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[B]Past environmental disasters have prompted major U.S. laws, but the worst oil spill in U.S. history has yet to break the Senate logjam over the pending energy-climate bill.
Why the difference?
"People's outrage is focused on BP," Anthony Leiserowitz, a researcher at Yale University who tracks public opinion on climate change, tells The Washington Post in story today. The spill "hasn't been automatically connected to some sense that there's something more fundamental wrong with our relationship with the natural world."
nvironmentalists want the public to see the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, begun April 20 and still spewing, as reason to lessen U.S. dependence on fossil fuel and support a Senate bill, by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, U-Conn., to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
They've held "Hands Across the Sand" events at Gulf beaches to protest offshore drilling, and in Washington, they spelled out "Freedom From Oil" on the National Mall with American flags, reports the Post.
Yet the Senate remains grid-locked in an election year rife with anti-incumbent fervor and Americans, in public opinion polls, still put economic concerns far ahead of environmental ones. With gas prices down from a year ago, more are driving this summer, reports AAA.
In contrast, a much smaller oil spill in 1968 (100,000 barrels) near Santa Barbara, Calif., along with a fire on Cleveland's Cuyahoga River, helped create the first Earth Day in 1970 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency months later.[/B]
[url=http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/07/why-hasnt-historic-gulf-spill-helped-push-climate-bill/1]Why hasn't historic Gulf spill helped push climate bill? - Green House - USATODAY.com[/url]
[B]“I am very excited that there’s no oil in the Gulf of Mexico,” Kent Wells, a senior vice president for BP, said about the flow during a teleconference on Thursday, “but we just started the test and I don’t want to create a false sense of excitement.”
Oil stopped flowing at 2:25 p.m. local time, Mr. Wells said, when engineers closed the choke line, the final seal of the well. Engineers and scientists will now examine the results of the tests every six hours to determine the pressure levels.
The view one mile beneath the gulf on BP’s continuous live video feed was con****uously calm, devoid of the clouds of crude oil that had been billowing since the disaster first occurred in April. Despite the long-anticipated moment, officials involved in the spill effort, including President Obama, were quick to downplay the development as a temporary measure.
“I think it is a positive sign, we’re still in the testing phase and I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow,” President Obama said in response to a shouted question at the conclusion of a news conference devoted entirely to the passage of the financial regulatory bill.
Mr. Wells, of BP, cautioned that this cap may not be the ultimate solution to sealing the well, and may be only an interim solution. “What we have to be careful about, depending on what this test tells us, we may need to open the well back up and go back to containment options.”
Earlier on Thursday, the national incident commander, Thad W. Allen, said that closing the well off using the containment cap would only be an interim measure, and that the company must still complete the relief wells it is working on in order to seal the well for good.
The test commenced after two days of delays while BP fixed a leak in the equipment that engineers discovered on Wednesday night. Engineers replaced equipment on the tight-sealing cap that has been placed at the top of well, 5,000 feet under water, said Kent Wells, a senior vice president of the company. The equipment, part of a choke line that was the last valve to be closed before the pressure test could begin.
BP said that its three-ram capping stack was closed, “effectively shutting in the well and all sub-sea containment systems.”
Live feeds of video images from the undersea well clearly showed that the release of oil had had been completely halted.
Mr. Allen, clarified the role of the cap in his news conference on Thursday morning, saying that this mechanism was never meant to be the ultimate solution to closing the well.
Mr. Allen called it a “precursor” to containment, making it possible for the gushing crude to be captured through four different systems that together can keep up with the estimated rate of flow, which the government now puts at 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day. If all goes well, it may also be used to seal the well completely for brief periods.
“I don’t want to reverse the priorities here, because the priority was to contain and stop the flow of oil,” he said, “but the design of the cap itself, if we can withstand the pressures and the well bore stays intact, presents the opportunity to shut the well in, which will give us the ability to abandon the site in a hurricane, so it’s a two-for if we can do it.”
The test involves closing all the valves on the new cap, which was installed earlier in the week, to increase pressure in the well so that BP can assess its condition over the length of the well bore, which extends 13,000 feet below the seabed.
Mr. Allen likened the process to putting a thumb over the end of a running garden hose. If the pressure does not rise as a result, that means there is a leak somewhere. In the case of the well, if the resulting pressure is high, that means the well bore is intact, he said.
“We have been slowly using mechanisms to close off the hose,” Mr. Allen said.
With those mechanisms all but closed off by Thursday morning, BP prepared to start watching the pressure readings. If all goes well and the pressure remains high, the test will continue for 48 hours. But even then, the oil will not be completely stopped, Mr. Allen said, as BP evaluates the test results with seismic readings beneath the sea.
The testing procedure has been plagued with delays. On Tuesday, the government asked BP to postpone the test for 24 hours while scientists reviewed the procedures. Officials were concerned about the possibility that the test itself might damage the well. The decision was made to allow the test to go ahead on Wednesday, with some modifications; the discovery and repair of the valve leak set it back to Thursday.
At the White House on Wednesday, Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, said that Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and others had been involved in the review, asking BP about the possible effect of the test on the well’s condition.
Mr. Gibbs described the review as “a series of steps” that were being taken “in order to ensure that what we’re doing is being done out of an abundance of caution to do no harm.”
