As expected, the oil has finally reached the beaches of the Florida panhandle. Up and down our coast, people are reporting everything from tar balls to big globs along with a strong petroleum smell in the air. It was inevitable, of course, only a matter of time. Even so, people are reacting with a sense of outrage that seems rather new. There have been calls to boycott BP…suggestions that we should maybe stuff BP executives down the well to see if that would close it off. One friend wrote on his Facebook, “I saw tar balls on Navarre Beach this morning. Not many, but they have arrived. BP has been notified. Let's see how long it takes them to respond......” I’m sure the guy at the BP call center in Bangalore rolled his eyes and said in his fake American accent, “Yes, yes, ve vill get right on that, sir! Thank you for calling. And by the way, my name is Sam.”
And just what do we expect BP to do? It is naïve to think that BP Emergency Response Team trucks are going to be running up and down the Gulf Coast, cleaning up every single tar ball that washes up on the sand.
People have to realize, this is just the beginning. These tar balls and globs of oil are going to be coming for a long, long time, even after BP gets the leak contained. Collecting and disposing of the few tar balls that washed up on Navarre Beach this morning is not going to do ANYTHING. It is not going to be over soon. We have months and months (perhaps years but let's hope not) of this to deal with. And it has barely begun.
And it seems silly to think that “The Government” can do anything about this oil spill. Yet some people are very angry with President Obama for not having “done more” up to this point. Like…well…what? What could President Obama actually do, other than come down to the Gulf Coast and commiserate with us? No, I’d prefer that he stay away, thank you. Having him down here just upsets things and throws giant monkey wrenches in whatever is going on that day. Nor can the military go down there and shut off the well. They don’t have the expertise for that. The military would have to call somebody like…well…like BP.
There is a huge amount of oil out in the gulf, spewed for the last month and a half from the leaking BP well. Some of this oil is on the surface, and some of it hovers under the surface in giant pools. Although BP CEO Tony ("Foot In Mouth") Hayward denies it, my helicopter pilot friends report seeing this with their own eyes. And every hour of every day, more oil is added to that mess. This oil will not just totally evaporate and/or disappear. It’s going to go somewhere.
So far, a lot of the oil has drifted to the west back toward the Louisiana coastline. This is contrary to what I would have guessed – which was that the water current outflow from the mouth of the Mississippi River would cause anything dropped into the gulf to drift this way. Apparently the prevailing winds, which have been out of the southeast since the accident, have more of an effect on the oil than anything else. Or maybe the underwater currents right there southeast of the mouth of the river are more chaotic than I assumed. Whatever. The oil took longer to get north to the gulf coast beaches than we originally thought. For that, we can be thankful.
We must resign ourselves to the fact that it may be as late as the end of August before BP can contain this leak. If it happens sooner, great! I know they’ll keep trying different things, and I keep my fingers crossed that one of them will eventually work. You never know, they could get lucky.
But we also have to realize that we- the American people- are as responsible for this fiasco/disaster as BP. We allowed BP to drill in that location. We allowed them to drill a well in such deep water with only a single, non-redundant source of blowout protection. We allowed them to drill that well without a contingency plan for what would happen in the event of an uncontained blowout (neither a plan to stop it nor clean it up). Lesson learned? We'll see.
Periodically, the issue comes up of oil exploration off Florida coast. It always sparks great debate. Environmentalists who oppose such drilling are often painted as “needless, extremist worrywarts.” Proponents say that it’s safe, that these sort of accidents/spills just don’t happen, that government regulations are strict enough to prevent them, blah blah blah.
Boycott BP? Heh. Well, my Jeep gets 20-22 mpg. What kind of mileage does your car get? I have to buy gas for it somewhere. I'm already boycotting Citgo because of the Chavez/Venezuela connection (since debunked, by the way). Boycotting BP would be cutting off my nose to spite my face. It's ironic. Our own insatiable greed for oil has now come home to bite us in the ass. And unless your sole source of transportation is a bicycle, you really can’t say anything either. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We might as well have the balls to admit it.
We've all got a rough road ahead down here. It's not going to be a good summer.