The Hayride

Macondo/Deepwater Horizon Spill Updates (2nd Thread)

Macondo/Deepwater Horizon Spill Updates (2nd Thread)
May 26
00:45 2010

For older updates prior to May 16, click here.

5-26-10, 12:45 a.m.This sounds like good news:

Efforts to begin the top kill operation on the Macondo well are on schedule after diagnostic testing today, a BP representative said.

BP spokesman David Nicholas told UpstreamOnline that “current expectation is still to commence tomorrow” with the top kill, despite some reports that the UK supermajor had decided to delay the well intervention.

Cross your fingers. We’re approaching T-minus six hours as this is being written. And by the way, apparently the legal issues which stood in the way of BP showing a feed of the top kill tomorrow morning have been resolved, so at 6:00 a.m. it’s showtime.

Meanwhile, there might be some sort of resolution coming on this Corexit business. The EPA has ordered BP to cut in half the amount of dispersant they’re using on the surface, but won’t get in the company’s way where using it at the well is concerned.

Why is that? This one seems kinda curious…

“As of today our data demonstrate that subsea dispersant application is having an effect on the oil at the source of the leak and thus far has no measurable ecological impact,” Jackson told reporters in a phone briefing. “We should use no more dispersant than is necessary, particularly at the surface.”

Jackson is EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. She’s the one who Thursday told BP they had to find something else outside of Corexit to use and gave them 72 hours to find a replacement. They told her, in proper vernacular native to their country of origin, to “sod off.” Corexit might be less than environmentally optimal, but if that’s the case the EPA has a little bit to answer for given that they’ve had it on their approved list for 20 years. Lo and behold they’ve actually done a study and found that it has no discernable environmental impact when they use it at the spill.

Naturally, the EPA looks like a bunch of absolute buffoons now. Folks like us will see them as tools for Congressional ambulance chasers like Ed Markey and Jarrod Nadler, who cooked up this entire controversy because Nalco is the chemical company which makes Corexit and Rodney Chase, a former BP exec, runs Nalco. Yep. Shocking, that there might be somebody who worked at one company in the oil and gas/petrochemical business and now works at another company. Hey, Peyton Manning grew up in New Orleans and he threw the late interception which iced the Super Bowl for the Saints. Gotta be that the fix was in, right?

Of course, EPA is also now going to look, to the lefties who saw Corexit as proof that BP is really out to kill every seahorse, turtle, garfish, hermit crab and person of African American heritage with limited means in the Gulf region, like they’ve folded and become a bought-off lapdog for Corporate America. Or Corporate England. Or whatever.

Either way, Jackson has taken a monster hit to the kidneys. From the Rigzone.com article linked above…

The U.S. government’s decision-making–first authorizing and then holding up the use of Corexit, before allowing the dispersant to be used at a smaller scale–is fueling criticism that federal officials should have reached a decision about use of chemical dispersants to combat oil spills before a crisis hit the Gulf of Mexico.

“The heat of an oil spill event is not the time to make decisions by sound bite,” said Thomas Campbell, a partner at the law firm Pillsbury, who served as general counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in 1989. “To in the passion of the moment make a decision with no new data is ridiculous.”

He said that agencies including the EPA, NOAA and the Coast Guard meet periodically to evaluate the use of dispersants in an oil spill, and that “the EPA has a clear voice on that decision making.”

That ought to sound familiar if you’ve been reading our updates. If not, scroll down to our entry from May 22 at 12:30 a.m., and you’ll find this:

BP caused this spill. As such, they’re not angels. We’re not defending BP here. But it was very obvious on Thursday that what Markey and the EPA was asking was for BP to switch horses in midstream on Corexit. The time to stop BP from using Corexit was before this spill got started; the next time there’s a spill, if Markey and the EPA want to ban Corexit they’re welcome to do so. But as evil as you might think BP is, BP lives in the real world and has to do real things every day. They don’t live in the world of bullshit and bloviation like Markey does or the command-and-control/ivory tower fantasyland Lisa Jackson does, where you can by bureaucratic fiat declare a gas exhaled by every member of the animal kingdom on a constant basis a hazardous substance. BP has to look at practicalities: will the stuff break down the oil, and can we get enough of it to do any good?

While the EPA, and particularly the EPA under Jackson’s watch, is an horrendous, tyrannical and out-of-control government agency which will rightly be de-funded by the next Congress if it is run by Republicans with cojones as punishment for its overreach on carbon dioxide, we’re going to say they’re a symptom on this Corexit mess rather than the disease. The disease is Ed Markey, who has been an unconscionable, demagogic meddler and an obstacle to finding solutions since this incident began. Markey’s Energy and the Environment Subcommittee has been nothing short of a three-ring circus where the oil spill is concerned, and he has come down with diarrhea of the mouth in such quantities that perhaps BP ought to contract with him to supply them with drilling mud for the top kill operation (which would be the first indication of his having produced something positive since this situation began).

Think we’re being too hard on Markey? Really? Let’s check and see some highlights of his activity just in the last two days

May 24: “Just like many aspects of their spill response, BP gets an ‘F’ on its analysis of dispersants, and EPA has rightly told it to redo its assignment and this time, show all its work.

“Despite the assertions made by BP that dispersants can be safely used, we know almost nothing about the potential harm from the long-term use of any of these chemicals on the marine environment in the Gulf of Mexico, and even less about their potential to enter the food chain and ultimately harm humans.

“Last Friday, I held a briefing with scientists who said that there were more unknown than known effects from these chemicals. I share their unease. However, BP ‘s failure to assure the safety of its drilling operations has left the government with no silver bullets and almost no good choices. I will continue to work with a dedicated EPA to study these chemicals and ensure that we are not causing another crisis while trying to mitigate the effects of this catastrophic leak.”

One day later the EPA admitted it had no evidence Corexit was doing ecological damage as applied at the spill.

May 25: “I am concerned that because these toxic chemicals were not intended to be used for such long durations, and were not intended to be used at such depths, there could be serious and unknown long-term consequences for the marine ecosystem, the food chain and human health,” Rep. Markey writes in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

“The FDA has an important role to play in monitoring the impact of the spill and the dispersants being used on our food supply, as the Gulf Coast fisheries will not recover from this disaster unless the public has confidence in the safety of seafood from the Gulf.”

Assumedly, fish not interested in being oiled would swim away from the slick (the reader might notice while there have been oiled birds, crabs and turtles on TV, there haven’t been quite so many fish a la Pennzoil washing ashore so far) – and if dispersant is being dropped on the oil, like it’s supposed to be, then it wouldn’t be dropped on the fish. That’s common sense, but Markey certainly wouldn’t want to have that get in the way of a good chance to striptease in front of the cameras. It’s a nice added touch for him to trash the quality of Louisiana seafood by adding one more reason for people to run screaming away from Gulf shrimp or fish or oysters. Thanks a bunch, dickhead.

May 25: “It is outrageous that BP would kill the video feed for the top kill. This BP blackout will obscure a vital moment in this disaster. After more than a month of spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP is essentially saying to the American people the solution will not be televised.

“No one wants to interfere with the operations during the top kill. With those preparations mostly done, now the world should see whether or not this strategy works, and we should see it in real time.”

Problems with the holder of the patent for the top kill procedure apparently are the reason BP wasn’t going to provide a live feed for it. Ed Markey’s edification was not more important than for BP to violate a confidentiality agreement and generate yet another lawsuit against it. But later, when those issues were worked out, Markey put out this communique:

May 25: “BP made the right decision to allow the public to see this potentially historical event for themselves. The hopes of millions of Americans rest on this effort, and the world deserves a first-hand view of the top kill attempt.

“BP should now take the next step and make the full 12 possible video feeds available to the public, not just one single feed.”

Guy never shuts up, right? Don’t forget, this is the Markey from Waxman-Markey. As in, the clown who wrote that cap-and-trade bill which would annihilate Louisiana’s economy. And he’s also the guy who’s trying to impose federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the state-regulated process which has made available the vast potential riches of the Haynesville Shale natural gas field and could revolutionize America’s – and the world’s – economy.

We’re going through all this to reiterate the point we’ve been attempting to make from the start – which is that once again the solutions to this problem are to be found out in the Gulf with the people who are actually doing the work in stopping the spill (however difficult that task has been for them to date) and with the local folks onshore and in vessels who are toiling around the clock in an attempt to fight off the oil. But Washington has done nothing but stand in the way of those problem-solvers from the start of this thing. Politicians like Markey and bureaucrats like Ken “All Hat” Salazar have used this spill to push an agenda and scare the hell out of people, creating a panicked citizenry which they think will be more pliable to aggressive social change and more government control.

And that’s not just incompetence. It’s evil.

5-25-10, 6:45 p.m. – Chris Matthews has his facts wrong, we think. Or at least he’s running with bad reports.

That wouldn’t be a big surprise, but the MSNBC host just had Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Metairie) on earlier today talking about the spill, and Scalise reiterated what every single other Louisiana leader is screaming – namely that President Obama needs to get off his rear end and have his people approve the sand dredging thing (or if nothing else just get out of the way, since the state is going to start dredging regardless of Corps of Engineers approval). The video is below:

On the video, you’ll notice Matthews referring to the top kill and how it didn’t work. That was certainly newsworthy, since it’s on for about 11 hours and change from now the last we heard. So we went digging for information in an attempt to figure out what the hell he was talking about. And we can’t find anything other than this article from WDSU-TV’s web site which references a Reuters piece that seems overly gloomy…

BP Plc warned on Tuesday that a planned attempt to plug its gushing Gulf of Mexico oil well may be delayed or abandoned, as the energy giant faced mounting pressure from the Obama administration to contain the catastrophic spill.

Equipped with underwater robots, BP engineers plan on Wednesday to inject heavy drilling fluids in the mile- deep well, a tricky maneuver and its latest bid to halt the flowing oil that has shut down fisheries and soiled coastline.

BP executives have repeatedly stressed the so-called “top-kill” procedure is a complex process that has never been attempted before at such depths, but the Obama administration, under public pressure, is impatient for swift results.

Before BP engineers try to seal the well, scientists will run diagnostic tests “over the next day or so” to make sure the top-kill procedure does not backfire and make the oil leak worse, BP senior vice president Kent Wells told reporters.

Company executives said on Monday the procedure had a 60-70 percent chance of working.

“We have to be careful in terms of setting expectations,” said Wells, whose London-based company has seen around 25 percent, almost $50 billion, wiped off its market value.

Shares in BP fell at one point by more than 4 percent on Tuesday, mirroring a fall for European oil and gas stocks, before paring losses.

There is nothing in that Reuters story which is any different from what we’ve had in our updates – BP had 12-24 hours worth of tests to run, and the purpose of tests, at least in this case, is to make sure you’re not going to make things worse by doing a top kill, and they think the procedure has a 60-70 percent chance of working. From that we’ve got “this isn’t going to work” and Chris Matthews, legs atingle, saying it’s already failed.

This is the kind of media crap which has created a panic even worse than the spill. Go read comments under any of the major media stories about the oil spill, and you will see the worst examples of conspiracy theories, character assassinations, apocalyptic predictions, nonsensical statements about how BP wants to wipe out the world’s oceans and on and on – and we submit that a good bit of that is driven by the way this has been oversensationalized.

So while Charlie Melancon got hammered for saying the spill is overplayed, and perhaps rightly so, we’ve got a little sympathy for him if he was talking about this type of stuff. Not sure how he could look at the marshes in his district and think that was overplayed, though.

5-25-10, 6:00 p.m. – This oil spill sure is a big deal. If it wasn’t, Louisiana wouldn’t be lucky enough to rate a day trip from the President on Friday. Maybe he can make the oceans recede and keep the oil out of the marsh.

Obama also assured Sen. David Vitter that he’d have his people get right on that sand-dredge plan…

“I spoke with President Obama today about the importance of building up the barrier islands along Louisiana’s coast as a means to protect the shoreline and marsh,” said Vitter. “I urged him to take immediate action to expedite authorization of the plan as the Corps decision is way overdue. He assured me that he would personally focus on it and have his administration follow up with me today.”

