Blogosphere Demands As-Yet-Nonexistent Super-Science Fix for Gulf Oil Spill

I’m not going to link to anything—it’s everywhere—but, Christ, between the apocryphal Web stories about the Soviets sealing their leaky oil wells with tactical nukes and the folks demanding that Obama mobilize the total resources of the US Department of Shit-That-Only-Works-in-Movies-Where-Morgan-Freeman-Is-President, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s any point in writing about energy and science for a living.

Oh, wait—this must be read to be believed. Jeff Morrow, pick up the White Courtesy Phone…and tell Rex Reason to bring the Interocitor from This Island Earth.

UPDATE: Peter Daou also believes we aren’t throwing enough outraged Hollywood scriptwriters at this crisis.

Posted by StrangeAppar8us on 05/23/10 at 07:43 PM • Permalink

Categories: Geek SpeakPoliticsBedwettersNutters

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So Rayne the Firebagger HAS SOLUTIONS:

1. Nike motto!
2. Thorough analysis? Screw it—DEMAND inaccurate information on a time schedule picked out of a hat, or fire somebody!

every evaluation must be on POTUS desk inside 15 days from the date the Executive Order.

3. You know the movie THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT? So does Rayne!Because, instead of being more like Morgan Freeman, why can’t Obama be more like Kevin Klein?

Come on, White House—less scolding the press, and more placating it with empty gestures!

From out here in the peanut gallery, Daou’s playing a blinder:

Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis, every effort to plug the leak, every desperate attempt to mitigate the damage?

Where is the White House? Where are Republicans? Where are Democrats? Where is the left? Where is the right? Where is the “fierce urgency of now?”

Where is Peter Daou? Bloviating on HuffPo about the need for bigger louder ALL-CAPS outrage. As if that was in short supply.

His best shot at a constructive solution?

UPDATE: Over at The Seminal, Rayne lists 11 steps the White House can take to deal with the spill and asks readers for more suggestions.

Jesus and Mohammed wrestling in a burlap sack—if it’s down to the combined wit of Daou, Rayne and the FDL commenters, I’d get the hell out of America right now. You’re truly screwed.

Dkos has been afire, and driving me berserk.

As someone who’s worked in the environmental protection/regulation industry for going on 17 years in support of regulatory compliance programs for energy, transportation, mineral and water resources development, telecommunications, and hazardous materials management projects for military, commercial, public utility, and state and federal agency clients, my view is that the Administration has responded to this whole mess very aggressively, and they’re literally doing just about everything they can legally do at this point.

Comment by fogiv on 05/23/10 at 11:50 PM

Dkos has been afire, and driving me berserk.

If your blood pressure needs another boost, try checking out Democratic Underground!

In the face of such a man-made disaster, I can quite understand people freaking out, impatience, a feeling of impotence, and “Why doesn’t somebody DO something?”, but when it’s much the same screen names that have figured prominently in rubbishing so many other of the administration’s actions from the very start (indeed, before then in some cases), when the same easily debunked stories keep doing the rounds as gospel, and when the arguments and references display a distinct circularity, as with Daou’s latest screed and FDL, it’s hard not to suspect cynical opportunism at play.

It’s also extremely grimly amusing seeing so many who accused those dratted Obots of worshiping Obama as Teh Messiah treating him as such.

As for suggestions for concrete action, Daou’s got nothing, not even a coherent channel for the outrage he’s ginning up. He was challenged quite sensibly in the HuffPo comments:

MidwestBlue   15 minutes ago (7:48 AM)
8 Fans
Well, Mr. Daou, why aren’t YOU organizing a protest? It’s easy to write a column criticizing others, but I don’t see you getting people together to march and protest. You have more resources and contacts than us poor slobs out here who are horrified at what’s happening. We absolutely do care. Before you criticize the entire overworked, underpaid population of the U.S., maybe you should look in the mirror.

No response so far, but there was this from a little earlier:

HUFFPOST BLOGGER
Peter Daou   35 minutes ago (7:29 AM)
183 Fans
Ask President Obama to address the nation on the Gulf Catastrophe:
http://twitter.com/peterdaou/status/14616429070

So far, the online consensus seems to be that government and industry are applying insufficient hyperventilation to the damaged well-head.

The oil wouldn’t be leaking if we hadn’t removed prayer from the schools.

Whoops!  Sorry, I was snarking off at the wrong set of idiots.

