June 6, 2010

The Oily Bird Catches The Worm

Good morning and greetings, Gulf Coast fans. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop thinking about all that oil gushing out into the ocean. Well, that and chocolate air. Just think, how many gallons flowed into the Gulf in the time that it took you to read that last sentence? So when I ran across this next story, written by Holbrook Mohr for the Associated Press, I had to share it with my cyber peeps, proving that sometimes co-dependence can be a wonderful thing.

The Gulf of Mexico is a superhighway for hurricanes that form over pools of hot water, then move north or west toward the coast. The site of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded on April 20 is along the general path of some of the worst storms ever recorded, including Hurricane Camille, which wiped out the Mississippi coast in 1969, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane George in 2000, which ravaged our military and nation’s economy.

My daughter’s softball practices and the hurricane season officially started last Tuesday, and while scientists and the Klu Klux Klan seem to agree that the sprawling slick isn’t likely to affect the formation of a storm, the real worry is that a hurricane might turn the millions of gallons of floating crude into a crashing black surf.

Some fear a horrific combination of damaging winds, large waves and BP accountants pushing the oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands and coating miles of debris-littered coastline in a pungent, sticky mess, which happens every time I attempt to make chop suey.

And the worst effects of an oil-soaked storm and my Asian cooking might not be felt for years: If oil is pushed deep into coastal marshes that act as a natural speed bump for storm surges, areas including New Orleans, the Florida panhandle and the frontcourt of the Miami Heat could be more vulnerable to bad storms for a long time.

Experts say there are few, if any, studies on such a scenario. In this “untreaded water … it’s tough to theorize about what would happen,” said Joe Bastardi, chief long-range hurricane forecaster and high hurdler with AccuWeather.com. My family goes way back with Joe, as I grew up with his cousin, that Rat Bastardi, back in Jersey. Sometimes it seems like these lines write themselves.

The lone precedent, experts agree, is the summer of 1979, when Hurricane Henri hampered efforts to contain a spill from a Mexican rig that eventually dumped 140 million gallons off the Yucatan Peninsula. This environmental disaster ruined my summer vacation, as we had to cancel all our deep-sea fishing excursions and instead spent the entire trip indoors sipping margaritas, eating quesadillas and bustin’ up pinatas at Senor Frogs. But on the plus side, my batting stroke improved tremendously for wiffle ball.

Still, while oil from that spill coated miles of beaches in Texas and Mexico, tropical storms, unseasonable cold fronts and guacamole, chips and salsa helped reverse offshore currents earlier than normal and drive oil away from the coast. “That’s what I think would happen this time,” he says. “I’m sure a hurricane would do a great deal of diluting the oil, spreading it out where the concentrations would be much less damaging. Of course, if I’m wrong, we’re all screwed”

Experts are predicting a busy hurricane season with powerful storms. Bastardi predicts seven named storms, two or three major hurricanes and overweight windbag named Rush Limbaugh will have an effect on land this year. Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November. Early season storms, much like responses when I send out my resume, are uncommon. The busy part of the season is August through October as stronger storms typically form during this time, as the start of the NFL and new TV season approaches.

A hurricane like Katrina or having eight more years of the oil companies being in bed with the Bush family “would be a worst-case scenario” with oil pushed far ashore, says National Wildlife Federation scientist and pole vaulter Doug Inkley.

“It would suffocate the vegetation. You’d get oiled birds and other animals. It’s virtually impossible to clean up oil. It would be worse than the pajama parties the Bushes were having with the Saudi Royal family.”

By August 1, even under the best case scenario offered by federal scientists, there could be some 51 million gallons of oil that is spilled into the Gulf-five times the size of the Exxon Valdex disaster off Alaska’s coast in 1989. If all that oil were put into gallon milk jugs, the jugs could be lined up and span a round-trip between Salt Lake City and New York City. If you are including cookies to along with them, then think Las Vegas.

Here’s the bottom line, sports fans. This oil is going to continue to flow into the Gulf until at least August. It will have environmental repercussions for my children’s children and their pets. Because of our insatiable thirst for this bubbling crude, we’ve gone through all the readily accessible oil and are now searching for new fuel in places that only Flipper, Jacques Cousteau’s family and the cast from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” should be visiting.

So if you want to be outraged, listen to this. According to Mary Kate Cary in USNews.com, “Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the Obama Administration has granted at least 19 environmental waivers of gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits for deep water projects.” I’m screaming right now, Mr. President, can you hear me?

Here’s one more tidbit for you. Many people are wondering, will this disaster affect the price of oil this summer? Well, according to Brian Williams of NBC News, “the sad truth is, if you added up all the millions and millions of gallons of oil that has spilled out into the gulf, it equals only about an hour’s worth of our nation’s energy consumption.” In the words of the Ides of March, “I’m your vehicle, baby, I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”

Due to the Bush administration’s atmosphere of non-regulation and the corrupt federal Mineral Management Service, who enjoyed a much too cozy relationship with BP, we find ourselves playing catchup in the Gulf. Two months ago, President Obama was promoting offshore drilling, and his administration and BP were about as ready to handle a spill like this as I was for my math SAT.

My son asked me the other night, “Dad, why are we killing the earth? It seems like we go from one disaster to the next. Why is this happening and can I please have my allowance?”

These are difficult questions to answer but a believe the “g” word plays a big part. No, not gee, I don’t know, but greed. The final word today, my fellow Americans, comes from Robert Palmer, who says, “might as well face it, we’re addicted to oil.” There’s so much more I’d like to rant about on this subject, but the solar panels of my wind turbines are dusty so I’ve got to gas up my electric car because I’m down to my last liter of vegetable oil.

So in honor of our oceans, I’d thought we’d take a look at a few marine animals that inhabit the waters of our central coast. I headed down to the wharf on Friday to check out the action, and was greeted by the fog enshrouding the Boardwalk (photo #6). I then walked over to a boat landing on the wharf and was welcomed by this gang of sea lions (photos #4-5,) who were relaxing in the sun while discussing the adjustments the Celtics needed to make in game two of the NBA Finals.

I shot this seal in the sand (photo #3) last week at Natural Bridges. However, the first two images of the pelicans are probably the most meaningful. I photographed them on Thursday, right after seeing pictures of the brown pelicans drenched in oil in Louisiana. The sad thing is, even after they capture and clean off the birds, it takes ten days to rebuild their feather’s natural waterproofing and file insurance claims.

But here’s the big problem. Even when the birds are released in Florida where the oil hasn’t hit yet, because of their ability to follow their internal homing device, their compass brings them right back to Louisana. It’s no Mardi Gras in these marshlands. It’s migratory madness for millions of birds who don’t read the newspaper, watch the news and have never heard of anyone named Katrina.

Here’s a little late night action. “Today, President Obama flew to Louisiana to see the gulf cleanup effort firsthand. And it was just like President Bush’s trip to Louisiana, except Obama actually landed. A new poll found that 43 percent of Americans think President Obama is doing a good job at handling the BP oil spill. Of course, the same poll found that 43 percent of Americans hate pelicans.” -Jimmy Fallon

“In fact, President Obama fired the head of the Mineral Management Services, because of lack of oversight of offshore oil rigs. It’s got to be tough finding another job after that. It’s like, ‘I see you were head of the department in charge of preventing oil spills? And this was during the huge oil spill?’ ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ ‘You may not be Wendy’s material.’” This is a crazy story. An American adventurist strapped himself to a bunch of helium balloons and floated from England to France. Immediately afterward, people in Mexico asked, ‘Exactly how many balloons?’” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our environmental update. It’s been a tough time for wildlife fans and the families of the oil rig workers that were killed in the blast. But besides our oceans being poisoned, thus creating oxygen depletion zones where nothing thrives and BP’s use of 700,000 gallons of Corexit, a chemical oil dispersant that’s toxic to army, navy and marine life, it was a pretty good week, as I helped rescue a gopher snake, spotted a coyote in Pogonip and heard reports of porpoises in the kelp beds in the bay. So enjoy the warm June days , the NBA Finals and we’ll catch you at midcourt. Aloha, mahalo and later, Ray Allen fans.

5 Comments »

  1. Well if I wasn’t already depressed about losing to the Celtics last night and it being Monday morning your post certainly got me there. I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about our latest national disaster but it’s pretty much unavoidable. What, Friday Night Lights wasn’t heavy enough for you this past week…

    Comment by Sasha Vujacic — June 7, 2010 @ 7:55 am

  2. I suppose it’s good to be drenched in reality, but reality sure does suck these days. Thanks for being our informant.
    Enjoyed the photo of the lone seal (#3), as long as he’s just resting and not dead.

    Thanks for writing, taking photos, and being your all around talented self.

    Comment by Wendi — June 7, 2010 @ 8:25 am

  3. Okay, we have coastal overcast skies this morning and I took an extra dose of honey in my coffee while digesting this Monday’s blog. Ugh… We can count our blessings that we live on the edge of a beautiful marine sanctuary. Maybe, we should be actively replacing the combustion engine and it’s fuel.

    Comment by Babs — June 7, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  4. Thanks for your poignant and pungent blob, er blog. We need more people like you to spew forth truth, justice and the comedian way.

    Comment by boots Mcghee — June 7, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  5. Need to become a member of this web site, great post. Found it about ask.

    Comment by Debt Management Solution — January 13, 2011 @ 8:15 am

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