That was around lunchtime, when the President spoke to a confab of GOP senators on Capitol Hill. It didn’t go well. So far we’re still waiting to hear if the president’s people have gotten off the schnide yet after better than two weeks of nothing.

If you want more evidence the spill is a big deal, Gov. Jindal has delayed the release of his book so he can work on the oil spill. “Real Hope, Real Change: New Conservative Solutions to Rescue America” was set for a July release, but Regnery Publishing has agreed to push it back so he’s not in the embarrassing position of doing a book tour while Breton Sound looks like the La Brea Tar Pits. The atmospherics of that one aren’t too good.

Meantime, it comes out that the MMS office in Lake Charles might have been the funnest place to work anywhere around, at least until about 2007. They had it all – free swag, nights on the town and office porn. Ken “All Hat” Salazar, who’s the boss at the top of the Interior Department food chain from whence MMS comes, says he’s gonna investigate the whole thing. But if the report is right that the Astros tickets, duck hunting trips and Asian bondage videos got kaiboshed three years ago, one might be tempted to ask the question why a nightmare like the Macondo well didn’t happen until after Salazar “instituted new ethics rules after he took the helm of the department last year.”

5-25-10, 2:45 p.m. – Via Inside Louisiana News, Billy Nungesser strikes again. This time, the Plaquemines Parish President took a poke at Charlie Melancon, who actually represents Plaquemines Parish (it’s part of the 3rd District), for comments Melancon made saying the “spill has been overplayed.” Here’s the video of Nungesser’s phone interview with CNN…

Naturally, Nungesser would probably say some of the same things about our coverage of the spill on the Hayride since we’ve been on a rampage about the overheated media coverage of this thing. But if you’re the president of Plaquemines Parish – heck, for that matter, if you’re Louisiana’s congressman from the 3rd District – you don’t really get to say the spill is no big deal. In Plaquemines, the spill is a very big deal. And since Plaquemines is in the 3rd District (as is virtually all the rest of Louisiana’s southeast coast), in the 3rd District the spill is a very big deal. So big it’s impossible to overplay.

The state Republican Party is all over Melancon for having said the spill is overrated, which is not a surprise. As yet there’s no video of Melancon actually saying the spill is overplayed; we’re looking for some, but so far we haven’t found it.

Speaking of video, here’s an item sure to cause more headaches. Apparently, BP is killing the live video feed of the spill prior to next morning’s top kill of the Macondo well. That seems like an uncommonly dumb call, and it plays right into the hands of the anti-energy assclown Ed Markey…

“It is outrageous that BP would kill the video feed for the top kill. This BP blackout will obscure a vital moment in this disaster,” Markey said in a statement. “After more than a month of spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP is essentially saying to the American people the solution will not be televised.”

It’s not a good idea to give a lunatic like Markey ammunition against you, particularly when you’re on his enemies’ list. But BP doesn’t particularly have a choice. The top-kill method, we’re told, is patented. And because of that, showing video of a top kill would violate BP’s agreement with the patent holder. So while we might want to see the top kill tomorrow morning, we don’t get to see it. Neither does Markey, and he’s making a big deal about it.

BP probably should have just killed the feed 15 minutes before starting the top kill and then executed the procedure. If it works, nobody can really complain about whether they get to see it or not. If it doesn’t work, the furor about the failure of the procedure will drown out any complaints about the video feed. Giving Markey something to spew conspiracy theories about all day wasn’t a great plan.

Rigzone.com has details on some other options BP is considering if the top kill doesn’t work. The first would be that BP will shear off the marine riser at the top of the BOP, giving a nice, clean pipe at the top (and, not insignificantly, a whole lot more oil coming out for a while) and then putting a cap on the flow. Or, having done that, they might be able to stab another BOP on top of the one they’ve already got; there is another BOP aboard the Development Driller II at the spill site. Those options might well work if the top kill doesn’t – probably the next method they’d try after the top kill is the junk shot – but sawing off that marine riser and in the process accelerating the flow from the well before trying to cap it is going to generate second-guessing and screaming like you wouldn’t believe.

Let’s hope we find out tomorrow that the top kill works.

5-25-10, 12:30 p.m.It’s all Bush’s fault. No, seriously, it is. We know because Chris Dodd says so:

Asked on the “Imus in the Morning” program on Fox Business Network if the Obama administration is to blame for the damaging fallout of the spill, the Connecticut senator took aim at the previous administration.

“Well, you know, they come into office a year ago with all of this. And so, after the last eight years —” Dodd said, until being interrupted by host Don Imus, who said “Oh, come on.”

“It was ‘drill, drill, drill.’ I think you were quoting ‘Drill, drill, drill’ a few months ago,” Dodd fired back.

“Don’t try to lump me with Sarah Palin,” Imus responded. “And don’t use that lame excuse to me about the Bush administration. Have you lost your mind?”

Will Dodd take time off from his Post-Bush Derangement Syndrome to help Sen. David Vitter get the Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard to get out of the way and allow the Jindal/Nungesser sand dredge plan to move ahead? Will any Democrat assist in that? Vitter is putting on a full-court press on the subject at present:

 

Dodd’s asshattery is just a sideshow, though. The main event today is out in the Gulf, where BP is performing final tests on the Macondo well blowout preventer to make sure they can use all five choke and kill valves on the BOP to perform the top kill.

The tests will take 12-24 hours, and they’re expecting to have them done in time to launch the top kill effort at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow. The word is the top kill will last for two days, upon which time we’ll know whether it works or not. So we’ll either have a little bit of a reason for relief this weekend, or it’s going to be a long, hot summer of discontent for Louisiana, for BP and for the Obama administration – because every day this thing goes on without measurable progress in cleaning it up is a day the president’s leadership will be questioned and his prestige destroyed.

5-25-10, 10:45 a.m. – One theme which seems to be gaining momentum not just on this oil spill is that the Obama administration can’t goven and it values politics over results. This story certainly appears to feed into that momentum:

A St. Louis scientist who was among a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue a solution to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been removed from the group because of writings on his website, the U.S. Energy Department confirmed Wednesday.

Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz was one of five top scientists chosen by the Department of Energy and attended meetings in Houston last week.

Though considered a leading scientist, Katz’s website postings often touch on social issues. Some of those writings have stirred anger in the past and include postings defending homophobia and questioning the value of racial diversity efforts.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Katz’s writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings.

“Dr. Chu has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill,” a statement from the Energy Department said. “Some of Professor Katz’s controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department’s efforts.”

This guy Katz might be a religious nut, a self-hating closet homosexual or possessed by Satan. Who cares? If he has ideas on how to stop the oil spill, his opinions about homosexuality are irrelevant. He’s not on the Gay Sex Task Force, he’s on the oil spill task force.

But that’s the Obama administration for you. They can’t hire physicists to do physics unless they’re politically correct, because that would upset one of their core constituencies.

Radio host Hugh Hewitt touches on this subject a little in the e-mail blast he sent out this morning. Hewitt says the failure of leadership on the sand dredge issue indicates that politics trumps results, with sure failure as a consequence:

Governor Jindal wants to dredge and build barrier islands to stop the oil from reaching the Louisiana coastline and its sensitive wetlands and beaches. President Obama’s team won’t give permission. Thus President Obama is blocking a key –and obvious– containment strategy. The damage that follows from actions not taken is the president’s responsibility.

Why would anyone not try everything that was reasonable? The president’s timidity comes from his fear that he will be held accountable for a failure to stop the disaster –that this will become his Katrina. It already is, except that President Bush stepped up only two days after the locals failed to execute their evacuation plans. Here the crisis has been a federal responsibility from day one minute one and the president has watched and hoped that BP would figure something out. And just so you don’t think that the president and his team deserve at least a day or two to evaluate the idea, consider the application for dredging was filed on May 11!

It isn’t the Corps that doesn’t get it, Senator Vitter, it is President Obama who is clueless about executive leadership in such a situation. The delay in approving the dredging has now gone on so long that approval-followed-by-success would itself be an indictment of Team Obama so expect more foot dragging.

As with every other episode in this presidency, the president talks a great game, but when he delivers a result at all, it is flawed, ineffective, and wildly expensive. In this case he is avoiding any action at all, preferring a purely political strategy of blaming BP and acting as though everything that could be done has been done when it fact it is obvious –obvious– that the president and his team are doing very little indeed.

On his blog, Hewitt compares the inability to make a call on the sand dredging with the refusal to answer questions about the attempted bribery of Joe Sestak.

Meanwhile, the president is taking a fundraising trip to San Francisco to help Barbara Boxer’s re-election campaign, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee is making hay about that. Politics over governance, you see.

Unfortunately for the president, once folks start analyzing him in this respect, they’re going to find a lot of evidence to support the narrative.

One other theme with Obama is that he tends to be pretty lucky, though. The underwear bomber couldn’t light his junk up. The Times Square bomber had a bum detonator. He drew one of the weakest GOP opponents of all time and was still neck and neck with him until the financial collapse in late September. Eric Massa imploded and resigned, which may have given him the vote he needed to carry Obamacare across the finish line. And so on. And tomorrow, just as the public is beginning to wise up to the real failure in leadership the administration is displaying, BP might be in a position to kill the Macondo well and ratchet down the pressure – though the emergency is anything but over regardless of the success of the top kill.

Hopefully, for all our sakes, the president will stay lucky. But at some point that luck is going to run out. And the leadership issues which are bubbling to the surface are going to really become a problem.

5-25-10, 9:00 a.m. – Why do politicians in Washington care about the Gulf oil spill? We’ve got the answer to that one now.

Pretext.

It seems the spill is now the impetus for a new hike in taxes on oil produced or imported into the U.S. The Democrats want to quadruple that tax from its current eight cents per barrel to 32 cents, and they expect to raise about $11 billion over the next decade as a result of the increase.

But it’s a good idea, because the proceeds from the tax increase will be used to clean up oil spills.

So tax dollars are going toward cleaning up oil spills now?

Well, no. BP is on the hook for the current oil spill. Harry Reid bragged yesterday that “taxpayers will not pick up the tab” for the disaster in the Gulf.

So why would we need a tax increase? And who does Reid think will ultimately pay for the new 32 cents a barrel tax? Not the motorists at the pump – surely oil companies won’t pass cost increases along to the consumer. And not people who buy petrochemical products like plastic.

There is already a fund in place to pay for oil spills. It has $1.5 billion in it, though no more than $1 billion can be used for any particular incident. But since BP has said they’ll pay all legitimate claims – and the PR damage they’ll undergo if they’re seen to be welching on that statement is such that it’s hard to imagine they’re lying – one wonders why the fund is even necessary. Perhaps if a smaller producer had a spill like this and was looking at bankruptcy as a result you might need a spill fund, but not BP.

In any event, this is all academic. The oil tax increase isn’t about cleaning up spills at all. It’s part of a smorgasbord of crap Reid and Nancy Pelosi are trying to ram through Capitol Hill this week, with a House vote set for today, which includes some $197 billion in government spending – including $165 billion to shore up union pension funds with your tax dollars and in so doing give kickbacks to the president’s buddies at SEIU and the Teamsters.

Back to the spill, BP is now saying that pressure readings from the Macondo blowout preventer indicate that the oil isn’t coming up through the main well bore. Rather, the spill is coming from the casing strings which are alongside the main bore; that would put Halliburton’s cement work on the well into fresh question and give a lot of lefties a chance to blame this whole thing on Dick Cheney. Or something.

BP is also saying they believe there are obstructions inside the well which are restricting the flow of oil. And they say they’ve managed to close some of the rams inside the BOP to restrict it even further.

If they’re not lying, there is simply no way the Macondo well could be spewing 70,000 barrels a day of oil. As we’ve said before, a really good well – like for example in Saudi Arabia – will do 20,000 to 30,000 barrels a day in full production. An absolutely exceptional well will do 50,000. It’s entirely possible Macondo is absolutely exceptional. But no wells with stuff clogging up the wellbore and a half-closed BOP, plus a crimped marine riser, can put out that kind of volume. If this one is, then the Gulf is a heck of a lot more important to America’s energy needs than anyone thought.

