Monday, June 28, 2010

BP Oil Disaster Reaches Mississippi

Reports started coming in last night about BP's oil reaching the shores of Mississippi, with "large patches of thick oil" according to ABC (Australia):

Hundreds of globs of brown oil began washing ashore Mississippi tourist beaches at Ocean Springs and fishing hot spots on Sunday.

"This might be the last time we are able to come to the beach," Ocean Springs residents James Vogeney said. "What makes us so mad about all of this is that it could have been avoided. All of it."

Another resident, Mike Hollings, says he cried when he saw the oil start to wash ashore at the beach. "Life as I know it is over. What are we going to do if nobody cares to act fast enough," he said. Wildlife officials have picked up one pelican covered in oil and one dead turtle.

This adds Mississippi to the list of affected states, which includes Florida, Louisiana and Alabama. Tar balls reported in Texas have not been conclusively proved to be from BP.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who has previously defended BP and made such foolish statements as declaring crude oil safe as toothpaste, has now done an about-face on his previous "move along, nothing to see here" position. Now that the oil has fouled his own state's beaches, he's calling on BP and the Federal government to increase resources for Mississippi to help combat the ecological catastrophe.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BP Still Burning Sea Turtles to Death

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, BP is still burning endangered sea turtles alive. NOAA estimates that 425 sea turtles so far have died as a result of the BP catastrophe, and that death toll is rising.

BP has routinely been ignoring the presence of sea turtles in the areas in which it conducts massive oil burn-offs. Even more appalling, they're trying to stop turtle-rescue groups from interfering. From AllGov:

BP has conducted numerous controlled burns on the ocean surface to eliminate some of the oil collecting in the Gulf of Mexico. But in the process, the company is also burning alive endangered sea turtles caught in the areas set aflame, according to federal officials.

Environmentalists have been outraged by the killings and BP’s callous actions, which include scaring away boats trying to rescue sea turtles caught in the burns. The company could face fines of up to $50,000 for each sea turtle killed or harmed by the spill or cleanup.

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has a shrimp boat captain's eyewitness testimony about the turtle atrocities on video. The local captain was enlisted by BP to help out with the cleanup effort, but they stopped him from attempting to rescue young sea turtles when the chance arose:

He was captured on video saying that the turtles are being collected in the clean-up efforts and burned up like so much ocean debris with other marine life gathering along tide lines where oil also congregates.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sea Shepherd Laughs at Interpol Inquiry

FOX News is reporting that Paul Watson, the Canadian founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is now on Interpol's "Blue" Wanted List. Watson is wanted in connection with several incidents where Sea Shepherd crewmembers interfered with Japan's whaling and fishing expeditions in the Antarctic. One member, Peter Bethune, has already been charged with trespassing, vandalism, possession of a knife, obstructing business and assault.

The article states:

Prosecutors say Bethune threw glass bottles containing rotten butter at the harpoon boat, including one that broke and left three Japanese crew members with chemical burns.

Watson, however, remains defiant and refuses to take the charges seriously. Excerpted from an editorial on his website:

It seems my reputation as an international eco-desperado has been notched up this week with my name posted by Japan on the Interpol “Blue List.” It’s surprisingly exciting. I feel so Jason Bourne!

The strange discriminatory insanity of humanity is such that I actually find it both amusing and complimentary to have Sea Shepherd’s work recognized in such an official manner, for the truth is that we have pissed off a great many people who profit from the rape and destruction of our planet.

Watson may not have much to worry about. Despite all the mystique about Interpol as some sort of spooky gestapo-like agency, they apparently don't even seem to be capable of keeping their own website updated - we just checked and found no mention of Watson on the Blue List, not even in their search function.

Geisum Oil Contradictions Continue in Jebel al-Zayt

HEPCA, a watchdog organization protecting the ecology of the Red Sea, says at last report that the Jebel al-Zayt oil leak at an Egyptian state-owned Petrogulf Misr/Geisum Oil rig has finally been contained.

