Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spills, drills and can openers

Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal opens one of those proverbial can of worms that give us insight on several levels into how things actually work.

In an interview about the price of oil, Governor Jindal claimed that Hurricane Katrina had caused no major oil spills, when it fact it had caused many.

More than 500 specialists are working to clean up 44 oil spills ranging from several hundred gallons to nearly 4 million gallons, the U.S. Coast Guard said in an assessment that goes far beyond initial reports of just two significant spills....

The Coast Guard estimates more than 7 million gallons of oil were spilled from industrial plants, storage depots and other facilities around southeast Louisiana. That is about two-thirds as much oil as spilled from the Exxon Valdez tanker in 1989.

And it was even worse.
"This is a major event," said Lieutenant Colonel Glynn Smith of the coastguard in New Orleans. "Things are going well, but three-quarters of the oil from the spills has not yet been recovered."

The figure does not include petrol and oil spilt from up to 250,000 cars which have been submerged, or that spilt from hundreds of petrol stations. The coastguard says it has received almost 400 reports of spills, the vast majority of which have not been assessed.

So how was it that a prominent Louisiana congressperson who would soon become governor did not know about this environmental catastrophe and is still unaware? That's always the conundrum with the Republicans, eh. Are they stupid or are they lying? Or both?

Well, poor chuckling is not a mind reader so I can't answer that question. However, I do note that I was unaware of or had forgotten about any news of catastrophic oil spills until reading about it in the Think Progress article linked above. I'm not lying, and at least when it comes to mentally covering up Republican crimes, I am not stupid. And I waste an inordinate amount of time keeping up with politics. So why was I unaware of such a major event?

I can't say for sure, but looking back I suspect it's because it was not front page news. My Google search turned up the two articles I linked to above and nothing else from the national media. Doing a search for "Katrina oil spill" on the New York Times site turned up no major stories. And it turned up no major news stories on the Washington Post site.

The search did, however, turn up a few interesting tidbits from the Post's Op-ed section which explain Governor Jindal's mistake. This is, you see, all about offshore drilling and apparently there were no spills from off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico caused by Katrina. Not surpringly the Post's columnists uncritically parrot oil industry lobbyists.

This, from Robert J. Samuelson:
There were 4,000 platforms operating in the Gulf of Mexico when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit. Despite extensive damage, there were no major spills, says Robbie Diamond of Securing America's Future Energy, an advocacy group.

You see, this is what you get when you open a can of worms. Louisiana governors, Washington Post columnists, and a lot of other worms when you dig a little deeper. Note that Samuelson is quoting someone from an organization called "Securing American's Future Energy," or SAFE. They are, surprise surprise, a lobbying group that fronts for oil companies.

Muckety provides an excellent interactive map that puts names to all those otherwise anonymous worms in this particular can.