater Horizon Joint Information Center, call (713) 323-1670.
  • To volunteer, or to report oiled shoreline, call (866) 448-5816. Volunteer opportunities can also be found here.
  • To submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system, or to submit alternative response technology, services, or products, call 281-366-5511.
  • To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401.
  • For information about validated environmental air and water sampling results, visit
  • For National Park Service updates about potential park closures, resources at risk, and NPS actions to protect vital park space and wildlife, visit
  • For Fish and Wildlife Service updates about response along the Gulf Coast and the status of national wildlife refuges, visit
  • For daily updates on fishing closures, visit
  • For information on assistance loans for affected businesses, visit the SBA’s Web site at, call (800) 659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or email
  • To file a claim with BP, visit or call BP’s helpline at (800) 440-0858. A BP fact sheet with additional information is available here (pdf). Those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BP’s resolution, can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118. More information about what types of damages are eligible for compensation under the Oil Pollution Act as well as guidance on procedures to seek that compensation can be found here.
  • In addition, has been enhanced to provide a one-stop shop for information on how to file a claim with BP and access additional assistance—available in English and Spanish.
  • Any members of the press who encounter response personnel restricting their access or violating the media access policy (pdf) set forth by Admiral Allen should contact the Joint Information Center. Click here for more information, including a list of regular embed opportunities.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ocean News of the Day

Cooling burn at the head pipe on the Q400

There are some very interesting items this morning in the news.

1. Haaretz, Israel's oldest newspaper, is reporting that a task force of U.S. and Israeli ships (possibly just one Israeli ship) are heading through the Suez Canal on their way to the Red Sea and possibly the Persian Gulf. The purpose of their mission has not been disclosed but it appears the ships are on course to intercept an Iranian flotilla of aid ships (2) headed for Gaza to challenge the blockade. Does Iran really think Israel will permit ships to enter their territorial waters from a country that has threatened their very existence?

Full story here.

2. The New York Times is reporting that federal authorities were lax in their oversight of the blind shear ram, a "last line" containment device that would have prevented the Macondo well blowout but was known for single point failure problems.

From the NYT:

"It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.

It also shows that the Obama administration failed to grapple with either the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers or the sufficiency of the nation’s drilling regulations even as it made plans this spring to expand offshore oil exploration"

Full story here.

3. BP is on track to reach full containment from the Deepwater Horizon BOP. Additional resources are en route to the well to help recover and flare as much as 80,000 barrels per day. By the end of the month, they should be at 50,000 barrels, by mid-July 80,000 barrels. It proves that BP believed it's (and the government's) flawed estimates of the size of the leak. It's also possible that the capping process increased the leak substantially. Either way, the spill in the Gulf is far and away the worst in U.S. history and possible the world, not counting the 1991 Gulf war spill, which dumped as much as 600 million gallons into the Arabian Sea. Difference being, the latter was deliberate.

Full story here.

4. Whale sharks off the Florida coast have come together in what scientists believe is an exodus from the Gulf oil spill.

Full story here.

5. A Florida boater claims to have chased off a submarine. U.S.C.G. is taking the report seriously. Why would the guy lie. Let's hope this is one of our own. I would hate to think this was an Iranian sub.

Full story here.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gulf Coast Clean-Up Crews Damage Birds and Habitat

As if the spill itself isn't bad enough, check out Drew Wheelan's blog entries (Wheelan's blog link is on the left of ABA Home Page) about birds and bird sanctuaries being destroyed by oil spill clean-up crews.

I don't know if you've ever had any dealings with the E.P.A or D.E.P. I have, and all I can say is that federal and state environmental agencies and departments are HUGE! They are manned by tens of thousands of employees. The E.P.A. alone employs 17,000 people, and the Gulf Coast state departments of environmental protection are probably another 10,000. Add in the number of employees in the Army Corp of Engineers (over 35,000), and add the number of FEMA employees (6,700).

