That would be Fox News, of course. Having said that, I admit that I also watch Glenn Beck too for the comedic value.
Anyway, I began watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC as she reported from south Louisiana recently, covering the effects of the oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon accident. Maddow seemed incensed that over the years nothing has changed in the way oil companies clean up their mess. She says that oil companies are very good at drilling for oil in more and more difficult places, but they’re not any better at stopping catastrophic leaks. Which is true.
As an example, she brought up the IXTOC oil spill of 1979. Oh, you haven’t heard about this spill? Neither had I. But the events of it are eerily familiar.
It happened on June 3, 1979. A semi-submersible drilling rig called the Sedco 135 was drilling waaaaaay down by the Mexican coast in the Bay of Campeche. It suffered a blowout that was very similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon. Pemex (Mexican’s national oil company) and Sedco (which later became…you guessed it, Transocean) tried many things to stop the leak – virtually the same things that were tried with the Deepwater Horizon. And, like our most recent catastrophe, none of them worked.
The Ixtoc well leaked oil into the Gulf of Mexico for NINE MONTHS before it was able to be brought under control by the use of two relief wells drilled into it (the first one did not work).
Even though the Ixtoc blowout was so seemingly far away, the sheer volume of oil that was leaking caused U.S. officials were freaked out, worried that the oil would reach our own shoreline and beaches.
There was one very big difference between the Ixtoc blowout and that of the Deepwater Horizon. But I won’t spoil the surprise of Rachel Maddow telling you what that is. It comes at 6:20 into the eight-minute report. (It should be noted that the date of this broadcast was apparently May 25, 2010, before we knew whether the “top kill” procedure that BP was trying would work. Sadly, it did not.)
I understand the frustration that people like Maddow and others feel when we realize that the oil companies have put very little research and development into preventing blowouts, handling them when they happen, and cleaning up the mess afterward. The focus of the oil companies is of course on exploration and production. They have spent very few of the billions and billions of dollars of profit they make every year on advancing the technology of dealing with spills. And you know, it really is their responsibility to do that, not that of the governments of the countries they do business in.
If you did not want to watch that Rachel Maddow clip (and I would not blame you if you are a Fox News junkie who can’t stomach the “liberal bias” of channels like MSNBC, not even for eight minutes), then I’ll fill you in on the difference between the Ixtoc spill and the Deepwater Horizon: The Ixtoc rig was drilling in 160 feet of water. And it took them NINE MONTHS to drill a a relief well and kill the blown-out one.
Let us hope and pray that it doesn’t take BP nine months to kill the Deepwater Horizon leak.
Wikipedia Article on Ixtoc Spill