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. is “go time” for the top kill on that well. BP estimates the chances of success at between 60 and 70 percent. Cross your fingers.

5-25-10, 12:30 a.m. – We’ve been pretty friendly toward Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen thus far in our coverage of the spill, but after his comments today on the question of the Jindal/Nungesser barrier islands plan we’re beginning to wonder whether Allen isn’t finished as an effective incident commander.

To say that he stepped in it big-time today was an understatement of gargantuan proportions. An unforced error which makes Tony Hayward’s attempts to minimize the effect of the oil spill small by comparison.

Here’s the quote, from the Times-Picayune:

“Building a set of barrier islands and berms that large would take a very, very long time — even by the state’s own estimates six to nine months in some cases — and a significant amount of resources associated with that might be applied elsewhere,” Allen said.

There are lots of problems with this statement. First, since the heavy oil isn’t a contiguous mass it’s not necessary to be dredging the entire 160-mile expanse along the barrier island chain. Building berms in the most threatened areas first and then moving as the oil moves is an acceptable solution. Second, if it takes six to nine months so what? Does Allen think there won’t be oil coming ashore in Louisiana in six to nine months? He’s kidding himself if he doesn’t – certainly in that period of time a lot of what will be left will be degraded and emulsified, but it still won’t be good for oysters and shrimp and birds and turtles and fish. Third, when he starts talking about resources, whose resources is he talking about? BP is stuck with the bill for this thing, not Allen. He’s not on a budget. If he needs more resources all he’s got to do is demand them. The company can’t say no. And fourth, nobody is waiting on Thad Allen’s opinion on whether the sand berm idea will work. They’re supposed to be waiting on the Corps of Engineers’ “environmental assessment.” So his griping about how long the thing might take is hardly an interesting bit of verbiage here.

The quote comes off as two things. First, it looks like the typical government bureaucrat who’s incapable of saying yes. Anyone who has ever tried to get something productive done with a bureaucrat involved knows exactly what that’s like, and can’t recommend it too highly. Allen is no longer the guy in charge; he’s the guy in the way.

And second, Allen doesn’t have a plan of his own to offer in exchange. That makes him a gadfly and a critic when he trashes the efforts of Gov. Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser to legitimately do something to improve the situation.

When Nungesser, who is starting to become a cross between the Ashley Morris and Gen. Honore’ of the Gulf Oil Spill, heard about Allen’s statement he let loose with everything he’s got…

“It’s an embarrassment to have people like that in these positions in this country.”

“What kind of leader sits there and tears apart a plan and says ‘It can’t be done, it’ll take too long,’ without a backup?” he asked. “To sit here and continue to give excuses about why something can’t be done, but to have no other plan. … That’s no leader.”

Ouch.

When the rhetoric gets that hot, one wonders whether Allen can count on the cooperation with state and local officials. After all, Jindal is hammering the Coast Guard about boom, and now he’s going to hammer the Coast Guard and the Corps about sand berms. Nungesser is a mountain of white-hot rage about the federal response now. St. Bernard Parish Presidet Craig Taffero is on fire as well. And Sen. David Vitter has been on Allen’s case for over a week about the sand dredging, boom and other issues. Finally, Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell has blasted off a not-very-nice letter to Corps commander Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp informing him that failure to get out of the way would gift the president with a nice constitutional crisis to go with his oil spill:

Caldwell in the letter says the federal government does not have the right to block a state from doing emergency response activities to prevent environmental damage and urged Van Antwerp to issue the permit and avoid “an unnecessary constitutional confrontation between the state and federal governments.”

If the corps does not OK the plan, Caldwell wrote, “I will have no choice but to advise the Governor to go forward with our plans to construct the barrier islands without a fill permit from the Corps in order to set up a legal test of your constitutional and statutory authority.”

Under a situation like the one currently brewing, it’s a decent question whether Allen still has the ability to exert control over the response. The federal government was extremely late to the party, after all, and its response to the spill has in some quarters been seen as a hindrance more than a benefit. Allen is supposed to be helping to coordinate the response effort; instead he’s presiding over a herd of cats – and making the problem worse.

5-24-10, 7:45 p.m. – BP says they’ll put up half a billion dollars for research on the Gulf oil spill, which is fine. One hopes that money would go toward ways to mitigate spills – better methods of shutting off a runaway well in deep water, for example, or better equipment to skim or vacuum up oil.

It’ll probably go toward the effect on wildlife of the oil. That’s fine, too. We can save BP some money, though – it’s bad for wildlife. Don’t spill oil. If you do, stop quickly. And then clean it up as fast as you can.

Also, here’s some good news:

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced today that it will reopen oyster harvesting Area 28 to give harvesters as much time as possible to harvest their product before any potential impact from the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

Area 28, which is west of the Mississippi River in Iberia Parish, was originally closed May 18, 2010. The area was closed as a precaution in anticipation of oil intrusion. There has been no intrusion as of yet in the partially reopened area, and DHH officials continue to monitor the area, as well as an entire 8-million acre area off the Louisiana shoreline.

In addition to continued monitoring, oyster harvesters “taste test” the oysters as they are pulled from the water to make sure their product is good. Harvesters and dealers test oysters in order to provide the most wholesome product and highest-quality product available to the public.

DHH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry on Monday signed the order to reopen Area 28, which will take effect at sunrise May 25.

Area 28 is an offshore area, south of the west side of Vermilion Bay. So it’s more of a Southwest Louisiana area. But if there’s any place it’s safe for oystermen to ply their trade around here it’s good news.

We’re doing the best we can to offer some silver linings to this cloud, because it’s becoming more and more obvious that outside of a breakthrough from BP on the top kill set to begin Wednesday morning they don’t have any magic bullets. BP is getting pounded for the revelations that the riser insertion tube seems to be pulling a smaller amount of oil each day since Saturday, though a release from the company indicates that might be less a factor of the tube not working and more due to the well pumping a massive amount of natural gas rather than oil at the spill site…

Work goes on to optimise the oil and gas collected from the damaged riser through the riser insertion tube tool (RITT). The collection rate continues to vary, primarily due to the flow parameters and physical characteristics within the riser.

In the period from May 17th to May 23rd, the daily oil rate collected by the RITT has ranged from 1,360 barrels of oil per day (b/d) to 3,000 b/d, and the daily gas rate has ranged from 4 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) to 17 MMCFD.

In the same period, the average daily rate of oil and gas collected by the RITT containment system at the end of the leaking riser has been 2,010 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) and 10 MMCFD of gas. The oil is being stored and gas is being flared on the drillship Discoverer Enterprise, on the surface 5,000 feet above.

The RITT remains a new technology and both its continued operation and its effectiveness in capturing the oil and gas remain uncertain.

We’re coming to the conclusion that this nightmare isn’t so much a factor of the company being dishonest or incompetent or lazy or whatever but rather that the logistical and technological difficulties of drilling a mile below sea level are so great that if you’re going to drill out there and there’s a problem there simply isn’t any way of quickly mitigating it, and that’s a little more unnerving than the idea of one company who doesn’t care about safety.

In any event, it looks like Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen has had another opportunity to play adult and tamp down a stupid statement from a left-winger in a position of power. Last week Allen poured water on Rep. Ed Markey’s efforts to sensationalize some wild claims of spill volume by noting that the spill response efforts are calibrated to as big a volume as anyone could imagine, and regardless of whether 5,000 barrels a day or the insane estimates of 100,000 barrels a day are the accurate numbers they’d be doing the same things. Today, in response to the increasingly Brownie-ish Ken Salazar’s statements that if the feds decide they don’t like what BP is doing about the spill they’ll toss the company aside, Allen had an eminently reasonable quote…

“To push BP out of the way, it would raise the question, to replace them with what?”

He’s right. Salazar, Janet Napolitano, Lisa Jackson and Carol Browner – or for that matter Markey, Henry Waxman, Bob Menendez, Dick Durbin, Joe Biden or Barack Obama – have absolutely zero expertise or knowledge of how to end this spill. In some cases it’s not totally unreasonable to wonder whether some of these people even have a particular interest in ending it, seeing as though what they’re really after is an end to offshore drilling and this spill is a big PR boon to the drilling ban gang.

And BP’s operations chief Doug Suttles gave a statement today which backed up Allen, and will no doubt kick the antpile even harder:

“I don’t think anyone else could do better than we are,” Doug Suttles, the BP chief operating officer, said Monday. “I know that that’s frustrating to hear and our performance, to this point, I wish was better. I wish this was done. But we’re doing everything we can. And I don’t actually believe anyone could do any better, unfortunately.”

So they’re stuck with BP. They’re stuck with BP a month in, and they’ve been hacking BP to pieces for an entire month. They’ve demonized these people, held hearings ad nauseam, made statements about keeping “a boot on their necks” – which Rand Paul correctly called un-American last week and Salazar went out and made another statement to that effect, which should tell you how obsessive these guys are with scoring points and trying to win elections rather than actually governing the country – and preened to the public about how angry they are with BP’s failure to meet government-imposed deadlines for ending the spill. It would be laughable if this wasn’t so serious a disaster.

5-24-10, 1:50 p.m. – You’ve probably seen the video of Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser hammering the federal government and BP for the response to the oil spill; Nungesser is nuclear over the federal delay in approving the sand dredging/sand berm plan he and Gov. Bobby Jindal put together two weeks ago because he’s under the impression the Corps of Engineers is rejecting the plan. Apparently there is some dispute about that, and there hasn’t been an official verdict announced yet.

Well, Nungesser isn’t the only Louisiana official who’s red hot right now. Sen. David Vitter just threw out a Facebook post on the subject:

Spoke with White House Cabinet Secretaries Janet Napolitano and Ken Salazar and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin individually today about immediately getting the Corps’ approval for the emergency barrier island dredging plan. Their only response is that the Coast Guard is handling it, but they can’t give me a timeline. I sent a letter to President Obama on Friday urging his immediate action and I will keep urging them all until we get it completed.

Vitter was at a press conference in Galliano where Napolitano, Salazar and Durbin were taking turns bashing BP about the spill – Salazar once again rolled out his “boot on the neck” rhetoric – and where Jindal gave an impassioned indictment of the lack of resources and slow movement of the Unified Command in getting the state boom and approval for the sand dredging. It was like watching two press conferences in one. Jindal was talking about the specific needs the state has, while the Washington gang was talking about how responsible the oil company is.

BP’s top kill is actually set for Wednesday rather than tomorrow. Seems like every day which goes by, they need more time to kill this well. We’re not saying they’re stalling – they have ZERO reason to stall given the hurricane of fecal matter this spill has turned into – but one wonders if the pucker factor isn’t kicking in amid all the threats, screaming and vows of recrimination and BP is becoming just as risk-averse and frightened as the feds who won’t show the leadership Jindal, Vitter and Nungesser are demanding.

We’ve decried the level of hysteria around this spill from the start. It’s starting to look like that hysteria is beginning to have a material effect on the response. This isn’t good.

5-24-10, 9:00 a.m. – The inability to deploy enough boom in areas of Louisiana where it’s needed has made for a humbling situation for a lot of folks – not least of whom being Coast Guard Capt. Edwin Stanton, who is heading the Coast Guard’s Louisiana spill response:

You’ve got to feel for Stanton, who is a New Orleanian, and the logistics of spreading boom over 200-plus miles of coastline are surely daunting. And you’ve also got to notice that virtually everyone tasked with handling this spill with respect to a direct involvement is starting to get beat up in the media. That’s a problem, because if all we’re going to do is criticize an effort like this spill recovery one day we’ll wake up and realize we can’t find anybody who’ll do it. Good people won’t take jobs like Stanton’s – the money’s better doing something else and you don’t have to go on TV and call yourself “slow and dumb” when things go wrong.

