Since the revelation that the well beneath the destroyed riser pipe left behind the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking is pouring in excess of 200,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf Coast waters regular mass media has begun to mobilize its resources.

An official graphic showing the projected extent of the spill tomorrow is now available from the Coast Guard and NOAA. The Flickr photostream available at that link has a substantial number of graphics showing time growth of spill extents and other information. The graphic I link to above dispalys at least two large impact zones on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Comparison of this Saturday projection of spill extent with the reported spill extent from Wednesday shows a fairly awesome expected spill growth. The Gulf Coast is going to see a slick covering thousands of square miles, beyond the capacity of combined Federal and industry response to contain. This spill is expected to involve a volume of oil on par or beyond the volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster; the largest extent of the Exxon Valdez spill was in excess of 11,000 square miles, coating over 1300 miles of coastline. The Gulf of Mexico itself is less than 1,000 miles wide. Depending on wind, currents, and other conditions, a very large extent of coastline could be impacted by the spill. The State of Florida has declared a state of emergency for its entire West coast.

The satellite-imagery based size measurement from SkyTruth.org places the spill extent yesterday at in excess of 2,200 square miles.

The New York Times has a graphic showing yesterday’s extent and also identifying at least 8 species likely to be impacted by this huge oil spill. Clearly, if the New York Times can display picture or graphics of 8 species likely to be impacted, then the reality on the shore and in the water in the Gulf will be a much, much larger environmental and species impact. Beyond species impact, many billions of dollars in seafood harvesting and other commercial activities are likely to take a hit.

The political games have begun. President Obama has declared a temporary suspension on the issuance of new offshore leases until an unspecified future point in time. This is not particularly meaningful, however, as in the near-term, there was no new activity planned. Obama continues, sadly, to maintain a supportive position towards offshore oil drilling:

… “I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security,” Mr. Obama said on Friday, addressing concerns about whether the administration would continue with its plan to increase drilling in the Gulf.

Even so, he said, “the local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake.” …

Notice that the environment is the last concern mentioned by Obama in his statement.

Obama has ordered an investigation which appears to be owned by three of his agency heads, including drilling proponent and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Obama has ordered Salazar to make a report in 30 days on what steps must be taken to prevent future spills like this one. Given that the spill response will still be an emergency disaster response underway in 30 days, this is a strong indication that Obama intends to make a perfunctory response to the disaster before declaring that more drilling can take place so long as a hastily-determined set of “new safeguards” are observed.

The next several weeks will show us all very, very clearly, where Obama’s allegiances are: he is either going to remain allied with the oil industry, which will continue with future drilling offshore if allowed, or he will adhere to his previous campaign promises to environmentalists and oppose offshore oil drilling.

To his credit, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has come out guns blazing against any climate change legislation that would, perversely, contain Obama’s offshore oil drilling expansion:

… On Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said that a bill that includes provisions to increase offshore drilling off the coast of the United States (as envisioned by, among others, the White House) would be a non-starter in the Senate.

“As the White House looks down the line, it wants a climate change bill later this year,” Nelson told MSNBC. “[Sen.] Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was insisting that there’s going to be offshore drilling. I think that’s dead on arrival.” …

Nelson’s motivations are not 100% clear, but he has responded more rapidly and forcefully than, for example, Greenpeace. A US Senator beating Greenpeace to opposition against offshore oil drilling, publicly, after a disaster like this, is both a black mark for Greenpeace (which should have had activists in Zodiacs in the spill zone from Day One) as well as a feather in the Senator’s hat.

Politician proponents of drilling have been understandably muted. Those of us in awe and horror at the spectacle of this disaster glumly await the first of these figures to return to vocally supporting offshore drilling and attacking environmental opponents as “alarmists”. It’s inevitable.

