Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Avertible Catastrophe in the Gulf

"The Dutch know how to handle maritime emergencies. In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company’s expense. “If there’s a country that’s experienced with building dikes and managing water, it’s the Netherlands,” says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with “Thanks but no thanks,” remarked Visser, despite BP’s desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer — the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment — unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out."

~Lawrence Solomon in The National Post

HT: Pete Friedlander


At 6/27/2010 12:24 AM, Blogger Audacity17 said...

Barack Obama is personally responsible for this vis a vis the Jones Act.

At 6/27/2010 12:32 AM, Blogger KauaiMark said...

2012 can't come soon enough. We need a leader not a "feel good community organizer"

At 6/27/2010 12:43 AM, Blogger JamesD'Troy said...

As noted 2012 can't come soon enough. At this rate I'm hoping there will be enough of the US and the world left. The frightening part is that if the following story is to be believed, things could get much, much, much worse...

"The First OilCane? What Happens if a Hurricane Rides over the Oil Spill
by Art Horn
Thursday, 24 June 2010

Should a major hurricane push the spill towards the gulf coast there will be nothing that can be done to stop it. No amount of planning or engineering will help. No number of visits to the gulf by the president or any other official will stop the inevitable. The storm surge will drive the water and the oil miles inland. Everything in its path will be coated in a greasy bath of crude. Even the wind may have oil in it. In New England, I have seen hurricanes and tropical storms that have blown salt spray many miles inland from the coast. The leaves of the trees eventually turn brown and fall off. In the case of the gulf it will be oil that will spray the trees, buildings and everything else in the way. How far inland this oily mess will blow is anyone’s guess but it will be unprecedented in its economic and environmental damage."

At 6/27/2010 7:20 AM, Blogger rjs said...

the govt shouldnt be involved...

let the markets handle it...

At 6/27/2010 9:47 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Gosh! I can barely wait for ObamaCare to kick in now!

Hmmm, seems like the administration can't/won't follow federal law...

Chapter Eight:
Oil Spills, Clean Water Act § 311, and the Oil Pollution Act

Clean Water Act
Section 311 - Oil and Hazardous Substances Liability

Yet the Congress/administration are ready to lay even more federal law on the citizens: Obama Internet kill switch plan approved by US Senate

At 6/27/2010 10:27 AM, Anonymous frank said...

We needed the same Bush/Republican type of Hurricane Katrina response for the B.P. oil spill.

The great repsonse to Hurricane Katrina proves beyond a shadow of a doubt a republican president knows how to handle a disaster.

Obama should have called Bush and Brownie because they know how "to do a Heck of A Job" on the oil spill.

At 6/27/2010 10:34 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Frank, Obama should've called Bush for advice:

Debunking the Myths of Hurricane Katrina:

"The response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

While the press focused on FEMA's shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success--especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state."

At 6/27/2010 10:39 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Poor frank...

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials, who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the governor and her emergency operations center...

BTW frank, the oil spill happened in federal waters...

At 6/27/2010 10:49 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

Obama's refusal to accept the help of foreign governments in order to appease a special interest group: his union buddies that bankroll the democratic party's campaigns, is criminal negligence. Bush did not refuse such help.

Thousands are losing their livelihoods but by golly, at least those ships are crewed by union loyalists.

At 6/27/2010 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not feeling good ... Obama is not our leader, he is the president and is failing as a leader

We have an army of dilettantes in charge ... They are clueless, with a ideological blindness

At 6/27/2010 12:02 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Bush’s Katrina Wasn’t Bush’s “Katrina”
June 8, 2010

Aug. 28, Katrina made landfall in Louisiana... Aug. 30, President Bush flew over the crisis, because he thought landing would pre-occupy recovery workers, divert resources and clog up air space. Little did he know that this rational decision would be the impetus for his “Katrina.”

In the first 40 days of the oil spill, President Obama visited the region once...Bush visited New Orleans four days after landfall and then often thereafter, establishing a constant, almost weekly, presence in the region.

New Orleans had experienced devastating floods before, and Governor Blanco told federal authorities they could “handle it.”...President Bush asked Governor Blanco for the legal authority to have federal authorities take over the evacuation of the city. The request was rejected.

Bush wasn’t looking for the first scapegoat available...(and) wasn’t building commissions to study future hurricane effects, but was establishing working task forces for the current crisis.

This isn’t about politics, it’s about the lives and livelihoods of millions of Gulf Coast residents, and the environment that sustains them.

At 6/27/2010 1:02 PM, Anonymous Titus Pullo said...

Isn't the Netherlands a left-wing, socialist country? Funny thing for them to be held up as a role model.

At 6/27/2010 2:21 PM, Blogger bix1951 said...

It is always interesting to consider who is responsible. I like to take responsibility for whatever happens in my face.
unfortunately sometimes when you try to do something positive the "government" will tell you to get a permit or some such
we need laws and we also need men
and we also need reason and compassion

At 6/27/2010 2:23 PM, Anonymous Benny The Man said...

I love this.

The "drill, baby, drill" crowd is angry at Obama, not BP. The worst oil spill by far in US history. It seems unstoppable.

I guess we are deep into "Obama Derangement Syndrome."

Do you think BP should have had some sort of plans about what to do if there was a blow-out? Oh, now everything is the federal government's responsibility?