Inevitably someone is going to call for Stanton’s head, and there will be lots of support for that call. People want blood for this mess, and since there are only so many ways for the public to punish BP the lynch mob is going to descend on others. Namely, people like Stanton.

We have lots of complaints with the federal government’s handling of this nightmare, but our problem is with bureaucrats and politicians in Washington – not the folks who are trying to contain and mitigate damage from this spill.

Which is why Gov. Bobby Jindal, for all his faults, is a hero today for having told the Corps of Engineers to get the hell out of his way over the weekend. Jindal has waited for two weeks for an “environmental assessment” of his plan to build sand berms along Louisiana’s coastline in order to stop oil from coming into the marshes, and nothing has been forthcoming from the Corps of Engineers. He’s decided that time has run out.

With oil pushing at least 12 miles into Louisiana’s marshes and two major pelican rookeries now coated in crude, Gov. Bobby Jindal says the state is working on chain of sand berms that would skirt the state’s coastline.

Jindal visited one of the affected nesting grounds Sunday. Jindal and officials from several coastal parishes say the berms would close the door on the oil still pouring from a deepwater gusher about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

The berms would be made with sandbags. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also is considering a broader plan that would use dredging to build sand berms across more of the barrier islands.

Jindal got Louisiana’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who is ascending in our estimation (we’re going to have something on that later today), to write an opinion which cites the 10th Amendment in telling the Corps “we don’t need no steenking approval” to start the sand-berm project.

Jindal is going to get a higher profile out of his decision to override the federal government, which a lot of people will allege is the only reason he’s doing it. Everything Jindal does is calculated to serve his plan to run for president someday, they say, and he’s simply mooning for the cameras.

And maybe they’re right. But Jindal is at least doing something to mitigate this spill. So we’re going to give him a thumbs-up for his decision to press ahead and do what needs to be done. If it works and he turns shameless politician and tries to run for president in two years using his spill response as leverage, we’ll deal with that later.

Moving on, BP and the government are now telling people to please stop getting haircuts to save the Gulf Coast:

The Unified Area Command for the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response announces it will not use hair boom in its response efforts.

While this suggestion was submitted to BP as an alternative method for containing and recovering the oil spill, it was not deemed feasible after a technical evaluation.

In a February 2010 side-by-side field test conducted during an oil spill in Texas, commercial sorbent boom absorbed more oil and much less water than hair boom, making it the better operational choice.

“Our priority when cleaning up an oil spill is to find the most efficient and expedient way to remove the oil from the affected area while causing no additional damage. One problem with the hair boom is that it became water-logged and sank within a short period of time,” said Charlie Henry, NOAA’s Scientific Support Coordinator in Robert, La.

Commercial sorbent boom is readily available and scientifically designed and tested for oil containment and absorption on the water. Additionally, response teams are familiar with and properly trained to safely deploy, maintain, recover, and dispose commercial sorbent boom.

Individuals and organizations are asked to discontinue the collection of hair for the hair boom.

The hair boom thing has become something of a cause celebre among the limousine liberal set, largely due to an organization called Matter of Trust, which has been pushing boom made of hair as a “green” solution to oil spills. Except hair boom doesn’t work. It’s nice that these folks are trying to help, but the fans of hair boom have been all over the internet spreading conspiracy theories about how the federal government is shoveling tax money to the corporations who make sorbent boom as a political payoff, etc., and that’s not helpful at all. Hair boom doesn’t work; that’s why they’re not going to use it. On a small oil spill someplace you can afford to delude yourself with “green” fantasies and use that stuff to make yourself feel good as it does a half-ass job of absorbing the oil. With this disaster, we don’t have the luxury of wasting our time and effort.

At the well site, BP says they’re going to crank up the “top kill” effort, which they’re hoping will stop the oil coming out of the well, tomorrow. Originally the plan was to do it yesterday, but they weren’t ready yet. Now the company says they’ve got everything they need in place to get this done.

BP has hooked up a manifold to the choke and kill valves on the Macondo well’s blowout preventer, and they’ve fixed replaced the “yellow pod” on the BOP (which contains the computer which controls the equipment) so that they can open and close those valves. They’ve brought a gigantic barge which will handle the drilling mud mixture and two enormous pumping vessels that between them bring 50,000 horsepower worth of machinery. Those pumping vessels will tomorrow begin pushing 40 barrels of drilling mud per minute – or 57,600 barrels a day – into the well, which should cut off the flow of the oil. It might take up to 10 days to fully stop the flow. Once it does, they’ll follow the drilling mud with cement and that’ll be it.

In the meantime, BP says they’re about 1,000 feet away from being able to turn their drill on the relief well and angle to intersect the Macondo well, so they’re ahead of schedule in getting the relief well completed. But that’s still a good ways off from completion, and by the time it’s done the relief well probably won’t even get any press assuming the top kill works the way it’s supposed to. BP also says they’re not going to try to get oil out of the Macondo bore ever again because it’s suffered too much damage. The guess here is you’ll be able to start a fight with somebody from BP just mentioning the word “Macondo” to them; by the time the bill comes due on all this you’ll be able to start a fight with the company’s stockholders that way as well.

Finally this morning, if you’ve got 17 minutes to kill, here’s WWL radio’s Garland Robinette with an Ashley Morris moment of his own. He’s wrong about half of what he’s saying, but it’s fairly entertaining anyway…

5-22-10, 12:30 a.m. – Hoo, boy. The fur is gonna fly now.

BP has notified the EPA that it can’t just switch to another chemical dispersant. It doesn’t have anything else it can use. And by the way, Corexit – the EPA-approved dispersant which has been the standard product for the last 20 years used in dealing with oil spills – is “an EPA pre-approved, effective, low-toxicity dispersant that is readily available, and we continue to use it.”

So there.

We said below that the EPA’s directive Thursday that BP switch from using Corexit to something else was impractical in the extreme, given that chemical dispersant isn’t something you can just go to Wal-Mart and buy in suitable quantities to affect a 5,000-barrel-a-day (or whatever amount is coming out of the Macondo well) oil spill. And the idea that giving BP 72 hours to find something less toxic was even remotely viable was flat-out stupid – anyone could look at the fact that you need some 23,000 gallons a day of the stuff to keep it in supply at your current rate of use and realize that you have to basically commandeer a production line or else you’re going to run out.

BP has that with Corexit. They don’t have it with anything else. And that’s what they told the EPA tonight.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said Friday that BP had replied with a letter “that outlines our findings that none of the alternative products on the EPA’s National Contingency Plan Product Schedule list meets all three criteria specified in yesterday’s directive for availability, toxicity and effectiveness.”

There is another dispersant out there on EPA’s NCP Project Schedule called Sea-Brat 4, made by an outfit called Alabaster Corporation out of Houston, and it’s billed as a less-toxic alternative. Alabaster says they have 100,000 gallons of Sea-Brat 4 available. But 100,000 gallons is four days’ worth of dispersant as this spill goes. Do they have the capacity to ramp up production enough to meet demand for 23,000 gallons a day? Can they ramp that production up to the required volume in four days? If so, maybe BP should reverse their stance, if for no other reason than that at this point the PR value of not fighting with the EPA or envirofascists like Edward Markey is worth its weight in crude oil.

Sea-Brat 4′s website also recommends using, for “a 1000 gallon spill use 200 gallons of SEA BRAT concentrate and 800 gallons of water. 40 lbs. of blend ABB microbes would be wise.” If the size of this spill is, say, 5 million gallons, that would mean BP would need a million gallons of Sea-Brat and 200,000 pounds of microbes. Anybody know where you can pick up 100 tons of microbes?

The guess here is BP can’t replace their current supplier of dispersant with any sense of logistical practicality. Like we said earlier tonight, there isn’t enough Sea-Brat 4 available to meet BP’s needs and BP knows it. Nalco and ExxonMobil can, on the other hand, supply enough Corexit to meet the demand. And in that respect this is a microcosm of the Left’s arguments about fossil fuels – they whine that oil and coal are dirty and yucky and we need to get energy from something else, and the best they can do for an alternative are windmills and solar panels which don’t produce enough reliable energy to replace fossil fuels with.

So instead of recognizing that while Corexit is a little less than optimum for the environment but if the oil is going to be dispersed it’s the only real option, we get juvenile assaults and the blame game from people like Markey, who said this:

“BP had chosen one of the most toxic and least effective chemicals that were approved for use.”

The fact that Corexit was approved for use and that it was available in sufficient quantities for use aren’t very important to Markey, whose credibility level on this issue is absolutely nil since he’s also engaged in a witch hunt to demonize and regulate hydraulic fracturing into oblivion despite a five-year EPA study finding zero proof of significant environmental harm from the practice. No, he’s going to use this situation so as to revive his hideous Cap And Trade legislation, which is dead in the Senate, and leverage the Corexit controversy to turn BP into Satan-On-A-Stick.

BP caused this spill. As such, they’re not angels. We’re not defending BP here. But it was very obvious on Thursday that what Markey and the EPA was asking was for BP to switch horses in midstream on Corexit. The time to stop BP from using Corexit was before this spill got started; the next time there’s a spill, if Markey and the EPA want to ban Corexit they’re welcome to do so. But as evil as you might think BP is, BP lives in the real world and has to do real things every day. They don’t live in the world of bullshit and bloviation like Markey does or the command-and-control/ivory tower fantasyland Lisa Jackson does, where you can by bureaucratic fiat declare a gas exhaled by every member of the animal kingdom on a constant basis a hazardous substance. BP has to look at practicalities: will the stuff break down the oil, and can we get enough of it to do any good?

Now, if you want you can argue that maybe BP shouldn’t be dispersing the oil in the first place. That’s valid. Assuming that the oil would rise to the surface if it wasn’t dispersed, maybe skimming or burning it is a better idea (though you need ideal weather conditions to make that work). Two panelists Markey’s committee had testifying Thursday panned the idea of using dispersants in the first place:

“We don’t know what the effect of dispersants applied a mile underwater is; there’s been no laboratory testing of that at all, or the effect of what it does when it combines with oil a mile underwater,” said Sylvia Earle, the explorer-in-residence for the National Geographic Society and former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I would say, until we know more about the fate of the dispersants, I’d tell BP or anybody else who’s involved with this, whether it’s EPA or whatever, ‘Stop, just stop, don’t do it.’ “

A second panelist at Markey’s briefing, Carl Safina, president and co-founder of Blue Ocean Institute, a New York-based conservation organization, was even more unsparing in his criticism of the use of a dispersant strategy, which he said had more to do with PR than good science.

“It’s not at all clear to me why we are dispersing the oil at all,” Safina said. “It’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind strategy. It’s just to get it away from the cameras on the shoreline.

“It takes something that we can see that we could at least partly deal with and dissolves it so we can’t see it and can’t deal with it.”

And you know what? They might be absolutely right. But the fact is, using chemical dispersant on an oil spill is standard procedure. And if the dispersed oil sinks into the water column, while it might go to the bottom and do damage to whatever lives down there, at least the oil might not kill as many birds. One might be tempted to say it won’t kill too many fish, either – fish can swim away, and in all likelihood a lot of them have already taken off when the oil showed up in the first place. The point is to disperse the oil, so that Mother Nature can break it down. The people who do oil spills think that works better than other alternatives. To date, government plans and policies agree with them.

But the idea that no marine life is going to get killed from this spill is – once again – fantasyland. You’re going to lose marine life out of this. That’s a given. Would you rather lose marine life from the bottom of the deep Gulf? Or would you rather lose critters which live in the near-shore areas and marshes from which billions of dollars of commerce come? Frankly, I’m OK if a population of deepwater tubular worms gets sacrificed so that Gulf redfish or shrimp aren’t oiled. And if Ed Markey disagrees, he ought to carry his rear end down to Louisiana and say so.

State Effort5-21-10, 6:45 p.m. – Sen. David Vitter has now fired off a letter to President Barack Obama demanding action from the Corps of Engineers on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sand barrier plan. It’s worth a look – when Vitter gets ticked off and starts writing letters, he’s fun to read:

May 21, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On May 2, when you personally visited Louisiana and the site of our ongoing oil disaster, you promised that the federal government would be fully responsive and would do whatever it takes to protect our coast and marshes. I’m truly saddened to say that that commitment is being broken.