It will take time – and possibly irretrievable forensic evidence – to determine the root cause of the explosion that led to this disaster. It is highly likely that the combined weight of the oil industry will be thrown into the attempt to sideline serious investigation into what happened, and to sweep the issue under the rug with a sizable payment from BP taken as sufficient accountability. Allied politicians – and right now, that includes not only Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, but the Obama team itself – will probably cooperate. Current whispers implicate Transoceanic and BP for not placing an acoustic remote control onto the well blowout preventer valve, along with shoddy work by Halliburton in sealing the well with cement. It is important not to jump to conclusions that just because the name “Halliburton” has been invoked that the famous contractor is to blame. Doing so will provide a convenient scapegoat to those who might want to prevent a truly broad inquiry into what happened, an inquiry that might show just how hopelessly dangerous and risky offshore oil drilling is.

Our first oil-covered bird has been recovered and treated. The Northern Gannet is a six pound bird with an adult wingspan of in excess of 5 feet, primarily a snow white in color. Like many birds, they perform elaborate mating rituals in the breeding season. They eat small fish found near the surface – likely to be far less available after an oil spill – and have recovered from previous habitat destruction that endangered them to a much more stable population level.

Their Gulf Coast habitat is assuredly threatened again, and this species of bird will be hit hard by this disastrous oil spill.

The disaster is beginning to blossom, and many dyamic aspects are emerging. Activist organization response is becoming more visible and I will try to follow on with a summary of what I can find nearer the end of today. It is vitally important that we all hold these environmental organizations accountable for going huge on this issue, now, while it is still possible to derail further attempts at expanding offshore oil drilling. As the oil just begins to hit shore, the picture of near term likely environmental damage is becoming clearer. Politician response is also growing. I will attempt to follow on to this diary with further diaries today, tomorrow, and Sunday, with updates and insight as time and information allows.

And, still, under 5,000 feet of water, is the 32.5 million rusting kilograms of the Deepwater Horizon itself. It is not clear if the 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel contained in the wreck is drainable, or if the wreck itself can be re-floated and raised. Given the magnitude of the leaking well and spill disaster, the Horizon is likely to be disregarded for a long time, abandoned, a toxic deep-sea artificial reef sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

This is the latest edition of an on-going diary update.

Since the revelation that the well beneath the destroyed riser pipe left behind the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking is pouring in excess of 200,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf Coast waters regular mass media has begun to mobilize its resources.

An official graphic showing the projected extent of the spill tomorrow is now available from the Coast Guard and NOAA. The Flickr photostream available at that link has a substantial number of graphics showing time growth of spill extents and other information. The graphic I link to above dispalys at least two large impact zones on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Comparison of this Saturday projection of spill extent with the reported spill extent from Wednesday shows a fairly awesome expected spill growth. The Gulf Coast is going to see a slick covering thousands of square miles, beyond the capacity of combined Federal and industry response to contain. This spill is expected to involve a volume of oil on par or beyond the volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster; the largest extent of the Exxon Valdez spill was in excess of 11,000 square miles, coating over 1300 miles of coastline. The Gulf of Mexico itself is less than 1,000 miles wide. Depending on wind, currents, and other conditions, a very large extent of coastline could be impacted by the spill. The State of Florida has declared a state of emergency for its entire West coast.

The satellite-imagery based size measurement from SkyTruth.org places the spill extent yesterday at in excess of 2,200 square miles.

The New York Times has a graphic showing yesterday’s extent and also identifying at least 8 species likely to be impacted by this huge oil spill. Clearly, if the New York Times can display picture or graphics of 8 species likely to be impacted, then the reality on the shore and in the water in the Gulf will be a much, much larger environmental and species impact. Beyond species impact, many billions of dollars in seafood harvesting and other commercial activities are likely to take a hit.

The political games have begun. President Obama has declared a temporary suspension on the issuance of new offshore leases until an unspecified future point in time. This is not particularly meaningful, however, as in the near-term, there was no new activity planned. Obama continues, sadly, to maintain a supportive position towards offshore oil drilling:

… “I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security,” Mr. Obama said on Friday, addressing concerns about whether the administration would continue with its plan to increase drilling in the Gulf.

Even so, he said, “the local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake.” …

Notice that the environment is the last concern mentioned by Obama in his statement.

