Monday, June 14, 2010

Oil Spills Rarely Happen & Other Fairy Tales

I can no longer remember the name of the first wingnut Republican to claim oil spills are rare, for some reason I’m thinking David Vitter of Louisiana or perhaps Haley Barbour of Mississippi but regardless we’ve heard it from several folks by now. And I have to say, it’s one of the stupidest right wing talking points to come out of the collective Republican gob since Saddam’s mythic WMD’s. I mean yeah, if oil spills are so rare, then why do oil companies make chemical dispersants by the truckload?

Anyway, today we learn of yet another oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:
A second leak, discovered at the Ocean Saratoga rig, is leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Initial reports claim the the volume of crude oil being released is much less than that of the Deepwater Horizon, but a 10 mile long oil slick has been detected by satellite. The site is visible in satellite images gathered by, which first reported the leak on its website May 15.

The Ocean Saratoga site, owned by Taylor Energy, is located approximately ten miles off the coast of southern Louisiana. Official figures released report only 14 gallons of oil per day being emitted into the Gulf of Mexico to account for the massive oil slick.

Reports admit that small amounts have been leaking daily since Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004 causing an undersea mudslide that destroyed the rig. Taylor Energy says they have been working since that time to stop the leak.

I’m sorry, there’s been a leaking oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico for six years? WTF?

Meanwhile out West in Utah, Chevron’s weekend oil spill looks to be another environmental disaster:

SALT LAKE CITY — Emergency workers believe they have stopped a 21,000-gallon oil leak from reaching the environmentally sensitive Great Salt Lake, one of the West's most important inland water bodies for migratory birds that use it as a place to rest, eat and breed.

But the spill has taken a toll on wildlife at area creeks and ponds, coating about 300 birds with oil and possibly threatening an endangered fish.

Lovely. This reminds me of how after the Kingston coal sludge disaster, we started hearing about all those other leaky coal ash ponds.

Another story which hasn’t received much national attention is the Pennsylvania natural gas well which blew last week, courtesy of the former Enron Corp. That spewed 35,000 gallons of toxic chemicals into the air after a blowout preventer failed. Here’s the best part:

Though the industry says blowouts are rare, another natural gas well, in West Virginia, blew up on Monday, burning seven workers.

Well, if “the industry” says it, it must be true! Just don't pay attention to that other eco-disaster happening in another part of the country. Look, shiny-sparkly Lindsay Lohan thingie over there!

Folks, we’re doing it wrong. We’re fouling our nest. Fossil fuels are a dirty, nasty business. Pipelines and oil rigs leak. Tankers leak. Oil spills happen all the time, and when we aren’t polluting our food supply pulling this stuff out of the ground or transporting it, we’re polluting our air and water when we actually use the stuff.

And speaking of stupidity coming from Republican gobs, the best one yet came from my own Senator Lamar Alexander, writing in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Lamar has continued to perpetuate the myth that nuclear energy is somehow safe and clean and even affordable. Right after dissing wind energy because “windmills generate electricity—not transportation fuel” he writes:

If we need more green electricity, build nuclear plants. The 100 commercial nuclear plants we already have produce 70% of our pollution-free, carbon-free electricity. Yet the U.S. has just broken ground on our first new reactor in 30 years, while China starts one every three months and France is 80% nuclear. We wouldn't mothball our nuclear Navy if we were going to war. We shouldn't mothball our nuclear plants if we want low-cost, reliable green energy.

Without even getting into how environmentally damaging mining uranium fuel is (I talked about it last year), let me remind Lamar Alexander of one very simple fact: what we are dealing with in Kington, TN, the Gulf of Mexico, Utah, Pennsylvania and hundreds of other places I haven’t even mentioned is a failure of our technology. Accidents happen. Blowout preventers fail. Coal sludge ponds fail. Pipelines break. Anything made by human hands can and most assuredly will fail.

Imagine if any of the accidents I mentioned in this post had been radioactive? Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. You can count on it. You can take that piece of wisdom to the bank. You want to do that with radioactive fuel? Spent nuclear waste? A nuclear reactor? You, sir, are an idiot.

But fine, you want your nukes? Sure, as soon as you repeal the Price Anderson Act which places a liability cap on nuclear power accidents. If there's another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, then by God let the utility responsible pay for it, not the taxpayers. Just as everyone is crying for BP to clean up the oil spill, let's make sure we don't socialize the losses of a nuclear accident. I'm sure as a fiscal conservative you would support that, right?