Besides which, the Jons Act doesn't even apply to oil spills. From the Los Angeles Times,

"The administration and Allen said the Jones Act had not prevented the response team from accepting the offers. In a June 11 news briefing, Allen, the national incident commander, said, "We are more than willing to consider Jones Act waivers," and noted that foreign vessels were being used. A statement issued June 18 said that 15 foreign-flagged vessels were involved in the cleanup, and none required Jones Act waivers.

That's in part because of a specific exemption in the act that can allow for the use of foreign "oil spill response vessels," said H. Clayton Cook, a Washington attorney and expert on the Jones Act."

This is just another urban legend, passed around right-wing circles, that we are somehow refusing help. BP , in fact, has been buying Dutch skimmers, and deploying them, as they should.

Drill, baby, drill. Ya-hoo.

At 6/27/2010 3:17 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

Fine enough. They're complying with the Jones Act.

The rest is just political bickering and targeted demonization.

At 6/27/2010 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benny the Man,

Your post is self refuting. Two quotes from your comment

Besides which, the Jons Act doesn't even apply to oil spills.

In a June 11 news briefing, Allen, the national incident commander, said, "We are more than willing to consider Jones Act waivers,"

1 and 2 both can't be true. You better freshen up your talking points.


At 6/27/2010 5:49 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Uncertainty seems to abound regarding the Jones Act, probably due to confusion among news reporters.

My best understanding is that Dutch Skimmers have fallen afoul of the EPA as they discharge some small amount of oil with water returned to the ocean. That's clearly a violation, and can't be tolerated, so they have been forbidden to operate on the spill.

The Jones Act forbids transporting any product between US locations by foreign ships. This appears to include dredges carrying sand from one coastal location to another to build berms to protect the coastline, according to the US Supreme Court.

As no one in the Obama administration appears to have any experience or expertise in the areas they're responsible for, we should expect this kind of bumbling.

At 6/27/2010 7:54 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

ANWR is way overdue for drilling, along with many other sites less than a mile under the sea:

U.S. Department of Energy

The 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) lies in the northeast corner of Alaska.

Of the 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain, less than 2000 acres would be affected by development.

The Coastal Plain of ANWR potentially holds billions of barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic feet of recoverable gas.

At 6/27/2010 8:04 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Of course, Obama's philosophy is to have the short guy paint the ceiling and the tall guy paint the floor.

At 6/27/2010 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron H,

Small amounts of oil in the water are vastly preferable to a thick mat of oil on the oceans surface.

The EPA failure not to recognize that is increasing the damage the spill has done.

From the linked article

Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water.

Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11

"We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that."

In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."


At 6/28/2010 3:11 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Anon @ 8:28 said:

"Small amounts of oil in the water are vastly preferable to a thick mat of oil on the oceans surface.

The EPA failure not to recognize that is increasing the damage the spill has done.

I agree 100%. I guess when I said:

"That's clearly a violation, and can't be tolerated, so they have been forbidden to operate on the spill."

I must have forgotten to set the < sarc > tag. Sorry. :-)

At 6/28/2010 7:50 AM, Blogger Paul said...


"The "drill, baby, drill" crowd is angry at Obama, not BP."

I don't think anyone exempted BP from criticism, but BP is apparently doing all it can. on the other hand, your boyfriend's incompetence, political cowardice, and lack of interest in the disaster is a huge scandal. If these were Bush's actions you'd be screaming bloody murder.

At 6/28/2010 10:00 AM, Anonymous Hydra said...

if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

By that standard, we are legally obligated to empty the gulf of Mexico.

At 6/28/2010 11:01 AM, Blogger David Foster said...

"Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico"

Does anyone know what level of purity is achieved by the Kevin Costner centrifuge device? Sounds like if it's not 99.9985% (which would be very remarkable to accomplish in huge volume) it will be prohibited from helping.

At 6/28/2010 11:21 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey Paul, consider Sarkozy's opinion of Obama if you need a chuckle...

At 6/28/2010 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron H. said,

I must have forgotten to set the < sarc > tag. Sorry. :-)

Thanks for informing me about the defective sarcasm meter.

I have kicked it and sent in in for calibration.


At 6/29/2010 12:49 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"consider Sarkozy's opinion of Obama if you need a chuckle..."

Well, my opinion of Sarkozy just went up a notch.

At 6/30/2010 5:54 AM, Anonymous Frank said...

Oh yea let's applaud the Federal Governments response to a "National State of Emergency" because only 1,000 plus died.

"Investigation of State of Emergency declaration
In a September 26, 2005 hearing, former FEMA chief Michael Brown testified before a U.S. House subcommittee about FEMA's response. During that hearing, Representative Stephen Buyer (R-IN) inquired as to why President Bush's declaration of state of emergency of August 27 had not included the coastal parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemines.[17] (In fact, the declaration did not include any of Louisiana's coastal parishes, whereas the coastal counties were included in the declarations for Mississippi[18] and Alabama.[19]) Brown testified that this was because Louisiana Governor Blanco had not included those parishes in her initial request for aid, a decision that he found "shocking." After the hearing, Blanco released a copy of her letter, which showed she had requested assistance for "all the southeastern parishes [but not by name] including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting [evacuated citizens]."[20]"

At 6/30/2010 6:35 PM, Blogger RaplhCramden said...

Is this in support of some new form of Libertarianism, where it is not government per se you want to keep away from things like oil spills that can be handled by the private sector, but rather it is the American government that should be kept away?

It is nice to see a blog post here where the implicit message is "we are from the (Dutch) government and we are, in actual fact, here to help you."


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