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Put a sock in it

Oil spill, oil spill, oil spill…the words have been a running chorus in the soundtrack to global current affairs in the past few months. Now BP says they have put a massive cap on it, and eureka – after 87 days of mayhem – no oil spill. However, it is important not to tune it out and gain perspective on the matter. At this time of year, the Gulf of Mexico (if there is no hurricane threatening it) is a hot-bed of fish such as trout and snappers, shrimp, and birds such as terns and pelicans, and bobbing porpoises. Instead, the waters have been a silent, black mass.

On centre stage, a veritable sparring match between the US and the UK has been taking place since mid-April when the spill began. The estimates rose from 1,000 barrels or 42,000 gallons/day to 19,000 barrels/798,000 gallons in mid-May. The piece de resistance came at the beginning of July, when an internal BP document came to light; it appears that their best case estimate was actually 60,000 barrels/2.5 million gallons per day.

The worst? 100,000 barrels/day i.e. approx. 4.5 million gallons. Every news item has been reporting different figures, some in barrels, some in gallons, alongside the titles: ‘Worst Oil Spill in US History’. However, it is quite another story if one investigates the worst oil spills in world history.

The current #1 title holder is a deliberate spillage in 1991. Iraqi forces attempted to prevent American soldiers from landing during the Gulf War by opening valves at an offshore oil terminal: 380-520 million gallons. Back to our oil spill: 2.5 million gallons a day x 87 days = approx. 213 million. The current #2 is the Ixtoc 1 oil spill at 140 million gallons. Therefore, surprise, surprise BP is the #2 oil spill in world history, and that too, not using BP’s own secret worst case estimates. You heard it here first.

Whilst the environment has been victimised stage left, in the press the most lambasted, harpooned and pretty damn near beheaded character has been Tony Hayward, UK BP CEO. I personally find it hard to believe that one man could have been responsible but there you have it: somebody has to be. In the initial uproar, Obama was assailed in the press for doing “nothing”. In a poll, 69% of Americans were unhappy with him. He then decided to turn tack, making public comments saying he wanted to know whose “ass to kick”. His officials began referring to BP as “British Petroleum” – a name the company had not used since 1998. BP is based in London, and has a British chief executive, however, 39% of BP’s shares are held by US institutions and individuals and 40% of the shares are UK-owned, according to a BBC news report. This peeved the Brits no end. The British PM, however, in Tony Blair-style took Obama’s side all the way much to his fellow Brits disgust.

The crucifixation was back on Tony Hayward, who kept doing ridiculous things like making comments on Facebook saying, “I want my life back,” and going on leisurely sailing events. Then, Tony Hayward disappeared from sight backing out of a keynote address at a World National Oil Companies Congress in London, with BP not disclosing his whereabouts. The guy was probably having a meltdown.

Apparently, BP purchased top internet search terms such as ‘oil spill’ in an attempt to heal its reputation. Desperate measures indeed. The fact that an oil-rig worker came forward couldn’t have helped. He said that weeks before the blast, he informed BP and Transocean, the rig’s owner, about a leak on the rig’s safety device – called a “blow-out preventer” – which he says was switched off rather than repaired.

In the mud-slinging, the name Transocean has been mysteriously left out of American criticism when, in fact, they are the world’s largest offshore drilling company and were the ones BP had contracted when this catastrophe occurred. The UK press has made it a point to mention that they have an American chief executive.

Now, about this blowout preventer (BOP). This is supposed to, well, prevent blowouts really and is has been under as much scrutiny as Tony Hayward. The BOP, the size of a five-storey building, did not do its job. One theory has been that someone forgot to change the batteries – no joke.  Another, that the BOP, built by a US firm Cameron to specifications by Transocean, was faulty in the first place. According to the Telegraph UK, problems have since been reported with two BOPs on Transocean drillships operating off India. It seems the BOP is now going to get up and say Colonel Mustard did it in the kitchen with the candlestand.

But wait…what about the actual problem? The, oh, million of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The thing is, they weren’t able to figure out how to stop it. The dummy’s solution, Giant Caps did not work; robotic submarines didn’t work; the 100,000 gallons of dispersant didn’t work; burning the oil didn’t work; the Riser Insertion Tube Tool or RITT (look it up) zilch; the ‘Top Kill’ method, essentially blasting mud and joining agents through a manifold into the BOP and down the drill pipe, given a 60 to 70 percent chance of working by Tony Hayward, failed. Then things got extremely bizarre.

According to New Generation Oil & Gas magazine, the Russians had suggested from the very beginning detonating a nuclear bomb a mile or so into the Earth’s crust to stem the flow as a grand idea. Apparently, they have implemented five successful Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNE) attempts in the past. However, all five of the Soviet detonations were used to extinguish gas well fires in natural gas fields, on dry land, not sealing oil wells gushing liquid wells offshore, where the atmospheric pressure is much greater.

At the beginning of July, Obama had sent in five nuclear physicists to assess the situation. One of them was 82-year-old Richard Garwin, who designed the first hydrogen bomb. Previous attempts to install a 75 ton cap on the leak failed, and in June BP categorically said that if it tried to cap the leak, the whole well could blow. Now we are told, all is well. However, if all is well, then why is BP trying to silence the press as reported by ABC, FOX and other sources? It has also been reported that they have people spamming on Twitter to thwart searches carried out for say: Oil Spill Media Blackout. Non-mainstream media sources report that all is far from well, as there is damage beneath the sea floor, that the low pressure indicates a leak and that the pipe casing is weakened and the cap is pressurising all of the layers of strata in between the oil reservoir and seafloor. With BP trying to influence the media and also offering bonuses and lucrative pay to Gulf scientists with silence as the condition, it is not possible to trust their reassurances particularly as the second they reported the cork was plugging the hole, their shares rose for the first time in three months.

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