Remember that vanishing oil?

October 18, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

More here.

How the GOP’s stone age mentality and loyalty to big oil cost them a midterm landslide

October 7, 2010 by Peter · 1 Comment 

On August 7, 2010, Drudge blared: BP OIL LEAK: ‘The Disaster That Never Was.’

That was the crowning moment of a cynical and duplicitous campaign by oil companies and the Obama administration to bury the Deepwater Horizon leak and conceal profound and lasting damage to the Gulf. The motives of the former: money. The motives of the latter: politics.

As early as June, Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone broke open the story of how the White House had bungled the Gulf spill:

Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency’s culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP – and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez.

Since then, numerous articles and blog posts have been published chronicling the brazen – and largely successful – effort on the part of BP and the administration to spike the spill. This clip encapsulates much of that reporting:

I started writing about  what I tagged “Gulf Denialism” in August, when it became clear that the mother of all teachable environmental moments was becoming the mother of all transgressions shoved down the memory hole. Here are a few links/excerpts:

August 20:

I can think of few things more irresponsible and reprehensible than gambling with humanity’s future by pretending that our actions have no consequences. This is about the world my daughter will inhabit, so it’s as personal as it gets for me. And it is truly disturbing that rather than use the Gulf calamity as an inflection point and an opportunity to wake the country out of its environmental stupor, a Democratic administration would aid and abet oil companies in ‘disappearing’ the BP spill. It’s obvious why the White House and Democratic leaders don’t want to discuss the dangers and damaging effects of the spill: it’s bad for their electoral prospects in November. How utterly cynical and craven. … If Republicans weren’t in the pocket of oil companies, we’d be seeing the most serious crisis this administration has faced.

September 2:

Apparently the effort to bury the BP disaster hasn’t stopped reality from intervening: “An oil rig has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana, with 12 people overboard.” Further details: “The platform is owned by Mariner Energy. Many of the crews that responded to the blast are those in the area for the cleanup of the BP oil spill, which followed the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20. According to Mariner Energy’s website, the company engages in deepwater drilling in the gulf, including “higher-risk, high-impact projects that have the potential to create substantial value for our stockholders.” Despite the best efforts to pretend the Deepwater Horizon spill simply vanished, it’s just a matter of time before we face another such calamity. What will it take for us to wake up?

September 12:

This jaw-dropping piece from Fortune, BP walks back its role in the gulf oil spill, should have all Americans steaming mad: “As the last tar balls settle on the bottom of the Gulf, it looks like BP may have some extra cash on hand. The company might not have to pay all of the $20 billion in claims, incoming BP (BP) CEO Bob Dudley told analysts on Monday. This is the latest move in BP’s ongoing effort to back out of the spotlight since the spill.”

September 14:

We live in an age of denial, willfully suffocating the life out of our planet, our only home, while pretending everything will turn out just fine. It is irresponsibility and selfishness on a cosmic scale. The following photo, distributed by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is instantly iconic. It depicts a river of dead sea life and it will haunt you after a single glance:

September 17:

As soon as the White House and Democratic leaders conducted polls and focus groups and determined that a continued focus on the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe would harm their electoral prospects, the fate of the spill was sealed. With the help of BP’s massive spin operation, it was shoved down the memory hole so fast that the epic event and surrounding issues didn’t even warrant a mention at President Obama’s recent press conference. The cornerstone of the effort to obliterate the story was a hastily released government report that claimed most of the oil had vanished. That report has now sprung more leaks than the original rig, with numerous indications that the damage to the Gulf is profound and lasting.

In a September 18 post called the Age of Denial, I tried to put Gulf Denialism in a larger context:

America is in an Age of Denial, a time in which intolerable injustices are widely ignored, from preventable hunger, poverty and disease to irreversible environmental destruction to the global oppression of girls and women. It is an age where wealth disparities are at record levels, where a war based on lies and deceptions that resulted in unimaginable carnage is heralded as a success, where the assault on basic rights and liberties is greeted with a yawn — if not a cheer.

