Like the gushers of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, the past month has seen a massive outpouring of reports and analysis on the Deepwater Horizon / BP oil spill and environmental catastrophe in progress off the coast of Louisiana.
Were I off a conspiracy frame of mind – which of course I am not – I might try to suggest that “they” are trying to prevent us from thinking carefully and critically about what is happening by burying us under a tidal wave of verbiage, with yesterday’s plans superseded by today’s, and dozens of theories of the cause, and estimates of the amount of oil, competing for our attention.
This is what is happening, but I don’t think it is a conspiracy actively being pursued by the infamous “they.” Rather, it is 100s of reporters scrambling each day for copy to file, and – much more disturbingly – government agencies and the oil industry thrashing around in their ignorance and incompetence, unable to come up with real solutions, while corporate PR flacks and spin doctors try to cover up as much as possible, and scientists scramble to make sense of what is happening from the point of view of their various disciplines.
To make matters worse, the efforts of reporters and scientists to produce accurate and in-depth news and analysis have been actively and consciously hampered by the corporate flacks – by, for example, delaying the release of data, resisting attempts to gain access to the video feeds of the oil gushers, and so on. Even more disturbing have been the reports of government collusion with BP in blocking access to the spill and to information. A few days ago, reports circulated of BP ships blocking access to the spill site at sea, with Coast Guard officers onboard these boats colluding in these efforts. More recently, police officers have apparently been attempting to prevent reporters visiting beaches where oil has washed ashore. I suspect these are local and individual actions rather than part of active government collusion at a high level, but even so… The public officials involved in such things should have bricks dropped on them from a great height.
I’ve been following this story since the explosion, in mainstream and progressive news outlets, as well as on commentary and discussion websites and blogs, and I’ve collected some of the more useful, intelligent, provocative and/or outrageous pieces on the oil spill for you.
Below the fold, you’ll find an extensive compendium of ledes and excerpts – with links – from these articles and discussions, arranged in chronological order. This post consists of the bulk of the articles for the period from April 30 through May 7. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll post ledes and excerpts for May 8 through May 21.
(Note: The full post is very long, with a number of pictures, so if you have a slow or limited internet connection, be warned.)
Before that, a couple of general overview pieces:
Oil spill cleanup, containment efforts, hearings in wake of gulf disaster: In the Gulf of Mexico and along the coastline, cleanup and containment efforts continue after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig April 20. (via The Washington Post – includes large selection of photos on the oil spill.)
How Long Will the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Last?: More than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez foundered off the coast of Alaska, puddles of oil can still be found in Prince William Sound. Nearly 25 years after a storage tank ruptured, spilling oil into the mangrove swamps and coral reefs of Bahia Las Minas in Panama, oil slicks can still be found on the water. And more than 40 years after the barge Florida grounded off Cape Cod, dumping fuel oil, the muck beneath the marsh grasses still smells like a gas station… (via Scientific American.)
The 2010 Gulf Oil Spill: A Timeline – Newsweek – slideshow with 23 photos[post removed]
BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill likely to cost more than Exxon Valdez: Britain’s biggest oil company was tonight facing an environmental disaster expected to cost more than the Exxon Valdez tanker spill as thousands of tonnes of floating oil began to reach the US Gulf coast. (via The Guardian.)
Halliburton May Be Culprit In Oil Rig Explosion: Giant oil-services provider Halliburton may be a primary suspect in the investigation into the oil rig explosion that has devastated the Gulf Coast, the Wall Street Journal reports. (via The Huffington Post.)
New Offshore Drilling Projects ON HOLD, White House Says (VIDEO): President Barack Obama on Friday, in a largely symbolic gesture, promised that no new offshore oil drilling leases will be issued unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the explosion that unleashed the massive spill threatening the Gulf Coast. (via The Huffington Post.)
Gulf Oil Spill Statistics – Numbers on BP Gulf Oil Spill: As officials continue to carry out cleanup efforts from the deadly April 20 BP oil spill, one thing is clear: Last week’s Gulf Coast spill is one of the worst in history. It’s tough to say just how much oil might leak out before the three major underwater leaks are stopped.
But if the leaks aren’t repaired soon, the BP spill may overtake the iconic Valdez tragedy in volume. In fact, they BP spill may already be larger than the Exxon Valdez spill. (via thedailygreen.com.)