That's an army of 58,700 people. [Bear in mind, my D.E.P. number is a conservative estimate based on the number (3,600) of Florida D.E.P. employees.]

Where is this army, which, for the most part, serves at the behest of the President? Have you wondered what these people are doing right now? I'm sure some of them are working in the Gulf, but how many? How many are out there protecting our environment and our wildlife?

Or is this army of government workers, particularly the ones with the E.P.A. and at the state level. comprised mostly of lawyers? Probably so, since it's mostly what we have at the White House and Congress. "We can't organize a high school reunion, let alone a massive oil spill clean-up. But we sure as hell can sue your ass if you're responsible for the latter."


BP Subsea Operational Update

Optimization of the dual system, LMRP Cap and the Q4000 Direct Connect, will continue over the next few days.
For the first 12 hours on June 16 (midnight to noon), approximately 7,040 barrels of oil were collected and approximately 1,250 barrels of oil and 17.8 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.
On June 15, from the LMRP Cap alone, a total of approximately 10,440 barrels of oil were collected and 25.1 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.
Oil collection volumes were lower on June 15 due to the direct lightening strike on the Enterprise.
The next update will be provided at 9:00am CDT / 3.00pm BST on June 17, 2010.

Updated June 16 at 6:30pm CDT / 12.30am BST

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama Compares Gulf Spill to 9/11 Attacks

Obama angered families and friends of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks when he compared the tragedy at the Twin Towers to the environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. president said there were ‘echoes’ between the Gulf of Mexico disaster and the Al Qaeda suicide attacks which killed 2,995 people, including 67 Britons.

He said that just as the events of September 11, 2001, had profoundly shaped ‘our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy’, so the oil disaster would shape thinking on the environment and energy for years to come.

(Read more at the Daily Mail.)
Fans and supporters of the President will see the connection immediately. I guess I'm not that much of an intellectual. For me, there can be no comparison between an accident and a deliberate act of terror. It's like comparing a forest fire to the murderous rampage of a serial killer.

Why is the President continually trying to redefine this country's war on terror?


Subsea Operational Update from BP

For the last 12 hours on June 15th (noon to midnight), approximately 4,830 barrels of oil were collected and 14.6 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.
On June 15th, a total of approximately 10,440 barrels of oil were collected and 25.1 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.
Oil collection volumes were lower on June 15th due to the direct lightening strike on the Enterprise.
Total oil collected since the LMRP Cap containment system was implemented is approximately 160,400 barrels.
Collection commenced on the Q4000 at ~9:50pm with hydrocarbons reaching surface at ~1am on the 16th. We expect to optimize collection over the next few days.
The next update will be provided at 6:00pm CDT on June 16, 2010.

New ContainmentSystem Flaring Oil and Gas on Q4000

BP is reporting, as of 1:00 AM on June 16th, that oil and gas is being flared aboard the Q4000. Oil is also being recovered via the LMRP. Although the company has been unable to provide an estimate of the recovery and flaring effort, independent and government scientists revised their leak numbers yet again. They now think as much as 60,000 barrels a day are/or have been leaking into the gulf through the damaged BOP. If this is true, at day 56, we're looking at a total spill of approximately 140 million gallons of oil, a number that now exceeds the 1979 spill of the Ixtoc I well.

Meanwhile, this morning a friend sent me an email that has been circulating the Internet. The email lays out a doomsday scenario based on the rantings of Dr. James Wickstrom, a super right wing radio evangelist from Michigan who believes, among other things, that Jews are the "Children of Satan."

Wickstrom's rant includes a load of bull about a giant gas bubble forming under the Gulf that will eventually explode and lead to a giant Tsunami. He recommends the evacuation of 40 million Gulf residents. Excuse me, but the guy is a complete and utter ass. He should find himself a nice deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific and maybe settle down with Helen Thomas.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

President Obama Speaks to the Nation Tonight...

