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article imageOp-Ed: BP, an oil spill and the brewing storm of complacency

By Lynn Herrmann     May 15, 2010 in Lifestyle
As BP’s current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico quickly turns into the greatest environmental disaster known to humanity, we as a species are faced with painful decisions.
The oil spill, clearly based on lies and deceit and greed, is also based on an uncaring and uninformed and unthinking American population.
To date, BP is officially on record as stating the Deepwater debacle is releasing about 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. But wait, it’s not that bad.
According to British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward, it’s only a drop in the bucket. “"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 states in a moment of far-reaching clarity.
Actually,  BP so far has used about 400,000 gallons of dispersant in that “very big ocean” as it desperately tries to stave off bankruptcy. It has another 805,000 gallons of environmentally non-friendly dispersant on order as it frantically searches for a blanket big enough to aid in its CYA moment of disgust and shame.
Since April 20, 2010, there has been a stream of oil and natural gas spewing forth from the ocean floor. This column is a mile high, or deep, depending on one’s point of view.
New figures obtained by NPR show that, on any given day, since April 20, 2010, there are as many as 70,000 barrels of oil pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These new figures are based on scientific analysis of a brief underwater video released by BP. It is not 5,000 barrels per day, as Hayward and the US Environmental Protection Agency would like for us to believe.
Every four days, since April 20, 2010, close to a million gallons of crude are pouring into a very big ocean. Soon this spill will surpass the Exxon Valdez disaster. “Tiny” indeed.
Although Hayward would like to lead us all on the path toward his company’s 20-year track record involving deep sea drilling, one can clearly see that as nothing more than what it really is: a miserable attempt to justify their desire in having us believe we need their product.
As Plan A (remember way back when they were trying to burn surface oil?) turns to Plan B (skimming oil from the surface) to Plan C (the large dome) to Plan D (the top hat) to Plan E (blowing smoke - actually this one is a combination of all BP plans since day one of the explosion), Hayward informs us on Fox News “we’re learning all the time.”
In that same interview with Greta Van Susteren, he spoke of “levels of redundancy.”
The reality is that, for some of us, this was expected. Seriously, anyone half awake during the last decade should have been aware of the end result of dangling chads, shock and awe and tall buildings imploding in one of the world’s largest cities. Of course the icing on that eight year piece of cake was hope and change.
Add to the above listed fruitcake recipe of disaster a country’s citizens complacent in any desire to think for themselves. Their true desires remain in inhabiting McMansions, driving gas guzzlers (a misnomer for certain, as anything powered by gas is a gas guzzler), and throwing common sense to the wind.
Inter Press Service on Friday published an informative piece touching upon the risk to aquatic life and the upcoming food chain catastrophe. While the EPA plays the game of carefully chosen words (this thing is really getting legal), toxicologist Riki Ott hammers home the end result of oil mixed with ocean water.
Her experience with the 1989 Valdez incident in Alaska resulted in two published books over the matter. She believes the Deepwater incident is far worse than positions that government and corporate agencies are spoon feeding the public.
"BP is trying to say we're winning because oil has not hit the shoreline. That is far from the truth: we're losing. So much toxic oil is spilling every day, they're hammering it with dispersants, another toxic chemical," Ms. Ott said.
"It's too much oil, too fast, not to have a pretty big impact on generations of wildlife that's in the water column. Birds eating shellfish getting sick and dying, marine mammals, land mammals getting sick and dying. You have birds feeding oiled fish to their chicks, the chicks have stunted growth," she added.
Studies of dead herring after the Valdez disaster found parasites normally living in the fish’s stomachs had migrated into muscle tissue to avoid the toxic stomach exposure. This migration led to a weakened immune system for the herring and caused reproductive problems.
Ott explained that “99.9 percent of herring eggs exposed to oil died.” That was then. This is now.
Close-up view of the oil spill from the ASTER satellite from May 3  2010. A new NASA satellite image...