It is a time when a minor celebrity infraction receives more attention than an epidemic of sexual violence in which young girls have their insides shredded with broken bottles and sticks of wood, when a sports game arouses more passion and emotion than a million babies dying.

This denialism afflicts the entire nation, not one party, not one particular group, not one ideology.

Many liberals stand by while a Democratic administration affirms and cements the worst excesses and overreaches of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, authorizing extra-judicial killings, indefinite detention and rendition, among other egregious practices. They stand by as a catastrophic oil spill is purposely scrubbed from public awareness because it has an adverse effect on Democratic electoral prospects. They stand by as the lies and deceptions that led America into Iraq are forgiven and forgotten and the Republican architects and purveyors of those lies are lauded by Democratic leaders. They stand by as obscenely rich bankers are bailed out at the expense of struggling taxpayers.

Conservatives stand by as their leaders callously exploit fear and xenophobia. They stand by – or worse, participate – as rightwing blatherers spew an endless stream of hateful invective across the airwaves. They yearn for war, war and more war against an ill-defined enemy. They traffic in jingoistic soundbites and call it patriotism and stand in defense of a Constitution they haven’t bothered to read. And perhaps more destructively than anything else they say, do or deny, they willfully toy with our future by pretending that the wholesale ravaging of the environment has absolutely no effect.

Which brings me to today’s NYT report:

The Obama administration failed to act upon or fully inform the public of its own worst-case estimates of the amount of oil gushing from the blown-out BP well, slowing response efforts and keeping the American people in the dark for weeks about the size of the disaster, according to preliminary reports from the presidential commission investigating the accident. The government repeatedly underestimated how much oil was flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and how much was left after the well was capped in July, leading to a loss of faith in the government’s ability to handle the spill and a continuing breach between the federal authorities and state and local officials, the commission staff members found in a series of four reports issued Wednesday.

This confirms what many writers and activists suspected and warned about. The political ramifications are significant. If the GOP were not beholden to big oil or living in the stone age on environmentalism, they could ride this to a midterm landslide. That’s not to say that they won’t have a very successful election, even a historic one, but that this epic transgression by the White House could have inflicted near-fatal damage to Obama’s poll numbers and to Democrats’ standing and greatly enhanced Republican prospects.

After all, lying to the country about a matter that affects the fate of humanity, squandering a chance to revitalize the environmental movement and save countless lives, are monumental failings.

Fortunately for Obama and Democratic candidates, the right is hamstrung and simply can’t take political advantage.

Unfortunately for the planet, we’ve lost an unprecedented moment and are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Next time, it may not be so easy to spike.

The Age of Denial

September 18, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

America is in an Age of Denial, a time in which intolerable injustices are widely ignored, from preventable hunger, poverty and disease to irreversible environmental destruction to the global oppression of girls and women.

It is an age where wealth disparities are at record levels, where a war based on lies and deceptions that resulted in unimaginable carnage is heralded as a success, where the assault on basic rights and liberties is greeted with a yawn — if not a cheer.

It is a time when a minor celebrity infraction receives more attention than an epidemic of sexual violence in which young girls have their insides shredded with broken bottles and sticks of wood, when a sports game arouses more passion and emotion than a million babies dying.

This denialism afflicts the entire nation, not one party, not one particular group, not one ideology.

Many liberals stand by while a Democratic administration affirms and cements the worst excesses and overreaches of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, authorizing extra-judicial killings, indefinite detention and rendition, among other egregious practices. They stand by as a catastrophic oil spill is purposely scrubbed from public awareness because it has an adverse effect on Democratic electoral prospects. They stand by as the lies and deceptions that led America into Iraq are forgiven and forgotten and the Republican architects and purveyors of those lies are lauded by Democratic leaders. They stand by as obscenely rich bankers are bailed out at the expense of struggling taxpayers.

Conservatives stand by as their leaders callously exploit fear and xenophobia. They stand by – or worse, participate – as rightwing blatherers spew an endless stream of hateful invective across the airwaves. They yearn for war, war and more war against an ill-defined enemy. They traffic in jingoistic soundbites and call it patriotism and stand in defense of a Constitution they haven’t bothered to read. And perhaps more destructively than anything else they say, do or deny, they willfully toy with our future by pretending that the wholesale ravaging of the environment has absolutely no effect.