However, HEPCA seems oddly tentative to name Geisum as the culprit even though this information has been verified elsewhere in the world media. Perhaps they fear reprisal from the Egyptian government, or legal retribution; an early report had local activists reluctant to divulge Petrogulf Misr/Geisum's name "for legal reasons." And though they speak of the leak having been stopped, they use the present tense for the situation later in the same press release:

We are still fervently awaiting the Nature Conservation Sector’s assessment of the damages at as well as a statement declaring the identity of the rig that is visibly spewing out the oil!

The damage to Egypt's natural resources is a crime that must not go unpunished; and the complicity of any party with such a crime must be revealed and condemned.

The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum now claims that the oil that polluted beaches was actually not from any of its rigs. They speculate that the oil perhaps leaked by a passing tanker, or may have seeped from the ground spontaneously; in other words, they're grasping at straws to point the finger anywhere that doesn't lead back to themselves. According to the state-run Middle East News Agency, the state-run Ministry issued a report declaring that the state-run oil rig was "sound". (Well, I guess that settles that, doesn't it?)

Even more contradictory is the ministry's statement that because of this incident, they're looking at the possibility of limiting oil drilling activity in the area. But why on Earth would they say this now if their position is that oil drilling had nothing to do with it?

Finally, we have to ask, is the leak really fixed? We've already heard Egyptian govt. assurances that it has been, followed by eyewitness reports that it most certainly had not. HEPCA seems to be agreeing with the state position now, but we also have to wonder if they're not just fearing for their own safety - severe lashings, beatings and inordinately lengthy imprisonment are still standard punishment procedure in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both of which have legal jurisdiction over the Red Sea.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ponies And Balloons: BP Staging Fake Cleanups

Making waves on the net recently: an eye-opening video of a speech by Kindra Arnesen at the Gulf Emergency Summit, telling her eyewitness testimony about the media blackout of what's really happening with the BP disaster.

One of her more shocking revelations is that the BP cleanup team routinely stage fake cleanup operations when politicians come to inspect, and that when the politician leaves, 85% of the workers and resources rolled out for his/her benefit are then pulled back. The BP officials jokingly refer to this hoax with the code phrase "Ponies and Balloons".

View the video here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BP Removes Cap, Two Men Dead

The Coast Guard is reporting two deaths today related to the oil spill effort, according to ABC.

Conflicting reports about whether the deaths are work-related or not. Both are under investigation. According to ABC: "One was an accident regarding a swimming pool, a swimming event, and the other one was a vessel of opportunity operator in Gulf Shores, Miss.," he said."

The term "Vessel of opportunity" refers to a ship or boat that has been involuntarily pressed into service for BP's cleanup effort.

From the Alabama Press-Register:

William Allen Kruse, born 1955, was the captain of The Rookie, a charter fishing boat normally based in Orange Beach, said Deputy Baldwin County Coroner Rod Steade.

Steade said the deckhands were on the docks and heard a gunshot and went back on and found him dead on the "flying bridge."

As yet, no further specifics about the other death have been released, but we're watching this story very closely and trying to get more information. Kruse's death certainly sounds like a potential suicide, but we're not ruling out foul play.

Meanwhile, BP has removed their cap from oil leak in the Gulf, and the flow now appears to be even more methane-laden than ever. From the Associated Press:

NEW ORLEANS — Hundreds of thousands of gallons more oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after an undersea robot bumped a venting system and forced BP to remove a cap that had been containing some of the crude.

When the robot bumped the system, gas rose through the vent that carries warm water down to prevent ice-like crystals from forming in the cap, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

The cap was removed and crews were checking to see if crystals had formed before putting it back on. Allen did not say how long that might take.

"There's more coming up than there had been, but it's not a totally unconstrained discharge," Allen said.

In the meantime, a different system was still burning oil on the surface.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mixed Signals About Oil's Spread to Keys

There's a story on CBS 4 today about how the Florida Keys are "in the clear from oil spill for now", which certainly sounds like good news.

