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Thread: Scientists Fault Lack of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill

  1. #1

    Exclamation Scientists Fault Lack of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill

    This is so unfortunate. This is supposed to be an administration that listens ton scientists. Wise.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/sc...20noaa.html?hp

    Scientists Fault Lack of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill
    By JUSTIN GILLIS
    Published: May 19, 2010

    Tensions between the Obama administration and the scientific community over the gulf oil spill are escalating, with prominent oceanographers accusing the government of failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope.

    The scientists assert that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies have been slow to investigate the magnitude of the spill and the damage it is causing in the deep ocean. They are especially concerned about getting a better handle on problems that may be occurring from large plumes of oil droplets that appear to be spreading beneath the ocean surface.

    The scientists point out that in the month since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the government has failed to make public a single test result on water from the deep ocean. And the scientists say the administration has been too reluctant to demand an accurate analysis of how many gallons of oil are flowing into the sea from the gushing oil well.

    “It seems baffling that we don’t know how much oil is being spilled,” Sylvia Earle, a famed oceanographer, said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. “It seems baffling that we don’t know where the oil is in the water column.”

    The administration acknowledges that its scientific resources are stretched by the disaster, but contends that it is moving to get better information, including a more complete picture of the underwater plumes.

    “We’re in the early stages of doing that, and we do not have a comprehensive understanding as of yet of where that oil is,” Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA administrator, told Congress on Wednesday. “But we are devoting all possible resources to understanding where the oil is and what its impact might be.”

    The administration has mounted a huge response to the spill, deploying 1,105 vessels to try to skim oil, burn it and block it from shorelines. As part of the effort, the federal government and the Gulf Coast states have begun an extensive effort to catalog any environmental damage to the coast. The Environmental Protection Agency is releasing results from water sampling near shore. In most places, save for parts of Louisiana, the contamination appears modest so far.

    The big scientific question now is what is happening in deeper water. While it is clear that water samples have been taken, the results have not been made public.

    Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told Congress on Wednesday that she was pressing for the release of additional test results, including some samples taken by boats under contract to BP.

    While the total number of boats involved in the response is high, relatively few are involved in scientific assessment of the deep ocean.

    Of the 19 research vessels owned by NOAA, 5 are in the Gulf of Mexico and available for work on the spill, Dr. Lubchenco said, counting a newly commissioned boat. The flagship of the NOAA fleet, the research vessel Ronald H. Brown, was off the coast of Africa when the spill occurred on April 20, and according to NOAA tracking logs, it was not redirected until about May 11, three weeks after the disaster began. It is sailing toward the gulf.

    At least one vessel under contract to BP has collected samples from deep water, and so have a handful of university ships. NOAA is dropping instruments into the sea that should help give a better picture of conditions.

    On May 6, NOAA called attention to its role in financing the work of a small research ship called the Pelican, owned by a university consortium in Louisiana. But when scientists aboard that vessel reported over the weekend that they had discovered large plumes undersea that appeared to be made of oil droplets, NOAA criticized the results as premature and requiring further analysis.

    Rick Steiner, a marine biologist and a veteran of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, assailed NOAA in an interview, declaring that it had been derelict in analyzing conditions beneath the sea.

    Mr. Steiner said the likelihood of extensive undersea plumes of oil droplets should have been anticipated from the moment the spill began, given that such an effect from deepwater blowouts had been predicted in the scientific literature for more than a decade, and confirmed in a test off the coast of Norway. An extensive sampling program to map and characterize those plumes should have been put in place from the first days of the spill, he said.

    “A vast ecosystem is being exposed to contaminants right now, and nobody’s watching it,” Mr. Steiner said. “That seems to me like a catastrophic failure on the part of NOAA.”

    Mr. Steiner, long critical of offshore drilling, has fought past battles involving NOAA, including one in which he was stripped of a small university grant financed by the agency. He later resigned from the University of Alaska at Anchorage and now consults worldwide on oil-spill prevention and response.

    Oceanographers have also criticized the Obama administration over its reluctance to force BP, the oil company responsible for the spill, to permit an accurate calculation of the flow rate from the undersea well. The company has refused to permit scientists to send equipment to the ocean floor that would establish the rate with high accuracy.

    Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, an oceanographer who was among the first to question the official estimate of 210,000 gallons a day, said he had come to the conclusion that the oil company was bent on obstructing any accurate calculation. “They want to hide the body,” he said.

    Andrew Gowers, a spokesman for BP, said this was not correct. Given the complex operations going on at the sea floor to try to stop the flow, “introducing more equipment into the immediate vicinity would represent an unacceptable risk,” he said.

    Thad W. Allen, the Coast Guard admiral in charge of the response to the spill, said Wednesday evening that the government had decided to try to put equipment on the ocean floor to take accurate measurements. A technical team is at work devising a method, he said. “We are shoving pizzas under the door, and they are not coming out until they give us the answer,” he said.

