April 30, 2010

Oil Critics Take Aim on Offshore Drilling

By Donald G. Mashburn

The half-step Obama plan to open up offshore drilling, as limited as it is, could be in danger of becoming a “non-step” as far as helping this nation to supply its own energy needs. That may become more apparent as the huge oil spill in the Gulf, offshore from Venice, LA, starts arriving by Friday along the shores of Louisiana and Mississippi, and later perhaps even Alabama and Florida if the winds change.

Oil critics who did not like President Obama’s surprising decision to open up even the more distant, higher risk areas of the Atlantic coast already are raising alarms on the dangers of letting oil companies work offshore to supply our huge appetite for petroleum products. Those alarms are fueled by a convergence of events offshore from Venice, LA. Those events include some unfortunate circumstances, some uncontrolled and some that could have been prevented, and what probably will be determined to be human error and negligence.

The exact cause of the explosion on Transocean’s Deep Water Horizon, that quickly slid into Gulf waters, may never be known. The unfortunate loss of life makes it worse, and saddens those affected. It also causes the rest of us to pause and be thankful to those hardy men and women who work to give us fuel for our homes, cars, airplanes and electricity for all our conveniences and necessities.

But the most attention now is on the early estimates of the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. And the numbers are just that, estimates, and very loose ones at that.

The rig was working on a well operated by BP PLC, the third largest publicly traded oil company in sales, and the company that arguably has the worst public relations of any of the large majors.

The flow from the well was first estimated at 1,000 barrels a day, and then later estimated at 5,000 barrels a day. Then some enterprising reporter learned that a barrel of oil contains 42 gallons, and the oil-flow volume became “210,000 gallons” a day. But as Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP Exploration and Production, told NBC’s “Today” show, there is no way to measure the as-yet uncontrolled flow.

Not knowing the actual oil flow, or even a decent estimate of it, didn’t keep some media outlets from proclaiming that the “oil spill is five times worse” than earlier estimates. That may be, but the neither the reporters nor the people working to shut off the flow know what the actual rates were earlier or are now.

But whatever the actual flow, it’s bad. Bad for the environment. Bad for the drilling contractor, Transocean, and bad for the well operator, BP.

And the spill is really bad for the oil industry, and the offshore part of it, particularly. Oil critics are seizing this opportunity to speak out on all the dangers to sea life, wild life, humans, and the environment. And these dangers are all real, particularly when there is a large economic disaster, such as this present blowout off Venice, LA.

But the oil critics are deaf to any arguments that the oil companies themselves are among the most avid conservationists to be found. That’s because they know that their industry’s image, their company’s reputation, and the economic success of companies that spend billions annually drilling offshore depend on their doing a good job, and doing it safely.

The ultimate cost of this event will no doubt be terribly high. The environmental impact is going to be larger than we can imagine, due in part to the fact that we can never know its full extent, nor do we have the means of detecting and measuring it.

The economic impact is going to be enormous. Already, BP and Transocean are reportedly incurring expenses of several millions of dollars a day – probably to be borne mostly by BP, according to the way most contracts are written. And that doesn’t factor in the cost of Coast Guard assistance or other state and federal resources that will be brought into action.

And worse, for the oil industry and the nation’s energy security, the loud critics of “big oil” will come out in force, and politicians will listen, and some will join in the anti-oil chorus. And that can only slow down any progress toward getting the U.S. oil industry out of the regulatory doldrums that cumulatively have caused us to have to send too many American dollars to foreign countries to buy their oil.

It’s almost too much to hope for, but the best thing President Obama and the Congress can do is to calmly gather the facts, determine any human errors or negligence that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and then take appropriate action. And that action should not include a stoppage or slowdown on developing our own oil supplies.

This nation’s need for oil and the importance of dependable energy supplies to our national security call for intelligent, non-political, and statesmanlike decisions from our president and the Congress.

Cold Winter Didn't Cool Off Global Warmers

By Donald G. Mashburn

Record cold weather and snow falls in many parts of the world doesn’t seem to have cooled off the hot-air venting of the more heated of the global warmers.

When the really cold weather began to set records in some areas, here and in Europe, the climate sophists sort of went into hiding. Then they remembered that sophistry must be practiced regularly if it’s to be useful in perpetrating an argument that can’t be supported by either facts or science.

So, as evidence of an unusually cold winter began to pile up, some of it in the form of snowdrifts – Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport was closed Christmas eve when it received a record 14.1 inches of snow – some of the wilder warmers began to claim that such cold and snowy periods are “characteristic” of global warming!

As if there were documented evidence that such might be the case. There isn’t.

As if there were any credible science that indicates that a condition claimed to be the cause of a change would bring about a condition just opposite of the change it’s supposed to cause. There is no science that indicates that a warming trend causes intermittent periods of unusually low temperatures and heavier snowfall.

You would think that the warm-mongers might be become a little more thoughtful when it really gets gold. Or when their claim of “settled science” takes a hit, as it did when it was learned that ethically-challenged charlatans of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia falsified some data to “hide the decline” of earth’s temperature in recent years.

Or you would think at least some among the warming false prophets would recant some of their previous stands when a new study reported by the University of Bristol of England refuted previous claims of global warmers that 100 percent of manmade CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere.

The new study has been reported online in Science News, and the research has been published in Geophysical Research Letters, an online journal. The University of Bristol study indicates that only 45 percent of CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere, while the remainder is absorbed by the oceans and earth’s various ecosystems.

Moreover, according to the Science News article, Wolfgang Knorr of the University of Bristol’s Department of Earth Sciences found that “the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased during the past 150 years or during the most recent decades.”

That finding should get the attention of all serious researchers interested in finding out just what is going on in this world, and if man can control its weather.

Al Gore and his many sycophants probably aren’t interested in real science, as it relates to their global-warming crusade. But more rational, and objective people – scientists, in particular – should be interested in what informed and knowledgeable climate scientists are learning, and what they say.

One would think that even Al Gore and his mentor James Hansen of NASA would be listening to what objective scientists report. But, of course, that would not be consistent with Gore’s aims at personal acclaim and financial gain.

We have come through a winter that provided a huge amount of data. It is hoped that credible scientists will analyze it and report the results. And we can hope that more of them will aim their talents at debunking the unfounded claims of the climate charlatans who pose as serious scientists.