But then, you read a little deeper into the article and you notice that what they're really saying is, "So far, there have been no reports of 'recoverable' oil in the Loop Current or eddy." Whether the oil is of the "recoverable" sort or not is not really our concern.

The article closes with this less than reassuring data:

NOAA's James Jeansonne, who for weeks has been searching for oil from a Coast Guard's C-130, said the Gulf has many oil sheens and tar balls from natural oil seeps and bunker fuels coming off ships. About 200 tar balls have been found on shorelines throughout the Keys, but none have been connected to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

It's true that none have been connected to the BP spill yet, but neither have they been conclusively ruled out; the tar balls are being tested as we speak.

However, a blog called Picasso Dreams claims that the oil slick in all its foul glory, not just the preliminary tar balls, is already in the waters of the Florida Keys. Some pretty convincing photos are also provided.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Geisum Oil Spill Continues in Red Sea

From the Associated Press:

CAIRO — Environmental activists said Monday that an oil spill off the coast of Egypt's Red Sea is continuing even after the government said it had been contained, leaving turtles and sea birds covered in oil.

Government spokesman Magdy Rady told the state news agency Monday that the spill, which began last week, was "limited" and has now largely been contained. It was one of the first government acknowledgments that the spill was even taking place.

An environmental group based in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada told the Associated Press that the government was trying to cover up the extent of the damage and the leak had restarted.

Although Egypt's Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy has publicly claimed that the source of the oil is unknown, independent laboratory tests have already confirmed that the oil washed up on the beaches is from the same source as the oil leaking from Geisum's oil rig.

This latest environmental mess has been complicated not only by the Egyptian government's attempts to cover up the incident, but also by the increased military presence heating up in the Red Sea. Israeli and U.S. warships have been deployed to the Red Sea in what has widely been described as a stage-setting for a possible attack on Iran.

BP Oil Leak Reaches Cuba

The oil from BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster has now reached Cuban waters. WTSP-TV in Tampa reported four days ago:

There are now reports of an oil sheen just offshore of Cuba. This implies the oil has reached the southeastern extent of the loop current and could continue east through the Florida straights.

That prediction seems imminent. Click the image to enlarge a graphic of projected ocean currents that will lead the oil sludge around Florida, scraping past Cuba, through the Keys, then up the East Coast.

According to The Guardian, the Cuban government in Havana has called in oil-spill experts from Venezuela to help stave off the ruin of Cuba's beaches amid reports of coastal tarballs.

One might think that the Cuban Communist Party would be eager to use the situation to decry the misdeeds of its capitalist neighbors, but the BP disaster has surprisingly received very little coverage in Cuba's official publications like Granma and the Havana Times. But Cuba themselves have also been drilling for oil - their Cubapetroleo company has been eagerly tapping the area's vast oil reserves with the assistance and encouragement of their Chinese partners, the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (SINOPEC).

Where will it all end? The Belfast Telegraph notes that if the oil follows natural ocean currents, it will eventually reach Ireland, and beyond.

BP Dumping Disaster Debris into Florida Landfills

According to an article in the Pensacola News Journal, the oil-soaked absorbent booms, pads, rags and protective gear used in oil cleanup efforts are ending up dumped in Florida:

Some 15 truck loads of oil-related waste per day are being dumped at Springhill Landfill near Campbellton in Jackson County. Waste Management company owns the landfill and has the contract with BP to dispose of oil spill-related solid waste, said Waste Management spokeswoman Amy Boyson.

BP's oil spill-related solid waste from Alabama and Mississippi is taken to either Pecan Grove Landfill in Harrison County, Miss., or Chastang Landfill in Mobile County, Ala. — both owned by Waste Management, Boyson said.

The oily material is double-bagged before being put inside the plastic-lined metal waste container then covered with a plastic, waterproof tarp, said Pat Johnson, operations manager for Escambia Solid Waste Management.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Oil Spill in Red Sea, Unreported for 4 Days

There are news reports that another oil spill has occured, this time in the Red Sea off Egypt. From Islam Tribune:

Large quantities of oil have appeared in recent days around the resorts of Hurghada which draw millions of tourists who come to dive or snorkle, according to the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency.