Washington says he will announce an Administration demand for a special escrow fund from BP. The fund will be made available for spill clean-up as determined and administered by the government. Some democratic senators have already floated a number of $20 billion. According to reports, the fund will also support oil patch workers put out of work by the Administration's moratorium on oil exploration and drilling; of course, there is no way BP will pay for employees put out of work by the Administration.

If this isn't the ballsiest power grab ever. First he tried to get Hayward fired. Then he tried to get corporate dividends revoked. Now he wants to run $20 billion of the company's assets. Maybe he's onto something. BP has single-handedly improved the U.S. unemployment numbers and increased the nation's GDP. It has made the U.S. economic recovery look better. Sure it's a foreign corporation but what the hell? Even with an historic spill on its plate, it's doing better than Chrysler.

Everywhere you turn, Administration officials are bad-mouthing and rebuking BP. BP, on the other hand, is staying quiet. But just wait. When the leak is sealed and oil is being cleaned-up at a faster rate, when people are getting back to work and things finally settle down (I'm trying to be optimistic); when the media focuses more on the Korean peninsula and the Administration's revocation of sanctions against Syria (what's next? Iran?), analysts will scour this Administration's response to the crisis and learn the truth,which is:

This is a government of thinkers and planners and ideologues, a government of knee-jerk socio-political engineers.

What have they done to date that has for certain improved our lives? Other than extending employment benefits over and over and over again, which, by the way, they intend to do again with money raided from the new BP Crisis Escrow Fund.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Administration Presses for Good Press

Here's an article in the WSJ about how the Administration is controlling the coverage of the spill. Basically, nobody can announce anything without the Administration's approval. What was a somewhat coordinated and deferential effort by both BP and the Administration's representatives is now considered "abrasive" and adversarial.

If the Administration isn't careful, they'll find themselves all alone with this thing. BP will do only what they have to by law. They'll stop paying compensation and clean-up costs and turn everything over to their lawyers. I'm sure there are members of BP's executive board asking themselves why they're paying out more than any other oil company in history.

For political reasons, the Administration needs to be relentlessly hammering blame and responsibility onto BP. And it helps them to be in an adversarial position. It would help them even further if BP decided enough was enough. If Hayward suddenly announced that BP would do everything the law required but no more, then what? What could the President do? Seize a foreign company? Seize their assets? I don't think so. But at least the public would be behind him 100%. A man of the people fighting for the people against an evil corporate giant. It's a fantasy scenario for this president.

Unfortunately, without BP and its army of industry experts, the U.S. Government, including the Coast Guard, FEMA, Dept. of Interior, Army Corp of Engineers, EPA and other agencies and departmets, are at a complete loss to stop the leak and/or clean-up the spilled oil.

Let's stop the stupid trash talk and the meaningless calls for operational deadlines and work together to solve this problem.


Friday, June 11, 2010

New Estimates Show Deepwater Horizon Spill Heading Into Uncharted Territory

If we can believe the government's recent spill and leak estimates (latest in a long line of previously revised estimates) we can assume very shortly that Deepwater Horizon's well head will soon surpass Ixtoc I as the Northwest Hemisphere's worst oil pollution source of all time. Ixtoc I spilled 130 to 140 million gallons and Deepwater Horizon is probably somewhere over 100 million gallons. You can bet BP is working hard to avoid becoming numero uno.

Meanwhile, for shear unadulterated pollution madness, there's the Persion Gulf spill of 1991. In preperation for the U.S. and allied invasion of Kuwait Saddam Heusein ordered his troops to open the spigots of all the ships and terminals on the coast. He personally filled the headwaters of the Arabian Sea with somewhere between 320 and perhaps as much as 600 million gallons of oil.

Meanwhile, in addition to the ecological disaster in the making, fallout from the BP spill in the Gulf will have long term economic and political consequences if the Administration doesn't act appropriately.

