Monday, July 19, 2010


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THE GULF WELL IS STILL LEAKINGThe announcement that the Deepwater Horizon Well Head has been capped is being blared all across ABCNNBBCBS with headlines "oil no longer gushing into gulf." Among the more naive, it may be understood if they have the impression the problem is over (except for the cleanup) because that is the impression being sold to the public.

But is it reality, or is it politics? There is no question that the Gulf Oil disaster is not going to help Democrats retain their hold on Congress come November. Senator David Vitter points out, correctly, that President Obama has a vested political interest in convincing the public that the problem is over, so that it will fade from public memory in the three months from now until the elections.

Yes, British Petroleum and Transocean screwed up, but it was Obama's administration which failed to get the problematic US Minerals Management Service to properly exercise their job of oversight and safety inspections on the Gulf drilling rigs. MMS had been scandalized going back to 2008 for doing favors for and accepting gifts (including sexual favors) from the oil companies they were supposed to be keeping an eye on. In some cases, MMS let the oil companies fill out their own safety reports! The US Government knew what was going on and even issued a report on the problems with MMS.

Obama had over 400 days in office to do his job os getting the government to do their job, but failed in his primary task of taking care of this country, apparently too distracted with his love of Israel to pay attention to what was going on closer to home.

Obama makes a good show of rushing down to the gulf to "kick ass" and act like he is taking care of the situation, but in truth his job was to prevent such disasters from happening, not pose like a firefighter standing heroically over the wreckage after-the-fact.

Obama needs the Gulf Oil disaster to go away because it will be an election loser for the Democrats if the public is still thinking about it in November. Obama himself may be untouchable in this election because he is not running, but the public thirst for vengeance will find easy targets in Democratic candidates.

The announcement of the attempt to cap the well this last week was greeted with stunned amazement among experts (not on BP's payroll). After all, BP had admitted back in May that the drill pipe and well casing had at least one leak 1000 feet below the blowout preventer; the reason the Top Kill procedure had failed.

CNN reported on two other potential leaks at 9,000 feet and 17,000 feet.

Back in June, video from the Remotely Operated Vehicles on the ocean floor spotted oil leaking up from fissures in the sea floor near the well.

That the drill pipe itself was destroyed in the initial methane "kick" that ignited the platform fire was underscored by the fact that two sections of the drill pipe had been jammed up inside the blowout preventer.

Common sense (and engineering) will tell you that if you have a pipe with leaks, putting a cap on one leak simply drives the oil out the other leaks. From an environmental perspective this makes no sense, because the oil is still leaking out of the well, just in a different place. Of greater concern is that the oil can flow out into the surrounding rocks the way the mud did during the failed Top Kill procedure, forming what is called a subsurface blowout. This is a huge bubble of oil inside the rock. The danger is if the bubble ruptures and the oil collected over 80 days of leakage rushed to the surface of the gulf all at once. Such a surge of oil could easily engulf and founder the surface ships.

Capping a well with known leaks below the surface really serves only one purpose, and that is to present to the media video images showing the well is capped, so that they can reassure the public the problem is over and please vote Democratic-or-you-are-just-being-a-racist.

But the hard reality being withheld from the public is that the problem is not fixed. The leak has not been stopped, it has just been moved out of sight. The camera feed of the capped well head will be shown constantly to assure Americans that all is well and lull us back to a useful torpor. No other views from around the well will be allowed.

Except that the cat is already out of the bag!

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