“It started four or five days ago and the companies responsible didn’t notify anyone. It is catastrophic,” HEPCA Managing Director Amr Ali told AFP.

The spill was caused by leakage from an offshore oil platform north of Hurghada and has polluted protected areas and showed up on tourist beach resorts.

“The companies have said they will pay damages, but it is the environmental damage that we are concerned about,” Ali said, declining to name the companies for legal reasons.

There have been unconfirmed rumors circulating on internet chatter on sites like allvoices that Geisum is one of the companies involved, and that BP may also be involved. Nothing is known for certain at this time.

The Meta-Oceanic Research Group telephoned Geisum for a statement but received no answer. (However, it is 10:04pm in Egypt as of this writing).


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Warnings of Health Hazards from Oil Burnoff

From UPI:

Burning off oil from the ruined Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico creates toxic byproducts that could be a health hazard, one expert says.

Dr. Phil Harber, head of Occupational and Environmental Medicine division at UCLA, says people living on nearby shorelines could be affected, CNN reported Friday.

Depending on the scope and duration of the burn, Harber said, "People with asthma, or who are very young, or who have cardiac disease, are much more likely to be sensitive the released pollutants."

And from

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection authorized the Coast Guard to burn oil offshore, and the county is warning people of potential health issues.

Particulate matter, an airborne mix of very small particles and liquid droplets, may reach the shore, according to an Okaloosa County Health Department news release.

People on the coast may smell the oil spill odor of volatile organic compounds, similar to the smell at a gas station.

"You can smell these VOCs at levels well below those that would make you sick," the release reads.

Exposure to low levels may cause eye, nose, skin and throat irritation.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stranded Fin Whale Bounces Back to Health

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that a Fin whale stranded
for three days along a Danish fjord has suddenly started swimming again today, surprising naysayers who had given it zero chance for survival.

According to the story, volunteers who had attempted to rescue the whale decided to allow the whale to die naturally and in peace, while firefighters hosed it down it with water in what everyone had assumed to be the creature's final hours.

The Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), whose life span is around 85 to 90 years, is recognizable by the prominent ridge along its back. It is estimated there are still 46,000 of them in the North Atlantic.

The Mystery of Eugene Island

The Gulf of Mexico's Eugene Island Block 330 Field (just off the coast of Louisiana) is often cited by proponents of the abiotic oil theory because of something very strange: its depleted oil wells found themselves, as if by magic, suddenly replenished with new oil - and no one could say exactly why.

From the Wall Street Journal, April 16, 1999:

Something mysterious is going on at Eugene Island 330. Production at the oil field, deep in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, was supposed to have declined years ago. And for a while, it behaved like any normal field: Following its 1973 discovery, Eugene Island 330's output peaked at about 15,000 barrels per day (2,400 m3/d). By 1989, production had slowed to about 4,000 barrels per day (640 m3/d). Then suddenly -- some say almost inexplicably -- Eugene Island's fortunes reversed. The field, operated by PennzEnergy Co., is now producing 13,000 barrels per day (2,100 m3/d), and probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million.

According to a 2002 article by Robert Cooke in Newsday, the source of Eugene 330's new oil from nowhere was analyzed and suspected to be migrating through faults from much deeper and older subterranean faults. These "deep earth" faults have been surmised to be from the Jurassic and Cretaceous age. This new mystery oil contains biomarkers closely related to other extremely ancient oil deposits, trapped in very deep formations.

Eugene 330's effectiveness as a "smoking gun" for abiotic oil is limited, however. Skeptics point out that Eugene 330 is special precisely because what happened there has never happened before, and this begs the logical question, why isn't this phenomena more common if the deep strata of the Earth's crust is filled with endlessly self-replenishing reserves of abiotic oil?