According to a paper published yesterday by the International Energy Agency, regulatory changes alone could jeopardize nearly one million barrels of new daily crude production over the next half-decade. In the Gulf of Mexico, a one- to two-year delay in new deepwater oil projects could lower output by 100,000 to 300,000 barrels per day by 2015. In other deepwater jurisdictions, including Brazil, Angola and Nigeria, a further 550,000 daily barrels “could be at risk, albeit there are no current indications that permitting in these countries is likely to be affected,” the agency reported.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Obama's Trash Talk

President Obama's rhetoric the other day, saying on TV he would "kick BP's ass" and "fire [Tom Hayward]" and "hold back BP dividends," was prompted by his most liberal supporters and strategists. His core constituency want him to appear engaged and connected and in-charge, which they define in terms of their own anti-business, anti-private enterprise ideology. In other words, BP is the evil corporate empire intent on stealing and thieving its way to immense profits, while big government is the people's knight in shining armor.

Personally, I think Obama looked more disconnected than ever on the Today Show when he made his ass-kicking comments. BP has engaged in the largest, most intense oil-spill remediation and clean-up effort in the history of the world. Is it enough? Probably not. Are they facing an unprecedented situation? Absolutely. Should we cut them some slack? Hell no. But other than promise to "keep it's boot on BP's neck" (a comment made earlier by Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar) and its calls for meetings and investigations and hearings, what has the government been doing?

Obama should stop acting like a prep school hall monitor admonishing a bunch of kids for smoking cigarettes in the bathroom; he should start acting like a president who's overseeing the largest ecological battle ever prosecuted. These schoolyard antics about kicking ass are really juvenile, and anybody who thinks otherwise is giving our leader-in-chief a free pass based on theatrics instead of substance.

Mr. President: Please, just come out and tell us what our government is doing to help clean-up the oil spill. How are government assets being utilized? How is the National Guard being utilized? How is the government working to plan for and/or prevent future tragedies? How is the government working with BP to fascilitate an end to this disaster?

And if I may make a further suggestion. Your adversarial and antagonistic approach to BP does not sit well with the many thousands of American and other investors whose retirement accounts hinge on BP coming out of this mess intact.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Gulf Spill Numbers to Date: Some Progress...

Prepared by the Joint Information Center:

  • The administration has authorized 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states to participate in the response to the BP oil spill.
  • More than 22,000 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines.
  • More than 3,100 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
  • Approximately 2.19 million feet of containment boom and 2.46 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 702,000 feet of containment boom and 2.5 million feet of sorbent boom are available.
  • Approximately 15.5 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.
  • Approximately 1.09 million gallons of total dispersant have been deployed—779,000 on the surface and 317,000 subsea. More than 469,000 gallons are available.
  • More than 125 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing a total of more than 3.2 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.
  • 17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines.

Official Spill Response Page

Click on the image above for the page. It's a little clunky on older computers.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Well Head: Tip of the Iceberg?

We better pray this is just somebody talkin' trash.

From my friend, Carl, in Florida.

"In an interview by Andrea Mitchell a few minutes ago on Mitchell’s MSNBC show,
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who has been one of the most informed and diligent,
if not the most informed and diligent, Congressmen on the BP Gulf Oil Spill issue,
stated he had reports there is oil and gas leaking from the seabed surrounding the
BP Macondo well in the Mississippi Canyon sector of the Gulf"


Edward Markey's Show of Force

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is the chairman of the House Committee investigating the BP oil spill. He's also the chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global warming and the chair of a subcommittee called the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, which serves under the Energy and Commerce Committee. That's a lot of high highfalutin bureaucratic responsibility.

Congressman Markey has been an outspoken and sometimes vehement critic of BP, Halliburton and Transocean. He's accused them of incompetence, lying and criminal wrongdoing. I'm not here to tell you he's wrong, because I don't know for certain. In fact, it has been made painfully clear that the oil companies and the government (through the actions of the MMS of the Interior Dept.) have shared a criminal relationship by way of circumvention laws and regulations.