Two weeks ago, local and state leaders, led by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, presented an emergency dredging plan to build up and close gaps in our barrier islands to help block the oil from reaching our marshes. Though an immediate decision was promised by federal officials, that process has slowed to the Corps of Engineers’ and other federal agencies’ normal glacier pace. Over a week later – still no answer.

Very early on in the process, I spoke personally to Admiral Thad Allen, General Robert Van Antwerp, and others to underscore that an emergency, crisis timeline was necessary. But the process dragged on. Last Friday, I was told that permits would be issued in three days, but now seven have passed. Yesterday I spoke to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo Ellen Darcy, your appointee to head the Corps, who said that an environmental review was ongoing and that she could not commit to any timeline whatsoever.

I find it unsettling that an environmental review is holding up this process when thick oil is now seeping past our barrier islands into our delicate marsh. And the plan to prevent that horrible destruction is simply to restore some elements of the barrier islands as they were in the past. We are waiting for an environmental review when we have an ongoing environmental disaster occurring before our very eyes.

Please stop this tragic bureaucratic stranglehold, Mr. President. Please make this happen now.

Thank you for your leadership.

Sincerely,

David Vitter
U.S. Senator

Vitter isn’t quite Ashley Morris yet, but he’s getting there. So are we on this blog.

Meanwhile, a change in the flow coming out of the marine riser has diminished the effectiveness of BP’s insertion tube in getting oil out of the well and they’re back down to 2,200 barrels a day in oil recovered. But the company says the reason they’re down to 2,200 barrels a day is that what’s coming out of the well is a lot more natural gas than oil now.

And despite the EPA’s order to stop using Corexit on the spill, use of the dispersant continues. The order doesn’t take hold until Sunday, so they’re dumping as much of their stash on the spill as they can. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it situation, but that is making environmentalists absolutely crazy. Particularly since the manufacturer of Corexit is Nalco and ExxonMobil; grand conspiracies are surely afoot.

Bear in mind that Corexit has been the dispersant of choice to use on oil spills for 20 years. Is it toxic? Probably. But what’s being said now about it is an almost perfect microcosm of the wider debate on fossil fuels as an energy source; namely that it has to be stopped and replaced by something else, when right now nothing like what the detractors say they want exists. BP isn’t going to be able to find a new dispersant in the volume they’ll need anytime soon, so if the EPA follows through on their order to stop using Corexit on Sunday (there is a meeting between BP and the EPA on the topic set for tonight), that’s the effective end of dispersant being used on the spill. That might not be a big problem if the “top kill” plan expected for Tuesday works. If it doesn’t, well…

5-21-10, 9:30 a.m. – The slow response from the Corps Of Engineers on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to dredge sand and fill in Louisiana’s barrier islands as a method of keeping oil out of its coastal marshlands is rapidly becoming a major scandal. Folks in the Bayou State have little patience with the COE in the first place given the negative effect it has had on the state’s coastline with failed levee projects that didn’t protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and effectively waste valuable river silt from the Mississippi rather than allow nature to distribute it into the marshes. So when projects like the one pictured at left which are clearly effective in keeping oil from advancing are held up by government red tape, it’s bound to boil the water around here.

As such, in a release this morning 3rd District congressional candidate Jeff Landry has now joined Gov. Jindal and Sen. David Vitter in protesting the slow movement:

Jeff Landry, the leading Republican candidate in the field for Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District seat called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “move at a much faster pace” in approving an emergency permit that was requested over a week ago by Governor Jindal and south Louisiana parish officials. The emergency permit would allow for the construction of sand dunes in order to stem the flow of oil into south Louisiana marshes from the ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Corps’ inability to see that time is of the essence here is quite stunning to me. Our hard working parish officials on the coast, along with Governor Jindal, made this request to the Corps over a week ago, and we still have silence from their end. At some point, you must quit studying and take action. Our wetlands and marshes are too valuable as a natural and economic resource to our fishermen, as well as the nation, to allow them to become contaminated by this oil without putting up the best defenses we can,” Landry said.

Landry adds, “Frankly, the delay from the Corps in issuing this permit to help protect Louisiana’s valuable coastline is unacceptable and downright disturbing. The Corps needs to approve the permit now so we can get on with the task of protecting our coast.”

The chorus is getting louder. “It’s much easier to clean oil out of sand than out of a marsh,” Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told the Times-Picayune.

Certainly there’s a procedure to be followed within the federal government’s Byzantine structure, but wouldn’t true leadership at the presidential or cabinet level do what’s necessary to prevent marshland damage? Doesn’t this constitute an emergency situation? Isn’t this EXACTLY the type of thing President Obama’s predecessor was pilloried for allowing to happen?

The president seems awfully occupied with his efforts to romance the Mexican vote, as are his key cabinet members like Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano. Surely that’s a lot sexier project than OK’ing a proposal from a bunch of Louisiana folks who probably didn’t vote Democrat in the last election to push a bunch of dirt around, but most of what’s involved in leadership isn’t sexy and it doesn’t get votes.

The Establishment Media has poo-poohed the idea this is Obama’s Katrina. As time goes by the analogy is more and more appropriate from this perspective.

5-20-10, 1:00 p.m. – Ed Markey (D-Soros) strikes again.

Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who has taken on the role of Chief Demogogue in the House Energy and Commerce Committee while this spill has gone on, has pushed for and received an EPA ruling which bans the use of Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A as a chemical dispersant on the oil spill both on the surface and at the spill site. Markey began raising the concern yesterday, taking up the cries of fellow Democrats Peter DiFazio (D-Oregon) and Jerrod Nadler (D-New York) that the dispersant was toxic to marine life and popping out a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson saying the following:

It is my understanding that the main dispersants applied so far are from a product line called Corexit, some of which had their approval rescinded in Britain more than a decade ago, because laboratory tests found them harmful to sea life that inhabits rocky shores.

a. How did EPA ensure that this dispersant’s toxicity to aquatic life was evaluated?

b. Was its toxicity to mollusks and other sea life that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico evaluated, and if so, what were the results? If not, why not?

c. If EPA relied on toxicity studies for coastal morphologies different from that of the Gulf Coast, what was done to evaluate the applicability of those studies for the use of the dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico environment?

d. Was the toxicity to other subsurface aquatic life evaluated? If so, please provide details, and if not, why not?

The EPA responded by telling BP it had until Saturday to come up with another dispersant – Corexit is out.

We express no opinion on the toxicity of Corexit 9500A or 9527A. We have no idea what the stuff does. Our understanding is that basically, it’s like soap – but it might be poison for seahorses or hammerhead sharks.

Of course, the EPA never had a problem with Corexit before. It was on the approved lists of chemical dispersants. And since it is available in the largest amount of all the chemical dispersants on the market, BP went out and bought up every ounce it could find in order to work the spill with. They’ve put 600,000 gallons of the stuff on the oil at the surface and applied another 55,000 gallons directly at the source – with the expressed approval of the EPA and the Coast Guard.

And now the government is going to abruptly reverse course and tell BP everything it’s been doing is wrong and the dispersant it has stockpiled – with the government’s blessing – is unusable.

Sounds helpful, no?

Meanwhile, Louisiana officials are doing a rather hot burn at present at the glacial speed with which the Corps of Engineers is moving on the plan to construct barrier islands using sand dredges in an effort to block the intrusion of oil into Louisiana marshlands. From Sen. David Vitter on his Facebook page:

I’m deeply frustrated that the Corps has yet to authorize the emergency plan to dredge, build up, and extend our barrier islands to better protect our marshes from the infiltrating oil. This is an urgent matter and the Corps just doesn’t seem to get it.

If we come off in these updates as shills for BP, it’s because our focus is on seeing the spill stopped and mitigated. BP is doing that – as they should, they caused it, we’re not arguing with that. Windbag jackasses like Ed Markey and gumshoe bureaucrats like Lisa Jackson and the folks at the COE are hampering the recovery effort by demanding hearings smack-dab in the middle of it, directing those actually doing the work to run around like headless chickens and then criticizing the speed of the effort.

BP has put 13,000 people to work on recovering from the spill. They’ve spent $700,000,000 to date on it. They’ve employed techniques, technology and equipment never before used. In fact, what’s going on in the Gulf might be some of the most advanced applied science and engineering in the world – maybe THE most advanced now that Obama is dismantling the space program. They’ve brought the entire oil industry to the table in an effort to fight the spill.

BP has a duty to do all this. And as this saga continues, BP has a duty to do much more. BP needs to become the world’s unquestioned expert on environmental cleanup as they relate to oil and gas. They need to become the benefactor of fisheries, beach cleanup, coastal restoration and virtually everything else you could think of as relates to the oil spills. We have no argument with any of that, and in fact we’ll be extremely disappointed and vocally so should BP fall short in its mission.

But what is Congress or the federal bureaucracy doing to remediate the damage they’ve done through their incompetence? Where is the mitigation of the economic chaos Markey caused with his horrid and corrupt cap-and-trade bill – which has depressed the job market in the petrochemical sector just by circulating on Capitol Hill? Where is Jackson’s apology and sincere effort to make good the damage she’s done by asserting EPA’s power to assault industry by regulating carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act? Where is the Corps of Engineers’ effort to get off its collective rear end and do something about fixing the levees in New Orleans or reverse the loss of Louisiana’s coastline caused in large part by its having leveed the Mississippi River at its mouth and shooting needed river silt out onto the Outer Continental Shelf instead of having it naturally distribute into the marshlands and thus rebuild the coast each spring?

The damage BP has done is miniscule compared to that of the federal government, both here in Louisiana and nationally. And while BP officials may deserve to be hauled in front of politicians and the media for a rectal exam, those politicians and bureaucrats in Washington who have been sodomizing our economy, environment, treasury and culture for decades don’t seem to be chastened in the least.

This spill will eventually be stopped and the effects mitigated. The effort to accomplish those ends will be successfully made by the private sector, the State of Louisiana and parish officials and Mother Nature. Virtually nothing will be done from Washington to make anything right. And yet it’s in Washington where the blame and the negative repercussions will be chiefly doled out.

We know where to look for villains.

By the way, BP says they’re now siphoning 5,000 barrels a day from the riser insertion tube. They admit that’s not all the oil coming out and they say the 5,000 barrel-a-day number was the one the Coast Guard and NOAA came up with. Without question they’re going to get drilled for having said that, but at this point it probably doesn’t matter.

5-20-10, 10:00 a.m. – It looks like BP has a new ally in their efforts to clean up the oil. Namely, Kevin Costner.

Costner gets criticized a lot as an actor, though for the most part we’ve usually found his movies entertaining (with a few exceptions). But the one thing you’ve got to give him is that unlike the typical loudmouth lefty know-nothings who populate Hollywood, when he decides to get involved in an issue he actually does something constructive.

Namely, after the Exxon Valdez spill, Costner got together with some scientists and engineers and invented a device which can vacuum up spilled oil and separate it from water. And BP agreed to test a half-dozen of Costner’s machines yesterday, including the biggest model, a $24 million centrifuge which can clean 200 gallons of water each minute (which is 288,000 a day, and based on the 10 percent concentration of oil in the slicks BP has already skimmed, you’re looking at 30,000 gallons a day for each of the big machines).

No word yet on how well Costner’s machines have performed. But the actor and his Louisiana trial lawyer business partner John Houghtaling say they’ve got 300 machines of various sizes capable of sucking oily water in, separating the black stuff and shooting clean water out. The company is called Ocean Therapy.

Video from WDSU-TV…

Compare Costner’s environmental activism with that of Robert Redford, who wants to put people out of work in response to the spill…

…we’ll take Costner. One guy does something productive, the other guy runs his mouth with no solutions.