Spewing 5,000 Barrels of Oil a Day, BP Spill Hits Louisiana Coastline: The massive BP oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico has reached the Louisiana coastline as fears grow of a worse disaster than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. 5,000 barrels of oil a day continue to spew into the water beneath the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and sank last week. President Obama said BP is ultimately responsible for funding the response and cleanup operations, but vowed to increase federal involvement… (via Democracy Now!.)
Gulf Oil Spill 2010: America’s Chernobyl: ‘I don’t think I’m overstating the case by saying this is America’s Chernobyl.’—Louie Miller, Mississippi state director, Sierra Club, at a news conference today in Gulfport. (via Boing Boing.)
Limbaugh Says ‘Environmentalist Wackos’ Marked Earth Day by Blowing Up Oil Rig: Saying he was ‘just noting the timing’ of it, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh suggested that ‘environmentalist wackos’ may have blown up the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico — an incident which can already be characterized as one of the largest ecological disasters in U.S. history. (via ecopolitology.)
Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Barack Obama flies in amid mounting criticism: Fishing fleet on standby for attempt to block slick as administration preempts ‘slow to react’ charge… (via The Guardian.)
BP oil spill: A very visible disaster | Paul Krugman: It took futuristic technology to achieve one of the worst ecological disasters on record. Without such technology, after all, BP couldn’t have drilled the Deepwater Horizon well in the first place. Yet for those who remember their environmental history, the catastrophe in the gulf has a strangely old-fashioned feel, reminiscent of the events that led to the first Earth Day, four decades ago. And maybe, just maybe, the disaster will help reverse environmentalism’s long political slide – a slide largely caused by our success in alleviating highly visible pollution. If so, there may be a small silver lining to a very dark cloud… (via The Guardian.)
The biggest silver lining I can imagine is if people react to this disaster by rethinking American oil dependency – changing habits and lifestyles and patterns of consumption to reduce their environmental impact in general, and their energy and carbon footprints in particular.
Deepwater Horizon oil spill: BP chief faces Washington grilling.The chief executive of BP faces a grilling when he meets US lawmakers and regulators in Washington tomorrow amid mounting criticism of the oil giant’s reaction to the blown-out well of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which has left America’s southern states facing an environmental and economic catastrophe. (via The Guardian.)
Deepwater Horizon oil spill: turtle deaths soar amid fight to save wildlife: Tests take place to determine cause of deaths, as locals hope booms along coastline will protect commercial fisheries… (via The Guardian.)
Disaster Invokes the Specter of Valdez: “We’re dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster,” President Barack Obama said during a short visit Sunday to Venice, La., the small town closest to the sunken rig Deepwater Horizon.
He promised that the government would spare no effort or expense to address the damage.
But Mr. Obama reiterated that BP PLC, the British oil giant, would ultimately be responsible for the costs of the spill stemming from the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig it had hired… (via WSJ.com.)
Of course, this was before the companies involved started playing “pass the parcel” with responsibility, and before we found out that there is a cute little Federal law which drastically limits BP’s actual liability for damages from the spill.
And before Congressional efforts to amend this limit were stymied by Replutocrat “lawmakers” (read “dealmakers”).
James Moore: Nobody Knows the Trouble We’ll See: We might be powerless.
The oil flowing out from the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico may be under such great pressure that we do not possess technology to stop the tragedy. Chances are quite good we have no true sense of the dire nature of the situation. The facts that have been ascertained, however, lead to a dark scenario…. (via The Huffington Post.)
News Analysis – Gulf Oil Spill Is Bad, but How Bad?: President Obama has called the spill “a potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.” And some scientists have suggested that the oil might hitch a ride on the loop current in the gulf, bringing havoc to the Atlantic Coast…. (via NYTimes.com.)
The Deepwater Horizon disaster for visual learners: Americablog has a breathtaking series of photos, taken by a DOE contractor, that show the final hours of the Deepwater Horizon.
On Defensive, BP Readies Dome to Contain Spill: BP spent Monday preparing possible solutions to stem oil leaks from an undersea well off the Louisiana coast, and fending off new accusations about its role in the widening environmental disaster…. (via NYTimes.com.)