But here's the problem with Markey's agenda:

By spending all this time criticizing BP's failed attempts to cap the well and stop the leak and complaining about the live feed and BP's and the Coast Guard's underestimate of the volume of the leak (actually, he hasn't dared criticize the Coast Guard), he is effectively shifting focus away from the clean-up and recovery at sea issue, which I have been screaming about since day one.

Unfortunately, the Coast Guard, FEMA, the EPA, the Dept. of the Interior, and the White House, are all busy doing everything but what they should be doing. Instead of focusing on managing recovery and clean-up assets, they're involved in some way or another in the effort to stop the leak. The one thing they have no experience with, no knowledge about, no possible impact on, and that's what we hear them talking about. The leak. I wish to hell someone would ask them what's being done and what has been done to date to recover the oil spill and slick/sheen at sea. We should be getting daily updates as to how much water/oil has been recovered, where it's going, and how it's being handled. Instead, every single day, these people are focusing the public's attention on the leak.

Today, Admiral Thad Allen said the clean-up would go on until the fall. What the hell kind of comment is that? The leak isn't plugged yet and he has it figured out that we'll be all cleaned up by fall. In the same press conference he said the slick/sheen is no longer contiguous. It's now a bunch of separate spills, from hundreds of yards in diameter to many miles in diameter.

BP CEO Tony Hayward has said some stupid things over the past five weeks, but I understand what he was trying to say. He was/is trying to say, "We want this thing stopped, too, and we're working hard as hell to stop it."

Anybody who thinks BP isn't doing all it can to stop the leak is wasting brain energy. And all this talk about BP's culpability and/or the status of the leak is nothing more than a feeble attempt to shift blame away from an impotent oil recovery program and a government that remains asleep at the wheel.


PS. Early last week President Obama came out and said the new jobs data report would be encouraging. Someone apparently neglected to tell him that the jobs data report included over 400,000 jobs created by his own census bureau. In truth, only 40,000 jobs had been created. By the end of the week it became clear the jobs data report was bogus; Wall Street responded to this (and the bad European news) with a triple digit dip. Thank you Mr. President. I mention this because there are 100,000 jobs waiting for people in the Gulf. Instead of hiring 400,000 people to walk from house to house asking residents if they have any kids, maybe we should hire some people to help clean oil off 400 miles of pristine wetlands and beach and 30,000 square miles of the briny deep.

Friday, June 04, 2010

BP and USCG Officials Say Cap is Currently Allowing the Collection of 1,000 BPD of Oil

Officials are saying they're getting about 1,000 barrels per day from the well as a result of the recently installed riser cap. This capture of oil, they hope, will increase as they slowly and methodically close valves in the lower portion of the Blow Out Preventer (BOP). The valves had been opened to vent and release pressure out of the bottom of the BOP so that the riser pipe could be cut and then fitted with the cap. One BP official said it was possible to get better than 90% of the oil through the newly fitted riser. This may be overly optimistic as the cap fitting is only a temporary arrangement. Picture an O-ring type compression fitting on a sink tap. Everything's fine as long as nothing moves and the rubber O-ring holds. But at the Deepwater Horizon well head there's nearly a mile of pipe leading to the surface, and it's the Gulf and the sometimes volatile waters of the Caribbean Sea, and hurricane season is here, and even without a hurricane there's still all kinds of wind, weather and wave action; in this environment, the idea of having something that doesn't move is the stuff of fantasy.

Hopefully, this "fix" will suffice for days and maybe weeks. And, hopefully, during this time, BP will work on a better, more permanent fix and not just wait for their relief wells to be finished in late August.

Let's also hope and pray the government response has a chance to get ahead of the spill and double the recovery effort.

If the Deepwater Horizon oil spill can remain at at level below that which was spilled by the Mexican Ixtoc I well in 1979 (132 million gallons) I'm hopeful the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Western Atlantic can clean itself without catastrophic consequences.

To date, 35 to 40 million gallons of oil is a reasonable estimate of the total amount of oil that has been spilled by the Deepwater Horizon well.


UPDATE: Oil still escaping from riser pipe cap according to CNN. No comment yet fro BP or CG officials. 1,800 gallons retrieved topside.

