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Archive for the ‘Oil Spill’ Category

Microbes Outsmart Scientists in Gulf Cleanup

Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 11, 2012

The Wall Street Journal this week published a story on how microbes outsmarted the best minds in science.  Back in 2010, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico remaining uncapped for months and spilling 200,000 tons of methane gas and over 4 million barrels of petroleum. Into the Gulf

At the time of the spill many scientists predicted an environmental catastrophe resulting from the pollutants.  It turns out they were wrong.  A study released Monday by the National Academy of Sciences indicated that within a few months most of the underwater methane had been dispersed and by October of 2010 most of the underwater oil vanished.  The miracle came from hungry bacteria.  The spilled materials turned out to be a food source for bacteria.  This led to their population exploding which then consumed the pollutants in short order.

While the study is fairly conclusive and was conducted by respected scientists, this has not stopped some from questioning the results.  One doubter, Ira Leifer of the University of California Santa Barbara, criticized the findings stating that the conclusions were questionable because they were based on a computer modeling “which is only as good as the input or assumptions“.  That is a curious response coming from the same scientific community that depends on computer modeling to “prove” their theory of man-made global warming.  It is remarkable how supposed scientific geniuses demand it both ways.  That may help explain why they were proved wrong by the simplest of life forms.


Posted in Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gulf Microbes Prove More Powerful than Governmental Action

Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 10, 2011

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last April was a catastrophe.  Workers at the well site were killed during the explosion, fisheries were closed, beaches were damaged and many other peoples’ livelihoods were hurt.  These were all predictable results of the massive oil and gas leak into the Gulf.  What was not predicted by the experts was how quickly the Gulf ecologically recovered from the spill.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the amazingly rapid comeback for the Gulf.  The well leaked tons of methane gas into the gulf that scientists predicted would take years to disperse before the Gulf would return to normal.  Instead, it only took months.  The heroes were not government bureaucrats who bungled so much during the months that followed the accident.  The heroes were some of the smallest critters that live on this planet, bacteria.

According to a recently released government funded study appearing on the online journal of Science, microbes occurring naturally in the Gulf have devoured much of the poisonous chemicals found in the natural gas and oil on the sea floor.  In June, measurements of methane showed levels in the water at thousands of times the normal amount.  Current measurements show these readings now to be normal.

The scientific communities surprise at the Gulf’s natural cleanup abilities was echoed by chemical oceanographer John Kessler at Texas A & M, an author of the Science study who said: “We were shocked.  We thought the methane would be around for years.”  Dr. David Valentine, a microbiologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, also said: “Within a matter of months, the bacteria completely removed that methane.  The bacteria kicked on more effectively than we expected.”

The remarkable natural cleansing of the oil and gas spill from the Deepwater Horizon spill is instructive.  The environment is complex and dynamic with literally millions of variables that come into play in keeping it in balance.  It should not be surprising that this same environment has significant abilities at self repair.  Long before man began to affect the Earth’s environment it put up with all sorts of natural abuses including earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and Ice Ages and it still remains a rather hospitable place.

While the evidence on the Gulf’s natural cleanup is compelling, there remain disbelievers among scientists including University of Georgia microbiologist Samantha Joye who said:  “I think they are jumping to a conclusion.  It would take a superhuman microbe to do what they are claiming.”  Evidently Ms. Joye didn’t read H.G. Wells’, The War of the Worlds.  There are indeed events that man cannot control.

There are those that will also question the Gulf’s natural cleanup “theory” since it has implications for the Global-Warming debate.  Methane is a significant greenhouse gas that plays a role in some theoretical scenarios on rapidly rising earth temperatures.  Should naturally existing microbes be able to control large methane gas releases, that part of the alarmists’ theory will no longer hold water.

The Earth’s ability to self-repair its environment does not justify man’s abuse of it.  However, this ability should give pause to allowing fear-mongers to change the way the world operates in the name of questionable theories on manmade global warming.  Given that these scientists could got it so wrong on how a major oil and gas spill would affect the Gulf of Mexico, it is likely that their predicted results of excess carbon emissions on the Earth’s temperature is also flawed.


Posted in Global Warming, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Microbes Eating Gulf Oil

Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 8, 2010

Government scientists released a promising report on the Gulf of Mexico.  It seems that our smallest friends, microbes, are consuming most of the oil spilled in the Gulf by the explosion on the BP oil platform.  Adding to this good news, little critters’ are digesting the oil without depleting the oxygen levels in the Gulf, another fear when the leak started.  In fact there are more problems in the Gulf from oxygen depletion caused by the annual run-off from the Mississippi river.

