Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Oil spill catastrophe a game changer?

posted by Rod Dreher

Via Andy Revkin’s blog, a Drexel University professor speculates as to how the rolling disaster unfolding in the Gulf will play out:

This could have an enormous political impact. That type of spill size will eventually reach recreational areas, and places where the press can easily document the adverse impacts of the spill. Unlike global climate change, oil spills make for good graphic, and visual coverage, the causal sequence is self evident, and denial is impossible. Think of week after week of oil spill coverage on the nightly news. That is what happened with the Exxon Valdez, which occurred in a remote area. This will make opening up offshore drilling very difficult. Plus it is occurring in an area that is supportive of offshore drilling. When the adverse impacts start hitting the recreation industries of the Gulf coast, the politics could get very interesting.

I don’t see how it’s avoidable that this spill is going to have major, major impact, and not just on the coastal environment. According to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries department, the Louisiana seafood industry is worth $265 billion annually “at the dockside,” and beyond that has a $2.3 trillion economic impact. The state’s budget was already in dire shape, with dramatic cuts to higher education and state services on their way for next year … and now the state is faced with the possible destruction of its fishing industry. The economic pain could be extreme — likewise for the coastal tourism industries in Mississippi, Alabama, still struggling to recover from Katrina, and perhaps even the Florida Panhandle. The entire nation benefits from the oil harvested from Gulf waters, but now the cost of it is going to be borne in a particularly horrible way by Louisiana and neighboring states.
The president has already announced a moratorium on deepwater drilling until we get this disaster sorted. I don’t think anybody can say for sure where all this is going to take the country in terms of energy and economic policy, especially given that the pictures of crude oil hitting beaches and marshes haven’t yet begun to reach the public’s eye. But I do hope that we all give a great deal of scrutiny to how exactly the oil companies, including British Petroleum, talked the government out of making them put additional safety equipment onto those rigs, which government bureaucrats knuckled under to them, and why.
That this event is going to be a game changer is hard to gainsay. But how it will be is an open question. Have any predictions? Let us hear them.



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Alicia

posted April 30, 2010 at 1:36 pm


I hope it will help both Congress and the President make the transition to taking both energy and environmental policy seriously, like adults, rather than in a knee-jerk partisan way. We owe it to ourselves to develop a responsible energy and environmental policy in the 21st century. Moving away from this disaster for one moment, we have recently been reminded of the human costs of not taking mine safety seriously enough.
I hope that in the future, we will realize (as you said) that we cannot trust industries to police themselves or regulate themselves. Human nature is such that people won’t always think through the long term consequences of behavior, but will go with what they think will benefit them the most in the present moment. If people in industries can’t behave like adults, then there needs to be a responsible authority who will hold them accountable. That’s my view.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted April 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm


Palin won’t be mouthing that “Drill, baby, drill” anymore.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted April 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm


I’m puzzled! For decades nothing like this rig disaster . Now, only a few weeks after the President announces that he will allow more drilling and on the near eve of Earth Day, BOOM!. All coincidence????
There are many enviro–terrorist groups operating that have done similar violence–including major arson. Supplies, etc. are always being shipped to rigs. How much security is there on the rigs??
So where is the media’s much vaunted cynicism that lays all domestic violence at the feet of conservatives even before anyone knows the full story (and many wind up being by leftist nuts–as in the Bishop shootings).



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Alicia

posted April 30, 2010 at 2:21 pm


That kind of paranoid thinking is exactly why I steer away from the Left or the Right, Deacon Bresnahan.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted April 30, 2010 at 2:31 pm


“How much security is there on the rigs??”
Much more than you can guess. Rig blowouts happen.
http://www.oilrigdisasters.co.uk/



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Lindsey Abelard

posted April 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm


I can definitely tell you that there is no way anyone is going to be allowed to drill for oil off the West Coast. No one will stand for it as a result of this oil spill.



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possibly a buddhist

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm


@Deacon John M. Bresnahan: correlation is not causation. The blowout also occurred on the day I had a cheese sandwich. Is my cheddar consumption connected to oil rig safety?



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Clive Moebeetie

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Goodbye off shore drilling.
Hello nuclear warfare in the Middle East.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm


Deacon,
Its possible, but highly unlikely. Rig operators take security seriously. Eco-terrorism was a big threat in the 70’s, along with the much more common Leninist type. Some Reagan officials called the Gulf coast America’s soft underbelly. There was actually a specwar security exercise conducted in the early 80’s where mock terrorists (SEAL and SAS types) “hijacked” a rig to test the response of the authorities. Gayle Rivers describes this in his book “The War on Terrorism and How to Win In” (published in 1984). Predictably, the response failed miserably. However, the rig operators themselves took the lesson most seriously.
Alicia,
Government is no better than private industry. In fact, its a lot worse. Private industry can at least be sued when they screw up and cause damage. The federal government has sovereign immunity, meaning you cannot sue it when it screws up. All large organizations are bureaucracies. The larger they are, the more bureaucratic and dysfunctional they are. Since the U.S. federal government is the largest organization in the world, it is among the most screwed up. Just ask anyone who deals with the VA (veterans administration) and they will tell you.
I do not believe anyone who says that the government can “solve a problem”. They cannot. They can only get in the way of productive people, which they do all too frequently.



