Saturday, May 15, 2010

the contrarian: Republicans Move To Protect BP

by Dave McGill
May 14, 2010 08:03 PM EDT
It seemed like a no-brainer, yesterday, when Democratic leaders tried to raise the liability limit for companies involved in drilling operations from $75 million to $10 billion. But that was before it ran into Republican opposition and failed to pass.

The American Petroleum Institute had vigorously opposed the effort claiming that it would increase the cost of exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico by 25%. In effectively saying it would be better for the American taxpayer to pony up the money, the institute further claimed that increasing the cap would reduce government revenues, cost thousands of American jobs and threaten our nation’s energy security.

Thus, the oil gushing into the gulf has apparently been matched by the convoluted logic being spewed by those opposing the bill. The insanity may have reached a peak when Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) complained that the “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act,” as she called it, would empower only “the biggest of the big oil companies” to do the deep water drilling.

Hello - isn’t it obvious that when shoddy work results in billions of dollars of liability and cleanup costs, the companies had better be the “the biggest of the big?”

Meanwhile, there are a couple of new wrinkles in the Deepwater Horizon operation that may discourage even the Republicans from protecting the companies involved. First of all, a whistleblower/former oil worker told CNN yesterday that it is common practice for the drilling companies to shortcut the tests called for except when inspectors are present. High pressure tests that are required to be maintained for a minimum of five minutes, for example, are dispensed of within a few seconds, he said.

Secondly, the release of the video of the pipe gushing out the oil has had unintended consequences for the three finger-pointing companies involved. They were probably unaware of a scientist named Steve Werely who has made a career of performing liquid flow analyses and has written a book on flow measurement. Based on his analysis of the video, Werely told National Public Radio and, later, CNN, that the estimate of 5,000 barrels per day that has been floated out by BP is way off the mark. Using a technique called particle image velocimetry, he found that the outflow is, in fact, 70,000 barrels per day with a possible error factor of plus or minus 20%, or somewhere between 56,000 and 84,000 barrels per day.

So, rather than the 210,000 gallons a day that we’ve been told about, the gusher may be unloading more than 2.9 million gallons a day, and if there is a miscalculation of that size, it could explain why the attempted solutions aren't working.

According to Werely’s analysis, the oil flow is the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every four days and, in the 24 days since the disaster started, 70 million gallons may have already fouled the waters of the Gulf.

The McClatchy Newspaper chain reported today that it could take months to contain the problem and it has been reported that the scientific community feels it is not being sufficiently utilized.

Clearly, this already represents an ecological and economic disaster of historic proportions. It is high time for the Obama administration to step in and bring all resources to bear on the problem.

Dave McGill, News Correspondent
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