What is a demonstrable fact, however, is that this "deep earth oil" carries further potential for natural radioactivity the deeper you go. NORM (Naturally Occuring Radioactive Materials) has been studied in locations such as New York and Texas. Uranium and Thorium are known by geologists to be plentiful deep in the Earth, so much so that modern oil companies use electronic detectors to sniff out helium and methane. Why? Because helium and methane are natural decay signifiers of Uranium and Thorium.

Therefore, the more methane you find from a "deep earth oil" reserve such as what BP and the Deepwater Horizon were drilling into, the greater possibility that you are releasing considerable amounts of radioactive material into the environment. That this radioactivity is "natural" is irrelevant, and doesn't make it any less deadly (in before Rush Limbaugh and Haley Barbour proclaim it to be all-natural and perfectly safe).

Considering that the flow from the BP leak is believed by experts to be 40% methane, this raises the question: how much natural radioactive material is correspondingly being spewed out with it?

No amount is a good amount.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Halliburton Crony Testifies, Calls Obama Plan a "Shakedown"

Watching the congressional testimony on CNN just now, we saw Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) say that Obama's escrow plan for BP "amounts to a shakedown" and that he's "ashamed" of the White House. Barton's attempt to spin blame from BP to Obama is no shocker, since Barton has recently received campaign money from Halliburton.

According to Politico, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have also allowed their pockets to be lined by Halliburton, and in May - after the Deepwater Horizon disaster was well underway. Even one Democrat, Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren, received money from Halliburton. Why? Perhaps it's because Boren is on the House Natural Resources Committee. Coincidence?

Federal election law currently permits any company's PACs to give campaign money to whomever they wish - even to lawmakers investigating their own industry.

(Barton is previously infamous for his claim that CO2 emissions couldn't possibly be causing global warming because CO2 is also in Coca-Cola, and that proof of its harmlessness could also be found in the fact that it's odorless, colorless, and tasteless.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The "Natural Oil Seep" Controversy

There's been some natter on the net lately about natural oil seeps, which conservative media outlets have been pouncing on as a means to diminish the public perception of the environmental damage BP has inflicted. FOX News' Trace Gallagher recently repeated the debunked myth that "more oil seeps through the ground off the coast of California than is ever spilled out there."

As Jamie Friedland eloquently notes:

The water in one location can only degrade so much oil at one time; an oil spill goes far beyond overwhelming the ocean's natural oil-coping mechanisms. And remember, the oil from all those natural seeps escapes year-round. Yes, the Gulf can degrade small amounts of oil within 5 days, continuously. But that oil-disposal capacity is always already in use, year-round. So any additional oil spilled does not follow that time line. It lasts much longer and has a much greater impact.

So, in conclusion, the Gulf has a limited ability to deal with oil that seeps out slowly and is widely dispersed. But those capabilities are constantly in use. This spill is gushing massive amounts of oil into one place. Marine ecosystems cannot cope with that assault. And don't forget the toxic dispersants that are accompanying the toxic oil, and the fact that most of the oil is still underwater, where it remains "fresh" (which, like "natural," does not mean good here) longer because it weathers more slowly there.

It's true, there are natural spots in the ocean floor that release tiny trickles of oil, but that doesn't somehow make the Deepwater Horizon incident any less of a big deal, nor does it serve to nullify the importance of the video of oil oozing from undersea cracks. Why? Because the presence of the cracks themselves in an area where we already know a great disturbance has occurred, heightens the potential for further disaster, as Admiral Thad Allen explained to the Washington Post:

"I would be cautious about putting any kind of kinetic energy on that well head, because what you may do is create open communication between the reservoir and the sea floor."

Admiral Allen made a similar warning during a C-span interview on May 26, adding that putting undue pressure on the well could result in oil seeping through cracks and through the seafloor, "and then be uncontrolled until the reservoir pressure equalized with the hydrostatic pressure; I think that's a risk that's too great to take a chance on, myself."

