This is what 60 days of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico looks like.
This is what reckless disregard for safety and the precautionary principle looks like.
This is what irresponsible energy policy looks like.
This is what the end of Gulf Coast fisheries for the foreseeable future looks like.
This is what government weakened by special interests looks like.
This is what it looks like with the colors inverted, so you can really see the oil.
This is what it looks like when the planet bleeds.
Today is day 64. Good night.
~Southern Fried Scientist
h/t Bad Astronomy
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I’ve been a fan of Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen for a while now. His blog, iCommandant, provided a window into a world few of us glimpse. His openness, honesty, and no nonsense attitude made the iCommandant blog one of the best blogs on the internet. Which is why I began today disheartened to see that he was relieved as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard by Admiral Robert Papp. But that sadness was short lived when it was announced the Admiral Thad Allen will continue serve as National Incident Commander for the Gulf of Mexico.
This Sunday on NPR I heard the following paraphrased comment: “The ROV pilots have never had to deal with anything like this before, no one has trained for the kinds of maneuvers needed to close to well.” I’ve known many ROV pilots. They are all incredibly skilled, know how to handle their robots, and generally have many years of experience working in industrial settings.
But commercial ROV work tends to be monotonous. Many pilots I know spend the vast majority of their time inspecting pipelines and oil rigs, flying over long tracks of seafloor with little to no variation, looking for any signs of damage. When their skills are put to the test, it’s often the same repetitive motion, over and over. Even training simulations to prepare them for catastrophes cannot predict the infinite variations that could occur as an oil-rig collapses. It’s impossible to train for everything.
Until you throw a biologist into the mix.
There’s an elephant in the room as summer arrives on the Gulf Coast: hypoxia season.
This year, it’s a different Gulf, one covered in the largest oil slick in our country’s history. No one is quite sure what the interaction between the oil and hypoxia will be. Best guess is that both stresses will mean the end for most organisms living in the area and that hypoxia will exacerbate problems associated with the spill and hinder recovery by limiting oxygen availability for detoxifying bacteria. However, step back for a minute and speculate on other possibilities: could the oil spill actually be helpful if it prevents or slows the eutrophication process? Could the damages associated with the oil spill be less than those associated with a large hypoxic zone?
A few weeks ago, I attended a public hearing about offshore oil drilling here in Charleston. I filmed the public comment period, and several participants agreed to be interviewed after the hearing ended. I have over 3 hours of footage if anyone is curious about what didn’t make the final cut. Interestingly, only a few participants lived in South Carolina. Oil companies and conservation NGO’s sent people from their Washington, DC headquarters. Most of the people who spoke were affiliated with a conservation NGO or an oil company or conservation NGO, but the unaffiliated individuals (residents of South Carolina) who spoke were all opposed to offshore drilling.
Satellite image provided by NASA