Gulf oil spill: angst edition
Photo: U.S. Coast GuardWell, BP has finally lowered the dome over its leaking pipes. It’ll probably be Sunday before crews know whether they can actually start pumping the spewing crude to the surface. While we wonder why the huge containment device wasn’t built, tested, and at the ready all along (doesn’t anybody make multiple backup plans anymore?), and whether the whole dome plan will work at all, the oil, in all its rust-colored sliminess, has made landfall. It began lapping up on the Louisiana coastline early today, raising the anxiety level of residents who can only guess at how bad this disaster will get. So the dread lingers …
For current angst, we turn first to New Orleans, and Susan Saulny, writing for the New York Times:
The echoes of the hurricane are everywhere now: from the map of the gulf showing something ominous moving closer, to the anxiety in the nervous waiting. Another man-made disaster, people say, akin to the levee failures. Residents also complain about a lack of good information, and about how the reports from the gulf keep changing: one day things look better, the next day, the situation looks worse.
For a grim glimpse into one economic and mental health future CNN’s Dan Simon and Augie Martin return to the scene of the Exxon Valdez crime:
The average fisherman suffered a 30 percent loss in income after the spill, but those who specialized in just herring lost everything … Sociologists who spent years around the Sound after the disaster concluded that a fifth of all the area’s commercial fishermen suffered severe anxiety, and as many as 40 percent suffered from severe depression.
Ecologically speaking, well, Brandon Keim, of Wired Science, lays out why, if the oil keeps leaking for another two to three months, the ecology of the Gulf Coast will be changed forever — and not for the better:
It’s not just a single food web that is jeopardized in the Gulf, but an interlocking mosaic of webs. One major component is the underwater sea-grass meadowland that forms a miles-deep fringe along the coastline. These meadows are home to many commercial fish and shellfish species, and are nursery grounds for other migratory fish.
Grist’s Tom Philpott tracked down more info on the dispersants BP is using to break up the oil. Not a pretty picture.
And just how toxic is this stuff? The data sheets for both products contain this shocker: “No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product” — meaning testing their safety for humans.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the disaster bar is high for Obama. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger explains why these days, no matter who’s at fault in a disaster, the president is expected to be all over it.
It is obvious that the Obama White House initially wanted to put distance between itself and that oil spill. And why not? What were they supposed to do? But in a world of political-media blood sport, the politicians understand that their survival means they have to throw someone to the wolves.
But for all the noise coming out of D.C., writes The Atlantic‘s Joshua Green, it all adds up to nothing.
In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, the benefits of clean sources of energy are clearer than ever. What’s so infuriating about the Washington response so far is that there’s no indication the disaster has prompted Obama or anyone else to reconsider his position. In the past, major disasters shifted the terms of debate. This time no one is budging.
And from a Timothy Egan Opinionator column in the New York Times, comes the notion that when it comes to energy, it’s always Groundhog Day in America.
On energy, amnesia is the American way. Things lumber along, 300-million-year-old fossil fuels are pulled from deep inside the kingdoms of desert despots and shipped to our shores. It’s slow-motion suicide, of sorts, to the planet — and I’m no worse or better than anyone else who uses oil for everyday comforts — but we don’t see the wounds until a spill brings it all home.
To close out this gloomy week in style, here’s a “Drill, Baby, Drill” video from Friends of the Earth. Sarah Palin would hate it.