On the last point, David Roberts of Grist provides insight:

However muted denialism may have gotten in the late 2000s, it has come roaring back … Climate denialism is part of something much broader and scarier on the right. The core idea is most clearly expressed by Rush Limbaugh:

We really live, folks, in two worlds. There are two worlds. We live in two universes. One universe is a lie. One universe is an entire lie. Everything run, dominated, and controlled by the left here and around the world is a lie. The other universe is where we are, and that’s where reality reigns supreme and we deal with it. And seldom do these two universes ever overlap. … The Four Corners of Deceit: Government, academia, science, and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit. That’s how they promulgate themselves; it is how they prosper.

The right’s project over the last 30 years has been to dismantle the post-war liberal consensus by undermining trust in society’s leading institutions.

The decline in trust in institutions has generated fear and uncertainty, to which people generally respond by placing their trust in protective authorities. And some subset of people respond with tribalism, nationalism, and xenophobia. The right stokes and exploits modern anxiety relentlessly, but that’s not all they do. They also offer a space to huddle in safety among the like-minded. The conservative movement in America has created a self-contained, hermetically sealed epistemological reality — a closed-loop system of cable news, talk radio, and email forwards — designed not just as a source of alternative facts but as an identity. That’s why conservatives catch hell when they’re skeptical of climate skepticism. They’re messing with tribal cohesion and morale.

It’s a species of theater, repeated so often people have become inured, but if you take it seriously it’s an extraordinary charge. For one thing, if it’s true that the world’s scientists are capable of deception and collusion on this scale, a lot more than climate change is in doubt. These same institutions have told us what we know about health and disease, species and ecosystems, energy and biochemistry. If they are corrupt, we have to consider whether any of the knowledge they’ve generated is trustworthy. We could be operating our medical facilities, economies, and technologies on faulty theories. We might not know anything!

Roberts captures the frightening implications of denialism, a breakdown of trust in our basic institutions, an ideological war against facts and science, a kaleidoscopic skewing of national priorities. This is America in the Age of Denial.

What’s most troubling is that when you confront a denier, they’ll deny that they’re in denial.

UPDATE: Bob Herbert writes about the denial of our economic reality:

The movers and shakers of our society seem similarly oblivious to the terrible destruction wrought by the economic storm that has roared through America. They’ve heard some thunder, perhaps, and seen some lightning, and maybe felt a bit of the wind. But there is nothing that society’s leaders are doing — no sense of urgency in their policies or attitudes — that suggests they understand the extent of the economic devastation that has come crashing down like a plague on the poor and much of the middle class.

The American economy is on its knees and the suffering has reached historic levels. Nearly 44 million people were living in poverty last year, which is more than 14 percent of the population. That is an increase of 4 million over the previous year, the highest percentage in 15 years, and the highest number in more than a half-century of record-keeping. Millions more are teetering on the edge, poised to fall into poverty.

More than a quarter of all blacks and a similar percentage of Hispanics are poor. More than 15 million children are poor.

The movers and shakers, including most of the mainstream media, have paid precious little attention to this wide-scale economic disaster.

UPDATE II: The spiking of the Deepwater Horizon spill — the ultimate example of today’s denialism — comes full circle with this jaw-dropping story:

While BP plans to permanently abandon its stricken well in the Gulf of Mexico, with little but a plug left at the top, it may yet make use of the reservoir of oil and gas that the well tapped into.

Experts say that there are no technical or commercial reasons why BP — or another company if BP is wary of the political or public-relations repercussions — could not eventually produce oil from the formation, which BP once estimated contained about 50 million barrels of oil. The well spewed only about one-tenth of that amount, according to government estimates.

“The bottom line here is that this reservoir still remains a target for further production,” said Tadeusz W. Patzek, chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas.