Even if these cracks in the seafloor existed before the BP explosions - and we don't know that they did - and even if they were already seeping oil, the underground disruption that BP has caused make what Admiral Allen fears possible. The distance between a vast undersea oil reserve and the ocean is already tenuous in a natural oil seep, thus the presence of one at the BP explosion site is not good news. Furthermore, these seeps caught by the ROV camera seem more active and more constant than most natural ones.

The presence of these oil-seeping cracks in the vicinity of the BP explosion site makes for greater potential disaster regardless of whether they were created by said explosion or were a pre-existing feature.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Video: Oil Leaking From Sea Floor

This video finally confirms what BP has been denying all along: cracks are forming on the ocean floor and oil is seeping from them, suggesting that deep pressure is building underneath on a scale greater than anyone, including BP, could have foreseen. It is the best evidence so far that this is not merely an ecological tragedy, but an absolute global catastrophe that we may not even be able to stop via relief wells.

See it here.

Unseen Damage Beneath Ocean Floor

Reports have been rampant of oil seeping up from cracks in the sea floor, and last week Senator Bill Nelson told MSNBC that he's heading an investigation into it:

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): Andrea, we’re looking into something new right now, that there’s reports of oil that’s seeping up from the seabed... which would indicate, if that’s true, that the well casing itself is actually pierced... underneath the seabed. So, you know, the problems could be just enormous with what we’re facing.

Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC: Now let me understand better what you’re saying. If that is true that it is coming up form that seabed, even the relief well won’t be the final solution to cap this thing. That means that we’ve got oil gushing up at disparate places along the ocean floor.

Sen. Nelson: That is possible, unless you get the plug down low enough, below where the pipe would be breached.

Some scary talk from an interview with former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister in the Washington Post, Friday, June 11:

Q: What are the chances that the well casing below the sea floor has been compromised, and that gas and oil are coming up the outside of the well casing, eroding the surrounding soft rock. Could this lead to a catastrophic geological failure, unstoppable even by the relief wells?

Hofmeister: This is what some people fear has occurred. It is also why the "top kill" process was halted. If the casing is compromised the well is that much more difficult to shut down, including the risk that the relief wells may not be enough. If the relief wells do not result in stopping the flow, the next and drastic step is to implode the well on top of itself, which carries other risks as well.

And oil industry expert Bob Cavnar, speaking on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show, goes further still, actually using the term "doomsday scenario" on a mainstream media program:

The real doomsday scenario here... is if that casing gives up, and it does come through the other strings of pipe. Remember, it is concentric pipe that holds this well together. If it comes into the formation, basically, you‘ve got uncontrolled [oil] flow to the sea floor. And that is the doomsday scenario.

If it is true that the oil well casing and piping are damaged underground - and with the reports of cracks in the seafloor oozing oil, there is now every indication that they are - then this already sad story has just taken a most chilling turn.

Friday, June 11, 2010

BP Oil Leak Estimates Now Doubled

The numbers regarding the amount of oil that has gushed from the leaking BP oil well keep getting worse, and unbelievably, BP is still trying to put a self-protecting spin on the situation. From CNN:

Researchers have doubled estimates of how much oil has been gushing from a ruptured BP well, reporting that up to 40,000 barrels, or 1.7 million gallons, a day may have escaped for weeks.

If the latest estimate is correct, that would mean 90.1 million gallons have spewed in the 53 days since the rig exploded. That's more than eight times the amount spilled by the supertanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.

In other words, the skeptics and BP-apologists who have been parroting the line that "this isn't as bad as the Exxon Valdez" are not only wrong, they've been wrong since the very first week - according to the new estimates, this BP disaster was already worse than the Exxon Valdez back in April.

From Newsinferno:

Even with this higher number, there is still a good chance scientists are underestimating the true flow rate. That’s because the new figures do not count any increases that may have occurred since BP cut the well’s riser pipe to deploy a new containment system. BP had said prior to that operation that it could further increase the flow up to 20 percent. It will be several days before a new estimate taking that into account is available.

