Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Oil Spill?

What Oil Spill?

Did you guys hear the news? BP closed up the oil well. Now for the first time since April there isn't oil gushing out of the ocean floor and into the gulf. Man oh man, I'm sure glad that's all over with. Let's wash our hands and go home! Well, at least that's what BP is doing as they're scaling back their cleanup efforts.
BP Fires 10,000 Cleanup Workers

New BP CEO Bob Dudley wasn't kidding when he announced last week that it was time for the company to scale back oil-spill cleanup operations. In fact, by the time he'd said that, the responder force had been drawn down by about 25 percent.

On July 13, the Deepwater Horizon Joint Command was reporting 46,000 responders. On July 23, it was down to 30,000, and the numbers have hovered around the low 30s since. Included in this tally are some Coast Guard and National Guard staff, but BP and subcontractors comprise the vast majority. (I've been trying to get the exact breakdown from the Coast Guard for four days, but to no avail, and BP said it didn't have it on hand, though the Coast Guard has told me it just reports BP's numbers.) In Grand Isle, Louisiana, cleanup workers (none of whom can be named; you know this drill by now) say their coworkers were either told to go home for Tropical Storm Bonnie and then never called back or fired in a massive and sudden drug test.

"Friday, the day before Bonnie, they sent a bunch of people home until further notice, and a lot of people didn't get the further notice," one supervisor told me. "Then last week, they shut the whole [cleanup operation] down. It was 'Piss in a cup or throw your ID in the bucket.' This was a BP drug test, not a [subcontracting] company drug test. It's the first time BP tested us."

A BP spokesman told me that all its subcontractors are required to drug test their cleanup employees and allow BP to do random checks itself; it just happened to do one of those checks last week. But the cleanup workers believe the company's motivation was to fire a bunch of people fast. Maybe it's because they're conspiracy theorists. Or maybe it's because the subcontractors had long had openly lax substance-abuse standards. "Most of those people had never been drug tested before," the supervisor told me. "I worked for two different subcontractors that didn't test me." He also pointed out that the local bar's parking lot is nightly full of company cars and drunk guys who drive them; one cleanup worker I met had a picture in his phone of beer cans in the cupholders of cleanup vehicles in broad daylight. "They wanted to get rid of people, and drug testing was a good way to do it. I used to supervise 30 guys; now I've got 10."

The scaleback is set to continue. Supervisors say they're supposed to break down to just a "skeleton crew" by the end of September, so hopefully the media myth that there's no more oil anywhere comes true. "Everything still changes day to day," the supervisor told me. "You don't know when a bunch of oil's gonna pop up."
It shouldn't come to anyone surprise that after months of pumping dispersant into the gulf we're real shocked that we're not finding oil on the surface. It's not like BP used millions of gallons of a substance designed to hide the visible effects of the spill, no-siree. It's like nature is magically taking care of it all. In ten years, this is just going to be one of those "oh yeah, well that happened" sort of event and BP will still have yet to pay any claims.

So this was pretty much their plan the whole time. To go ahead and dump enough corexit so there wouldn't be oil on the surface. Recall that the EPA told BP to stop dumping it in the ocean because it's as toxic as the oil. This way during the flybys, which are the only things that the media cares about, would show a small part of the true extent of the spill. Put a nice drape over a mess.

Then again, I'm pretty sure anyone who saw them pouring corexit like if it was sugar in tea thought it was really, really, really obvious. Take for example the front page of CNN. See if you can spot the coverage that the oil spill is getting....

You see that? That is all that remains of the oil spill in the American conscious.

Everything people really remember and get upset about when it comes to oil spills are the slicks. Beaches and animals and people and ocean covered in black, like with the Valdez and recent Chinese pipeline spill. Dispersant prevents those images from ever being a possibility, making BP's life immensely easier.

It doesn't help that the public has the attention span of a gnat. With the local "experts" and authorities will cover since they're practically in their pocket already, and that the administration isn't willing to make a fight of this as long as money keeps flowing and it drops out of sight quickly, and that the people that care are so disgusted with this that they move on, knowing that as long as they're part of the system they'll never be able to overcome this and they're unwilling to sacrifice their own lifestyle to affect real change.

It's all about the pretty pictures that help keep things in the public's mind. So if the oil was never dispersed and we could see an oil slick the size of Utah sitting on the gulf and heading ominously toward expensive vacation property, you bet your ass that would be on the news every second or every day. But now that they can go "Look, you can't see any oil!" then there's nothing left to really complain about.

Check out this video from 8/6 of what appears to be the skandi rov #1 being buffeted by currents of... well, shit, I don't know. Maybe silt, methane hydrates, water displaced by seafloor upwellings? And for at least five minutes straight.

I'm not sure if it's just me but it seems like a real, honest oil cleanup would take years and constant vigilance to protect endangered areas, but I think most people didn't expect BP to hang around forever. I suppose Southern LA hoped they would, but I can't blame them for it. But this is an increasingly quick withdrawal from the region leaving LA's environment and economy. Much like any hurricane, the local population is left to pick up the pieces.

I just have to ask who is going to be chowing down on gulf seafood once it gets the all clear from our agencies who regulate it. I bet dollars to donuts that some folks are going to go fishing in Lafitte and cook whatever attaches itself to their hook and eat that shit right up. No way in hell I am.

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