    Scientists have long theorized that a shallow spill and a spill in the deep ocean — this one is a mile down — would behave quite differently. A 2003 report by the National Research Council predicted that the oil in a deepwater blowout could break into fine droplets, forming plumes of oil mixed with water that would not quickly rise to the surface.

    That prediction appeared to be confirmed Saturday when the researchers aboard the Pelican reported that they had detected immense plumes that they believed were made of oil particles. The results were not final, and came as a surprise to the government. They raise a major concern, that sea life in concentrated areas could be exposed to a heavy load of toxic materials as the plumes drift through the sea.

    Under scrutiny from NOAA, the researchers have retreated to their laboratories to finish their analysis.

    In an interview, Dr. Lubchenco said she was mobilizing every possible NOAA asset to get a more accurate picture of the environmental damage, and was even in the process of hiring fishing vessels to do some scientific work.

    “Our intention is to deploy every single thing we’ve got,” Dr. Lubchenco said. “If it’s not in the region, we’re bringing it there.”

    Robert Gebeloff, Andrew W. Lehren, Campbell Robertson and Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting.

  2. #2
    Senior Member TomRL's Avatar
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    Not to let any of the companies involved off the hook, but when one government agency is responsible for enforcing rules and collecting royalties, the conflict of interests is obvious.

    As for scientific inquiry, it has way too often been manipulated for political expediency. Too many times whomever holds the purse strings has the power to selectively publish results or cut off entire lines of inquiry.
    Tom

    "Blessed are the pessimists, for they hath made backups." Exasperated 20:12

  3. #3
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    There are so many things that scream for investigation regarding this incident. However, the thing that is most pertinent to this thread is the desire of the Obama administration to focus entirely on shutting in the well and responding to the surface oil.

    We need to wrest control of this operation from the (ir)"responsible party". It is obvious that BP is so-far calling the shots. It took 23 days and pressure from the congress and media to get even a 30 second video of the undersea release of the spewing crude oil. The "Unified Command" has been under command of BP. While I appreciate that it is industry, not government, that owns and controls the most specialised response resources, the government needs to put a gun to BP's head and keep them focused on the public interest. To date, I've seen little that would suggest that BP isn't placing their corporate interest as their highest priority. BP lost that privilege when that well exploded.

    Mr. President, spare us your outrage and show us some action. Heads need to roll. We need honest answers from our government and ALL the data must be made available to independent scientists. All else is smoke.
    Last edited by Foolish Old; 05-20-2010 at 12:44 PM.
    Foolish

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  4. #4
    Foolish,

    The measure of a president comes in times of crises. So far, I think that the Obama administration deserves only a C-. If they take no action soon, it should be downgraded to a D or F.

    British Petroleum (BP) has a long record of irresponsible and unresponsive practices.
    • In 2000, a BP contractor was convicted to dumping hazardous wate down oil well shafts. BP was fined for not reporting the practice and ordered to create an environmental management plan.
    • In 2005, one of BP's refineries exploded in Texas City, causing 15 deaths, due to gross mismanagement and BP was fined $87 million for 270 safety violations.
    • In 2006, BP shut down oil operations in Prudhoe Bay because they spilled over a million liters of oil in Alaska's North Slope.

    These and many other incidents have resulted in BP being named repeatedly as having one of the worst corporate records for pollution even before the current crisis. In 2002, BP tried to remake its image by investing substantially into wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources. BP is ranked 100th amongst corporations that donate substantial amounts to politicians.

    The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill started on April 20. A month later, the Obama Administration is still behaving like a deer caught in the headlights. NOAA has not sent out any of its research vessels to investigate the spill. Of the fleet of 19 NOAA vessels, 5 are already in the Gulf and apparently not collecting samples. The NOAA flagship research ship was directed to go towards the spill on May 11 (three weeks after the spill and long after the dire impact of the spillage was recognized) and they are still on their way. This is inexcusable.

    The EPA administrator has been "pressing" BP for samples that were collected by boats under contract to BP. What is going on? Why is the EPA administrator pressing BP for the samples instead of having NOAA collect them? From the beginning, BP has been trying to lower estimates of the amount of oil spilled. They clearly have a conflict of interest and would like to minimize the amount. Therefore, it is very important that government vessels be collecting the data. It was not until yesterday that the admiral in charge indicated that they were going to collect samples.

    This oil spill may be Obama's Katrina. Nobody seems to be in charge and it is making Obama look bad. Starting with his announcement earlier in April that he was going to relax restrictions of off-shore drilling to his negligent (hopefully not deliberate) failure to collect data of the oil leak, he is behaving like he is in cahoots with the oil company. This is not the appearance that he wants. Obama needs to appoint somebody intelligent to be in charge and reverse the bad decisions.

