Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the Hurricane Comes

One thing you don’t hear much mention of in all the coverage of the BP oil rig blowout that is now pouring 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, just a few dozen miles off the coast of Louisiana, is the 2010 hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, but which can start significantly earlier.

This is, after all, an El Nino year, so storms could be more frequent and stronger than usual. In 2007, recall, the first storm of the season was Tropical Storm Andrea, which reached a size strong enough to merit a name on May 7, just a week later than today.

Why does this matter? Because any attempt to use booms or chemicals keep the oil away from the Gulf Coast would be completely impossible in the event of a major storm entering the Gulf. The combination of high winds, storm surges and high waves would push the oil slick way inland up the bayous and onto the shelter islands that protect 40 percent of America’s wetlands.

It could do worse, too. The strong winds in hurricanes, sweeping across the surging waves they have created, such up a considerable amount of surface water and blow it inland. This time, however, those winds could also end up picking up a considerable amount of the oil slick floating on the sea’s surface, which would be deposited as rain well inland, damaging croplands and forests, too.

Meanwhile, NASA and government scientists are warning that the well could end up turning into a gusher, releasing as much as 2 million gallons of oil a day into the Gulf–ten times the amount currently coming out of the broken well.

Why is nobody talking about this hurricane issue? A Google search for the words “hurricane season” and “BP Oil leak” turned up lots of references to the “devastation of Hurricane Katrina” but nary an article in a major news story about what effect this year’s hurricanes might have on the clean-up effort from what is likely to be a bigger oil disaster than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

So far, it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be no quick shutdown of the blown-out BP well, meaning that it could keep spewing out its contents into the Gulf, probably at an increasing rate, for several months. That would put it well into the middle of this year’s hurricane season, making it almost certain that at least one hurricane or tropical storm will pass right over the area and push that giant oil slick ashore.

And that’s not to mention what effect an untimely hurricane might have on any attempts to shut down the well. The most likely strategy is drilling several new wells that could both relieve the pressure on the current well, and also that could be used to pump mud or concrete or some other heavy, thick compound into the leaking well to try and stop it up. A major hurricane could wreak havoc with the new drilling rigs, particularly if only smaller ones are available for the job on short notice. A hurricane could also thwart efforts to drop a large tent over the leaking well–another scheme that is being contemplated, that would presumably funnel the rising crude oil into pipes that could deliver it to tankers for removal.

So far, all the talk has been about the urgency of getting booms in place to keep the oil slick from coming ashore, which it is starting to do now. But the real urgency should be to try to shut the thing down securely before the first hurricane hits, and to get as much of the already floating oil either chemically treated, burned off or skimmed before that hurricane arrives and blows it all ashore.

If you want a real disaster scenario, imagine this: a big hurricane–say Category 4 or 5, enters the Gulf and heads straight for New Orleans again, and blows out the levees again. Last time, there was a fairly toxic stew of water covering much of the city. This time it would be water mixed with millions of gallons of crude oil.

The Katrina disaster would look like a picnic by comparison.

Hmmmm. No wonder neither BP nor the government is talking about hurricanes.

They really don’t have much they can do except cross their fingers.

The idea that the president’s expanded offshore drilling plan is still on the table is simply appalling.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail