A forward look back

I was going to leave the whole mess in the Gulf alone this week. What else can be said, really, about this raging hemorrhage? Besides the fact that, if this puncture wound in Gaia’s colon continues to bleed out for another couple of months, it will become a bigger story than September 11.

Then, by chance, I happened upon an article on the subject of deep water oil drilling in the March 22 Newsweek, just one month before the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In this piece, there are some observations worth revisiting. First off, the article points out that all this new work is taking place in “the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where the ocean floor is 8,000 feet down and covered in a heavy layer of muck. Below that is an ancient salt bed several miles thick, and hidden under that, trapped tens of thousands feet down, there’s oil. Billions and billions of barrels of it” (italics mine). This is what people mean when they talk about “the end of cheap oil,” that to get to the good stuff, it now involves more and more labor, more and more time, and more and more money, all fired up on a truly enormous scale.

It’s not getting any easier. “Next year, a handful of new deepwater projects are scheduled to come online … ultra deepwater projects to extract oil from more than 7,000 feet of water and 40,000 feet of earth,” the magazine reported. Hope somebody makes sure the emergency blowout preventers are working on those babies. Or even that there are emergency blowout preventers.

The token quote from the environmental community proved to be downright clairvoyant. Felicia Marcus, western director of the National Resources Defense Council, in talking about the expanding numbers of deepwater rigs in the Gulf, said, “[Y]ou’re going to have spills. Marine life and coastal communities will be impacted, so we have to start asking ourselves if it’s worth it.” Slightly understated, as it turns out, but basically spot on.

Then, there’s this—“In a December ’09 Rasmussen poll, 68 percent of Americans supported offshore drilling in domestic waters.” I don’t doubt those numbers. But obviously, it would be interesting for Rasmussen to go back and revisit the topic. One suspects that 68 percent figure may have taken a tad bit of a hit in the last couple months.

At this point in the story, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the other shoe. As in, when is that big greasy sucker gonna drop? We know this blowout is bad, really bad, but nobody yet has a clue as to how horribly awful it may all become. I just have this scary notion that by September, there’s a real chance an unexpected and heretofore unimaginable nightmare of unprecedented proportions will finally make itself known. And it ain’t gonna be pleasant.