BP Oil Spill Worsens With No Solution in Sight, 210,000 Gallons a Day Spew into Gulf of Mexico: Federal authorities have banned commercial and recreational fishing in a large stretch of water in the Gulf of Mexico due to the massive oil spill caused by a BP-operated rig that exploded nearly two weeks ago. An estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day is pouring into the Gulf in what might turn out to be the worst industrial environmental disaster in U.S. history. We speak with Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist and a former commercial salmon fisherma’am from Alaska who experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill… (via Democracy Now!.)
Through oil-fouled water, big government looks better and better: There is something exquisite about the moment when a conservative decides he needs more government in his life.
About 10:30 Monday morning, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), an ardent foe of big government, posted a blog item on his campaign Web site about the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “I strongly believe BP is spread too thin,” he wrote… (via The Washington Post.)
US oil disaster: BP – beyond principle: The admission by Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, that his company was “absolutely responsible” for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico came not a moment too soon. BP spokesmen spent all last week trying to palm off responsibility on to Transocean, which owns the rig on which the blowout happened. Yesterday BP took responsibility for the cleanup operation and said that it would pay all necessary and appropriate cleanup costs… (via The Guardian)
But as we have since learned, BP thinks the “appropriate cleanup costs” do not include the bulk of the damages associated with the spill – such as the damages to the fishing industry or tourism. They want to stick with the Federal limit on damage costs, a paltry $75 million. And Republican Congressmen are blocking efforts to change that limit.
Gulf of Mexico has plenty of familiarity with oil spills: Oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has led to a number of disasters and near disasters over the past 31 years. In some cases, authorities were unable to stamp out fires or stop spills for months; in others, quick action and good luck prevented disasters from becoming worse than they could have been… (via al.com.)
Dozens of Critical Bird Sites in the Path of Massive Gulf Oil Slick: The American Bird Conservancy says the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill will affect bird populations from Canada to South America, with important nesting and migratory stopover sites along the Gulf Coast directly in the path of the spill… (via Yale Environment 360 .)
How Bad Is the Gulf Coast Oil Spill?: Claims are circulating on the Internet that the Coast Guard fears the Deepwater Horizon well has sprung two extra leaks, raising fears that all control over the release of oil at the site will be lost. The oil field, one of the largest ever discovered, could release 50,000 barrels a day into the ocean, with implications for marine life around the globe that are difficult to comprehend…. (via Slashdot.)
Gulf oil spill: First leak capped, says BP: BP has managed to seal the smallest of the three leaks spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the company says.
Oil is still gushing into the sea at a rate of about 800,000 litres a day, but officials say working with only two leaks makes tackling the spill easier… (via BBC News.)
When did the Gulf oil spill become visible from space?: Oil continues to gush from a well underneath the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of more than 200,000 gallons per day. Some newspapers have noted that the spill is now visible from space, after NASA released satellite images of the oil slick, which reached 40 miles in width over the weekend. (It is now 130 miles across.). How big does something have to be before we can see it from space?… (via Slate Magazine.)
Gulf Oil Spill: Palin Camp Says You Can’t Trust Foreign Oil Companies [UPDATE]: …as everyone knows, Palin is pretty much defined as the ultimate in “Drill, Baby, Drill”. And she has so many thoughts on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and What It Means. Mostly, her thoughts evolves slowly, as she learns from other people what she is supposed to think about any given issue. But today, Sarah Inc. took to its Twitter account to offer some lessons about What The Gulf Oil Spill Teaches Us. Her bottom line: don’t trust the foreign oils! (via The Huffington Post.)
Toxic Oil Dispersant Used in Gulf Despite Better Alternative: British Petroleum and government disaster-relief agencies are using a toxic chemical to disperse oil in the Gulf of Mexico, even though a better alternative appears to be available… (via Wired.com.)
BP stems one of three Deepwater Horizon oil leaks, US coastguard says: The US coastguard says BP has managed to cap one of three leaks from its stricken deepwater oil well, but the work is not expected to reduce the overall flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico…. (via guardian.co.uk.)
Congressmen raised concerns about BP safety before Gulf oil spill: In the months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig sank in a ball of fire in the Gulf of Mexico, the company had four close calls on pipelines and facilities it operates in Alaska… (via guardian.co.uk.)