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Alicia

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm


Hi, Lindsey. I appreciate your perspective, but for me, it’s a matter of checks and balances. Teddy Roosevelt put it that only government was big enough to put some kind of check on the excesses of private industry. When I say we need serious solutions, I don’t mean that “only government can provide those solutions.” We need “cops on the beat” watching private industry, and “cops on the beat” watching the government. And we all need to work together to come up with solutions. (I’m not for big government or small government, I’m for good government.)



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R Hampton

posted April 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

R Hampton

posted April 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm


Something for the conspiracy theorists to consider:
Testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
John F. Amos, President, SkyTruth
November 19, 2009
Oil and gas infrastructure can become damaged and cause oil spills even in the absence of major storms. On July 25, 2009, Shell Oil Co. reported to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center that they had detected a loss of pressure in the Eugene Island Pipeline off Louisiana. Divers found a crack in the 20” diameter pipe at a point about 30 miles offshore, in water about 60 feet deep. 63,000 gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf, a “medium” spill by Coast Guard definition. Radar satellite imagery from NOAA showed the resulting oil slick, which eventually stretched over 15 miles and reached a size of 80 square miles before it was effectively dispersed. Had this break occurred from a point closer to shore, beaches and coastal resources could have been directly impacted, as they were with the 1997 Torch spill from a pipeline just off the California coast. The Eugene Island Pipeline was installed in 1976. In 2009 it began carrying oil produced from Chevron’s new deepwater “Tahiti” platform, situated approximately 190 miles south of New Orleans.



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hlvanburen

posted April 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm


“I’m puzzled! For decades nothing like this rig disaster . Now, only a few weeks after the President announces that he will allow more drilling and on the near eve of Earth Day, BOOM!. All coincidence????”
Maybe God is trying to get his attention?



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Alicia

posted April 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm


Do we really think that BP has the capacity to compensate all of the industries and people in the Gulf Coast who may be devastated by this disaster, to speak nothing of the devastation of wildlife, fish, and human health? I’m not sure even BP has that much money. I’m not sure God has that much money. Is it desirable for BP to go out of business? Possibly, but I doubt it.
Amazingly, better advanced planning and policing of the oil industry might have prevented this catastrophe, but those who favor the unfettered free market above all other considerations would apparently discourage such forethought and regulation.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:20 pm


One possible solution is to require the oil companies that do off shore drilling to post a bond to cover for the liability of such an event, then they can negotiate with their liability insurance provider to ensure that the containment and clean-up equipment is always on-site and available in case such a disaster happens.
It should also be noted that the Exxon Valdez lawsuit has yet to be resolved even though it has been more than 20 years since the accident. The legal system should be shaken up such that such lawsuits cannot be dragged for 20+ years by the defendants. I expect lots and lots of coverage by the legacy media and the internet about this case.



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Alicia

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:04 pm


Important as having insurance might be from a corporate liabilty standpoint, Lindsey, it doesn’t really make up for the destruction to wildlife, local industries, and the environment. Rod referenced the following in his earlier post on this:
“U.S. regulators have considered mandating the use of remote-control acoustic switches or other back-up equipment at least since 2000. After a drilling ship accidentally released oil, the Minerals Management Service issued a safety notice that said a back-up system is “an essential component of a deepwater drilling system.”
The industry argued against the acoustic systems. A 2001 report from the International Association of Drilling Contractors said “significant doubts remain in regard to the ability of this type of system to provide a reliable emergency back-up control system during an actual well flowing incident.”
By 2003, U.S. regulators decided remote-controlled safeguards needed more study. A report commissioned by the Minerals Management Service said “acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly.”
And, Rod said that BP specifically lobbied against these “expensive” safeguards. Bet they wish to God they hadn’t just about now…



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PeterK

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm


first of all take a count of all the rigs currently in the Gulf, now look at other areas where we aren’t such as Mexico, venezuela, Cuba
who can forget Ixtoc 1, which was the last major rig disaster in the Gulf. Look at the record of the oil industry during Katrina and Ike
finally look at what these rigs add to the Gulf
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LhxLMcIIsQ



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PeterK

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm


@Lindsey “ne possible solution is to require the oil companies that do off shore drilling to post a bond to cover for the liability of such an event”
uh Lindsey sweetheart they do carry insurance what makes you think they don’t.
“ensure that the containment and clean-up equipment is always on-site and available in case such a disaster happens. ”
er-uh and where would you put it on the rig. every hear of a blowout preventer? well apparently in this case the blowout preventer failed due to the timing of the cementing operation. It would be nice if folks would do a little research before they post their opinion



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James

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm


This could backfire. There will be those who don’t think of the fumbling the administration is doing now will be merely because they’re in over their heads (my opinion), but because they are once again following the Rahmian axim of never wasting a crisis (postponing effective corrective action until enough damage is done to provide political advantage).



