Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obscurantist Wednesday: June 23 BP Oil Spill Update

1. Oilcast, June 23-25.

Both local TV weathermen and more scientific sources like NOAA are warning that southeast winds and water currents could be bringing the offshore oil sheet closer to Panhandle beaches in the coming days. While it's likely Pensacola Beach will avoid the worst of it, chances are appreciably enhanced that we will be seeing tarballs and orange mousse along the shoreline of local area beaches.

Here's the latest oil forecast report from Mobile's Channel 5: News

2. Pensacola Beach Status.

From Escambia Disaster Recovery:
Reports from Pensacola Beach are that although a dark brown film was seen on the west side of the beach, the relationship to incoming oil has not been determined. The inclement weather hampered the clean-up crews actions.
3. A Visit from the COO.

BP's chief operating office, Doug Suttles, blew through town yesterday to talk to the press. Judging from Paul Fleming's report in the PNJ, he talked mostly about claims and money and accounting procedures. What little Fleming writes of Suttles' remarks about the oil itself is encapsulated in the first three paragraphs:
BP America's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles on Tuesday said he thinks oil damage to the Panhandle will be similar to what already has been experienced, with tar balls coming ashore in scattered spots.

"You're going to see tar balls for a long time," he said.

He said BP crews will continue cleaning up the tar from the beaches, something he described as more manageable than cleaning up oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Another unnamed BP spokesman, Fleming reports, said Monday "that BP had paid 17,083 claims from Florida, for a total of $15.2 million. BP has sent $50 million to Florida for response costs along with another $25 million for a tourism marketing blitz."

The rest of the article reads mostly like oily wind being blown up public skirts.
  • Suttles was awakened in the dead of night April 20 when the BP Deepwater Horizon well blew up...
  • He realizes how "upset" people are...
  • BP "is doing all that it can and is deeply concerned but is learning as it goes"...
  • Poor Mr. Suttles has been called a "liar" and worse...
  • The oil is "ugly" but "we don't have any big quantities of oil out there"...
  • Local governments "will be subject to reimbursement for lost tax revenues that are a direct result of the spill — lost bed taxes on hotel rooms, for instance"...
  • BP 'expects' "businesses that receive compensation will not lay off workers" and it "might" even check records to see for sure...
  • "It feels like a partnership" to him when he works with local governments...
  • And, our favorite: Suttles thinks "people feel comforted" hearing "the same message" "two or three times" and "they don't mind hearing it over and over again."
That would be like BP's message that only 1,000 -- no, we mean 5,000... no, 11,000 -- sorry, 60,000 -- barrels of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf.

The new face of BP seems not to have been asked how large the oil plume beneath the surface of the Gulf waters is, or what his corporate employer calculates to be the total amount of oil that's sloshing around, or how BP proposes to remediate for all the sea life it's been killing, or why BP continues to use the dispersant Corexit, or what dangers are posed by the "dissolved oil" University of West Florida scientists recently found at Perdido Key, or... well, you get the idea. Doug Suttles sat down with Gannett's Tallahassee place-holder for a celebrity appearance, not a news interview, and Paul Fleming obliged.

At BP, the "COO" position no longer has anything to do with operations. The middle "O" stands for obscurantist.

4. A Bargain with the Devil.

Rolling Stone Magazine won't break your bones but naming names will haunt you. Tim Dickinson has a massive article in the June 24 issue ["The Spill, The Scandal, and the President"] that amounts to a collector's item. Buy the issue and save it for your grandkids.

There is, in truth, not much new in Dickinson's report which you don't know if you've been paying close attention to the BP oil catastrophe from the very beginning. Still, Dickinson has put together a powerful narrative of events that names names and indicts just about everyone except the American consumer who is still driving gas guzzlers.

Just about the only hero Dickinson finds is Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Almost everyone else has been playing the obscurantist role we mention above, or worse. Even the scientists he quotes, some by name and others anonymously, do not explain why they didn't publicly blow the whistle earlier.

