May 28, 2010

Don't Claim Success So Soon: BP's "Top Kill" Effort Far From Over

I've been far more quiet (in general) about the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster that I was the disasters of hurricane's Katrina and Rita, precisely because I know so little about drilling, especially drilling that occurs a mile underwater.

My criticisms of the White House response has also been muted as well, as I don't think they have any more answers, legal authority, or capability to respond to this disaster than President Bush did in the aforementioned storms. I find myself, once again, defending the Office of the Presidency because it is not the ultimate authority on everything (even though President's certainly like to think so, and we do too, when it is time to assign blame). If we're going to criticize the White House for anything, it had to be its actions and inactions before the rig exploded, which can no doubt be traced back to earlier administrations as well.

This disaster is a tough problem to fix, and I'm sure the engineers geologists and workers frantically working on this are doing the very best they can to solve the problem of the gushing oil well a mile below the cold dark waters of the Gulf.

But I was a bit shocked yesterday to see so many news sites and blogs so eager to be the first to trumpet the success of BP's "top kill" attempt. The process is simple, in theory. Pump heavy mud in to the well, and the weight of the mud will eventually overcome the pressure of the oil attempting to escape from deep underground. Once equilibrium has been established, the oil will stop flowing and the well can them be capped by a thick layer of concrete.

By early yesterday, officials were attempting to claim success, even though they had no idea if the attempt worked. The process only had a 60%-70% of working, and we still don't know if it is having the intended effect.

Keep your fingers crossed, folks, but we still don't know of the mud is working, if it is is creating a permanent stoppage, or just forcing the oil to look for another outlet. Even if the mud works, it will be years, perhaps, before we know if the concrete plug has really stopped the column of oil and gas forcing it's way to the surface, or just redirected it.

Hope for the best, but don't assume this is over.

Update: Peggy Noonan, of all people, has a much harsher take on Obama's actions and inactions, and wonders if his illusion of competence can survive:

I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.

There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.

The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 28, 2010 08:10 AM

The dnc propaganda arm HAS to claim success. Otherwise they won't be able to drop it off the front page.
Too long on the front page and even obumble's obots may start wondering why their Lord and Master hasn't done anything except play golf while the Gulf of Mehico fills up with crude.

Posted by: emdfl at May 28, 2010 08:34 AM

Peggy left out another thing, The One has been totally disconnected from the economy. In fact, he seems to be doing everything in his power to assure that a recovery does not happen.

Posted by: David at May 28, 2010 10:19 AM

CY ... We folks here on the front lines {Houston} have been anxiously following the news on the Gulf Oil spill, since it's right on our doorstep, ruining the fishing industry and the lives of the Louisiana fishermen, so to speak. The amount of ignorance and disinformation floating around about the Spill is staggering -- so staggering, as a matter of fact, that the mainstream media seems to be unable to gather facts and put a clear story together. And most of them are too lazy to figure out how to do it.

Speaking as a professional editor and writer, who made her living for more than forty years writing words for money, I can assure you that there is an incredible amount of information available to those who claim to be actual journalists, and who are actually willing to do a little research.

AS someone who has labored in these vineyards before, and who is married to the Public Affairs executive who was the official historian of the Prince William Sound disaster, I'm privy to a lot of accurate information about oil spills, how to prevent them and how to clean up after them.

If I were writing an in-depth article about the Spill, and I were not an oil industry expert, the first thing I would do would be to consult the American Petroleum Institute, the organization which is supported by all, or nearly all, of the oil and gas exploration and production corporations. They are extremely helpful and have masses of documented data which would be extremely helpful in delineating and fleshing out a picture of what is going on down here. Then I would go to an actual library, rather than depending on the Internet, which, while wonderful for quick reference, is kind of an instant hit-and-run resource, good enough to get basic information but not nearly as good as a real book or books to convey nuanced information. Thirdly, I'd talk to the public affairs folks at least one or two of the large oil companies which are based here in Texas, either in Houston or in Dallas, to get still further details.

Then I could sit down and craft an in-depth article which would convey real information which would tell the public just how much trouble we're in and how it will affect the Gulf, our fishing industries and the lives of Americans who live here and enjoy the beauties of this part of the country.

I know, I know. That's a lot of hard work. But it's worth it. This is a real crisis. It affects the lives and futures of a lot of hard-working Americans. It deserves our close attention, and concentrated efforts for a solution. Not just filling out the word count of an article and then forgetting it.

Marianne Matthews

Posted by: Marianne Matthews at May 28, 2010 11:21 AM


You wrote, “I don't think they have any more answers, legal authority, or capability to respond to this disaster than President Bush…”.

He does.

The Feds enacted the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) in 1990 in response to the Valdez incedent. It empowers the Feds to take the lead in response to spills in our waters and off our shores. There is supposed to be a plan. The Feds are supposed to take the lead.

OPA holds that BP will be responsible, but BP has never claimed otherwise. Obama has left them on their own, when he should have been leading the defense of our country’s shores.

He has failed in one of his most fundamental tasks, the protection of our nation from threat.

Click my name for a link to the OPA site, or

Posted by: Gus Bailey at May 28, 2010 12:02 PM

Reference Ms Noonan, it is not illusion of competency. Nothing in Barack Obama's record suggests any executive competency. Rather Noonan et al are guilty believing the delusion of Dim Won's competency. Because Noonan projected a sense of competency on to Obama, she expected him to have been competent

Posted by: DavidL at May 28, 2010 05:50 PM

CY. When they do get it capped, where do you think the oil will escape? The natural seeps in the caprock? Yeah, the place where it already leaks naturally. Between 16 and 20 million gallons a year in the gulf.

Posted by: Matt at June 1, 2010 08:42 AM