no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

BP Gains Exemption to Increase Pollution in Lake Michigan

June 11th, 2010

Editor’s note: Several people have pointed out that the article linked to (below) is from 2007; an important point which I somehow overlooked when drafting this post. I understand that public backlash at the time ultimately may have quashed this exemption. With either of these relevant facts in mind, some of the conclusions drawn below (particularly those related to the timeliness of this “exemption” [which I mistakenly thought to be far more current] and the recent Deepwater Horizon disaster) are no longer appropriate. I believe the core argument remains essentially unsullied by this unfortunate oversight and for this reason, I have left the body of this post unaltered from its original published form.

Yesterday I read that Indiana has granted BP an exemption to anti-pollution laws, which will allow them to dump significantly more pollutants in to Lake Michigan.

Already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes, [BP] can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals.

The EPA and other federal officials, whose are ostensibly responsible for “protecting” the environment, have not objected, despite the fact that regulators admit that they are “unsure about the ecological effects of the relatively new refining process BP plans to use.” Note that “heavy metals” is sanitized language for refining byproducts, known poisons like lead and vanadium, and ammonia is known to cause problems in water ecosystems.

My brother chimed in on FB yesterday, “Nothing like not knowing what you’re doing, but pushing ahead anyway.” Indeed. Not knowing what you’re doing is akin to not know what are the risks and probability of failure, and potential consequences. Which is another way of saying: things could turn out to be way worse than anyone perceives, because nobody knows what the true risk is. Does the Deepwater Horizon ring a bell?

The gulf oil spill as viewed from space

The gulf oil spill as viewed from space via NASA

On that note, new reports indicate that Deepwater Horizon has been spewing far more than the government and BP were previously willing to admit, although I find it extremely hard to believe that they didn’t know the approximate spillage. After all, the State is Big Business, and Big Business is the State. Neither party is looking out for you or yours.

The oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico is even worse than previously thought, with twice as much oil spewing into the ocean than earlier estimations suggested … Most experts believe there is more oil gushing into the sea in an hour than officials originally said was spilling in an entire day … The new figures mean Deepwater Horizon is producing an Exxon Valdez-size spill every five to 13 days. — BP Oil Spill Estimates Double (The Guardian, UK)

This is outrageous to begin with, but even moreso in light of the Deepwater Horizon shenanigans. Then again, it’s par for the course: this is your government, selling you out to the highest bidder. Again.

Tangentially, it was an environmental activist with an armful of pamphlets and a petition about pollution in the Great Lakes which prompted me over two years ago to declare that governments are the greatest threat to the environment, they actively subvert grassroots movements that would preserve ecosystems and actively subsidize, tolerate, or permit evil corporations like British Petroleum to destroy the environment.

Why Didn’t BP Implement “Top Kill” Three Weeks Ago?

May 20th, 2010

It’s been a freaking month since that Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, and oil is still pouring into the gulf at an alarming rate. Although BP initially claimed that 5,000 BBLs per day were flowing into the gulf, some independent scients have estimated that the true volume may be nearly twenty times that much — 95,000 BBLs per day.

According to CBS News, The “top kill” method of plugging the leak (which “involves directing heavy mud into crippled equipment on top of the well, then aiming cement at it to permanently keep down the oil”) may be implemented on Sunday, May 23, although it may take a few weeks for it to work its magic.

According to BP:

The procedure begins with the ‘junk shot’ that is a scientifically-designed recipe of various materials that will create a plug in the blow out preventer and choke off the flow of hydrocarbons. Heavy drilling mud is next pumped in to kill the well then followed with cement to permanently plug the well.

Top Kill Diagram (via BP)
The materials used, in a ‘junk shot’ will include well-known materials such as pieces of tires, golf balls, pieces of rope, etc. Each of these has been proven to fill various sized spaces in the blowout preventer until the flow is stopped. While there is no known perfect ‘recipe’, a number of combinations of materials will be used. This procedure will be pursued until it is successful or deemed to be ineffective.

I get that this is an almost incomprehensibly enormous problem. It’s really uncharted territory, the first of its kind, and so developing and implementing a solution is going to take time, involve a great deal of uncertainty, etc. But you’ve got no business drilling oil if you don’t have a contingency plan, and a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan which can be implemented in a matter of days (not weeks), all of which have either been proven to work under same circumstances, or have been independently analyzed and demonstrated to have an extremely high probability of success.

I don’t care if it’s leaking 5,000 BBLs or 95,000 BBLs or 10 BBLs per day.  If the “top kill” method is the solution which is most likely to work, it should’ve been the very first thing they did after clearing the debris and extinguishing the flaming rig.

No. Questions. Asked. BP should simply not have an option to sit and let things play out, to take their time, to delay in order to salvage the well. If it means that BP has to junk the entire well, then that’s just too damn bad.

Public Law 93-531

March 29th, 2010

On the flight home from Utah in February, I picked up a copy of some hipster zine that some previous Southwest Airlines customer had left in the seatback in front of me.

IMG00135-20100222-1248Thumbing through the pages, I read a brief article about Public Law 93-351 (you can read some history about it here), which was appalling on a number of levels.

What was once thought to be barren desert “only fit for Indians to live on” proved to be rich in oil, coal, uranium, and copper

And so the corporate interests, eager to exploit the land’s mineral rights, successfully lobbied the federal government to install puppet governments (amenable to corporate interests) among the Hopi and Dineh tribes which began selling-out to Uncle Sam about a century ago. Eventually though, that was not enough so they fabricated a dispute between the two tribes and the resultant solution was to force relocation of thousands of natives (in order that the land may be strip-mined for its valuable resources).

This happened in 1974.

If you think even for one second that the U.S. government is above imperialism, that they don’t do this sort of thing and that the complaints coming from the less-developed countries against the American Empire are unfounded, hateful propaganda, I think you’re sadly mistaken.

They’re willing to do this. Right here in the good ol’ US of A.

They’re more than capable of perpetrating atrocities just like this (in reality, probably much worse than this) in resource-rich foreign countries where the brown-skinned population has no effective voice, steward or guardian, and media coverage is slim to non-existent.

no third solution

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