Dr. Patzek said he thought the formation might contain even more recoverable oil and gas, “but whether it’s 50 million or 100 million, that’s still a pretty decent target,” with potential revenues in the billions of dollars.

Through a spokesman, BP said it was too early to say what would become of Mississippi Canyon Block 252, the nine-square-mile plot about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast where the well was drilled. But in August, Doug Suttles, the company’s chief operating officer, while saying the stricken well and two relief wells would be abandoned, left open the possibility that the company might drill in the area again.

“There’s lots of oil and gas here,” he said at the time. “We’re going to have to think about what to do with that at some point.”

A Gulf where the only things able to survive are jellyfish and bacteria

September 17, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

As soon as the White House and Democratic leaders conducted polls and focus groups and determined that a continued focus on the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe would harm their electoral prospects, the fate of the spill was sealed. With the help of BP’s massive spin operation, it was shoved down the memory hole so fast that the epic event and surrounding issues didn’t even warrant a mention at President Obama’s recent press conference.

The cornerstone of the effort to obliterate the story was a hastily released government report that claimed most of the oil had vanished. That report has now sprung more leaks than the original rig, with numerous indications that the damage to the Gulf is profound and lasting.

On September 10th, NPR published this story:

Scientists on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico are finding a substantial layer of oily sediment stretching for dozens of miles in all directions. Their discovery suggests that a lot of oil from the Deepwater Horizon didn’t simply evaporate or dissipate into the water — it has settled to the seafloor.

The Research Vessel Oceanus sailed on Aug. 21 on a mission to figure out what happened to the more than 4 million barrels of oil that gushed into the water. Onboard, Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, says she suddenly has a pretty good idea about where a lot of it ended up. It’s showing up in samples of the seafloor, between the well site and the coast.

“I’ve collected literally hundreds of sediment cores from the Gulf of Mexico, including around this area. And I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said in an interview via satellite phone from the boat.

Joye describes seeing layers of oily material — in some places more than 2 inches thick — covering the bottom of the seafloor.

This past week, at a University of Florida panel discussion, scientists warned about a grave threat to the Gulf’s resources:

Oil-soaked birds may be the iconic image of the BP spill, but marine biologist Edith Widder said equally tragic events occurred offshore out of sight of the public. The spill’s impact extends to aquatic species already on the brink of devastation, she said, such as Atlantic bluefin tuna that spawn in the area affected by the oil.

“It isn’t just water. This is part of our living ecosystem,” she said. “And what we have to recognize is this is the life-support system for our planet.”

Widder, senior scientist and CEO at the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, compared the spill to pushing on a light switch. If the switch flips, she said, the rich diversity of species in the Gulf will be replaced by a system in which the only things able to survive are jellyfish and bacteria.

In our Orwellian political environment, it’s no wonder that a historic spill could be spiked so easily. Sadly, making the story disappear won’t make the damage disappear.

Instant icon: a photo of Biblical power that defines a generation

September 14, 2010 by Peter · 2 Comments 

We live in an age of denial, willfully suffocating the life out of our planet, our only home, while pretending everything will turn out just fine. It is irresponsibility and selfishness on a cosmic scale. The following photo, distributed by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is instantly iconic. It depicts a river of dead sea life and it will haunt you after a single glance:

Here’s a close-up:

Here’s context:

What you see above isn’t a rural gravel road. It’s a Louisiana waterway, its surface completely covered with dead sea life — a mishmash of species of fish, crabs, stingray and eel. New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL-TV reports that even a whale was found dead in the area.

Fish kills are fairly common along the Gulf Coast, particularly during the summer in the area near the mouth of the Mississippi, the site of this kill. The area is rife with dead zones — stretches where sudden oxygen depletion can cause widespread death. But those kills tend to be limited to a single species of fish, rather than the broad sort of die-off involved in this kill.

And therein lies the concern of Gulf residents, who suspect this may be yet another side effect of the catastrophic BP oil spill.