5-20-10, 9:00 a.m. – The schedule for the “top kill” attempt, in which BP will inject mass quantities of drilling mud into the Macondo well BOP in an effort to gum up the well and subsequently shoot cement into the BOP to kill it, calls for a Sunday execution.

In preparation for the “top kill,” BP has reinstalled the Macondo BOP’s “yellow pod,” which has the BOP’s computer “brain.” That’s important because if the computer is functioning it might be able to control the choke and kill valves on the BOP and make a “top kill” a more efficacious maneuver – the drilling mud is going to be pumped through those choke and kill valves.

There are lots of other developments. First, BP operations chief Doug Suttles says that half of the flow coming out of the well is natural gas, which gives us a chuckle since that’s what we said after looking at the video the company supplied of the leak a few days ago. Others saw that video and suggested there were 70,000 barrels of oil a day coming out of the well, which is rubbish. But the same academic who first peddled that line, Purdue’s Steve Wereley, is now saying it’s more like 100,000 barrels a day. If you’re going to get your 15 minutes of fame, then go for broke.

Wereley made his new claim at a hearing put on by Edward Markey (D-Soros) at the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, in which Markey demanded BP show a live feed of the oil coming out of the drill pipe on the riser. BP actually relented on that demand yesterday – not that live pictures are going to look any different from the video they’ve already released.

Markey is making a big deal about how important it is to quantify the amount of oil in the leak, which is a pretty naked attempt to feed an agenda-driven narrative. The people actually involved in the response are a lot less interested in measuring the size of the spill; to them, it doesn’t particularly matter how much oil is coming out of that pipe since whatever that number is they’ve first got to shut it off and then clean it up. And they’ll be doing the same things if it’s 100,000 barrels, a million barrels and 10 million barrels.

But that’s not the Massachusetts Democrat’s aim.

“Oil has been spewing into the ocean for 30 days yet the true extent of this spill remains a mystery,” Markey said. “BP thinks this is their ocean. This is BP’s spill, but it is the American people’s ocean….

“I just think that it’s irresponsible and this continues to be a blistering, scalding indictment of the attitude that BP has brought to this problem.”

Mexico and Cuba might differ a bit with Markey’s Yankee imperialism, and of course oil has been spilling into the Gulf for millions of years courtesy of Mother Nature, but what are a few facts when you’re busy preening for the camera? This man is busy ginning up hysteria, after all. He can’t be held to accuracy, for Pete’s sake.

Back at the site, BP says they’ve increased the speed of the oil through the riser insertion tube and they’re now getting 3,000 barrels of oil a day out of it. They’ve gradually increased the flow so as not to allow hydrates to form in the insertion tube, but so far they’ve been able to triple it without any trouble. Pumping methanol and hot water into the riser has helped.

And now to this business of oil going into the Gulf Loop Current – NOAA head Jane Lubchenko, who is anything but a tool of industry, had this to say:

“That oil, if it gets into the Loop Current, will become very, very dilute and will be highly weathered. Its state will be in continuous change as it moves farther along. As it travels, it will become more highly weathered and more dilute.

“This is a time for awareness and preparation, but not overreaction.”

Onshore, Gov. Jindal and Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser toured the marshes around South Pass and Pass A Loutre close to the mouth of the Mississippi yesterday, and found a good bit of oil there. Jindal is howling for the Corps of Engineers to approve his plan to dredge up sand from the seabottoms on the continental shelf and use the spoil to build 6-foot-high barrier islands – which would not only keep the oil out of the marshes but do a great deal to keep the marshes from getting blown away the next time a hurricane goes through them.

But the Corps bureaucrats are dragging their feet:

A corps spokesman, Ken Holder, said in an e-mail statement Wednesday that the corps must still comply with National Environmental Policy Act procedures, and that the corps is seeking comments from various resource agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others.

“We are currently evaluating all of this information for potential environmental impacts, as required under NEPA,” Holder said in the e-mail message. The corps could not provide any estimates of when or if the permit would be approved.

5-19-10, 6:30 p.m. – Some interesting stuff from the latest release out of Gov. Jindal’s office – including a “what the hell is going on with the Corps Of Engineers” regarding the proposed dredging operation:

VENICE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal joined Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and other local officials for a meeting and boat tour off the coast of Plaquemines Parish in the Pass a Loutre area where he observed firsthand substantial oil impact on Louisiana’s wetlands. The Governor and local officials rode through and inspected thick, dark oil that has made its way into the state’s fragile wetlands. The Governor held a press conference in Venice following the tour where he renewed his plea to the Army Corps of Engineers to issue an emergency permit so the dredging plan can begin quickly.

Governor Jindal said, “We saw some heavy oil stranded in the wetlands. The oil is no longer just a projection or miles from our shore. The oil is here. It is on our shores and in our marsh.

“To put this in perspective, our state has already lost 2,300 square miles of coastal lands since the 1930s. This is like losing the entire state of Rhode Island or Delaware. This is the same area that is home to one of our nation’s most productive estuaries. We have been working aggressively to reverse this trend of coastal land and wetlands loss.

“Today – we saw clearly that this oil has the potential to stop and reverse the progress we have made in the last two years. Our state was on track to have the lowest rate of land loss in 80 years as a result of our efforts and investments in our coast. Our shrimpers were rebounding, our oyster fishermen were recovering and our coastal communities were rebuilding.

“This spill fundamentally threatens Louisiana’s way of life. The oil is here and the time to act is now. We are asking the Corps to approve our dredging plan today without any further delay. We have already asked the Coast Guard to approve advancing the resources we will need to implement this plan, including barges and other dredging ships, so we can get to work quickly.”

OIL IMPACT

According to NOAA, the total amount of Louisiana shoreline with oil impact to date is 34.52 miles. DEQ has confirmed shoreline impacts to date on: the Chandeleur Islands, Whiskey Island, Raccoon Island, South Pass, East Fourchon/Elmers Island, Grand Isle, Trinity Island, Brush Island, and the Pass a Loutre area.

DREDGING PLAN

The Governor repeated his call for the Corps to quickly approve the dredging plan to build “sand booms” along the alignment of the state’s historic barrier islands in the Chandeleurs, Barataria Bay and Timbalier Bay. CPRA filed for an emergency permit last week from the Army Corps of Engineers. Once the Corps approves the plan, land is expected to begin being built in around ten days.

In anticipation of receiving a permit from the Corps, the state has already begun steps to prioritize and determine the capacity of each sand borrow site needed to construct the sand boom. The state has boats out conducting surveys. Magnetometers were used to identify existing pipelines, and side-scan sonar used to develop images of the seafloor. Sampling and assessments are being performed to identify contaminated sediments and to ensure that the materials are safe and the receiving areas are clean.

STRATEGIES TO PROTECT LOUISIANA’S COAST

Governor Jindal said, “In Plaquemines, just like our other coastal areas, we are leaning forward to explore multiple avenues for protecting our coast. We know booming is one option – but we cannot only count on boom to protect our coast, especially as the supply of boom continues to fall short of what is needed to protect many areas.

“We continue to be concerned about the shortage of boom in parishes west of the river and we’re pushing the Coast Guard and BP for more boom in these and other sensitive areas.”

The Governor reiterated that he is not simply waiting for more boom, and instead, the state continues to pursue alternative options to booming. Governor Jindal said, “We are aggressively pursuing booming alternatives, as that is only one tool in the toolbox.”

The Governor provided an update on various alternative projects being pursued to contain the oil:

· Elmer’s Island at Grande Isle: National Guard engineers continue to backfill gaps and conduct maintenance in the vicinity of Elmer’s Island where they closed a 785-foot gap last week.

· Port Fourchon Sandbag Drop Operations: About 30 engineers from the 928th Engineer Company are filling five total gaps in the vicinity of Thunder Bayou in Port Fourchon. Teams are currently working simultaneously in the vicinity of Thunder Bayou and also on the western side of Elmer’s Island. Engineers are working from each end to the center to backfill five cuts on the island. Gap 1 on the east end is now 80 percent complete and Gap 5 on the west end is about 85 percent complete. The National Guard already closed a large 150-foot gap there last week.

· Tiger Dam Project at Southwest Pass: Around 42 engineers from the 528th Engineer Battalion are working to secure 7.1 miles in Southwest Pass with Tiger Dams. Approximately 1.5 miles of the Tiger Dam is now completed and Guardsmen are currently assembling, laying out, and inflating additional sections. National Guardsmen have already positioned 92 pallets of Tiger Dam to Grand Isle for future deployment – which is around 7 miles of dam material.

· Sand Fill: CPRA and the National Guard have also leaned forward and identified approximately 40 total locations where gaps in barrier islands could be filled with sandbags or dump trucks of sand. This strategy would complement a more complete and extensive dredging/sand booming plan.

As of this morning, the National Guard has now dropped 220 sandbags on Pelican Island to completely fill the first gap there, which was around 200 feet. They will begin to fill the second gap there today. There are eight gaps total in the plan for Pelican Island and another six gaps that need to be filled with sand bags in the plan for Scofield Island. Also, the National Guard’s staging area in Buras is now operational – which allows Blackhawks lifting the sandbags to make more trips more quickly and help speed up the work there.

· Hesco Baskets: The state also recently got approval to deploy Hesco baskets on the backside of Grand Isle, Lafourche and in Cameron Parish to protect the shorelines there. Today, representatives from the National Guard, DNR and Lafourche Parish are meeting to coordinate Hesco basket placement in Lafourche.

Freshwater Diversions: The state is also already running a variety of freshwater diversions to push freshwater out to protect the shore.

5-19-10, 6:00 p.m. – Did you notice this yesterday? It’s a Rasmussen poll about offshore drilling.

One concern we have heard time and time again since this oil spill started about a month ago from folks in the oil business and connected industries is abject terror that The Left will use the Macondo blowout and spill as a lever from which to shut down offshore drilling. The rather classless cackling from many on that side of the aisle about the death of “Drill, Baby, Drill” has put a good number of conservatives, and a host of Louisiana business people terrified for their livelihoods as a result of the policy possibilities arising from the spill, on the defensive of late. And the moves made by the Obama administration to at least partially deny new offshore leases as well as stack the deck at MMS in ways sure to create hardships for new drilling give some heft to those concerns.

Which is why it’s worth mentioning that Rasmussen finds offshore drilling is still wildly popular with the American people.

The poll finds that 64 percent of respondents support offshore drilling. That’s a number which is up six points from 58 percent earlier this month, which might be explained by the fact that very little of the oversold disastrous effects of the spill have actually happened – which we would argue is a reflection on the efforts of BP and its contractors as well as the state and local responders in Louisiana and elsewhere, plus the Coast Guard. But it’s still eight points short of the 72 percent score offshore drilling received at the end of March when Obama gave his (somewhat dishonest) speech in favor of drilling.

The American people are under no delusions about drilling, though. Rasmussen finds that 67 percent recognize there is an environmental consequence to oil drilling. They’re in support anyway.

And the Obama administration doesn’t get good marks for its response to the spill. Just 33 percent say Obama’s performance on the spill has been a good one, while 34 percent give him a poor rating. Naturally, those numbers beat the pants off the corporate performance. Two weeks ago, BP and Transocean were getting relatively good marks – 29 percent said their response was good or excellent, against 28 percent poor. But that has changed, as just 20 percent gave thumbs up compared to 43 percent rating BP and Transocean in the “poor” category. Those Senate hearings took their toll, which was probably by design.

And 91 percent of those polled said they’ve been following news of the spill, which means they’ve been exposed to the worst of the sensationalized narratives the left-wing media has to offer.

In the event the Hard Left as represented by Soros stooges like Edward Markey or Hollywood Luddites like Sam Waterston wish to attempt to capitalize on the spill by advocating a ban on drilling as this fall’s elections draw near, they will face a rather unfriendly electorate which is far less malleable than they might believe. And that’s a relief to those of us who recognize that despite the need for a cleanup in the Gulf and improvements in techniques, equipment and processes in offshore drilling, we need more of it rather than less.

