Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gulf Of Mexico

BTW... A small milestone was reached here at the American Energy Crisis! Today was my 888th post (I like to celebrate these types of numbers rather than the deci-multiples...). 888 posts later and I am still not sure what motivates me... it certainly isn't the ad revenue...

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It would appear that we have come to the end of the deep offshore Oil adventure. Maybe not right away, but maybe a lot sooner than many of us thought possible. What if... the "leak" is not resolved in a month, or a quarter, or a year?...

If you think regulatory oversight is lax in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and the rest of the major offshore oil provinces leave much more to be desired. The U.S. is not the only country with the ability to cause/experience an environmental disaster.

I read with great interest Dmitri Orlov's excellent article "An American Chernobyl", and there is little doubt that the comparison is a fair one. So... what if "Drill, Baby, Drill" morphs into "Nuke, Baby, Nuke" (or some such silly slogan)? Are Nuclear plants the answer? Really? Even in some Banana Republic upwind of the U.S.? Are they OK in the U.S. but NOT in the Banana Republic?

I confess, I tend to think of "Safe Nuclear" the way I view "honest politician" - as the ultimate oxymoron. There is no such thing as a failure free system design for ANYTHING of this magnitude, and let's take it to its next logical step: are we going to nuclear power the entire world at an American level of consumption? If not (and of course not), how, and by whom, will it be determined who gets what? Think there might be some folks less than satisfied with the outcome? As in, if you think folks are angry about the way Oil wealth is distributed (think 9/11), then you must think something like this to be at least as significant - except there will be a great deal more fissionable material floating around to settle grievances with...

American style "Capitalism" (I use quotation marks because under no circumstance do we have free market capitalism operating within the American economy... I think it would be better described as "Corporate Fascism" with a gentlemen's agreement between the 2 major parties to call it something else) is as close to breaking down as at anytime since the 1930's. The end (or decline) of deepwater production (which will take a little longer than the end of exploration) might well be the last straw that breaks our back, indeed.

The fact is that an end to offshore Oil production and new Nuclear facilities might actually be a fortuitous development for future generations won't even be considered - the change in lifestyle for the current inhabitants is simply "non-negotiable", as someone famously once quiped. Still, in the end its the action, not the motivation for the action, that effects the outcome. And I should mention that our current political system and polarized players are uniquely incompatible with a reasonable discussion, let alone a solution.

Initially, I thought that the Horizon explosion would be just another hiccup. After 2 weeks, it appeared to be a big problem; after 4 weeks it now appears to be capable of what was once the unthinkable. Time will tell.

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The Industrialized world's debt situation was just compromised rather briskly with the GOM oil spill/leak/explosion. The potential of this incident for unintended/unconsidered consequences is considerable. Rational comments are requested.


16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, one of your better one's. I enjoy your articles when they don't stray too far from data/logical predictions into the more philosophical-political-religious toned postings.

Only time will tell for certain but GOM event of 2010 I believe will be a very important one--it seems that again dissonance is the primary motivator to human behavior--thus they cyclical short-sighted nature that history shows for human endeavors both political and cultural. Joseph Tainter's work on complexity I find to fit well with the current efforts toward status quo, rather than adaptive change and the diminished returns upon complexity couple with the lack of social reslience that come's increased complexity.

I continue to believe that the fragility of the food system will ultimately be the big change agent, that most people will dutifully blame/deny/ and suffer horrible living conditions without adaption--relying on the wishful thinking that most mistake optimism. Rational optimism is a term I think that should be used, most things I read/listen to are based upon "hoping" things will get better--just like you can hope Unicorns will provide food/water/ and security amidst global contraction in the years to come.

-Meiyo

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that this will not be the end of deep water drilling. The leak will be plugged at some point, and drilling will proceed. Same thing will happen with nuclear power. The only thing that will stop it is that we become too financially disabled to afford such projects.

Regards,

Coal Guy

tweell said...

Chernobyl combined a terrible 1950's reactor design with incompetent operation.
I'm not going to say that a 4th gen pebble-bed reactor is foolproof, because fools are amazingly capable of destruction, but they're much safer than the reactors that France has been operating. The US Navy hasn't had problems either, their latest designs are 40 years old, and use bomb-grade uranium (along with a stringent training process to ensure capable operators).
Sorry, but you cannot keep fools from mucking things up anywhere. How about the financial blowup? A totally man-made system there, should be much easier to handle, no? As far as environmental disasters go, we had a major fire in AZ a few years ago started by a lost ditz trying to get rescued.
We will continue to drill for off-shore oil, make nuclear power plants and such in spite of human stupidity, incompetence and such. It's the human way!

Stephen B. said...

Greg, I think you're spot on with the whole essay.

I would offer that I don't think the dangers of deep ocean oil exploration or nuclear reactors on every corner, even pebble reactors, will slow humanity down even one little bit.

I've got things to do today....this lunch break can only be milked for so long....! I'll be returning to read your Orlov link with interest. I switched computers several months ago and had inadvertently lost his bookmark.

Best to all,

westexas said...

A couple of Oil Patch guys with offshore experience on The Oil Drum have been of the opinion pretty much from Day One that they only realistic way of stopping the oil flow was with relief wells.

I wonder if seafood labeled "Not From US Gulf of Mexico Waters" will become a selling point before too long.

But look at the bright side, if they can ultimately salvage the field, BP may have found enough oil to meet global demand for 24 hours or so.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Meiyo:

"Philosophical-political-religious toned postings"?

