Saturday, June 26, 2010

What the Obama administration has wrought: the world's first "Oilcane"

Art Horn, writing at, describes the catastrophic potential of an oil-infused hurricane in the Gulf. Consider the series of missteps by the White House that has led up to this point, wherein the entire Gulf waits on pins and needles for the impending "Oilcane":

• The "Obama administration knew about Deepwater Horizon['s] 35,000-foot well bore, green-lighted [it] and fast-tracked the project"...

• Disregarded and underestimated the impact of the tragic explosion and spill for over a month...

• As of last week, had deployed only 20 of 2,000 skimmer (clean-up) vessels...

• Fought Louisiana's use of sand berms to prevent damage to the Gulf coast tidal region...

• Forced Louisiana to stop using 16 barges that were sucking up thousands of gallons of oil daily out of the Gulf...

• Refused to waive the Jones Act, which prevented foreign vessels and crews from cleaning up the Gulf, even though "American shippers who generally support the ban said they wouldn’t object to lifting it to fight the spill"...

Whether or not the bungling is intentional, it's clear that not enough has been done by the White House to mitigate and clean up the spill. Therefore, Horn's description of an Oilcane's effects are increasingly relevant as we move into full-bore hurricane season.

The gulf oil spill is bad but it could become much, much worse and soon. The threat is a hurricane moving over the spill. If a hurricane’s violent winds track over the spill, we could witness a natural and economic calamity that history has never recorded anywhere or anytime. We will literally be in oil-soaked waters. We will have witnessed the first oilicane.

A category one hurricane (on a scale of 1 to 5) has maximum sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour near the eye. A category five hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 156 to 200 miles per hour. The difference between the two storms is gigantic and non-linear. The latter hurricane may cause 250 times more damage than the former.

...The winds of a hurricane are so strong that the normal interface between ocean and atmosphere disappears. The winds begin to generate large waves. Spray is blown off the top of the waves. That spray mixes with the air so that after a short time there is no real boundary between what is ocean and what is the atmosphere. If a large hurricane moves over the spill, this chaotic mixture of water and air will inevitably also contain oil. The oil will become airborne and travel with the hurricane.

When hurricanes make landfall the winds push the ocean onto the land in what is called a storm surge... The water off the gulf coast is shallow. The elevation inland is only a few feet. This area is prime territory for devastating and deeply penetrating storm surges.

Should a major hurricane push the spill towards the gulf coast there will be nothing that can be done to stop it. No amount of planning or engineering will help. No number of visits to the gulf by the president or any other official will stop the inevitable. The storm surge will drive the water and the oil miles inland. Everything in its path will be coated in a greasy bath of crude. Even the wind may have oil in it... In the case of the gulf it will be oil that will spray the trees, buildings and everything else in the way. How far inland this oily mess will blow is anyone’s guess but it will be unprecedented in its economic and environmental damage.

The recovery period after a hurricane can take years. It was 10 years until some communities fully recovered from Hurricane Andrew in South Florida, some never recovered at all. The New Orleans area is still putting itself back together after Katrina in 2005. The recovery period after an oil-soaked hurricane -- or what could be called an Oilicane – is impossible to forecast but it could take years and many billions of dollars. One wonders if BP has the money to survive such a unique disaster. The human and natural losses from such an event could be historic.

There's that word again: historic. Everything about this administration is historic -- and none of it in a good way.

Should, heaven forbid, the world's first Oilcane wreak havoc in the Southeast, one man will have to shoulder substantial blame. One man's legacy will be utter economic and environmental ruin. One man's unsuitability for the highest office in the land will be crystal clear even to the most obtuse observer.

Related: Obama Administration Blocks Clean-Up of Oil Spill by Louisiana and Foreign Allies By Imposing Red Tape ( Linked by: The Anchoress and Confederate Yankee. Thanks!


David L. said...

We have had oil spills in the Gulf when tropical cyclones moved through before. The Ixtoc disaster (still the largest spill in Gulf drilling history) started with a blowout in June 1979 and ultimately spilled as many as 202 million gallons of oil before being killed by a relief well in March 1980. In the interim, both Hurricanes Bob and Frederic blew through the Gulf, as did Tropical Storm Elena, and no real ecological or economic damage due to the "oilcanes" were observed.

That said...

This blog was the first to link to my Deepwater Horizon Incident Timeline, and for that I am grateful. No objective reading of it shows anything other than incompetence, thumb-twiddling, bureaucratic morasses and outright negligence on the part of this regime.

Their priority is extracting the maximum possible political advantage out of the disaster, and actually preventing or mitigating the damage is a distant second place.

directorblue said...

@GCBF, appreciate the historical perspective. And, as an aside, unlike the Democrats, I relish the unvarnished truth... the historical perspective.

That's what distinguishes us from the drones.

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