Ignore this story: scientists discover thick layer of oil on Gulf seafloor [Update: BP walks back its role]

September 12, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

I’ve written extensively about gulf denialism, the corollary to climate denialism:

Exxon was a prominent member of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, one of the first industry groups established in 1989 to refute findings of the then-newly formed UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since Exxon’s 1998 merger with Mobil, the oil giant has spent $23 million on stoking opposition to climate action, Greenpeace said. It continues to fund 28 groups that run denial campaigns, according to the report, though the oil giant is hardly alone in betting against climate change.

The report said that the think tanks at the forefront of challenging the science of warming — such as the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — receive a majority of their climate-related funds from a raft of utility, coal, oil and car interests.

…I can think of few things more irresponsible and reprehensible than gambling with humanity’s future by pretending that our actions have no consequences. This is about the world my daughter will inhabit, so it’s as personal as it gets for me. And it is truly disturbing that rather than use the Gulf calamity as an inflection point and an opportunity to wake the country out of its environmental stupor, a Democratic administration would aid and abet oil companies in ‘disappearing’ the BP spill.

It’s obvious why the White House and Democratic leaders don’t want to discuss the dangers and damaging effects of the spill: it’s bad for their electoral prospects in November.

In that context, you can see why this explosive story will go absolutely nowhere:

Scientists on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico are finding a substantial layer of oily sediment stretching for dozens of miles in all directions. Their discovery suggests that a lot of oil from the Deepwater Horizon didn’t simply evaporate or dissipate into the water — it has settled to the seafloor.

The Research Vessel Oceanus sailed on Aug. 21 on a mission to figure out what happened to the more than 4 million barrels of oil that gushed into the water. Onboard, Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, says she suddenly has a pretty good idea about where a lot of it ended up. It’s showing up in samples of the seafloor, between the well site and the coast.

“I’ve collected literally hundreds of sediment cores from the Gulf of Mexico, including around this area. And I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said in an interview via satellite phone from the boat.

Joye describes seeing layers of oily material — in some places more than 2 inches thick — covering the bottom of the seafloor.

“It’s very fluffy and porous. And there are little tar balls in there you can see that look like microscopic cauliflower heads,” she says.

It’s very clearly a fresh layer. Right below it she finds much more typical seafloor mud. And in that layer, she finds recently dead shrimp, worms and other invertebrates.

So far, the research vessel has traveled in a large “X” across the Gulf within a few dozen miles of the well. Scientists have taken eight sets of samples, and Joye says they all contain this layer. It’s thin in some places, inches thick in others. Eventually, scientists hope to collect enough samples to figure out how much oil is now settling to the seafloor.

“It’s starting to sound like a tremendous amount of oil. And we haven’t even sampled close to the wellhead yet,” she says.

UPDATE: MSNBC has more on the ‘Slime highway’ of BP oil:

Samples taken from the seafloor near BP’s blown-out wellhead indicate miles of murky, oily residue sitting atop hard sediment. Moreover, inside that residue are dead shrimp, zooplankton, worms and other invertebrates.

“I expected to find oil on the sea floor,” Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine sciences professor, said Monday morning in a ship-to-shore telephone interview. “I did not expect to find this much. I didn’t expect to find layers two inches thick.”

If it is BP oil, it could undermine the federal government’s estimate that 75 percent of the spill either evaporated, was cleaned up or was consumed by natural microbes.

What the scientists do already know is that the oil is not coming naturally from below the surface.

“What we found today is not a natural seep,” Joye wrote in her blog on Sept. 5 when the first surprise sediment was found.

Kate Sheppard comments:

Joye is not the first to report finding oil on the Gulf floor; researchers from the University of South Florida reported last month that oil has been collecting below.

This of course makes it even more clear that the government’s claim last month that the “vast majority” of the oil was gone in the Gulf is simply not true. By all indications, our understanding of where the oil went is still far from complete.

UPDATE II: This jaw-dropping piece from Fortune, BP walks back its role in the gulf oil spill, should have all Americans steaming mad:

As the last tar balls settle on the bottom of the Gulf, it looks like BP may have some extra cash on hand.