Steve, we’ve got ‘em coming from all sides, so I really don’t think you can miss.

@YAFB—It’s just a damn shame Rayne and Daou weren’t around to yell at Kronos. That movie would have been a lot shorter.

Strange, I just can’t keep up with the shrieking.

Last night it was all-caps alerts because SOMETHING was happening with the wellhead, the BP cam link was supposedly on a loop disguising God knows what, whereas CNN’s version showed ... um, well, gas bubbles and shit and murkiness. I finally relented and checked out the cams in case I really was missing a new twist on this disaster. Looks almost precisely the same as it did days ago. Not pretty.

Then there’s the conspiracy theories. BP’s syphon’s captured some of the oil - they’re so fecking greedy, bet they’re going to take that to a refinery. Er, yeah. WTF else do you suggest they do with it?

Also. Late-to-the-party rabblerouser Daou—whose own outrageous Twattings about the Gulf gusher were pretty damn thin on the ground till a couple of days ago—now fancies himself a latterday Nostradamus:

Prediction: sooner or later, President Obama will address the nation in prime time about the #OilSpill
about 2 hours ago via web

Sheesh.

Well, since Daou hasn’t graced us with his presence yet, let me just pull out a quote from the man himself that I’m sure is still apropos (even though today is Monday):

This isn’t about real debate, it’s about silly one-upsmanship. I’ll take my baby daughter for a Sunday morning walk and think about things that really matter.

From here.

Comment by Oblomova on 05/24/10 at 10:14 AM

Brit, it’s in the nature of huge, incomprehensible events like these that they inevitably become a Rorschach blot for people with bad neural wiring and undiagnosed cognitive disorders. Somehow, I know we’ll eventually learn that oil spills are inherently misogynistic, and hate Hillary Clinton because she’s a successful woman who knows where she’s at.

If anything surprises me, it’s that no one has yet made the connection between the Deepwater spill and BP’s hush-hush acquisition of all patents relating to the engineered genome for oil-resistant, lemon-flavored, sell-buttering shrimp.

I know it’s not the sexy theory, but my brother-in-law who used to be an engineer for BP seems to think the fact that they decimated their engineering department about twenty years ago might have something to do with this disaster. I know—crazy talk.

It’s OK, folks. Here comes the cavalry:

Lookin’ Ugly at the Deepwater Horizon Live Cam?
This is just a snippet (and this message is per the request of Lambert Strether, who has a post of his own up and trying to get further information from other Deepwater Horizon live cam bloggers or watchers):

Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets,

Where are the outraged angry people hustling down to the gulf to wash oil-soaked wildlife??

Oops, not sexy enough and a body could StFu and do it right this second. If he were really that Concerned.

MidwestBlue   15 minutes ago (7:48 AM)
8 Fans
Well, Mr. Daou, why aren’t YOU organizing a protest?

I’m sure he will. Right after his Vewy Sewious Walk.

Where are the outraged angry people hustling down to the gulf to wash oil-soaked wildlife??

There may be a role for well-organized volunteers in activities like that, but one concern I have is that some ecologists with experience in oil cleanups point out that certain types of remedial action in the past have actually made things worse, not just because of the use of noxious dispersants etc., but through heavy footfalls driving the oil deeper into saltmarsh soil, for instance, attempts to use hot water jets to clear rocky foreshores in Alaska interfering with natural processes by destroying natural oil-digesting bacteria etc. etc.

There’s a limit to what nature can clean up itself, and it may well move on a near-geological time scale, but thrashing about without forethought might make things a whole lot worse on local scales. But it would no doubt make the emo crowd happy.

@oblomova—Obama stole their Chief Scientist in 2009, possibly in an attempt to undermine their development of safe-drilling technologies, or as a naked act of power-hungry, dictatorial arrogance. It’s really hard to tell what motivates an America-hating Kenyan narcissist.

There may be a role for well-organized volunteers in activities like that

That’s what I meant. To be a lot less nice than you are, anyone who goes down there thinking they can capture and wash the wildlife on their own would deserve every bite, scratch and evisceration.

Although the thought of Daou floundering through a swamp while he screams “COME BACK HERE AND LET ME RESCUE YOU FROM THE FAILED OBAMA ADMINISTRATION!” at brown pelicans does have a certain appeal ...

Nah. The pelicans have enough to deal with.