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michael

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:11 pm


Some comments above about eco-terrorism remind me of the high correlation between the paranoid style, and conservative politics/religion.
How it’s a game changer: when the Gulf Coast gets slimed, even Southern Christian conservatives will become environmentalists and won’t vote for the Drillbaby Party.



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Quiddity

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm


There is no way presumed eco-terrorists could have disabled the shut-off mechanisms (that failed, leading to this mess).
I predict this nation will adopt the Norway/Brazil standard for offshore drilling.
But as Rod point out, there will be a lot of hurt. Economic and environmental, ans yes – it’s not in a faraway place like Prince William Sound (which I visited 6 months after the spill – there are very few people in that area, unlike the Gulf Coast. There will be thousands of stories resulting from this oil leak.)



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James

posted May 1, 2010 at 10:38 am


“How it’s a game changer: when the Gulf Coast gets slimed, even Southern Christian conservatives will become environmentalists and won’t vote for the Drillbaby Party.”
No, they’ll wonder why our environmentally conscious president is so slow to respond, call it hypocrisy, and stay red. That’s already a common meme in reaction.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm


Do realize that the Exxon Valdez lawsuit is still on-going, due to delaying tactics. The legacy media is slow to pick up on this, but they will.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted May 1, 2010 at 2:09 pm


Its safe to say that this tragedy will shut down efforts to expand drilling for oil in U.S. territorial waters for a generation. I was ambivalent about allowing it before this accident. Now, I’m even more ambivalent about now I don’t consider myself a “greenie” at all.
This means that we will import even more of our oil. Even if we go for nuclear power, this can only generate electricity which is not very useful for transportation.
I think if we are going to talk about reducing demand (and get into all of the limits to growth stuff) over the long term, that it should be recognized that reduced, or negative, population growth does reduce economic growth over the long run and, thus reduce demand on resources.
We know that feminism and female empowerment in general as well as other social liberalism (like acceptance and normalization of homosexuality) does reduce the birthrate. Since birth rate reduction leads to economic growth reduction and, therefor, reduced demand for resources, it seems to me that all of these things should be promoted. Also, immigration should be reduced or even stopped completely, because immigrants contribute to both population growth (as immigrants) as well a higher birth rates.
The growth problem is self-correcting and that social liberalism is the natural corrective mechanism.
Indeed, the corrective mechanism appears to be global. Birthrates are declining all over the world and even that Islamic Republic of Iran has a below replacement birthrate now.



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Lord Karth

posted May 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm


The eco-freakos in the Throne City will get their ban on offshore drilling. Obama will make a pretty, outraged speech, as will certain of his cronies, both in Congress and the Cabinet.
Many of the elected eco-freakos in the Throne City will get tossed out on their ears after gas prices hit $ 4/gallon this summer.
The ban on drilling will be lifted after the elected eco-freakos get sent home to their mommas. So it was in the beginning, is now, and ever will be, Happy Monkey politics without end, Amen.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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impact is wrong

posted May 3, 2010 at 11:31 pm


Please correct your economic impact numbers. According to the MSNBC story to which you link: “According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the state’s fishing industry is worth $265 million at dockside and has a total economic impact of $2.3 million.” That’s $2.3 MILLION–not trillion. You deleted a prior comment of mine that pointed out the mistake, perhaps because of its mean-spirited nature. You will surely delete this comment, too. But for heaven’s sakes…your credibility is zilch on economic issues if you do not correct this obvious error. I doubt that the entire world fishing industry has $2.3 trillion of economic impact.



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Rev. Daniel W. Blair

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm


As we enter one of the most aggressive hurricane seasons on record, I cannot even imagine what a hurricane would do with oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Dealing with oil on the beach is one thing, but what if we had to deal with it in our streets, in our businesses, in our homes? What if we had to rescue humans covered in oil? What if this is no longer isolated to just the Gulf Coast but found its way up the great rivers to our inner cities? Now imagine if you will, the dispersants mixed with oil which could possibly cause untold diseases and catastrophic health hazards of a biblical proportion. It staggers the imagination, or is it prophetic? What if we are dealing with the wrath of God? Author of Final Warning



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sumin

posted June 15, 2010 at 2:31 am


Planetresource.net has a Eco friendly solution to clean up the tragedy British Petroleum has created, please watch the video animation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60bdQQQ3iVw and pass this along to as many people as you know.
One person can still make a difference in this world, is that simple interactions have a rippling effect. Each time this gets pass along, the hope in cleaning our planet is passed on.



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