For its part, BP is downplaying the significance of the new estimate – something it seems to do every time news becomes worse. “The estimates of how much oil is actually coming out of the well we’ve made clear from the very beginning is just that, it’s an estimate,” BP Spokesman Hugh Depland told ABC News at an information session late Thursday arranged by the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Sunderland is Alive and Well

From the Associated Press, 7:05 a.m. EDT:

CANBERRA, Australia — A 16-year-old California girl who was feared lost at sea while sailing solo around the world has been found alive and well, adrift in the southern Indian Ocean as rescue boats head toward her damaged yacht, officials said. After a tense 20 hours of silence, a search plane launched from Australia's west coast made radio contact with Abby Sunderland on Friday in the frigid southern seas where her boat was repeatedly knocked down by huge waves and she lost satellite phone contact.

And according to Abby's official blog:

We have just heard from the Australian Search and Rescue. The plane arrived on the scene moments ago. Wild Eyes is upright but her rigging is down. The weather conditions are abating. Radio communication was made and Abby reports that she is fine!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Abby Sunderland Lost at Sea?

Abby Sunderland, 16, is feared lost at sea in her attempt to become the youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe. Her brother Zac said Thursday afternoon that Abby's boat was most likely not completely submerged because there's another alarm that sends off a signal if it goes 15 feet underwater.

From ABC News:

Jeff Casher, an engineer on Sunderland's support team, told ABC News that he last spoke with the 16-year-old sailor before 6 a.m. PDT, after she had been knocked down twice during the night because of strong winds -- meaning that her sail had touched the water.

One of those knock-downs, Casher said, ripped the radar off the boat. She had been speaking with Casher on a satellite telephone earlier because of engine problems and was in the process of fixing those problems when she told Casher she'd call right back.

She has not been heard from since, except for the distress signals.

Bush, Cheney, and the BP Disaster

American Progress has some spot-on analyses by Joshua Dorner and Rebecca Lefton on the direct cause-and-effect between the Bush-Cheney policies and the ongoing BP disaster. Some highlights:

"Lobbying records show that Andrew Lundquist, the executive director of Cheney’s energy task force, left government to become a lobbyist (at a firm later joined by since-jailed Deputy Secretary of the Interior Stephen J. Griles) and was actively lobbying on the legislation on behalf of BP and other energy companies. One of the worst elements of what has come to be known as the “Dick Cheney energy bill” had a direct role in eliminating the kind of regulatory oversight that may have prevented the blowout of BP’s Mississippi Canyon 252 well on April 20 of this year. Section 390 of the legislation dramatically expanded the circumstance under which drilling operations could forego environmental reviews and be approved almost immediately under so-called “categorical exclusions” from the National Environmental Policy Act."

"The Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed by President George W. Bush on August 8, 2005, achieved many of the goals set out by Cheney’s secret task force in 2001 and ushered in a new era of deregulation, self-regulation, and utter disregard for environmental and safety laws. It also coincided with a culture of deep and widespread corruption at the Interior Department, including the Minerals Management Service. This era unquestionably set the stage for the BP oil catastrophe—Cheney’s Katrina."

"Oil companies raked in record profits while benefitting from policies they wrote for themselves. These energy policies did nothing for our national security and left consumers to pay the price at the pump and on their energy bills, which rose more than $1,100 during the Bush administration."

"The Bush administration released the National Energy Policy Report on May 16 [2001]. President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney—who gave up his title as CEO of oil and gas company Halliburton to take on his new role—with developing a new energy policy swiftly after taking office. But Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton did not end. Cheney was kept on the company's payroll after retirement and retained around 430,000 shares of Halliburton stock.

The task force report was based on recommendations provided to Cheney from coal, oil, and nuclear companies and related trade groups—many of which were major contributors to Bush’s presidential campaign and to the Republican Party. Oil companies—including BP, the National Mining Association, and the American Petroleum Institute—secretly met with the Cheney and his staff as part of a task force to develop the country’s energy policy."

