The latest effort to plug a gushing underwater oil well in the Gulf of Mexico appeared to be working, officials and engineers said on Thursday morning, though definitive word on its success was still hours away.
At the same time, government experts said that the flow of oil from the well, which has been gushing since an explosion and fire wrecked a drilling rig in late April, was several times worse than the preliminary estimate by BP, the oil company responsible for the rig and the well. If these new estimates prove to be accurate, the spill would be far bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 and the worst in United States history.
Unfortunately, for now the best sub-head seems to be 'Impossible to predict'….except that wherever this huge mass of oil goes it will take a very long time to clean up, and even longer to overcome its effects.
BP's official response plan for oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't actually say anything about how the company would stop a blowout, wildly underestimates the worst-case scenario, and lists walruses among the Gulf's “Sensitive Biological Resources” — leading an environmental group to suggest Monday that no regulator could possibly have seriously examined it.
(Walruses? Must have hired Sarah Palin to write it…)
For some odd reason this story reminds me of an incident when we were fixing up our house. We were having trouble getting a permit for one of the many many steps involved in the remodeling, and the contractor suggested that we consider hiring a “permit babe”. What's that?, we asked. It seems a permit babe is an out-of-work or underemployed Miami model who moonlights as a permit runner — someone who takes your paperwork to the city and gets it approved.
Runners are commonly used by people who don't have time to stand in line — it can be a long wait — and also because they know the system, and know who to talk to if the front-line staff balk at approving the drawings and forms.
Permit babes, we were told, take this one better. They do all the things runners do, but they do them in very short skirts, which often speeds the permit process considerably.
(We did not hire a permit babe. It took a year and half to get our approval.)