There are few lessons that can be learned from the recent Gulf disaster.  First, the complex ecosystem that we call Earth is capable of great healing, even from manmade disasters.  Compare the months it took for our natural eco-system to repair itself to the government’s failed efforts to correct the financial imbalances that exploded two years ago and continues to this day.

Also, while the Gulf’s oil spill was a disaster, its long-term effects will be much less than the government and environmentalists projected.  This error of over exaggeration by the government joins other failed projections including Y2K, Swine Flu, the Hawaiian tsunami, Bird Flu and others.  Are these errors signs of incompetence or caused by more nefarious motivations?

Posted in Government Ineptness, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Congressional Bill May Limit BPs’ Ability to Pay for Damages

Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 3, 2010

The New York Times today published a story that offers a simple lesson in economics, which all but the Progressives in Washington would already understand.  In a kneejerk reaction typical of politicians, the Congress is trying to punish BP in a way that may inhibit its ability to pay for damages caused by their oilrig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

With great fanfare, President Obama brought BP executives to the White House on June 16 and got the Company to commit to putting $20 billion into an escrow fund to pay for damages to individuals and businesses affected by the disaster.  But, there are strings to this plan.  First, BP doesn’t have that cash available.  They must sell assets to get some of it.  In addition, the funds are to be placed in the escrow amount over four years. These funds are to come from Company’s future earnings.  Obviously if BP doesn’t have the earnings, they will not be able to pay this bill.

Now comes Progressive Congressman George Miller, Democrat of California and close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  He has added a provision to a drilling bill being considered by Congress that would bar companies from drilling in the Gulf if that company had more than 10 fatalities and/or was penalized with fines of $10 million or more in a seven-year period.

The Miller amendment would only bar one company, BP, from drilling in the Gulf.  Since BP gets 11 percent of its global oil and about $6 billion of its annual profits from its Gulf oil, the effects on BP’s finances will be substantial and likely impact its ability to pay the bill.

The opposing directions being taken towards BP are typical of inept governments.  Each agency or division within a government has its own interests that they focus on and this results in tactical polices that cause more overall harm than benefit.  In this case, Obama focused on getting BP to pay for damages and his Democrat alley in the Congress, Miller, wants to punish them in a way that hinders Obama’s goals.

Remarkably, the repeated stories of inept government continue to be ignored by Progressives.  In fact, they watch the failures and still demand even more government.  If Einstein was correct when he defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, then these Progressives are indeed insane.

Posted in BP, Government Ineptness, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bailed Out Bank Execs Received Lavish Bonuses

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 23, 2010

MSNBC reported that Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg has announced that executives at 17 banks received excessive compensation payments totaling $1.6 billion while their banks were receiving billions of taxpayer funded bailouts.  Incredibly, these payments to those that helped cause the meltdown it the first place started in October 2008 when we were told that the entire financial system was on the verge of a meltdown.  Fienberg indicated that he didn’t have the authority to ask these executives for repayment.

Anyone surprised by this announcement is guilty of willful dumbness.  The moment the government bailed out these failing institutions they guaranteed imbalances and the inappropriate executive payments.  Why not; it wasn’t shareholder money they were giving away.  Even worse are the future imbalances and failures to come from the bailouts.

While bailouts created this mess, the government hasn’t learned from its gross error repeating the same policies with oil spill in the Gulf.  First, they collected $20 billion from BP to compensate victims of the spill.  Then they appointed this same Kenneth Feinberg, who is now leaving the Treasury Department, to spend fulltime distributing these funds.  Here we go again!  You know what’s coming next.

Posted in Government Ineptness, Governmental Intervention, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gulf Oil Spill: A Failure of Government

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 29, 2010

The Gulf oil spill catastrophe has resulted in the same-old responses from Washington.  First they look for scapegoats and then promise new legislation, regulations and agencies.  Unbelievable since these solutions never have worked in the past.

Remember the Savings and Loan (S&L) crisis of the 1980’s when over 700 S&Ls failed?  This mess resulted in a cost to taxpayers of about $125 billion.  The government’s fix included abolishing the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) and replacing it with the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS).  This change failed, as evidenced by the banking mess we have faced during the past two years.  In fact the OTS was the agency responsible for overseeing AIG and other firms that help create the current recession, with still greater taxpayer losses.  So what is the Obama Administration now proposing; that we abolish the OTS and replace it with still another agency, a financial consumer-protection agency.  That same solution failed after the S&L meltdown so let’s do it again. ….  Knuckleheads!

