I don’t think the Obama Administration has been dragging its feet in plugging up the gusher, but they get a mixed report from me on their handling of the cleanup.
Admittedly, the decision to leave British Petroleum in charge of the leak appears to have been wise. No one else really has any idea how to plug it up, and no one else has the equipment to do it. The clean-up is a separate story.
As Rachel Maddow pointed out recently, there have been no advances in oil well capping and spill clean-up technology in 30 years, and we knew 30 years ago that the technology we had did not work. We were going into this mess with gusher busting tactics that have proven to fail and clean up methodologies that may cause more of a mess than they clean up.
What is the wisdom, for example, of allowing them to use dioxin to disburse the oil? Less oil and more carcinogens does not seem to me to be a good environmental trade off. There are mechanical means of keeping the oil off the land although its easier said than done. There are biological tools for eliminating the oil once it makes landfall. The drawback to the bugs is that they retain the heavy metals and return them to the food chain… like we didn’t already have enough inedible seafood. Still it’s better than dioxin, a toxin, which would not necessarily eliminate oil from the beaches at all.
There has been a lot of coverage of exotic ways to clean up the mess. There is the Kevin Costner machine that can separate oil from seawater. Apparently this is being tested and Costner’s company says they can have more than 20 machines deployed and cleaning more than 2 million gallons of water a day. There is the guy from Florida who says a little straw or hay will clean a lot of oil out of the water. Apparently some hay is being used, but not in great quantities.
The former President of Shell Oil suggested bringing in a fleet of oil tankers to vacuum up the oil from the ocean floor. This guy says it has been done successfully at least once. BP has one of its own tankers on site sucking up oil. Why not more?
I recognize that the government cannot make miracles, but it’s hard to be patient when I see obvious solutions laying around not being used. The tanker solution seems real obvious to me, and BP has a fleet of them on hand on the gulf. If the government is really in charge can’t they order them to strap on a few hoses and start sucking? Can the government rent a few tankers, deploy them and send the bill to BP? (Do other oil companies have an opportunity to scarf up some free oil here? IS BP trying to save all the oil for its own purposes? Does the oil sucked up belong to whom ever does the sucking? Is this an issue?)
And why test Costner’s machines? If they don’t work, can they make the mess any worse? Why doesn’t the government order their deployment?
So much to do, so little time. Someone needs to be thinking fast and thinking outside the box.