5-19-10, 11:30 a.m. – Yesterday there was a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the fact that a couple of dozen tarballs had washed up on the beach at Key West, and with that news coupled with reports that the oil slick had intersected with the Gulf Loop Current, impending doom was everywhere.

Except that it turns out those tarballs aren’t from the Macondo spill. Coast Guard testing proved it.

Given that an amount of oil 10 times the size of the Gulf spill is put into the Gulf by Mother Nature each year, this isn’t a major surprise. But that doesn’t fit the alarmist narrative, so you won’t likely hear too much about those Key West tarballs today.

What you might hear more about is the fighting between Transocean and BP. Transocean CEO Steve Newman has taken issue with BP allegations of a dead battery on the blowout preventer at the Macondo well, saying that tests showed the battery had more than the minimum voltage necessary to power the device.

It looks like both BP and Transocean are going to trash Halliburton, though. They seem to agree that the concrete work Halliburton did on the Macondo well was flawed, as inconclusive tests on that concrete done prior to the blowout indicate there may have been a problem. Of course, if it turns out Halliburton’s work was faulty we’ll have a true circus given the “mean-on” Democrat politicians have for the company once headed by Dick Cheney; but it’s a bit early for that.

In other news, here’s the current response scorecard:

Total response vessels: 970
Containment Boom deployed: more than 1.38 million feet
Containment boom available: more than 380,000 feet
Sorbent boom deployed: more than 530,000 feet
Sorbent boom available: more than 845,000 feet
Total boom deployed: more than 1.91 million feet (regular plus sorbent boom)
Total boom available: more than 1.22 million feet (regular plus sorbent boom)
Oily water recovered: more than 7.87 million gallon
Dispersant used: more than 600,000 gallons
Dispersant available: more than 310,000 gallons
Overall personnel responding: more than 19,400

The spill has cancelled the 2010 Golden Meadow-Fourchon International Tarpon Rodeo, which was set for the beginning of July. And amid state officials finding oil at Pass-A-Loutre and on beaches near South Pass in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana officials are telling BP they’re on the hook for cleaning up anything which shows up in Louisiana.

But Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to dredge material and rebuild barrier islands still hasn’t received approval from the Corps of Engineers, and that’s nothing short of ridiculous. It’s past time that project was put in place – it should have been done long before the oil spill, and now that BP is getting the bill for it there is zero reason not to get moving.

5-18-10, 3:00 p.m. – On these “oil plumes” we’ve heard about time and time again, our friend Steve Maley, who posts occasionally here at the Hayride and more often on Redstate.com under the handle “Vladimir,” has a pretty devastating bit of reality to inject into the alarmism being fed through the media about the oil spill…

Journalists, scientists, Congressmen and bureaucrats have been jockeying to see who can make the most calamitous prediction. As an engineer, I compulsively check their claims (because I know that the journalists are incapable of it, the environmentalists refuse to do it, and those in government are motivated by a power-grab).

From the Old Grey Lady:

Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Under the Gulf
Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given. …

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes. …

Given their size, the plumes cannot possibly be made of pure oil, but more likely consist of fine droplets of oil suspended in a far greater quantity of water, Dr. Joye said. She added that in places, at least, the plumes might be the consistency of a thin salad dressing.

Yumm. Pass the balsamic vinaigrette. Even better, let’s check the math…

So just one of the plumes is 10 mi x 3 mi x 300 feet thick? That seems really big.

In fact, it’s 2.5 E+11 cubic feet, or 45 billion barrels of “salad dressing”.

Let’s take a third of that, to allow for thinning of this plume in all dimensions: that leaves 15 billion barrels of oil & sea water emulsion.

The extreme high end of the rate of spill is 80,000 barrels per day (not that I believe that number, which is sixteen times the “official” estimate). Over 28 days, that’s 2.24 million barrels of oil to date.

If all the oil from the biggest spill estimate were in this single plume, crude oil accounts for less than 0.00015 of the volume (that’s 0.015%, or 150 parts per million). That’s about three drops per liter of sea water.

Even given all the most conservative possible assumptions, that’s a mighty weak salad dressing.

We know it’s not right. Much of the oil has made it to the surface, and a lot of that has evaporated. Some has been burned, some has been recovered. You have to question whether oil in water in such a dilute concentration would have the oxygen-depleting effect described in the article. And remember, this is only one of several plumes.

Folks, this is good news. It means the dispersant is working, breaking up the oil into tiny droplets and dispersing them widely. Mother Nature handles dispersed oil all the time, oil from the natural seeps that account for well over half the oil in the marine environment. Bacteria just love the stuff.

Another thing to remember is that agricultural runoff creates a life-choking anoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico every summer. The size of these oxygen-depleted zones is usually compared to a Northeastern state (usu. Connecticut or New Jersey, for some reason). The oxygen depletion is a result of too much algae, which is a result of too much nitrogen fertilizer being used in the Midwest, which is a result of our government’s misguided insistence on using food as a motor fuel – corn-based ethanol.

It’s amazing what a little scientific training can do to explode media myths. But it’s also amazing what environmentalist extremists think they can get away with based on academic credentials. We’ve had wild claims of 100,000 barrels of oil coming out of that well. But when the Macondo situation was first beginning, LSU’s Stephen Sears, who chairs the petroleum engineering department at the Ole War Skule, had this to say:

“Typically, a very good well in the Gulf can produce 30,000 barrels a day, but that’s under control. I have no idea what an uncontrolled release could be…

“I’m not sure what’s happening down there right now. I have heard there is a kink in what’s called the riser. The riser is a long pipe that connects the wellhead to the rig. I really don’t know if that kink is a big restriction. Is that really a big restriction? There could be another restriction further down,” said LSU’s Sears.

“An analogy would be if you have a kink in a garden hose. You suspect that kink is restricting the flow, but there could be another restriction or kink somewhere else closer to the faucet.”

In other words, Sears noted that a typical high-producing well would do at most about 30,000 barrels. The Macondo well is supposedly putting out 100,000 barrels a day through a BOP that robot submersibles have manually partially shut and a crimped, if broken, riser, with a mile of sea water pressing downward.

It’s an absolutely ridiculous assertion, and one which is calculated to destroy the offshore oil industry – and should such an event happen, it would cripple Louisiana’s economy in ways that a destruction of shoreline and fisheries can’t possibly match.

These people are not our friends. They might think they mean well, but they will do immense damage to us.

It’s not just The Hayride saying that 100,000 bpd is a ridiculous number, by the way…

“To have such a high production of 100,000 barrels, that is physically next to impossible,” said a petroleum engineer at a U.S. university, who asked not to be identified.

Even in top producer Saudi Arabia, individual wells typically produce only 20,000 to 30,000 barrels per day. BP’s 250,000 bpd capacity Thunder Horse deepwater Gulf of Mexico project, which drew first oil in June 2008, required around three dozen production and injection wells, according to company data.

Additionally, at a depth of some 5,000 feet (1,525 meters), the weight of the water partly staunches the flow, the
petroleum engineer said.

5-18-10, 2:00 p.m. – A couple of items on the fight against the spill along the coast.

First, WWL-TV did this story on the National Guard filling in gaps on the barrier islands between Grand Isle and Fourchon in an effort to keep oil from getting into the marshlands…

And second, a larger piece by the Houma Courier which outlines Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to take advantage of the spill to execute a plan to rebuild barrier islands, to the tune of $350 million worth…

Sand dredged from the gulf’s floor would be built up in 86 miles of the gaps between islands, returning land eaten away by decades of storms and slower erosion.

Jindal said Monday that the project could start within days after the Army Corps of Engineers approves it. He is asking for quick approval, and says he has been told that a decision could come in days.

Jindal says the price tag is much less than it would cost to try to remove oil from marshlands.

Considering that this is the kind of stuff the Corps should have done in 2006, it’s hard to imagine they’ll delay Jindal’s plan to get the barrier islands done now. And the fact that Jindal can stick BP with the bill means this is one example of his being opportunistic in a good way on behalf of the citizens of the state. That project will help put some folks to work, it will help mitigate the effects of future hurricanes and maybe lower some insurance rates, and it will help to mitigate effects of the Macondo spill.

We’ll give the governor credit for cooking this one up. Hopefully the Corps won’t stand in the way. But there is an outside chance of a standoff on this one, as Sen. David Vitter has a hold on the promotion of Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, who is the Corps commander of the Mississippi Valley Division. Vitter is deeply unsatisfied with a number of issues surrounding Corps projects, so he’s holding up Walsh’s advancement until those issues can get satisfied. Vitter and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) have gone at it pretty heavily on the floor of the Senate over this issue, and there is some bad blood as a result.

Now that Jindal has something he needs from the Corps, one wonders if a fresh attempt to hold Vitter’s feet to the fire won’t be made in advance of anything getting done. With the dearth of viable campaign issues Charlie Melancon’s campaign possesses and the waste of national Democrat money that campaign has been to date, it should be little surprise to see them grasp at salvaging anything they can get.

Disasters, Louisiana and politics go together like a jug band. Don’t be surprised.

5-18-10, 10:00 a.m. – Some tentatively really good news from the Thibodaux Daily Comet:

State health officials announced today that they are reopening oyster harvest areas in Terrebonne that were closed this weekend due to the oil spill immediately.

The waters, oyster harvesting areas 19 and 21, will be opened to give oyster fishermen as much time as possible to harvest their product before any potential impact from the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

Areas 19 and 21, which are west of the Mississippi River in Terrebonne Parish, were closed Sunday in anticipation of oil intrusion into the area but there’s been no oil in the area yet.

In addition to monitoring the spill, oyster harvesters “taste test” the oysters as they are pulled from the water to make sure their product is good.

Areas 2 through 4, 8, 14, 15 and 17 remain closed. Areas 5, 6, 7, 9 and 13 were recently reopened.

The public is encouraged to call a toll-free hotline, 1-800-256-2775, to report the presence of oil or an oil sheen.

What does this mean? Well, it means that at least in an area peripheral to the spill impact area the oil doesn’t appear to be threatening the oyster beds. It might do so soon, of course. But a little optimism might not be a bad thing.

5-18-10, 9:00 a.m. – Now we’ve got idiots making public statements.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the floor yesterday using the “G” word. Reid isn’t necessarily wrong in saying that BP’s “greed” was the cause of the Macondo spill – it appears that after a series of setbacks with the well which made for significant cost overruns, the company went into a mode of trying to get the well finished as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and in the parlance of anti-capitalists like Reid that constitutes “greed” rather than recklessness which ultimately carries with it a far greater cost.

Of course, the avarice and lust for power of Reid and his Senate colleagues is well-documented. When it comes to the pursuit of power over his fellow men, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone greedier than the Senator from Nevada. So even when he’s right, he’s still a disgusting example of a politician who needs to be removed from the national scene.

And then we have Ted Turner.

Turner went on CNN a few days ago and said this…

“I’m not a real religious person, but I’m somewhat religious. And I’m just wondering if God is telling us he doesn’t want us to drill offshore,” he said. “And right before that we had that coal mine disaster in West Virginia where we lost 29 miners,” as well as repeated mining disasters – “seems like there’s one over there every week” – in China.

“Maybe the Lord’s tired of having the mountains of West Virginia, the tops knocked off of them so they can get more coal. I think maybe we ought to just leave the coal in the ground and go with solar and wind power and geo-thermals where it’s applicable.”

Was it so long ago that America had actual captains of industry? When those at the top of our economic food chain were engaged in providing goods and services to improve the lives of their customers? When those people knew their businesses and respected those who engaged in similar pursuits?

Ted Turner is nothing like those men. He’s a jackass. And a know-nothing, arrogant jackass at that.

Meanwhile, the Minerals Management Service has refused to provide a witness to today’s Senate hearing on the spill. Good for them. The Senate shouldn’t be holding these hearings while this crisis is still going on. And MMS’ head of Gulf offshore oil programs, Chris Oynes, has now resigned. Oynes is likely the first victim of an Obama administration purge of MMS veterans, to be replaced in all likelihood with environmental true believers from Earth First and the Sierra Club who will do all they can to make Turner’s vision of an oil-free America (or, more realistically, an America which buys all its oil from overseas and quickly goes broke in the bargain) come to fruition.