You cannot volunteer unless you have a HAZWOPER certificate.  The oil is too toxic to handle if you don’t know what you are doing. Plus, for weeks the oil didn’t show up on shore so there wasn’t much a volunteer could do. The dispersant is also making people who are working on the clean up very sick. Flu like symptoms.

Yeah, I got what you meant, HTP—frustrating as it can be for some, I think this administration specializes in cool, not flashy, reaction, but it remains to be seen how Jindal et al.‘s efforts pan out amid the clamor to DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING, which was what I was trying to drive at.

Witness the brains trust over at Lambchop’s thread I linked to above, which combines well-intentioned daftness with conspiracy theory:

They inserted a siphon tube that initially allowed them to load a portion of the escaping crude onto surface ships, presumably to be sold.

See my comment above about what you’d expect them to do with large quantities of recovered oil (and I’d imagine the admixture of seawater would mean it wasn’t a great moneymaker anyway).

Instead of inserting a siphon tube, could BP have deposited aggregate (rocks) or other materials (steel rods, etc.) to start filling the hole with something ‘heavy’ that could obstruct the outward flow?

In fact, would not something as simple as an armada of barges filled with aggregate dumping their fill over the open pipe have built a mound over it that, when it got high enough, would completely stop the leaking crude?

Right from the beginning, could there not have been an emergency call to action for the US Navy and Coast Guard, as well as privately owned ships, to begin the parade of barges needed to continually dump aggregate over the site?

There has been no discussion that I have seen along these lines. Instead, public trust, as low as it may poll, remains high enough for it to be unthinkable that BP could have made the decision to attempt to siphon some crude rather than immediately take measures to plug the well based on narrow corporate cost/benefit analysis that showed the clean up costs of leakage that could have been stopped to be less than the present value of the well if it could be salvaged.

Gah. It’s hard to know where to start so I’ll just point out the first obvious flaw in all that gibber, which is the highly questionable accuracy of dumping chunks of rock from the sea surface to land on an extremely small area a mile or so below, against ocean currents and the horrendous flow from the gusher itself, even if that did prove to be enough to stem the flow and didn’t make it even more difficult if not impossible to plug the well properly. As for the conspiracy theory that hangs off it ...

YAFB, it has GOT to be a conspiracy: dropping rocks and pebbles onto an underwater gusher is simply a no-brainer! Any fool could have told you that!

I would like to see the cost/benefit analysis that recommended salvaging a few thousand gallons of soggy crude rather than instantly end an environmental, financial and public relations catastrophe, just because the Armada of Rock Barges was cost-prohibitive and had to be treated as a materials and service charge, rather than a capital expense.

Also, given that a 100-ton concrete-and-steel cap directly lowered onto the well-head failed to contain the oil plume, the dropping-boulders-from-a-mile-up program seems fraught with uncertainty.

In fact, would not something as simple as an armada of barges filled with aggregate dumping their fill over the open pipe have built a mound over it that, when it got high enough, would completely stop the leaking crude?

In a word, “No.”

Any fool could have told you that!

How dare you! I’ll have you know that masterly contribution was apparently from Lambchop’s new BFF, Warren Mosler.

You cannot volunteer unless you have a HAZWOPER certificate.

Interesting, I had no idea. It sounds like the only thing most people who are really concerned (rather than outraged) is make donations to help the professionals.

Right from the beginning, could there not have been an emergency call to action for the US Navy and Coast Guard, as well as privately owned ships, to begin the parade of barges needed to continually dump aggregate over the site?

And - and - why didn’t Obama give a bunch of Navy Seals some of that special gum Marine Boy* uses so they could go down there and push the rocks into place?!

Jesus B.A.S.E jumping Christ. I think it’s perfectly normal that people are trying to come up with solutions (and I’m sure they’re sharing their bright ideas with the White House & B.P. Ha ha ha ha ha!) What gets me is the sheer certainty that their solution will work, even though they know less than bugger all about it. Christ, can you imagine having a medical emergency around one of these dipshits?

“Stand back, he’s having a seizure! I will cure him by pissing in his left ear! Shut up, I know what I’m doing!”

Yikes. 

*If you must ask, get offa my lawn.

What gets me is the sheer certainty that their solution will work, even though they know less than bugger all about it.

That, and the absolutely brazen conviction that since Obama and BP haven’t already adopted their pet solution and thereby saved the world, it MUST be because of a corporatist plot to turn the Gulf into an area of international sacrifice so that oil companies can henceforth pollute to their dark hearts’ content.