" Bush lifted the executive moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts on July 14 [2008]."

Dorner and Lefton's full reports for American Progress are must-reads - find them here and here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taylor Energy Oil Rig Confirmed Leaking

The Wall Street Journal is now confirming our earlier reports about satellite imagery revealing another leak at another oil well in the Gulf.

HOUSTON (Dow Jones)--A small amount of oil has been leaking into the U.S. Gulf of Mexico from Taylor Energy-owned oil wells in the gulf since 2004, a spokeswoman for the U.S. secretary of the interior said in an email Tuesday.

The wells have been leaking since they were destroyed by a mudslide during Hurricane Ivan. The wells were leaking less than a third of a barrel of oil a day.

"There are hundreds of small oil leaks every year in the Gulf of Mexico, and each is reported immediately to the National Response Center to ensure appropriate actions are taken to mitigate all potential environmental impacts," Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the secretary of the interior, said in a statement.

Media reports had surfaced that Diamond Offhore Drilling Inc. (DO) was dealing with a leak at a Taylor-owned oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Diamond's rig, Ocean Saratoga, was performing plugging and abandonment work on the well, a Diamond Offshore spokesman said Tuesday."

According to a FOX News story, however, the leakage is "slight" and comes from three containment domes set in place to control leaks since 2004.

And Coast Guard representative Zachary Zubricki actually told Business Insider: "this is not a story." Leave that to us to decide.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Navy Underwater Vehicles Vanish

Four unmanned underwater vehicles employed by the Navy on a routine training mission have vanished without a trace off the coast of Virginia, according to

The Navy, Coast Guard and local authorities were searching for the missing vehicles in the Thimble Shoals Channel between the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a Navy news release said.

Communication was lost with four of the 13 unmanned vehicles Sunday about 1 p.m. while the vehicles were using bottom-mapping sonar to look for mine-like contacts in the water as part of the training. Search and recovery operations began immediately.

Efforts continued Monday using small-craft, shore-based teams, air assets and marine mammal systems, which could include sea lions and dolphins trained to hunt mines.

The cause of the vehicles’ disappearance is under investigation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Is There Another Leak in the Gulf?

According to a report on Business Insider:

Is there a separate Gulf oil leak at Platform #23051?

Satellite analysis blog SkyTruth has identified what looks like oil discharge coming from a rig located a few mile from the Mississippi Delta. Analyst John Amos asks readers for any information on the possible second leak.

This rig is owned by Taylor Energy, according to an MMS database. We have contacted the firm and are waiting for comment.

We just picked up the phone and called Taylor Energy ourselves. Whoever answered the phone (she identified herself only by saying "I just answer the phone") refused to comment on or deny the suggestions made by Business Insider.

When asked "Is there anyone else we can talk to?" she curtly replied, "No. They're all gone for the day."

"But dont they have cellphones?" I wondered. "Surely there's a number you can give me to reach someone else."


"Will there be a statement on this matter tomorrow, or in the near future?"


Now, it could well be that the initial reports of a possible leak are incorrect, exagerrated, or overblown. We're only inquiring about what their reaction is to the Business Insider and SkyTruth stories. But it's interesting that whoever answered the phone would not deny that such a leak existed.

Animal Photos BP Doesn't Want You To See

Images above from here. Images below from here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

James Cameron on BP: "Morons"

Avatar director James Cameron, an expert in underwater robotics and video, said Wednesday that BP has rejected his offer to help. From

"Over the last few weeks, I've watched, as we all have, with growing horror and heartache, watching what's happening in the Gulf and thinking those morons don't know what they're doing," Cameron said at the All Things Digital tech conference.

Cameron has done extensive work with robot submarines and underwater filming in his movies.

Earlier in the day he attended a conference with the Environmental Protection Agency and pushed to have the government get its own independent look at the leak.

"If you're not monitoring it independently, you're asking the perpetrator to give you the video of the crime scene," Cameron said.