At the well site, BP is readying itself for the “top kill” method, in which heavy drilling fluids and subsequently concrete will be injected into the Macondo well’s blowout preventer in an effort to plug it up and kill it. This process is expected to begin by the end of the week. They’re going to do the “top kill” rather than the “junk shot” they’ve been talking about because there is less downside of a “top kill” if it doesn’t work. Filling the BOP with golf balls and cut-up tires could potentially disable some of the necessary functions of the BOP, so if they try a junk shot and it doesn’t work they might be closing off some other options before the relief well is finished.

Other items of interest in the Gulf…

- BP says their bill for the cleanup and recovery for the spill has now hit $675 million between spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf Coast States, settlements and federal costs. Doesn’t sound like greed. Sounds more like stupidity and regret.

- A day after estimating 1,000 barrels a day of oil was coming up through their riser insertion tube put in place Sunday, BP is now saying they’ve ramped up their siphoning of oil through the tube and it’s doing 2,000 barrels a day. BP says that’s 40 percent of the oil coming out of the tube, which would put them at odds with the academics who have put up wild numbers in the 70,000-100,000 barrels a day range. We’ve talked to a few petrochemical engineers who work in the offshore oil game, and the general reaction to those estimates was uproarious laughter. A finished well in full production is a phenomenal well at 50,000 barrels a day, and that’s what the Macondo well was hoped to do. But Macondo was not a completed well, only an exploratory well. And it’s spilling out through a partially closed, if broken, BOP and a crimped marine riser. There’s a good chance the flow from the well is more than 5,000 barrels a day. But that estimate was made by BP and the Coast Guard alike; it doesn’t appear that was done completely without reason.

5-17-10, 7:00 p.m. – In case you missed it, 60 Minutes actually did a pretty good job with their piece on the spill last night, but BP comes off about as badly as you’d expect them to come off in a 60 Minutes piece:


Watch CBS News Videos Online


Watch CBS News Videos Online

As this thing goes, BP’s costs are going to mount, and mount, and mount. The smartest thing they can do is buy off the people of Louisiana – there is some evidence they’re beginning to do that – with as much fast money as they can so that the locals will defend them to some extent. But publicity like this, UNCHALLENGED, is going to kill them.

Once 60 Minutes decides to get on your case, you’re never going to get a fair shake. That doesn’t matter. Tony Hayward or Doug Suttles should have gone on camera and attempted to say something reasonable. And BP should have insisted they have their own copy of the interview – as in, bringing in their own camera crew, so that if CBS slanted or took the interview out of context BP would have the right to publish the company’s raw copy. Refusing to play ball just makes you look guilty. You’re making plaintiff lawyers millions of dollars.

5-17-10, 5:00 p.m. – Last week, Charlie Crist made an ass of himself in suggesting, after weeks of squawking about all the damage the oil spill was going to do to Florida tourism (which was destined to depress the market for Florida beach vacations), that BP come across with $35 million in funding for a media campaign to promote tourism in the Sunshine State.

Luck rains down upon fools at times.

This afternoon, BP announced they’ll be distributing $70 million to four states – Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana – to help promote tourism.

Get this, though – $25 million of the $70 million is going to Florida.

Florida hasn’t even been affected by the spill outside of stupid statements by Crist and their loopy Senator, Bill Nelson. Louisiana is the state taking it in the shorts as a result of the spill, not Florida. Why is Florida getting more than Louisiana?

Why? Politics, obviously.

Nelson has been all over the media running his mouth about the spill and the consequences of it. He’s made statements about ending offshore drilling. He’s demanded immediate investigations as far back as May 3, when they’re clearly inappropriate in the midst of the recovery effort. He’s proposed a new $10 billion cap on economic damages from oil spills when BP already said they weren’t going to hold to the present statutory $75 million cap in paying claims.

And on, and on.

By contrast, Louisiana’s two Senators both enthusiastically support offshore drilling, and while both David Vitter and Mary Landrieu have been fairly energetic in asking for answers amid this spill they’ve done so in a manner which has been responsible rather than emblematic of the media whore Nelson has shown himself to be.

Florida has the political clout of a large number of congressional seats, Florida is sitting on untapped Gulf reserves which the local politicians have treated like a political pinata and Florida is full of NIMBY types unwilling to see their state contribute to American energy independence. In other words, BP and the rest of what the Left calls Big Oil (they’re really Medium Oil; if you want to see Big Oil, check out the state-owned oil companies in places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China and Iran) have something to gain by currying favor with Florida’s politicians. They’re getting everything they need from the folks here.

The $15 million will do some good in Louisiana, though it’s a drop in the bucket of what this spill will cost. But if anybody should get the lion’s share of compensatory cash from the spill, it isn’t Florida. Someone needs to remind Hayward of that. Undoubtedly, the lawyers will.

5-17-10, 4:00 p.m. – On this Loop Current business, there is a great deal of wailing about how some of the oil spill is now being picked up by the Gulf’s current and how because of that it’s going to be on top of Key West by Wednesday and in New York by next week.

Let’s bear in mind, however, that short of gathering up the oil and/or disposing of it, the best solution for this spill is to DISPERSE IT over as wide an area as possible. The larger the area and the more dispersed the spill, the more Mother Nature can work on it. If the Loop Current moves the oil around, it will help get it broken down. The fact that environmentalists are screaming about oxygen levels 30 percent below normal in the water in areas affected by the spill is an indication of how fast natural microbes are working on breaking it down as it is. A thinner concentration of oil will speed that process up.

In the meantime, though we won’t pretend that there aren’t risks associated with the oil moving around. Coral reefs in the Gulf 300-500 feet deep are allegedly threatened as it moves over them; environmentalists are howling that chemical dispersants used on the oil to break it up make the oil sink into the water column and as such the coral could be coated in oil. That’s a bit unlikely; if the oil sinks to the bottom of the Gulf it’s unlikely to be picked up by the Loop Current in any event and thus won’t be carried over the reefs in the central and southeast Gulf.

But the more oil the Macondo well puts out – or put another way, the longer it takes for BP to finally shut it off – the bigger the problem with things like the Loop Current. And everything else for that matter.

As BP tries to shut off the oil at the source, it looks like they might end up with an even bigger spill to clean up; namely the growing flap over CEO Tony Hayward’s comments to the UK Guardian Thursday attempting to put the Macondo spill in context. Hayward said that the amount of oil spilled and the 500,000 gallons of dispersant used were “very tiny…”

“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” he said.

That’s undeniably true. It’s also not something BP’s CEO can say without getting gobbled up by sharks. And there is definitely blood in the water, as Fox News’ Shepard Smith – whose coverage of the spill has been oversensationalized and breathlessly irresponsible from the start – had at him with a passion on Friday:


It should be pointed out that Smith’s account of Hayward’s alleged complaints about America’s litigiousness did NOT appear in the Guardian story; if Hayward issued that quote it hasn’t shown up anywhere we can find it. This calls into question whether what the Fox News anchor ranted about is even true; if it’s not then Smith probably owes Hayward a substantial apology.

Smith might also consider whether he and the rest of the panting sensationalists of the journalistic ranks aren’t missing a major story with respect to the spill; namely that four weeks into it there has been a very small amount of oil washing up on beaches to date, there have been minimal reports of oiled birds and other wildlife and so far the marshlands and wetlands so threatened by the spill have not been destroyed by the oil. BP has been at the forefront of the largest oil spill recovery effort in human history, they’ve spent some $500 million in putting some 19,000 people to work on fighting the oil, they’ve commissioned thousands of boats and airplanes in the effort and they’re breaking new technological ground in dealing with the crisis.

Should they get credit for going the extra mile? Probably not. The spill was caused on BP’s watch, after all, and it appears there were major breakdowns in safety aboard the Deepwater Horizon prior to the accident. BP is going to pay out billions of dollars in remediation costs before this is over, and rightly so. Frankly, the only thing wrong with the bills in front of Congress raising the cap on economic damages from an oil spill in response to the current situation is that they still impose a cap at all; in a true free market the government shouldn’t act to limit real damages inflicted by tortfeasors and awarded by courts.

That said, what’s going on now to fight this spill is a remarkable effort. And given the rather thorough ineffectiveness of the federal government, in which the Barack Obamas, Janet Napolitanos and Ken Salazars of the world doing a lot of gum-flapping and getting in the way rather than visibly directing the response, it’s still BP with a disproportionate share of the heavy lifting in the effort.

That’s something to watch as events play out with respect to the spill.

Smith’s harangue won’t likely make much of a different to Hayward, who told the UK Telegraph that he’s not watching TV at present since he doesn’t want coverage of the spill to cloud his judgement. But it will likely turn up the heat on the oversensationalized reporting on the spill.

5-17-10, 8:00 a.m. – Over the weekend, BP says they’ve successfully implemented the riser insertion tube into the broken drill pipe in the riser, and it’s collecting about 1,000 barrels a day worth of oil from the spill. BP says they can ramp up their siphoning through the insertion tube as they go, though they’re still very concerned about hydrate formation.

Apparently, it was methane hydrate forming in the “top hat” dome – the second dome they sent down to the sea floor – which prompted the riser insertion tube option to be tried. It appears that collection domes won’t work a mile below the surface.

And while BP thinks they’re beginning to make progress, the feds still have a pretty negative attitude.

“This technique is not a solution to the problem, and it is not yet clear how successful it may be,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano in a joint statement.

There are two leaks. There’s a leak in a crimped part of the riser, and there’s the leak toward the end where some 80-something percent of the oil is coming from. The latter is where the tube was inserted.

The oil from the tube is going to the Discover Enterprise drillship, a vessel owned by Transocean. They’re storing the oil on the ship and will begin offloading it to tankers, and they’re flaring the natural gas as it comes up.

Late this week BP appears to be preparing to put the “junk shot” in play. They’ve lowered a manifold down to the sea floor to get the process ready, and they’ve taken readings inside the blowout preventer which tells them the pressure inside it is at a level they believe they can work with.

In other news surrounding the spill, last year the Deepwater Horizon won safety awards from the Obama administration. For all the president’s bluster last week, he’s not off the hook. In fact, today they’ll have hearings on the regulatory failures up on Capitol Hill, and a bloodbath should ensue. We’d like to see someone ask the question of who ordered the fire at the site put out; whether that question will come up today is uncertain. But Charlie Melancon wants to put some people in jail for the spill, which sounds like a guy running for something for sure.

Meanwhile, there are reports of huge plumes of oil under the surface of the water, and trails of oil 10 miles long out in the Gulf. And the worries about oil getting into the Gulf’s loop current continue to get lots of attention.

But readings taken in the Gulf indicate that oxygen levels in areas around the spill are down as much as 30 percent. That’s bad for fish, which one would expect would have gotten out of those areas anyway, but it’s good in that microbes which eat oil use lots of oxygen. And a Feast Of The Microbes in the Gulf is a good thing; it will help to break the oil down and make it easier to clean up the spill.

BP says they’ve already spent half a billion dollars on the spill so far. That’s nothing – particularly if the stuff coursing through Congress makes it into law. And something – whether it’s the added cent tax on a barrel of oil Obama is proposing or the various bills to raise the cap on damages from spills in the Senate.

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11 Comments

  1. Carol Land
    Carol Land May 18, 18:38

    Thank you for the most balanced article I've seen

  2. Carol Land
    Carol Land May 18, 18:38

    Thank you for the most balanced article I've seen

  3. Sam
    Sam May 25, 18:03

    "Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Katz’s writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings."

    Is anyone in the Obama administration aware of anything? Can they even read? It certainly doesn't look like they can, or maybe they just don't! I think they're more interested in being TV stars!

  4. Sam
    Sam May 25, 18:03

    "Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Katz’s writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings."

    Is anyone in the Obama administration aware of anything? Can they even read? It certainly doesn't look like they can, or maybe they just don't! I think they're more interested in being TV stars!

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