Deepwater Horizon oil spill sparks calls for $10bn levy on BP and drilling ban: The catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico set off a backlash against the oil industry yesterday, with a demand for a ban on future offshore drilling. The anger came as BP executives admitted in a private briefing for members of Congress that the gusher on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico could reach 40,000 barrels a day – eight times higher than the current estimate – if they cannot cap the flow…. (via The Guardian.)
Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Obama attempts to limit political fallout: The Obama administration took defensive action today over early assurances that a sunken BP rig was not leaking crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, issuing a 6,000-word timeline of its actions to try to contain the disaster, and dispatching a phalanx of administration officials to the region… (via The Guardian.)
Dispersant ‘may make Deepwater Horizon oil spill more toxic’: Scientists fear chemicals used in oil clean-up can cause genetic mutations and cancer, and threaten sea turtles and tuna… (via The Guardian.)
This Land – As the Oil Threatens, Lowering the Boom: All day and into the night, people lay boom — maritime sandbags — because this is what you do in times of hazardous spills, to protect your livelihood, your home and the complicated ecosystem of which you are a part… (via NYTimes.com.)
In Gulf of Mexico, Chemicals Under Scrutiny: As they struggle to plug a leak from a ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP and federal officials are also engaging in one of the largest and most aggressive experiments with chemical dispersants in the history of the country, and perhaps the world… (via NYTimes.com.)
A sea turtle in the gulf surfaced Wednesday to feed, swimming through patches of oxidizing oil mingling with chemical dispersants used by BP to break up oil. (via NYTimes.com.)
Giant Container to Collect Leaking Gulf Oil: With remote-controlled robots a mile underwater unable to seal the gushing well, and with the drilling of relief wells that would allow crews to plug the spouting cavity months away from completion, it is time for the big box… (via NYTimes.com.)
How An Oil Spill Spread Into A National Crisis: More than two weeks have passed since an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and touching off a major environmental disaster. The story, which began far from land, now stretches along the Gulf Coast and all the way to Washington. Here, a detailed look at the crisis as it unfolded… (via NPR.)
Web tool tracks Gulf oil spill effects: A web tool originally set up to keep track of political violence in Kenya is being used to monitor the fallout from oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
Ushahidi is a free, online mapping tool that can be used to collect and plot reports coming in from people via e-mail, SMS and Twitter… (via BBC News.)
BP Oil Spill Highlights Poor Safety Record, the Worst of Any Oil Company in America: ‘BP is a London-based oil company with one of the worst safety records of any oil company operating in America,’ says Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen. ‘In just the last few years, BP has paid $485 million in fines and settlements to the US government for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules, and penalties for manipulating energy markets.’… (via Democracy Now!.)
Michael Tomasky: A new movement springs to life: Here’s one I’m kind of kicking myself for not having seen coming. It’s the new ‘BP truther’ movement.
This budding movement holds that the Obama administration planned or executed the massive BP oil spill, or at least let it happen. Why? Well, obviously: because this gave the tree-hugging, soft on planet Earth administration just the excuse it needed to cancel the offshore drilling scheme the president announced a while back… (via guardian.co.uk.)
BP oil spill conspiracy theories: I wasn’t surprised when Rush Limbaugh noted the suspicious timing of the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, occurring as it did on the eve of Earth Day and the impending Cap and Trade Bill announcement and just after Obama’s reluctant OK of new drilling leases… (via Boing Boing.)
BP gives Congress gloomy outlook on gulf oil spill: BP officials Tuesday told congressional representatives that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could grow at a rate more than 10 times current estimates in a worst-case scenario — greatly enlarging the potential scope of the disaster… (via latimes.com.)
Containment dome reaches Gulf oil spill scene: A barge arrived at the scene of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill today carrying a five-storey, 100-tonne containment dome that it is hoped will stem the leak that is threatening the US coast… (via guardian.co.uk.)
Gulf oil spill reaches Freemason Island as BP prepares to lower giant funnel: The giant steel and concrete box which is seen as the best chance of stopping the BP oil spill arrived at the disaster scene in the Gulf of Mexico today, as authorities struggled to control oil breaching an island wildlife preserve… (via The Guardian.)
