Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Unimaginable catastrophe

Oh shit. You may have come across this already -- it seems the kinks in the riser pipe of the Deepwater Horizon well are the only thing preventing an uncontrolled gusher, and the pipe is steadily being eroded by sand carried in the escaping crude oil. If the wellhead blows wide open, according to one expert, the hole could gush 150,000 barrels of oil a day. That would be the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every two days, and there is no way they are going to be able to stop this for weeks, if not months. And it seems pretty clear to me from reading the account that this possibility is not remote. In fact, it sounds as though it's almost inevitable.

If that happens. . . but let's not go there yet. Let's just talk about something I think about quite a bit, which is how us foolish humans ought to think about events that have immense consequences, but which we believe to be of low probability. While there are actually a few reasons why I have been against offshore oil exploration for quite a while now, having to do with taking a long view of a finite petroleum resource and a finite atmosphere, most people who have opposed offshore drilling were mostly worried about an event such as this -- an environmental catastrophe. And of course the experts all said pish tosh, we know what we're doing, it's perfectly safe.

Politicians don't have any expertise about these matters, but they do know that the world's largest multinational corporations, with tens of billions of dollars to spend on PR, advertising, and campaign contributions, are in favor of drilling; and so are a lot of people in coastal states who want jobs, and legislators who want tax revenue with low political cost. Opponents don't have anything to offer but basically unsupportable fears. Except it turns out they were right.

There might be a few other questions we should rethink.


C. Corax said...

I'm on a listserv about little houses. With the list admins' blessing, we often veer way, way off-topic, into respectful (disrepectful people get booted from the list) political arguments. Needless to say, this subject has come up, particularly because one of the admins lives in LA. We also have a list member who lives on the coast. Tony, the list admin, pointed out that Louisiana has HALF the coastline in the U.S. The impact is going to be felt for a long, long time.

So Obama pimps "clean coal" and we have a mining disaster. He moves on to safer territory: Let's ramp up offshore drilling! A rig blows. So you can expect him to move on to nuclear power next. Just watch.

Anonymous said...

Not implementing the utmost to ‘grab oil‘, aka:

- drill baby drill - drill deep offshore - refine oil shale - control and attack oil producing countries insofar as possible - safeguard the shipping corridors - protect oil and nat gas pipelines, arrange, enforce their trajectories - coerce intl agreements - cobble up and maintain free trade agreements (Canada, Mexico) - reduce as far as can be done FF consumption elsewhere (see Iraq) - support oil cos to the hilt and forever - use a combination of military threat and domineering diplomacy - deploy military might even to no purpose to coerce, show strength - gather as many proxies as possible - evil dictators are best - and more.

...would destroy what is coyly called energy security, i.e. US life style, and US hegemony.

Without all that, no SUVS, no stadiums, little tech development, 50% unemployment, no glitzy diplomacy with Obama as star, no subservience from France, the EU generally, the ME, Japan, etc. No big military machine, the biggest in the world, dwarfing all other countries considered together.