UPDATE 6/7/10: BP reports they currently can collect about 10,500 bpd. Their maximum throughput is about 15,000 bpd. New estimates say the well is spewing between 19,000 and 25,000 bpd. If true, it would mean a total of over 1 million gallons of oil a day.

BP CEO Tony Hayward in WSJ

His opinion piece in today's WSJ.

Interesting Boats: The future of sailing | Opinion | The Engineer

The future of sailing | Opinion | The Engineer

Lucky girl.

Here's a video of this boat breaking the world sailing speed record.


Dan on the Medric

I took this video of my friend Dan lobstering on his boat just west of Metinic Island in Penobscot Bay. Video was shot on Memorial Day.


Deepwater Horizon Leaking Well Head Capped, But To What Effect

(UCAR Computer Model of Oil Slick/Sheen Projected Track)

The LMRP on the broken blow out preventer was finally cut and snipped enough to make it possible for engineers to install a cap. This last procedure was accomplished less than 12 hours ago and so far it's still in place, according to reports by Admiral Thad Allen, who has, in the past, spoken a little too early about the potential success of a given procedure. BP engineers and spokespeople are hopeful but not optimistic. They keep telling us this is only a temporary fix. Imagine trying to screw a nozzle on the end of a spitting garden hose and then imagine a 21" diameter garden hose at 5,000 feet below sea level gushing almost 600 gallons per minute of greasy, slimy, viscous crude.

Oil is coming up the new pipe that's attached to the cap but nobody knows yet how much. In addition, oil is leaking out from the seal between the cap and the LMRP. The reason for the latter is that the cut in the pipe is not as precise as engineers had hoped it would be. Still, it's a positive step, and one that can, for the present, allow recovery crews to get a leg up on the spill.

Perhaps, as the new relief wells are drilled, and as oil is siphoned from the well through the newly adapted LMRP, pressure can be relieved to a point where a further improvement can be attempted.

Meanwhile, oil is less than 4 miles from the Pensacola coast.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Stuck Blade Stalls BPs Capping Procedure

Click photo for CNN story.

BP changes tack on oil spill | News | The Engineer

If you want to know what has been cleaned up so far, here's some news from The Engineer, an e-zine out of the UK.

More than 1,600 vessels are now involved in the response effort, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels. Operations to skim oil from the surface of the water have now recovered, in total, some 321,000 barrels (13.5 million gallons) of oily liquid.

The total length of containment boom deployed as part of efforts to prevent oil reaching the coast is now more than 1.9 million feet, while an additional 1.8 million feet of sorbent boom has also been deployed.

So far, approximately 30,000 claims have been submitted and more than 15,000 payments have already been made, totalling some $40m (£27.5m). BP has received more than 110,000 calls to its helplines to date.

The cost of the response to date amounts to about $990m, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.

BP changes tack on oil spill | News | The Engineer

White House Calls For Criminal Investigation!

I told you this would happen. The White House's political strategists see no choice but to shift public focus away from the President and the Administration and toward BP and other big oil industry giants. I'm not saying there isn't a criminal aspect to what BP and other corporations did or didn't do, but this probe has nothing to do with right and wrong. It's all about politics and the failure of this president and the failure of this administration to respond properly to the disaster.

Unfortunately, this administration is hamstrung by process. It is all about holding meetings and intellectualizing and looking ahead to its own political future. This morning, on Good Morning America, George Stephanopolous stood on the banks of a Louisiana quay talking about the spill and showing the public a huge quarters barge slated to house oil spill response workers. The barge was completely empty. In the background were large OSVs and other oil field service vessels sitting idle. It was 7:00 in the morning and there was almost nothing going on. How can that be?

The oil slick/sheen in the Gulf covers more than 30,000 square miles. It has reached about 100 miles of Louisiana coastline. It is underwater in plumes that may stretch 30 miles or more. It is in the Loop Current off the Florida west coast and threatens to turn the corner and head up the U.S. East Coast. It is one day away from the famed white sand beaches of Pensacola. It threatens Cuba and Jamaica and lies in wait for the next hurricane.