As Oil Spill Looms, New Orleans Plays the Waiting Game Again: Unsure what to do as oil continued to creep toward the Louisiana coast, the percussionist Shannon Powell left his shotgun house in the Tremé section this week and lighted five candles at St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square. He said prayers for New Orleans, then played his usual nighttime jazz gig at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter… (via NYTimes.com.)
From Air, BP’s Chief Sees Progress in Containing Spill: As a crew prepared to lower a giant steel container 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface Thursday evening to capture oil leaking from a ruptured well, the top executive of BP said he was not actually counting on it to work… (via NYTimes.com.)
BP sends giant box to contain Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Oil giant BP says it hopes the 90-tonne device will help to contain the oil.
The US is to carry out a controlled burn of some of the leaked oil. But the oil reached a beach for the first time on Thursday, officials confirmed… (via BBC News.)
History of BP Includes Role in 1953 Iran Coup After Nationalization of Oil: As tens of thousands of gallons of oil continue to spew into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP oil spill we continue our series on BP. Sixty years ago, BP was called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. We look at the story of the company’s role in the 1953 CIA coup against Iran’s popular progressive Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadegh… (via Democracy Now!.)
BP to lower 100-ton chamber to stop oil flow from ruptured well: The 100-ton concrete and steel box that remains BP’s best hope of containing the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was lowered towards the ocean floor today amid acrid fumes from thick layers of crude oil… (via The Guardian.)
Deepwater team attempts to put ‘cofferdam’ over blown-out oil well: ‘Cofferdam’ has never been used in such deep waters but may be quickest way stop loss of 200,000 gallons of oil a day… (via guardian.co.uk.)
Workers on Oil Rig Recall a Terrible Night of Blasts: Nearly 50 miles offshore at the big oil rig floating on a glassy-calm sea, a helicopter landed early on the morning of April 20, carrying four executives from BP, the oil company. The men were visiting the Deepwater Horizon to help honor the crew for its standout safety record… (via NYTimes.com.)
Containment Effort Inches Closer to Target in Gulf: A giant steel container meant to capture oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico was lowered to within 200 feet of the seafloor on Friday afternoon, officials said… (via NYTimes.com.)
Oil spill latest: The cost of clumsiness: As of Thursday, over 70 lawsuits have been filed against BP and Transocean, with the potential for thousands of claims. The new estimate for the clean-up operation is a whopping $23 billion, however it appears an acoustic trigger that doesn’t fall under mandatory government legislation could have prevented the oil slick.
In theory, the trigger, which costs $500,000 to install could have been activated remotely, and likely could have been operated by the fleeing workman once the fire took hold of the Deepwater Horizon rig… (via GDS Publishing.)
How big is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?: Thousands of tonnes of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico after the disaster at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig over two weeks ago. But how does this leak compare with the largest offshore spills on record?… (via BBC News.)
Funnel ‘placed over’ Gulf of Mexico oil spill: A giant concrete-and-steel funnel has been placed over a blown-out oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in a bid to contain oil leaking from it… (via BBC News – video of funnel being lowered into place.)
Oil companies’ history of ducking safety improvements before big spills: In the last half-century, three major oil spills have significantly marked American politics—the 1969 Santa Barbara, Calif., spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, and now the 2010 spill in the Gulf. They have a striking thing in common: Each occurred after the oil industry successfully resisted demands for safety improvements that would have greatly reduced the damage the spills caused. These technological fixes either were already standard or would later become so—and mandatory. By fighting them off in the short-term, the oil companies cost themselves huge amounts of money and the rest of us an environmental debacle… (via Slate Magazine.)
Better Oil Dispersant Tests Delayed in Gulf: A promising alternative to the highly toxic oil dispersant being used in the Gulf is finally being tested, but slowly.
Dispersit was approved 10 years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency for emergency cleanup use. In lab comparisons, it’s twice as good at breaking down South Louisiana crude oil as Corexit 9500, the primary dispersant used by British Petroleum and the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s also half as toxic… (via Wired.com.)
Gulf Wildlife ‘Dead Zone’ Keeps Growing: Experts who assessed the Exxon Valdez disaster describe how the Gulf oil spill could affect birds, reptiles, shrimp, fish and other wildlife… (via Discovery News.)