If Obama weren’t such a dastardly Kenyan/Muslim usurper, he would have done what any right-thinking ‘murrican president would have realized needed doing—namely, re-animating Shelley Winters and sending her in to take care of business. Remember: in the water, she’s a very skinny lady!

YAFB - I also detect a dash of “Hmph! I can’t believe Obama hasn’t called me personally to ask for my brilliant solution,” but that I could be getting that confused with the usual sprinkling of “You ignore the bloggers at your peril, Mr. President!”

From a commenter on Palin’s Facebook post about Nikki Haley:

Dear Mrs Palin please tell the President to stop fooling around with this oil leak and blow the darn thing up . We have had enough of his playing around with peoples lives .

They just wouldn’t fucking stop.

stop fooling around with this oil leak and blow the darn thing up

S/he has got OIL GUSHER confused with THOSE ANNOYING HAIR CLOGS.

WHY doesn’t Obama just use Endoscopic Technology, which we all know works just like a Heat-Seeking Missile, to Say Goodbye to Harmful Chemicals?

Whatsa matter, Barry, you too good for solutions As Seen On TV?

Maybe Ted Stevens can tell us about how oil wells are a series of tubes.

Even though it’s America’s most closely-held military secret, Obama MUST step up to the plate, take charge and reveal the existence of the Orbiting Space Swiffer.

There are areas of sanity in the blogosphere. I wrote about the spill and response yesterday and rational people responded :-)

Sadly, what you’re referring to is the same kind of magical thinking that is all over the blogosphere these days - the idea that if Obama just yells louder then somehow the oil will stop flowing.

That’s an excellent post and discussion, Elise, and I’m glad you found us.

I’ll chuck a couple of links in here.

This is the key official site detailing what’s being done so far.

This site I referred to obliquely upthread. It outlines just how complex the issues around any cleanup attempts are, and how some well-intentioned actions that fit the bill in terms of being seen to be doing something can actually be counter-productive.

Aside from the lawsuits and other repercussions for BP and the subcontractors etc., one thing I’d like to see explored in future would be a levy on all oil companies in order to fund an independent international organization that would have access to the technology and have expertise on call to deal with future incidents.

Thank you, Elise! (You too, Brit.)

Laypersons don’t “get” the way hazards and contingencies are either calculated, or planned for. They’ve never walked through a Probablistic Risk Assessment or tried to legislate funding for a Mile-Wide Atomic Helicopter that has a 1-in-800.000 chance of ever being needed to save the world. Unless you’re expecting an uncontainable deep-water oil release at an average rate of one catastrophic event every three years, economics dictates that you’re better off playing the long odds and building-in redundant and independent safety mechanisms for high-probability events rather than stockpiling a fleet of Titanic-sized tampons, inventing a fifth branch of Physics to separate petroleum from marshlands and mounting 10,000 inland-facing jet engines along the Gulf Coast in order to push the continent out of the way of a spill.

Yes, governments are corruptible, corporations are evil, PRAs can be gamed, and a lot of “worst-case scenario” emergency plans don’t go ten bullet-points before the orchestra warms up “Amazing Grace.”  I’m not defending it, I’m just saying that’s how it is. You can have cheap energy and stockholder dividends, or you can have perfect safety. Pick the one you like.

My immediate gripe is with all the born-again-technology-experts on the Web who think the Deepwater spill is out-of-control because BP and Obama are cruelly withholding the easy, proven, tried-and-true fix that every six-year-old knows. Bad news—there isn’t one. And the Federal Reserve doesn’t have the Ark of the Covenant stashed in a vault, and Godzilla is too big for your pitiful tanks to subdue.

Hope you enjoyed your cheap gasoline and plastic.

Yet another plan, from another Sarah Palin Facebook fan:

Last night ‘’ just for shits and giggles’’ I shook up a2litter bottle of 7up when i removed the capp it sprayed up and out! at the same time i had a funnel ready and put it over the top of the opening of the bottle it still sprayed up and out through the small end of the funnel !??? why can’t engineers design a huge funnel type structure to put over the break ,leak,with a tube running up to tankers ???????

PS: What’s funny in the above quote is not so much the Colossal Funnel-and-Tube concept—which is well-known to drilling engineers—as it is the unmotivated impulse to weaponize a bottle of 7-Up just to see what would happened if you stuck an unsecured funnel over the spout.

While the experiment inspired the writer’s solution, the messy, unstable squirting machine he created is probably a far better demonstration of the problem.

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