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Leak and Consequences?

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Obama approved expanding oil exploration and drilling off the coasts of the United States - drill baby drill! Then the 40th anniversary of Earth Day dawns with a burning oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven are missing - presumed dead. The platform topples and sinks to the sea bed. One thousand barrels of oil a day (roughly 42,000 gallons) escape from the broken well head with estimates that it could take three months to plug the leak.

Hey! let's do this everywhere! The Arctic Ocean and off the coast of Alaska where the conditions are far more extreme and the environment is also incredibly fragile. Yes. Drill baby drill. Getting the oil and natural gas (and coal) are worth any cost.

Of course, now the news has changed. President Obama has placed a moratorium on exploratory off-shore drilling until the investigation into this incident is done. That 1,000 barrel oil leak has been upgraded to 5,000 barrels a day - or a quarter million gallons of oil into the Gulf a day. There are no real estimates of how long it will take to stop three leaks from this one well. (Don't you think there is a certain irony to calling 5000 barrels oil a day blasting into the Gulf of Mexico a "leak." ) The media is doing the usual - not challenging outright lies. The clip below is from MSNBC Nightly News for April 29, 2010 (full segment). In this 30 second clip, the BP representative boldly claims that "No one in the history of the industry has ever had to fight a leak 5,000 feet down."

This flash video was removed for security reasons

Now that isn't really true, and there is at least one very recent example. In November of 2009, the Montara oil leak in the Timor Sea off the coast of Australia was finally stopped after leaking an estimated 300-400 barrels a day for more than two months. As with the BP leak, the Montara platform caught fire, but that was after the leak - not before it. That raises the question of which came first with the Gulf platform - the leak or the fire. Also, the Montara platform did not collapse into the sea. However, the Montara leak was also deep water - namely it was almost 1.5 miles down, and not the supposed 1 mile of the BP well.

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Currently, the leak is big news as it hits the sensitive U.S. coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico. However, this leak could continue for months - and into the depths of hurricane season. Do you think we will get the ongoing reports of what is happening with the "leak," or with the 250,000 gallons of oil per day that will flow unchecked into the Gulf? Somehow, I doubt that. Just as the "recovery" from Hurricane Katrina has largely slipped off the public radar.

The Montara well was owned by PTTEP Australasia which is a company based in Thailand. They have refused to release final report from their leak, but the Montara well was insured, but the capping operations reportedly exceeded their insurance. I have seen no reports thus far regarding how much insurance BP has on their platform. Perhaps we should put BP in touch with PTTEP for a few pointers on dealing with a deep drill "leak." Perhaps we should ask MSNBC why they don't challenge blatant lies from officials (corporate or political).

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Biodiversity survey of the Montara field oil leak. World Wildlife Fund.


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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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