The company might not have to pay all of the $20 billion in claims, incoming BP (BP) CEO Bob Dudley told analysts on Monday. This is the latest move in BP’s ongoing effort to back out of the spotlight since the spill.

Quick, flush this down America’s memory hole

September 5, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

One of the stupefying realities of our time is that there’s nothing that can’t be dumped down America’s memory hole. Whether it’s an epic oil spill or a war based on lies, America has an incredible capacity to make unpleasant facts vanish.

Does it matter what Iraq cost us in blood and treasure? Not anymore. The war is officially gone and forgotten and this inconvenient article will get flushed away in short order:

Writing in these pages in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration’s 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.

But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war’s broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.

Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict’s most sobering expenses: those in the category of “might have beens,” or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only “what if” worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?

The answer to all four of these questions is probably no. The central lesson of economics is that resources — including both money and attention — are scarce. What was devoted to one theater, Iraq, was not available elsewhere.

Quick, flush.

UPDATE: Twelve killed in suicide assault on Iraq army base.

UPDATE II: Frank Rich nails it:

In recent polls, 60 percent of those surveyed thought the war in Iraq was a mistake, 70 percent thought it wasn’t worth American lives, and only a quarter believed it made us safer from terrorism. This sour judgment is entirely reality-based. The war failed in all its stated missions except the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

While we were distracted searching for Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Iran began revving up its actual nuclear program and Osama bin Laden and his fanatics ran free to regroup in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We handed Al Qaeda a propaganda coup by sacrificing America’s signature values on the waterboard. We disseminated untold billions of taxpayers’ dollars from Baghdad’s Green Zone, much of it cycled corruptly through well-connected American companies on no-bid contracts, yet Iraq still doesn’t have reliable electricity or trustworthy security. Iraq’s “example of freedom,” as President Bush referred to his project in nation building and democracy promotion, did not inspire other states in the Middle East to emulate it. It only perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian logjam it was supposed to help relieve.

For this sad record, more than 4,400 Americans and some 100,000 Iraqis (a conservative estimate) paid with their lives. Some 32,000 Americans were wounded, and at least two million Iraqis, representing much of the nation’s most valuable human capital, went into exile. The war’s official cost to U.S. taxpayers is now at $750 billion.

Of all the commentators on the debacle, few speak with more eloquence or credibility than Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University who as a West Point-trained officer served in Vietnam and the first gulf war and whose son, also an Army officer, was killed in Iraq in 2007. Writing in The New Republic after Obama’s speech, he decimated many of the war’s lingering myths, starting with the fallacy, reignited by the hawks taking a preposterous victory lap last week, that “the surge” did anything other than stanch the bleeding from the catastrophic American blundering that preceded it. As Bacevich concluded: “The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget.”

Bacevich also wrote that “common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment.” Americans’ common future demands it too.

Another Gulf rig explodes – Vermilion Oil Rig 380

September 2, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

Apparently the effort to bury the BP disaster hasn’t stopped reality from intervening:

An oil rig has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana, with 12 people overboard… U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough tells CNN that all 13 workers involved in the rig explosion are accounted for, but one person is injured.

Further details:

The platform is owned by Mariner Energy. Many of the crews that responded to the blast are those in the area for the cleanup of the BP oil spill, which followed the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20. According to Mariner Energy’s website, the company engages in deepwater drilling in the gulf, including “higher-risk, high-impact projects that have the potential to create substantial value for our stockholders.”

Despite the best efforts to pretend the Deepwater Horizon spill simply vanished, it’s just a matter of time before we face another such calamity. We’re getting one warning sign after another, from Pakistan floods to Russia fires to the Gulf spill to record temperatures, but heeding none of them. If anything, denialism is stronger than ever. What will it take for us to wake up?

UPDATE: And here we go

The Coast Guard is saying that a mile-long oil sheen is spreading from the site off an offshore petroleum platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.

UPDATE II: Interesting data from Lindsay Beyerstein:

Another oil rig has blown up in the Gulf of Mexico. The Vermilion 380 is owned by Mariner Energy which was recently purchased by by Apache Energy, according to Think Progress. Together, these two companies have paid $745,000 in fines to the Minerals Management Service in 2010 alone, according to my review of public records.