    The situation is almost as bad as the current NIH stem cell policy. After promising for years that he would depoliticize embryonic stem cell research and open up NIH funding of stem cell research, he allows a small group of lawyers at the NIH to propose a policy that paid more attention to politics than science, that imposed new restrictions and limited stem cell research in ways that even Bush hadn't thought of doing. Despite thousands of letters from scientists to tell them that the stem cell policy is unnecessarily and unacceptably restrictive, the Obama Administration has not acted to correct this problem. More than a year after Obama signed the executive order supposedly reversing the Bush policy, embryonic stem cell research continues to be as or perhaps more restricted than it was under the Bush Administration. Either somebody is asleep at the switch or Obama doesn't care.

    I sincerely hope that Obama's environmental policies are more enlightened than his stem cell policy. There is general agreement amongst scientists that the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast may well be the worst maritime environmental disaster of the century. Estimates of the spill rate continue to accelerate and now suggests that the amount of oil released into the ocean is equivalent to an Exxon Valdiz disaster every four days and in an ecologically much more sensitive area. The fact that nobody thought to order NOAA vessels to collect data on the spill is not just dumb but downright suspicious.

    Wise.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 05-20-2010 at 04:57 PM. Reason: edited for typographical errors and clarity

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young View Post
    Foolish,

    The measure of a president comes in times of crises. So far, I think that the Obama administration deserves only a C-. If they take no action soon, it should be downgraded to a D or F.

    ...

    I sincerely hope that Obama's environmental policies are more enlightened than his stem cell policy. There is general agreement amongst scientists that the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast may well be the worst maritime environmental disaster of the century. Estimates of the spill rate continue to accelerate and now suggests that the amount of oil released into the ocean is equivalent to an Exxon Valdiz disaster every four days and in an ecologically much more sensitive area. The fact that nobody thought to order NOAA vessels to collect data on the spill is not just dumb but downright suspicious.

    Wise.
    I agree. I was soooo hopeful when he was elected and I know we are light years from where we were under Bush, still Obama needs to take some substantive action right away.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member rdf's Avatar
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    I also agree. Obama needs to send in the Marines, figuratively speaking. He does need to take over the drill-capping operation, as well as the cleanup. He has to boot BP to the curb. Screw the people in Tea Parties who have been bitching about 'big government.' We need some big ass government right now to get this situation under control.

    We need to send in the U.S. military to take complete control of this disaster. BP has been blowing smoke since day one.

    The past decade has proven beyond a doubt that this government is bought and paid for by the Oil corporations. Deregulating them under Bush; allowing the Bush oil people to remain in the relevant agencies after Obama became POTUS; the MMS dual obligations, which allows the perfect setting for corruption; politicians taking big bucks from oil every year; finally, Obama not taking control of the situation and getting rid of BP.

    We need government, period. This proves it. This is the perfect storm - the states that fight for less government now are begging for more government. Obama who should have used government from the getgo once the well blew is waiting on using that very same government at a time it's so dearly needed.

    What a fuckaroo on all sides.

    The only solution is get off the oil teat. Finally and forever.

    I give Obama a D so far on his handling of the situation. I give BP an F.

    Considering the bad economy and an expanding Gulf Coast disaster, along with a few other hot button items, don't be surprised to see some wag the dog on the Korean Peninsula. I know that sounds absurd, but it's a possibility imo.
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  7. #7
    I give him an F. He's kissed big oils ass since he was elected, starting with the appointment of Ken Salazar.

    Why an F? Because he exhibited how well he can react to a disaster after the Haiti quake.

  8. #8
    Obama is getting angry.

    (waiting)


  9. #9
    I think you guys are being too harsh on Obama, and it is driven through your frustration at being out of control.

    Does it remind you of the time after your SCI? Getting mad at Obama is like getting mad at the hospital administrator for not making the doctors fix your SCI.

    The doctors (BP and ALL the other oil company's engineers) are doing the best they can with the limited technology they have.
    The hospital administrator (Obama) can do nothing more than support on his doctors.
    Do you want the hospital administrator to make more visits to the operating room and shout a bit more passionately at the doctors during surgery?

    Ok, its not a perfect analogy. But I do not understand the lack of empathy towards The President and the type of problem we face.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    Big Oil controls the world. Loyal to no country, they own our administration, our congress, our courts, our military and our police. Watch Thad Allen dance to the BP fiddle.

    Research the history of the Exxon Valdez spill. It took 21 years to get Exxon to pay almost nothing. The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled five to three (Alito recused himself because he owned large amounts of Exxon stock) that the surviving (20% of litigants died awaiting payment) fishermen only needed a few bucks each as compensation for having their lives destroyed. The SCOTUS decision was in 2008. The spill happened in 1989. The herring fishery in Prince William Sound has never recovered.
    Foolish

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