Among those who really catch it are George W. Bush, MMS, BP Corp., Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, NOAA director Jane Lubchenco, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, and President Obama.
  • Bush and MMS come off as lustful bedmates of the oil industry ("During the Bush years, the Minerals Management Service... descended into rank criminality.")
  • British Petroleum Corp. -- excuse us, "BP" -- is characterized as a sleazy, criminally reckless, corner-cutting predator of the environment with a "deadly mentality." ("The last company on Earth" that should have been allowed "to regulate itself.")
  • Ken Salazar is painted as an Interior Secretary who suffers from attention deficit disorder, someone who started off by cracking down on MMS with "an ambitious agenda to clean up the mess" but soon was distracted by his "highly specific soft spot for offshore drilling" and "put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf... an all-time high." ("Employees describe being in Interior -- not just MMS, but the other agencies -- as the third Bush term.")
  • NOAA director Lubchenco, according to Dickinson's sources, was so thoroughly captured by the "White House spin machine" that she bizarrely hid from the public the true extent of the oil spill even to the point of denying the obvious. ("NOAA has actively pushed back on every fact that has ever come out... .")
  • Rear Admiral Mary Landry, an easy punching bag, was simply "overwhelmed" and "visibly shaken." She also was the first to be shunted aside.
  • As for President Obama, he certainly is guilty of spectacularly bad timing. On March 31 he announced with much fanfare that the administration was proposing to open off-shore drilling "in the Arctic, the Southeastern seaboard and new waters in the Gulf, closer to Florida than ever before." That proud announcement, of course, came just eighteen days before BP's Deepwater Horizon well blew up. As Dickinson acknowledges, the supposed change in drilling policy was mostly political theater, inspired by the administration's hope that promising "drill, baby, drill" beginning in 2012 would win Republican support in the Senate for climate change legislation. "The political calculus is understandable," Dickinson writes, "the risk of an oil spill weighed against the far greater threat posed by global warming." In the end, it proved to be "a bargain with the devil." (Just as, we might add, was the bargaining Obama engaged in to water down health reform and reign in Wall Street's greedy "too big to fail" bankers.)
As we say, it's a familiar cast of characters -- some criminal, some clumsy, some too calculating for their own good. You know them all if you've been paying attention all along.

But have you? Will you continue to do so?

To us, the most ominous feature of Rolling Stone's take-down is how Dickinson views the future of the Obama administration's temporary drilling ban -- the very ban against new deep water drilling which an oil-friendly Louisiana federal judge enjoined yesterday:
Critics of the administration's drilling plans fear that the president's decision to postpone drilling in the Arctic and appoint a commission to investigate the BP spill are merely stalling tactics, designed to blunt public anger about the disaster.

"The way the PR is spinning is once that spill is plugged, then people declare victory," says Rep. Grijalva. "The commission stalls it long enough where the memory of the American people starts to fade a little bit on the issue. After that, we're back to where we were."
Can it be our collective memory will fade so quickly? Is it possible that after electing so many "drill, baby, drill" politicians who made it possible to poison the Gulf of Mexico, Americans will forget and do it all over again?

5. Volunteer Training.

Gulf Islands National Seashore hosts volunteer training for citizens assisting seashore visitors on Saturday, June 26 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Gulf Breeze. For more information call 850-916-3013.

6. Jimmy Buffett Concert.

Tickets for Jimmy Buffett's suddenly announced BP oil spill concert in Gulf Shores, Alabama, go on sale give-away today.
Tickets will be available from or by calling 1.866.448.7849 beginning Wednesday (June 23) at 10 a.m. [CDT] There is a four-ticket limit. Only 35,000 tickets will be handed out.
She Who Must Be Obeyed is perplexed about this. "Why would you need to get a ticket to attend a free concert?" she asks. We didn't have an answer. Anyone else care to explain?

Gates to the July 1 concert will open at 3 p.m. and the music starts at 5 p.m.

7. Road Trip.

We're answering a call for help from an oil-free relative and will be in the skies and on the road with him for a few days. Where we're going is about as remote from oil spills in the U.S. as you can get and our ancient, clunky, overheating laptop may or may not work. So for a few days blogging will be light, if any.

We'll leave a spillcam running with an easy-to-use comment section for readers to use if they'd like to help keep us up-to-date.


Anonymous said...

IMHO, tickets to a free concert could serve at least two purposes. One being crowd control, another being record keeping for Buffet's tax records.

Enjoy your trip! said...

It can't work in fact, that is exactly what I believe.