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Oil Spew Update: Where’s The Doom?

Karl Denninger separates fact and fiction in the Gulf Oil Spill story. 

Oil Spew Update: Where’s The Doom?

RACCOON ISLAND, LA - JULY 15: Pelicans are seen atop a piece of a destroyed boat July 15, 2010 at Raccoon Island, Louisiana. Biologists say at least 300 pelicans have been smeared with oil on the island, which is the largest nesting area for seabirds on the coast of Louisiana. BP is testing a new oil cap, and is temporarily allowing oil to leak from a second pipe as part of preparations for closing the valves to see if the cap can withstand the pressure and stop the flow of oil into the gulf. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I was promised an earth-shattering ka-doom!

Well, not really.

And the spew is not, in fact, funny.

But what’s even less funny is the number of people who have come completely unhinged with their "imminent death of everything and everyone" nonsense.

Let’s go down the list of the some of the better ones:

Everyone who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill is dead (or alternatively, that across the entire population of those who worked on the Valdez spill, the average age of death is 51.)

Really? Can you source that? I’ve been trying. Yeah, I’ve found the claim – 10 seconds with Google finds it. It’s been repeated everywhere. CNN had an alleged "expert" on who made the 51 year life expectancy claim – "almost all who worked on the Exxon Valdez cleanup are now dead."

Can I find an actual documented source for the claim? Nope. And I’ve tried to find it. No luck.

The same interviewee claimed that the components of the dispersent, Corexit, were not disclosed.  This we know to be false; there are two formulations and we know what’s in them.  The nastiest component is called "Butyl Cellusolve", and is indeed a nasty chemical solvent.  The question is concentration; incidentally, you can buy cleaning solutions containing butyl cellusolve at Home Depot, among other places.  I don’t recommend drinking it.

All of these claims appear to be traceable to one so-called self-identified "expert."  If she has actual evidence, such as a roster of all the people who worked on the Exxon Valdez, their ages, and the disposition of their health (and death, as she alleges) then let’s have it.  This sort of extreme claim requires strict proof.  Period.

There is a second well that BP (and/or Diamond Offshore) is hiding that is the real leak that is five (or alternatively seven) miles away; this is a sideshow and they can’t plug either.  The pressures are off the charts, never encountered before.

Really?  Then how come they just did plug the well?  Off the charts?  About two weeks ago there was a pressure gauge on one of the downhole lines, and it read 7,000 psi.  The water at that depth exerts ~2,000 psi.  If this was an absolute gauge (probably true) then the in-bore relative pressure (relative to the sea floor) was ~5,000 psi.  About right – and not "off the charts."  Note that the current picture DOES NOT LIE – there is no oil coming from the riser – at all.

As for the second hole, exactly where is it?  And why is it that we can’t verify that?  There were, at one point in this mess, accusations made on my forum (and elsewhere) that a second well was "blown out."  It turns out that was complete bullcrap - that second well was being remediated on an ongoing basis from damage sustained in the hurricanes over the last number of years, and the small amount of seepage that had been taking place was being collected on the sea floor – the vessel on the surface was drawing down that collected oil and working on a final kill solution.  That well was one of a cluster that all fed a platform that was severely damaged in the storms.  In other words, the claim was utter and complete BS, and yet those who ran that line of crap never retracted it or admitted they were scaremongering without a shred of evidence. Of the wells involved in that mess only four were capable of production without being actively pumped – that is, only four had positive pressure.  In short, there was no "second big spill."  There were also no apologies.

The water is highly toxic!  We have a sample with a high amount of propylene glycol (one of the constituents of Corexit) in it!

Really? This was also posted on my forum.  The claimed amounts were between 360 and 440 ppm, and the claim was also made that this was extremely toxic, with the claim made that 25ppm is lethal to fish. Really? The MSDS says otherwise:


Ecotoxicity in water (LC50): >5000 mg/l 24 hours [Goldfish]. >10000 mg/l 48 hours [guppy]. >10000 mg/l 48 hours [water flea].

So much for that claim.

Now where are the other constituents of the dispersant?  Specifically, I’m very interested in the presence of butyl cellusolve.  When this was posted on my forum I asked for and was promised the full results from the analysis.  They were never provided to me.  Why not?