UPDATE III: More disappearing oil:

The Coast Guard is backing off its earlier report that an oil sheen about a mile long was spreading following a platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

The hateful psychology of climate alarmists

August 22, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

I’ve written about the pathology of climate and gulf denialists, now here’s a look at the psychology of a climate alarmist:

  1. Hates cooking (herself)
  2. Hates breathing (filth)
  3. Hates swimming (in flood waters)
  4. Hates people (who condemn her kids by denying reality)
  5. Hates freedom (to pollute, to drill, to spill, to despoil)
  6. Hates silence (when the future is at stake)
  7. Hates wealth (at the expense of well-being)
  8. Hates pleasure (at the expense of responsibility)
  9. Hates intelligence (in the service of greed)
  10. Hates politicians (for being cowards on the gravest threat facing humanity)

With that in mind, here’s an example of a climate alarmist in action:

Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. And there is no way out. The 10,000-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt. And humankind, which thought it was given dominion over the Earth and all living things, will be taught a painful lesson in the necessity of balance, restraint and humility. There is no human monument or city ruin that is more than 5,000 years old. Civilization, Ronald Wright notes in “A Short History of Progress,” “occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone.” Bye-bye, Paris. Bye-bye, New York. Bye-bye, Tokyo. Welcome to the new experience of human existence, in which rooting around for grubs on islands in northern latitudes is the prerequisite for survival.

We view ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies, chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry, arms manufacturers and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did in Copenhagen, take us to mass extinction? It is too late to prevent profound climate change. But why add fuel to the fire? Why allow our ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?

…We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem. Decisions about the fate of the planet and human civilization are in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls such as BP’s Tony Hayward. These political and corporate masters are driven by a craven desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of human life. They do this in the Gulf of Mexico. They do this in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where the export-oriented industry is booming.

The leaders of these corporations now determine our fate. They are not endowed with human decency or compassion. Yet their lobbyists make the laws. Their public relations firms craft the propaganda and trivia pumped out through systems of mass communication. Their money determines elections. Their greed turns workers into global serfs and our planet into a wasteland.

So hateful.

What is Gulf Denialism and why is it a potential crisis for the White House?

August 20, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

Gulf Denialism is the corollary to climate denialism, which Greenpeace explains in this detailed report:

Current efforts to deny climate science are part of an organized campaign that dates back 20 years, when the fossil fuel industry first formed a lobbying apparatus to stifle action on global warming, the environment group Greenpeace said on Wednesday.

In a report titled “Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science,” the group accused ExxonMobil of being the ringleader of what it called a “campaign of denial.”

Exxon was a prominent member of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, one of the first industry groups established in 1989 to refute findings of the then-newly formed UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since Exxon’s 1998 merger with Mobil, the oil giant has spent $23 million on stoking opposition to climate action, Greenpeace said. It continues to fund 28 groups that run denial campaigns, according to the report, though the oil giant is hardly alone in betting against climate change.

The report said that the think tanks at the forefront of challenging the science of warming — such as the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — receive a majority of their climate-related funds from a raft of utility, coal, oil and car interests.

I’ve been pretty blunt about the anti-environmental movement:

Of all the wrongheaded ideas proudly trumpeted by America’s right, anti-environmentalism occupies a unique position: it is at once the most devoid of a rational or moral foundation and the most dangerous. It is selfish, crass, illogical, willfully blind, a denial of the undeniable reality that humans are pillaging irreplaceable natural resources and spewing filth into the air and water and soil at unsustainable rates.

Green-bashers stubbornly negate what is directly before them. In the face of irrefutable evidence that environmental degradation is a mortal threat, they put their hands over their ears, shut their eyes and scream, “Not true!” This isn’t about good faith questioning of science, much as these naysayers pretend it is. It isn’t about genuine skepticism, much as they want to believe it is. There is no moral imperative underlying their belief (or lack thereof). It’s about unbridled hostility at the suggestion that we must all make shared sacrifices. It’s about refusing to acknowledge that the environmental movement has been right to sound the alarm. It’s about laziness. And greed. And irresponsibility. And colossal shortsightedness. Forget about the tragedy of the commons, this is the abject and gleeful refutation of common sense.