Then, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oils spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, the government created the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) to help avoid future spills and set up mechanisms for the government’s responses to them should they occur.  The law mandated that companies have a “plan to prevent spills that may occur” and a “detailed containment and cleanup plan” for oil spills.  In addition, the law gave the president expanded authority to respond to spills.

Think the OPA worked?  Here’s an example of the government’s negligence with the Gulf oil spill:

  • All oil companies, including BP, are required to have response plans in place and approved by the government for potential oil spills.  Obviously BP’s plan was seriously flawed and they will pay dearly for their errors.  What about the government employees who didn’t do their jobs?  What is the cost to them?
  • The U.S. government (MMS) modeled a spill trajectory called “oil spill risk analysis.”  It projected that a spill in the Gulf near the current location would have only an 11% chance of making landfall in Plaquemines, Louisiana after 30 days.  However, Plaquemines, one of the hardest hit areas, started seeing oil within 22 days.
  • By law BP’s plan for Gulf of Mexico potential oil spills was based on U.S. government projections, as list above that included projections of low odds of oil reaching shore.  Unfortunately these 2004 projections wrongly assumed the oil would evaporate or get broken up in the water.  Instead, oil is now hitting shorelines in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

In addition to the Oil Pollution Act not protecting us from the current disaster, it played a role in creating it.  This act limited company liability to $75 million per spill occurrence, probably because some special interest group got it placed in the Act.  Had the government not inserted itself into the market by limiting liability, BP may have either shown more care in drilling or may not have drilled at all for fear of potential losses.  That’s the way the free market is supposed to work.

OPA failed us in the Gulf of Mexico.  Laws and regulations cannot foresee future needs and predict accidents.  In addition, goventment employees have little to lose (skin in the game) for errors, as compared to private companies.  In the Gulf spill BP will not only be financially liable, but possibly criminally.  No such threat hangs over the heads of the politicians and bureaucrats that were equally negligent in causing this catastrophe.

Given the history of government’s failure to prevent oil spills or take appropriate cleanup action we should not expect additional new laws or agencies to fair better.  It is time for a real discussion relating to the limits of governmental ability to protect society.  Penalties on corporations and individuals, including those in government, are the only dynamic means for policing complex economies and societies.

Posted in Government Ineptness, Governmental Intervention, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Energy Secretary Chu Claimed BP will Help Save World

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 23, 2010

President Obama publically referred to Energy Secretary Chu’s Nobel Prize in Physics as a proof statement that the President and his team are on top of the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.  Given that the Noble Prize folks gave Obama the Peace Prize when he created no peace makes this claim dubious.

More troubling is Chu’s words in 2007 when he claimed that a partnership of Chu’s University of California laboratory and BP, with BP’s $500 million, would “help save the world”.  Hmmmm….  See the incredible video below.

Posted in BP, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Judge Overrules Obama’s Drilling Moratorium

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 22, 2010

The New York Times reported that U.S. Federal Judge Martin Feldman axed Obama’s six month ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  The Judged agreed with the plaintiffs who argued that the Obama Administration wrongfully concluded that one oil rig failure means others are also unsafe stating:

”The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster.  What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm.”

Our Founding Fathers understood the dangers of too much power being given to any branch of the government.  It was that foresight that allowed Judge Feldman to conclude that President Obama overstepped his authority when he issued the broad drilling moratorium.

Barack Obama, the purported expert on Constitutional Law, just got a lesson on the Constitution.

Posted in Constitution, Oil, Oil Spill, President Obama | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Inequity of Governmental Intervention

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 18, 2010

Bad things happen when governments intervene in the economy; some benefit and some pay the bills.  The government never gave a penny to anyone that it did not take form someone else.  Whether the issue is bailouts, government rebates or proclamations, you can be sure that there are some citizens or business gets hurt by the intervention.

Below is a letter from a Louisianan to President Obama relating to the ongoing damage that results from Obama’s drilling decision.  As the sending put in an email to his Blog:

Did the Obama shutdown the NYSE when they screwed up during the FLASH CRASH?????

Letter to White House on Oil Spill

Posted in Government Ineptness, Governmental Intervention, Oil Spill | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Gulf Oil Spill Demonstrates Weakness of Governments

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 15, 2010

The Gulf oil spill is an unmitigated disaster for the entire southern shore line of the United States, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.  President Obama tonight goes on television to do what he does best; read from the teleprompter.  He will likely continue blaming others for theproblems and repeat the contention that his Administration has done everything possible in response to the catastrophe.  He also will likely use the disaster (or “crisis” as Rahm Emanuel likes to say) to further the Progressive goal of limiting the usage less fossil fuels.  None of these issues, however, address the ongoing problems caused by the huge spill and the cleanup efforts.