Obama has ordered an investigation which appears to be owned by three of his agency heads, including drilling proponent and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Obama has ordered Salazar to make a report in 30 days on what steps must be taken to prevent future spills like this one. Given that the spill response will still be an emergency disaster response underway in 30 days, this is a strong indication that Obama intends to make a perfunctory response to the disaster before declaring that more drilling can take place so long as a hastily-determined set of "new safeguards" are observed.

The next several weeks will show us all very, very clearly, where Obama’s allegiances are: he is either going to remain allied with the oil industry, which will continue with future drilling offshore if allowed, or he will adhere to his previous campaign promises to environmentalists and oppose offshore oil drilling.

To his credit, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has come out guns blazing against any climate change legislation that would, perversely, contain Obama’s offshore oil drilling expansion:

… On Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said that a bill that includes provisions to increase offshore drilling off the coast of the United States (as envisioned by, among others, the White House) would be a non-starter in the Senate.

"As the White House looks down the line, it wants a climate change bill later this year," Nelson told MSNBC. "[Sen.] Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was insisting that there’s going to be offshore drilling. I think that’s dead on arrival." …

Nelson’s motivations are not 100% clear, but he has responded more rapidly and forcefully than, for example, Greenpeace. A US Senator beating Greenpeace to opposition against offshore oil drilling, publicly, after a disaster like this, is both a black mark for Greenpeace (which should have had activists in Zodiacs in the spill zone from Day One) as well as a feather in the Senator’s hat.

Politician proponents of drilling have been understandably muted. Those of us in awe and horror at the spectacle of this disaster glumly await the first of these figures to return to vocally supporting offshore drilling and attacking environmental opponents as "alarmists". It’s inevitable.

It will take time – and possibly irretrievable forensic evidence – to determine the root cause of the explosion that led to this disaster. It is highly likely that the combined weight of the oil industry will be thrown into the attempt to sideline serious investigation into what happened, and to sweep the issue under the rug with a sizable payment from BP taken as sufficient accountability. Allied politicians – and right now, that includes not only Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, but the Obama team itself – will probably cooperate. Current whispers implicate Transoceanic and BP for not placing an acoustic remote control onto the well blowout preventer valve, along with shoddy work by Halliburton in sealing the well with cement. It is important not to jump to conclusions that just because the name "Halliburton" has been invoked that the famous contractor is to blame. Doing so will provide a convenient scapegoat to those who might want to prevent a truly broad inquiry into what happened, an inquiry that might show just how hopelessly dangerous and risky offshore oil drilling is.

Our first oil-covered bird has been recovered and treated. The Northern Gannet is a six pound bird with an adult wingspan of in excess of 5 feet, primarily a snow white in color. Like many birds, they perform elaborate mating rituals in the breeding season. They eat small fish found near the surface – likely to be far less available after an oil spill – and have recovered from previous habitat destruction that endangered them to a much more stable population level.

Their Gulf Coast habitat is assuredly threatened again, and this species of bird will be hit hard by this disastrous oil spill.

The disaster is beginning to blossom, and many dyamic aspects are emerging. Activist organization response is becoming more visible and I will try to follow on with a summary of what I can find nearer the end of today. It is vitally important that we all hold these environmental organizations accountable for going huge on this issue, now, while it is still possible to derail further attempts at expanding offshore oil drilling. As the oil just begins to hit shore, the picture of near term likely environmental damage is becoming clearer. Politician response is also growing. I will attempt to follow on to this diary with further diaries today, tomorrow, and Sunday, with updates and insight as time and information allows.

And, still, under 5,000 feet of water, is the 32.5 million rusting kilograms of the Deepwater Horizon itself. It is not clear if the 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel contained in the wreck is drainable, or if the wreck itself can be re-floated and raised. Given the magnitude of the leaking well and spill disaster, the Horizon is likely to be disregarded for a long time, abandoned, a toxic deep-sea artificial reef sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

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Oxdown Diaries

Oxdown Diaries