Friday, April 23, 2010

693 Earth Day

693 Earth Day

Earth Day's 40th anniversary has come and gone and where are we?

There's global warming.

But you can't see the air over New York City anymore.

There was a fire on an oil rig off New Orleans.

But we're all greener than St. Patrick.

A volcano still is spewing ash and lava over Europe.

But the spotted owl is alive and well.

Two headed frogs are taking over the ponds of Minnesota.

But we're driving Priuses.

Let's take a closer look at that oil rig explosion.

Recently, one of the oil companies was running TV ads about some new kind of platform for off shore drilling. The idea was that one relatively small structure could do the work of many if connected properly to several under water well heads. More oil, fewer sticks in the sky above the ocean. More recently a BP-leased platform off the coast of Louisiana blew up, burned for a couple of days and sank. Eleven men remain missing.

Investigators don't yet know what caused the explosion, or at least that's what they're saying. But they have a pretty good idea because this incident is far from unique. Over 100 people got off the "Deepwater Horizon" (who knew they named these things!) after the blast. Better odds there than in the coal mines. The families have been told to expect bad news about the BP-Eleven who haven't been found. And lawsuits already have started.

And so have the cleanup efforts, not there's much to clean up, yet. Robo-boats, underwater cameras, 95 miles of "booms," those skirt-like gizmos that are supposed to surround spilled oil and keep it in its place.

As of this writing, the spill hasn't started in earnest yet, but it's almost inevitable that it will, and soon.

We're going to be seeing pictures of beaches and birds covered in glop and after that, we'll forget about it until the next time. The platform is 50 miles out in the gulf. Hard to spot, maybe impossible, from land. And oil doesn't travel fast. So we'll have to rely on the Coast Guard and on BP for the earliest information. And in cases like this, each is reliable.

We're going to hear that there are valves on the floor of the ocean. There's something kind of arrogant about plumbing fixtures like that. No one knows how much oil will come burbling up, how well the valves can hold back the push from beneath the floor. But we got valves in the ocean.

Reminder: the Exxon Valdez -- a completely different kind of spill, and far larger than this one will be -- took place more than 20 years ago and the cleanup and the lawsuits are not yet over.

What's surprising about this latest incident is that no right wing wacko has yet publicly blamed it on eco-terrorists. After all, it happened on the Tuesday before the Thursday that was Earth Day.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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