Why are there ships still tied to the docks in Louisiana? Why aren't ships out at sea trying to clean up this mess while it is at sea?

Everyone is focused on BP's effort to try and cap the leak, but virtually nothing is being done to clean up the spill other than a few people with mops and rags on the beaches and in the marshes. Pitiful, just pitiful.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, Berkley Professor and political commentator, has suggested putting BP under receivership so the government can take over the entire operation. I have heard some stupid ideas in my time but this one really is hysterical. If BP can't put a stop to the leak, how is the government going to do it? Does Reich think the brightest and most talented oil leak remediation specialists are in the government? Does he really believe a guy working for $46,000 a year at the Department of Labor or the Army Corp of Engineers or the EPA or FEMA or USCG or, here's a real laugh, MMS, will have a better handle on this thing than the engineers and specialists at the largest oil company in the world? Robert Reich, shut the hell up! You don't know what you're talking about!

The government needs to take over only one aspect of this emergency and that is the spill clean-up aspect. It's what they should have been doing from the start. Not twiddling their thumbs and having meetings and holding hearings and calling for investigations. The EPA, USCG, FEMA and Army Corp of Engineers are trained, educated and equipped to handle spill emergencies. They should be using presidential authorization to get everything they need in manpower and equipment.

The Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has been almost frantic with calls to the government to approve the use of sand berms to protect wetlands. But as I've said here before, nobody can make a move without approval and authorization from all the appropriate government agencies, the USCG, EPA, Army Corp, etc. And so far, even though Jindal has been asking for permission for weeks, no such approval has been given. Apparently, the decision makers at the agencies in charge are worried about tidal effects. They can bypass environmental laws and regulations for oil company leases and safety precautions, they can ignore localized public sentiment and authorize the construction of massive wind farms in environmentally sensitive coastal areas off Massacheusetts . . . but they can't get off their asses and permit the construction of temporary sand berms to keep oil off the Louisiana coast, nor can they mobilize an effective oil clean-up fleet to attack this spill while it's still at sea.


First Hurricane of Season?

This is the first Gulf-area low that meteorologists say could form into a tropical depression. Season is off to a good start.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gulf Spill Update

With the failure of Top Kill effort behind them BP is now looking forward to a procedure by which the end of the broken riser would be cut off and a new cap fitted. This is the LMRP (Lower Marine Riser Package) cap. Is it really a cap or is it going to be a valve of some kind?

It's a little mystifying trying to figure out why this wasn't tried before the other procedures, namely, the containment dome, the top hat, and finally the top kill. Is it because this procedure carries the greatest risk for making the situation worse? Or is it because this procedure makes it virtually impossible for BP to salvage what's left of the BOP? In other words, were all the previous methods used for stopping the leak better for BP than the environment? I suspect the answer is "no" but I think the question has to be posed. What are we doing here, trying to stop the leak or rescue the damaged well head?

Here's what I think they should have done. They should have dropped the containment dome on it and held the dome in place as best they could with giant anchors. Believe me, they have plenty of giant anchors. As the pressure threatened to blow the top off the dome, they should have dropped another dome over the first and held the second one in place with another set of giant anchors. They should have built dome after dome, bigger and stronger, placing one on top of the other and held down by heavy ground tackle, until the oil had nowhere to go but seep out from under the weight of the domes. Then, with the pressure knocked down to a manageable level, they should have started a top kill procedure, first with mud and then with cement. Of course, if they did this, there would be no coming back to this well head. And no guarantee it would start leaking at some future date. Just my opinion, of course. I'm no expert.

So now we're going to try and put a cap on the end of a 21" diameter riser pipe that's spewing as much as 20,000 barrels a day, nearly 35,000 gallons an hour, 583 gallons per minute. Does that seem possible?

This thing might end up making the Ixtoc I look like a bubble bath.