Among the concerns was that if the well was damaged during the test, oil and gas might leak from the seafloor around the well rather than up through the well bore as it is now.
While the test is being conducted, the drilling of relief wells — considered the ultimate solution to stopping the gusher at its source — will be halted as a precaution, BP said.
Viewed from a Coast Guard cutter about a mile away, the well site was a floating city on Wednesday, with scores of vessels scattered nearby in calm conditions. Activity was centered on the spot where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and burned in mid-April, sinking two days later and leaving the well it was working on broken open.
Another huge drill rig, the Development Driller III, was visible about a mile away from the site on Wednesday, working on the first relief well. A nearly identical rig, the Development Driller II, was working on a backup relief well that is not as far along. Supply boats attended both rigs, with long sections of casing pipe lying ready on their decks.
At about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the tongues of fire from the collection ships that had marked the site for weeks went out, only to be restarted later when the valve leak was discovered. [/B]
[url=http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews_excl/ynews_excl_sc3270]Mighty oil-eating microbes help clean up the Gulf - Yahoo! News[/url]
the link is an article on yahoo about how the oil is "disappearing" ... supposedly the tropical storms conditions helped it evaporate and the rest is soaked into the ocean floor (cant be safe). All the boats that are cleaning the water and theyve only gotten around 1% of it all.
Here is some updated information on the oil spill:
Gulf Oil Spill Meets Dead Zone: What Lies Beneath
Scientists in Louisiana have just documented that the disturbing "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, is one of the largest ever -- about the size of Massachusetts. Now, this eerie, underwater hypoxic (low-oxygen) area overlaps the toxic BP oil spill plume. One doesn't have to imagine what trouble lies beneath the sea. We know. It's just that the darkness lurking out of sight is often out of mind. And as the visible gusher is being "killed" and our shores are less sullied with oil and slimed wildlife, we want to move on, forget, and fall back into denial.
Signs of that denial are everywhere: the Department of Interior is signaling the offshore drilling ban may be lifted before November 30th; and the Gulf states are the most fervent opponents of proposed restrictions on offshore oil wells. Though scientists are warning about a spill plume and dead zones that could affect us for decades -- sometimes facts are not enough to keep us awake and engaged.
Sometimes the only way we can remember and change is through stories. A recent book, What Sticks, makes the case that statistics don't stick in our minds like stories. Consider these reports:
* 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled from worst accidental oil spill in history
* Dead Zone from farming's run-off is 7,722 sq. miles and spreading
* Vital ocean phytoplankton, required for half of all photosynthesis on the planet has declined 40% between 1950 and 2008
Facts can be filed away and forgotten. But a story is often vividly remembered. So here's a story about the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone -- what it looks and feels like to experience this as an undersea diver. I researched the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico for my environmental thriller, Animal Heart. Nearby this barren undersea stretch is one of the most beautiful marine sanctuaries in the world, Flower Garden Banks, south of the Texas-Louisiana border near Galveston, Texas.
Every August, eight days after the full moon, there is a miracle, a sea change, a diver's delight. Here is what an undersea photographer on assignment for National Geographic sees:
Constellations of translucent star coral in full spawn. Bubbling, pearl-like bundles of egg and sperm swarm the coral reefs; whole colonies cross-pollinating in such a bright storm it is like swimming through glowing green galaxies. Reef gardens are embellished with scarlet and orange staircase sponges and feathery gorgonian fans with their bright yellow branches. So glorious these colors, as if freshly splashed by some Poseidon-Picasso, using phosphorous paints.
Just this year the Census of Marine Life declared the Gulf of Mexico one of the world's top five areas for marine biodiversity. Imagine now that these precious waters are not only threatened by a spreading plume of oil but also a poisonous Dead Zone. Dive down past bleached and oxygen-starved coral to witness the Dead Zone that lies beneath:
About fifty feet below the healthy surface of the Gulf lay a murky layer... a turbid cloud of stirred-up sediment and dead sea creatures. Flaccid jellyfish floated on the flat currents of tiny corpses. On the sea bottom the waters were gray and terrifyingly empty. No coral, no fish, no algae, nothing but the noxious oily streaks of red tides and lethal plankton blooms. Everything in this 7,000-square-mile zone had died from lack of oxygen. It would be as if every person in a city were suddenly sucked dry of air and suffocated together.
Except the death was agonizingly protracted for the fish, the algae, the dolphins and whales. For a diver accustomed to the rich underworld sea life, it was shocking. Coral didn't pop and crackle, because it was bleached dead. There was no curious companionship of loggerhead turtles, no zip and flutter of clown fish or soaring manta ray. Not even the ugly, saw-tooth smile of a moray eel.
This haunting undersea world of liquid gray nothingness must be photographed in black and white. Disoriented, his own air running out, he lifted his camera to focus the viewfinder on this underwater image: Blankness, black, white, and gray. Haunting. Click, click click. Slow film. Slow death. Clarity.
In this oil spill aftermath, we can still clearly witness, "the evidence of things not seen" below our ravaged Gulf waters. Will we join with BP in denying their oil plume now overlapping a Dead Zone? Or, as Alabama's Anniston Star