I am as secular as one can be... I guess some mistake my anti-abortion position as "religious"... not the case at all. I refuse to claim that I am absolutely correct when it comes to matters of life and death. Though I am not terribly religious, I refuse to play G-d in any of the usual manifestations. Ergo, Killing people - be they unborn or on death row just cuts against my grain.

"Philosophical-political"? I have serious Libertarian tendencies; should I not think out loud?

Coal Guy:

This may not be the end of off shore drilling, but it maybe the end of deep water drilling... depending on how long before the well is capped.

And it might not be the END of either, but it might be the end in the increase of offshore production - since land based production peaked in 1975, it would seem that Peak Oil is now about to be on us with a vengeance.

Tweel:

I am not an engineer. However, the probabilities of catastrophic failure increase with each additional plant, as does the security issues and waste disposal issues. Did I mention transportation?

Westexas:

Great....

Greg T. Jeffers said...

I am looking for your ideas about the consequences, political, exploration & production.... IF the well is not capped for, say 3 more months.

Anonymous said...

IF the well is not capped then politically it will not be popular to expand offshore drilling--in a climate of moderate oil prices and gas prices. WHEN gas prices spike up again, say 2011 sometime, then people from the states not directly effected either visually or by fishing/ecologically might start pushing drilling again--with some push-back from the states whom took it on the chin from this disaster.

My guess is Republicans will temporarily tone down the "drill" rhetoric and Obama will back off on his previous proposal which wasn't popular with many Dem's anyway.

In regards to my former statement, I suppose it would be better for me to say, I like the posts you have that deal with energy/oil and the like the most, and posts about Kagan etc the least, although hey this is your blog brotha :) I appreciate this forum and the thoughts of the posters here and the information provided, which is sorely lacking in most M.S.M. outlets.

-Meiyo

Anonymous said...

if this is not capped in 3 more months, I think we could have a destruction of the ocean ecosystem for generations. the political fallout could be WW edition III

Pickdog

Anonymous said...

I foresee a whole big bunch of residents from the gulf coast states who have nothing to lose....a proto revolutionary body of the disposessed?

The USA is unraveling rather quickly in a number of important areas. The nation already appears like it is fading in and out- like in the matter transporters from the old Star Trek.

Regards, Marshall

Anonymous said...

Hmm Marshall, who is our Scotty then, to help stop our issues with phasing out?

-Meiyo

bureaucrat said...

The deepwater drilling will continue once they shut off this irritating little Gulf well. What the political fallout will be is next. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez thing led to substantial Federal rulemaking on alternative vehicle fuels three years later. Sadly, the Congress cannot change chemistry. Oil is what is needed and it will be found. The alternatives all suck (I've looked into every one of them). The only one with a long term scope is electricity, but that depends on max. 40 mile a day trips and better batteries.

We will get our oil one way or another. Just watch for the political drumbeat when it is time to invade Venezuela or Nigeria. You guys know who is in charge -- the same people who wanted Saddam neutralized. Is he neutralized?

Charles said...

I agree about the oil leak - the next few months of news footage showing oil-covered wildlife and Americans out of work (fishermen to resort workers), followed by economic assessments of the financial damage, and then 5 years of lawsuits..... Add in the hurricane season and that cloying smell and maybe a film of oil 50 or 100 miles inland, not to mention the possible health implications. Not many politicians will want deep sea drilling off THEIR coasts!

As for nuclear; it takes 15 years to get permission and build nuclear, assuming someone wants it and someone else wants to pay for it. Hard to see what'll fill that time gap.

Personally I was anti-nuclear for a long time until I read a very detailed analysis of the sickness, injuries and death comparisons between coal and nuclear per Kw/H energy produced. Nuclear has proven to be over 100 times safer, with lower pollution levels, even including Chernobyl (and don't forget the possible consequences of Three Mile Island). As for the nuclear waste; I like James Lovelock's suggestion that we dump it in many secret locations through the Amazon rainforest, making it so radioactive that loggers and other exploitation companies don't want to go there! A win-win? ;-)

kathy said...

It won't matter how long it goes on. It could still be gushing but if we get into an energy crunch we will agree to ANYTHING that gets oil or even the promise of oil.

K said...

if it isn`t capped in 3 months, then many more companies will be having "accidents" of a similar kind. Especially, if the company loses no money. Profitz uber Alles!

Publius said...

The Deepwater Horizon incident is not a mere "spill."
It's certainly more than "irritating," as the ever euphemistic and irrationally optimistic Bureaucrat claims.

This "spill" is actually a geyser of corrosive-containing oil and natural gas and other substances, and it is quickly eroding the steel pipes and BOP that somewhat contain it.

If and when it eats through the steel pipes, and then the bore hole itself, the entire Gulf region would/will be engulfed in a huge morass and cloud of oil, fumes, and natural gas. I could kill the entire Gulf of Mexico, and kill hundreds or thousands (and more, with long-term effects taken into account) of people due to fumes, toxins, and irritants. It will render huge swaths of coastal real-estate uninhabitable by those who don't want to become cancer victims and have mutant children.

The depth of this mega-blowout far eclipses the depth (and therefore pressure) of any other similar event in history.

Time is running out before the flow blows through the pipes and bore hole. If they don't get that thing plugged with the sticky good they are going to try (totally unproven), then all hell will break loose.

States threatened by offshore drilling after this will threaten to secede from the Union, or at least take over oversight and control of their resources. Eventually, military conflict between states/regions is possible.
History shows that regions will not suffer resource exploitation and complete environmental degradation forever before revolting.

Greg is right: the age of offshore oil is dying, and killing the Gulf in its death throes.

Will latte-sipping oil-guzzling liberals in big American cities be willing to send their sons and daughters all over the continent (and world) to secure their oil?
Yeah, right.