Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Really Scary Gulf of Mexico Scenario That Might Be Plausible.

I followed a blog link - I already forgot whence - to an "article" on Mother Jones magazine doing several things Mother Jones is good at:

  1. Pointing us to something really interesting elsewhere.
  2. Quoting extensively without bothering to follow up.
  3. Sensationalizing a bit to increase page views.
  4. Adding no other value whatsoever to the discussion.
  5. Attracting commenters who engage in passionate meta-arguments.
  6. Attracting commenters who wish for the apocalyptic end to everything, somehow naively assuming they will not be eaten by my livestock weasels when Anarchy finally descends.

I realize the burden of passionate leftism is hard to bear if you don't happen to be South American, but hey, since when did Communists believe in Journalism? And who cares, if the end is nigh? Seriously, it might be.

Are you curious yet? Have you already gone and googled it?

OK, so let's have some more background. But only a bit. I've been thinking lately about scale as it applies to our current British Petroleum-induced nightmare. In short, we're thinking about the wrong sort of scale. A bunch of corporate geologists punched a hole in the bottom of the ocean, and it's leaking oil. We need to think in terms of geologic scale.

What if our little corporate geologist hole keeps leaking for four more years, nonstop, without any sign of abating? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Four years? WTF?!

Go ask the folks in East Java how they like their mud. MUD. Oh yeah, and the mud is freely accessible, open-air mud, not five thousand feet below the friggin' ocean mud.

So, my point, which I freely admit I wouldn't be qualified to make if BP and the US Government weren't lying through their clenched teeth and enforcing a data blackout, is that we may be radically overestimating our ability to control this situation. And the scale on which it works itself out may be deeply uncomfortable for us: think hundreds of years without any fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, think permanent abandonment of all the relevant shorelines and as far inland as the hurricanes drop their black oily rain.

Even if I pretend BP is telling something resembling the truth, I think that all sounds eminently possible.

But here's a way scarier idea: What if the BP well is broken deep under the sea bed, and it's going to turn into some kind of massive expanding undersea gusher in the highly likely event that BP fails to relieve the pressure? What if the most optimistic version of success would still vastly increase the amount of oil being spilled? What if "bleeding" the well at, say, double the current release rate, for the rest of our lives, is the absolute best we can hope for?

Yep, that's the conjecture I ran into on the Innernets.

Here's the link you've been waiting so patiently for, thanks to the source, The Oil Drum.

Read the comments. Keep in mind that it's a largely anonymous forum in which both experts and paranoid cranks can be found. But of course also keep in mind that Tony Hayward is going to have to shoot his way out of the bank if he wants to live in anything other than infamy, and he's controlling your access to the truth accordingly.

I can see two potential upsides to this: first, it might maybe be the wake-up call to the dangers of our petroleum addiction, and thus trigger a real energy revolution; and second, there's no way in Hell we can fight two foreign wars while we deal with this.

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