…This is our only planet. It’s the only place we can survive. We can’t afford to take chances. We can’t afford to do anything less than everything in our power to rectify the problem. We have no choice but to be alarmists — there’s no second chance. We get it wrong and we’ve doomed our children and their children. For what? Because we don’t want to recycle? Because we don’t want to stop polluting? Because we don’t want to bother making sacrifices? Because we don’t want some eager young kid who cares about the earth to dictate to us? Because we don’t like Al Gore? How profoundly selfish can someone be, to deny what they see with their own eyes: car fumes, bus fumes, truck fumes, factory fumes, chemical waste, human waste, toxins coursing through our waterways, in our food, filth we create in immense quantities turning our planet into a garbage dump. If anything, we should be outdoing one another trying to address the issue, not smugly questioning the need for action under the guise that the science is imperfect. Reversing the damage we’re doing to the earth should be a priority for every citizen. Instead, environmentalism is treated like an annoyance that the media will occasionally poll about and that we bring to the fore once every April.

I can think of few things more irresponsible and reprehensible than gambling with humanity’s future by pretending that our actions have no consequences. This is about the world my daughter will inhabit, so it’s as personal as it gets for me. And it is truly disturbing that rather than use the Gulf calamity as an inflection point and an opportunity to wake the country out of its environmental stupor, a Democratic administration would aid and abet oil companies in ‘disappearing’ the BP spill. It’s obvious why the White House and Democratic leaders don’t want to discuss the dangers and damaging effects of the spill: it’s bad for their electoral prospects in November.

How utterly cynical and craven. But reality has a way of intruding whenever politics trumps principle:

Two congressmen on Thursday questioned why the Obama administration made a major announcement about what happened to the oil in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month without the science to back it up .

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey demanded that NOAA surrender the data and algorithms behind its increasingly controversial estimate, so that independent scientists could assess the credibility of its conclusion that the vast majority of the oil BP spilled in the Gulf is gone.

At a subcommittee hearing he chaired, Markey said the report was premature, has led to false confidence, and could be flat wrong.

…According to two congressional sources who were on the call, Lehr said the decision to release the oil budget to the media was made by the White House — not by administration scientists. Lehr reportedly also said that scientists had concerns about it being released.

Coming along with the capping of the well, it was a public relations coup for a White House eager to get the oil spill story off the front pages, reassert control over a narrative that had gotten away from them, and calm fears.

The White House also spun the report in a particularly favorable way. Deciding whether most of the oil is gone or not depends primarily on one’s views about oil that’s dissolved or been dispersed. When the report came out, administration officials encouraged the view that the approximately 50 percent of oil estimated to be dissolved or dispersed no longer posed a risk — was, essentially, gone. By contrast, some independent scientists have been saying for months that subsurface oil is likely causing massive environmental damage, even if it can’t easily be seen.

Since the oil budget went public, several independent scientists have called for the release of its supporting data. Others have reached their own, conflicting conclusions.

One group organized by the Georgia Sea Grant this week calculated that 70 to 79 percent of the oil remains underwater, and concluded that “the media interpretation of the report’s findings has been largely inaccurate and misleading.”

Scientists from the University of South Florida have found oil deep on the Gulf seafloor that they say may be more toxic to marine microorganisms than previously believed.

And in a major, peer-reviewed article in Science magazine, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Thursday described their discovery in June of a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s about the size of Manhattan.

Furthermore, the scientists found that contrary to the NOAA report, the oil was not “biodegrading quickly”– at least not at that depth.

I’ve been railing against Gulf Denialism for weeks and I’m glad to see that media coverage of this deadly serious issue is ramping up again. If Republicans weren’t in the pocket of oil companies, we’d be seeing the most serious crisis this administration has faced.

UPDATE: watch this PBS report…