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Note On Nomenclature
A couple issues back, a contributor wrote to object to the use of the term "Teabagger." I just want to point out that this term was originally selected by Tea Party members to refer to themselves. One of their earliest stunts was sending teabags to Congress, and they've been seen with teabags hanging from their pretentious Colonial hats. Then somebody informed them of an obscure indecent meaning for it. They had no idea, and I doubt President Obama did either when he used the now-abandoned term. So why not give him the benefit of the doubt, rather than accuse him of being a hater? (You know, like most members of the Tea Party.) For my part, I'm not averse to remind them of their mistake since they're just a little too self-righteous.
Stephen Van Eck
A White-Knuckle Ride
Planet earth is getting to be a white-knuckle ride: The earth is heating up, desertification and drought are predicted. No, others say, the earth is on the verge of a long-term cooling cycle, loss of farmland and mass starvation will follow. Still others fear that the real danger is the Mideast: a trigger-point that could unleash the world's 23,000 nuclear weapons in an earth-shattering gotterdammerung.
So what else could possibly go wrong? Plenty. How about the Gulf of Mexico's undersea oil gusher - the biggest environmental disaster in US history - growing into the biggest environment disaster ever?
The immediate emergency is the Gulf oil spill. Some predict that by June 11 the amount of oil in British Petroleum's (BP) latest disaster will exceed the 257,000 barrels leaked by the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound.
However, that forecast is based on a discharge of 5,000 barrels a day. That amount was announced early in the crisis by BP. Least one gives undue credence to BP's estimate, consider this: 5,000 barrels a day equals 210,000 gallons, and that equals 146 gallons a minute which is the same output as an ordinary $130 water pump. BP, hardly a disinterested party, seems to be seriously low-balling the estimate.
Moreover, the rapid expansion of surface oil indicates a volume much larger than BP's guesstimate. From May 10 to 13, the slick's surface area increase by 50 percent.
The latest estimate calculated by experts in academia using computer modeling cite the outpouring of oil and gas between 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day.
Going with the middle number of 70,000 barrels a day, the Exxon Valdez spillage was surpassed on April 25. Thereafter, every 3.7 days another Exxon Valdez is added to the Gulf.
By any measure, the situation is dire; the blowout must be staunched. But how?
BP's first attempt to seal the gusher was using robots to activate the failed blowout preventer (BOP). That failed. The oil giant then tried fitting a 40-foot high box over one leak to draw the oil to the surface. That failed.
Plan C calls for inserting a six-inch pipe into the 21-inch riser pipe that is leaking most of the oil. The oil can then be channeled up the smaller pipe into a storage barrage. If successful, this will draw off a small percentage of oil, however, it may also forestall more effective means of containing the oil.
Plan D: the junk shot. BP's next tactic is to pump a mixture of solids - shredded tires, golf balls, knotted rope - into the riser pipe, the mile-long pipe that connected the blowout preventer on the sea floor to the oil rig. If this succeeds in clogging the gusher, concrete will be pumped into the riser and BOP permanently sealing the well hole.
Operating under the crushing pressure of one mile of water makes the junk shot a long shot. Paradoxically, even success carries risk. The injection of solids into the riser pipe could plug the leak, but it could also create a buildup of pressure blowing off the weakened BOP.
The riser pipe and the BOP are partially restricting the outflow of oil. If the BOP were blown off, the discharge of oil could become an unrestricted blowout. According to BP executives, this could increase the gusher's output to 162,000 barrels of oil a day. Others peg a blowout at 220,000 barrels a day.
Using the middle number of 190,000, the volume of oil is almost equivalent to an Exxon Valdez every day and a half.
Plan E: BP bets the farm; it is the riskiest maneuver. The procedure is to cut the riser off the BOP and attach a large diameter pipe to it to direct the gusher to the surface. The risk is that this will cause an increase of pressure in the BOP and blow it off the bore hole. If the BOP is lost, we face a volcanic torrent of oil and gas surging into the Gulf.
Lastly, Plan F. BP is currently drilling a bore hole parallel to the original hole. Engineers hope to connect it to the first drill hole, pump in concrete, and seal the errant well. But that won't be completed until late July. Even if it succeeds, the “F” stands for failure. By that time, the Gulf Coast as well as the Gulf itself will be awash in oil.
New Milford, PA
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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