Close-up view of the oil spill from the ASTER satellite from May 3, 2010. A new NASA satellite image shows the extent of the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The close relationship between the open ocean ecosystem and the continental shelf ecosystem will turn the current disaster into one of epic proportions. We’re just too dumbed down to realize it yet.
Nor does much of the populace seem to care.
On May 12, the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hosted a press conference to discuss the BP oil spill. Space will not allow the dissection of statements made by these two agencies in that conference.
According to Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator for the EPA, BP has been given the green light for ongoing efforts to control oil pollution through the use of chemical pollutants. She states: “At current BP has been authorized by EPA and the Coast Guard to use dispersants on the surface of the spill. That came with specific conditions to protect the environment and the health of residents in affected areas.”
One question for Ms. Jackson. Does she really know where the “affected areas” are? Then again, maybe that’s why she’s where she is and I’m where I am.
At issue now is the subsurface use of dispersants to stem the uninterrupted flow of contamination, since nothing else seems to be working. Ms. Jackson states BP has initiated three tests, the first two which were inconclusive, simply because “there have been some logistical issues.” Like how to get dispersants a mile below the ocean’s surface. Results for the third test were unavailable at the time of the press conference.
While Jackson “spent plenty of time breathing the air” during her recent visit to the gulf coast area, it’s a safe bet to say all that fresh air led her to this statement: “We believe that the subsurface use of dispersants could mitigate the impact of the spill without increasing the impact on human health and the environment.”
Much like subsurface coal mining has the same effect.
On the other hand, she adds: “The effects of underwater dispersant use on the environment are still widely unknown.” It’s that age-old right hand-left hand dilemma.
Outrage? That is only part of the press conference. The conference call Q&A session that followed was moderated by the EPA’s Press Secretary Adora Andy and bordered on surreal, if not absurd. Do not take my word, read the transcript for yourself.
For those who truly care, the press conference folks were kind enough to supply us with a list of dispersants approved for use on the EPA’s National Contingency Plan Product Schedule.
According to Jackson, Corexit 9527 and Corexit 9500 are the two dispersants “that have been used to date.” The list shows Corexit EC9527A is formerly Corexit 9527 and Corexit EC9500A is formerly Corexit 9500.
According to Corexit EC9500A’s technical product bulletin #D-4, it has an unlimited shelf life. It can be used in aerial applications. It is applied undiluted in those aerial applications. Typical applications are done at 30 to 50 feet altitudes, although “higher altitudes may be effective under certain conditions”.
The bulletin states one should avoid eye contact, avoid contact with skin and clothing. It suggests use of it in open systems is best done when wearing a long sleeve shirt, chemical resistant gloves, and chemical protective goggles.
Listed under physical properties, its solvents are CONFIDENTIAL. Its surface active agents are CONFIDENTIAL. Its chemical name and percentage by weight of the total formulation are CONFIDENTIAL.
Outrage? Online discussion boards are now filled with too many absurdities to mention. From the justification of off-shore drilling to the blaming of all the earth’s citizens who use oil - knowingly or unknowingly - in some way, shape or form, defending pilferers who make gross and obscene profits from the earth’s natural resources does not carry merit.
That logic dictates all gun owners are responsible for school children shooting one another. That logic dictates new-born babies are just as responsible for the oil spill as are bed-ridden occupants in nursing homes. That same logic suggests everyone who works for a living is responsible for the ongoing greed infesting Wall Street.
That logic throws accountability out the door and encourages an ongoing thievery. It also makes a mockery of our judicial system, as if our elected officials need any help in that regard.
In addition to energy-related CEO’s that President Obama has accused of putting on a “ridiculous spectacle” here is who else to blame: all the countless people faithfully swallowing the regurgitated chum the likes of Tony Hayward and his ilk will happily feed them.
When the time comes to eat those toxic-exposed and parasite-infested fishes from the ocean, it will all be too late. For thinkers and non-thinkers alike.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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