Next, where did the propylene glycol come from?  Are you sure it was from Corexit?  Better check carefully around your house, and see where you might find the stuff.  It’s in a lot of consumer products that go down your drain, including things like shampoo, mouthwash, etc.  Oh, and it’s also used in boat and RV winterizing antifreeze – and is approved to be discharged directly into the water when the engine (or water system) is recommissioned in the spring.  It is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for incidental ingestion by humans, as does happen in very small amounts when you recommission a boat or RV fresh water system!

Should you chug a gallon of it?  No, it is mildly toxic, and if you drink enough it could cause you some serious trouble.  But is it "instant death"?  No – that’s a bald lie.  And further, if the Corexit was the source of this stuff, the other components in that brew would be present in the same.  Where are they?

I can only surmise that the reason I never was provided the rest of the analysis is that the "smoking gun" they expected to find in the sample was absent. 

Again, no retraction or explanation. 

They can’t plug the well – it will spew for years and then the sea floor will then collapse, creating a tsunami that will flood the entire coast.

The old "Noah myth" is alive and well.  While you’re at it posting this trash I’m filling out your Baker Act petition and banning you from the forum.  ‘Nuff said.

The entire Gulf Coast will be evacuated because it will rain oil (and/or Corexit) and everyone will die if you don’t leave.

Hmmm… well, I live here, and I’ve yet to see any evidence of harmful health effects.  You believe what you want.  Those questions up above need answered before I’m going to buy into this claptrap.

No, I’m not going swimming or diving in the gulf for now.  My boat is sitting in my driveway, and I doubt I’ll use it this year.  I’m not particularly interested in eating the fish for a while either.

But I grew up on a waterway that was polluted enough to not be safe to swim in or eat the fish from, and there are a lot of old people who still live there – including my parents.  They didn’t die at 51 – they’re still with us, and as far as I can tell there has been no ridiculously out-of-the-normal cluster of "odd" things like cancers and such among that population.  The air and water there were a lot more filthy than anything we tolerate nowdays. 

Again, extreme claims require strict proof.  Show me.  So far all I’ve got is a bunch of nutters on The Internet predicting instant death if you don’t evacuate and claiming that the big bad FEMA vans will be rolling soon to round us all up.   I’m sure there’s a black helicopter or three in those fantasies too.

About that Baker Act thing….

What annoys me the most about this bilge is that it severely detracts from the real impacts of the spew.  The real damage to the beaches, to the economy of the gulf states, to the fishery.  Those impacts aren’t doom-and-gloom nonsense spewed by a bunch of nutballs, they’re real.

But how do you separate them out from the jackassery, and how do you keep the jackasses from causing further economic damage?  It’s tough.  I did and still do argue that we should have closed the Destin Pass – not with boom, with a hard fill.  I know it was an unpopular suggestion.  I don’t care.  It was the right thing to do and the oil that is out there will be there for some time yet. 

Anyone that believes the fish in the Gulf respect some line on a map and that the fish on one side are safe to eat and the others not, we’ll do Baker Act petitions for you too.  You’re nuts.  That’s the most asinine thing I’ve heard in my years on this rock, and is nothing other than a bald defense of an industry that was destroyed – fishing in the gulf waters with the purpose of consumption – for at least the next several years.  Sorry, those are facts.  But I have no reason to believe that the fishermen will stop fishing, or that they won’t sell their catch to people who will buy and eat it.  I won’t, but you’re welcome to if you’d like.

As for the rest of the nutters, the most-insane of your claims went up in a sputter and then silence yesterday afternoon at about 2:30.  I know it must be disappointing that they were actually able to close the valves and the well casing didn’t instantly eject itself to the surface as some of you claimed it would, but the facts are what they are.

If you’re man or woman enough to admit you were running an unsubstantiated line of BS and scaring the hell out of people without a shred of evidence, in the very same public forums where you originally ran your mouths, I’ll have some respect for you.

If not?

From where I sit discovering who’s a complete and total whackjob is a good thing, especially with the ongoing economic mess we’re in, and the tough times ahead of us as a nation. This information will prove useful for those who are intelligent enough to use it to avoid you – when things really do get dicey, and they will.

A level head and analytical mind are important attributes at times like this, and perhaps God gave us this little disaster so those who are mentally unstable would display their insanity before they could get the rest of us in real trouble. 

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