Let’s start with the President’s strategy to blame first, or as Obama said, determining “who’s ass to kick”.  Obviously the President is not responsible for the oil rig blowout.  Those responsible will keep Obama’s trial lawyer friends busy for years and they will get their pound of flesh (dollars) from BP and other deserving parties.  But this “ass kicking” may be more like a tap on the rear due of previous government intervention.

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 passed after the Exxon Valdez oil accident limits oil company responsibility to the first $75 million of liability claims from those affected by the spill.  The knuckleheads in Washington thought this was just fine for 20 years.  Typical of governments, now that the horse is out of the barn in the Gulf they are scrambling to undo what they themselves created.  Possibly BP would have been more prudent had the liability been left uncapped.  Maybe they would not have even drilled this risky deep-water well without the cap.  But these realities will not be mentioned Obama’s “ass kicking”.

While we are on the subject of governmental complicity in the gulf mess, the deep water wells are being dug because Progressives curtailed America’s use of other energy resources.  For example, in the 1970’s they killed the nuclear power industry.  Also, the same government that refused to allow us to tap the oil reserves in ANWR Alaska for fear of hurting the sensibilities of caribou then issued permits to drill in deep waters of the Gulf.  After this illogic we are supposed to now trust the next strategic energy decision of the government?  Remarkable!

While Obama is not responsible for the Gulf oil well blowout, he has significant culpability in the government’s response to this disaster as the buck does stop in his office.  His Administration’s response to the crisis has been amateurish at best.  There are many antidotal stories such as the Dutch government offering the United States large skimmer ships that were not accepted by our government for weeks because of the Jones Act that placates Obama’s labor union friends.

Yesterday, even the leftist New York Times went after the government’s response in an article titled “Efforts to Repel Oil Spill Are Described as Chaotic” in which the Times stated:

  • “From the beginning, the effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state and local officials, as well as BP.  As a result, officials and experts say, the damage to the coastline and wildlife has been worse than it might have been if the response had been faster and orchestrated more effectively.
  • Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said Thursday at a hearing in Washington devoted to assessing the spill and the response: “The present system is not working”.  He further stated: “The information is not flowing.  The decisions are not timely.  The resources are not produced.  And as a result, you have a big mess, with no command and control.”
  • “They were supposed to be better prepared.  When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska in 1989, skimmers, booms and dispersants were in short supply for the response, which was led by a consortium of oil companies in which BP was the majority stakeholder.  A year later, lawmakers passed the federal Oil Pollution Act to ensure that plans were in place for oil spills, so the response effort would be quick, with clear responsibilities for everyone involved.”
  • There were at least five plans governing the response to this spill, including national and regional plans drawn up by the Coast Guard and federal and state authorities, as well as lengthy plans prepared by BP.  Each one either failed to consider a continuing blowout or drastically underplayed the effects of one. “
  • “The BP plans do consider an uncontrolled blowout, one that releases 240,000 barrels a day into the gulf for at least 100 days — far worse than the current spill.  In the event of such an enormous spill, according to these plans, “no significant adverse impacts are expected” to beaches, wetlands or coast-dwelling birds.   Toby Odone, a BP spokesman, said in an e-mail message that the company’s oil spill response plan was “fully approved” by the Minerals Management Service.
  • ““The effectiveness of the effort came way late,” said Forrest A. Travirca III, a field inspector for a local land trust that includes the nine-mile beachfront at Port Fourchon, La., and 35,000 acres of marshland behind it.  Until recently, Mr. Travirca said, “There was no direction.  It was just chaotic.  There was this group doing something, that group doing something. Nobody knowing who was doing what.””

It is clear that our government was negligent throughout this process and needs a good “ass kicking”.  That, however, will have to wait unit November.  In advance, the government and the entire country must focus all of its energies on capping the leak and cleaning up the mess.

It is also evident just how incapable government is in predicting, pr4venting or solving complex problems.  In the 20 years since the Exxon Valdez accident the government added thousands of employees to protect us from catastrophes and created all sorts of contingency plans.  They failed miserably, as the results in the Gulf attest.  Adding more government employees and additional contingency plans will not stop the next disaster from occurring.  But this reality will not stop Obama and his fellow Progressives from using the Gulf tragedy to further their political goals and giving more power to the government.

Posted in Government Ineptness, Oil Spill, President Obama | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »