How Not To Stop An Oil Spill

I'm starting to get a little bit more than just a little nervous about this oil spill/leak/disaster that is going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now. It's been spewing a ridiculous amount of oil (oil that we need, for cryin' out loud!) since April 20th and it doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon. Now, that's not to say that they haven't been trying to stop the leak. They've been trying, uh....stuff to stop the leak. But nothing is making a whole lot of sense to me. I realize that I'm not a scientist (nor do I play one on TV), but their solutions don't seem to involve a whole lot of science.

After realizing that there wasn't just a simple "OFF" switch on this oil well, the first idea that was proposed and implemented in an attempt to save the environment from further damage was to burn the oil off of the water. Let that sink in (pun not really intended) for a minute. We're going to set an oil slick on fire. The flames. The billowing, dark smoke. Did I mention the flames? Yeah. There were flames. Oh, but they're also spraying it with some sort of detergent chemical as well, so maybe that will help cut down on the dark smoke once they've...cleaned...the oil? Something? I don't get it.

So, there was all of the burning and spraying. That hasn't done much other than make a mess from what I can tell. Their next brilliant solution was to build a containment box. According to
The Washington Post, the box was "...a 100-ton, 40-foot-tall steel containment dome". They wanted to lower it onto the largest leak (apparently, there's more than one, so that should simplify things a great deal while we're racing against time to save a fragile ecosystem out there), sort of like a hat. Uh, OK....I...I...guess. Again, I'm not a scientist, but that doesn't seem like it would work. It's over a mile down there! How come I can see this outcome coming, but the folks who went ahead with this plan didn't? Whatever the reason, "The dome became clogged with methane hydrates, an ice-like slush created when pressurized gas from the well mixed with cold seawater. The hydrates, which are lighter than water, stuck to the inside of the dome and made it buoyant." I don't even know what all of that means (other than "it floated"), but you'd think that the scientists would have seen it all coming and moved onto their next idea.

But maybe they didn't move on because their next idea isn't much better than the two I've already described. According to The Washington Post next up " a small containment dome -- four feet wide, five feet tall and shaped like a barrel cut in half -- that will be lowered over the main leak." Four feet wide? Five feet tall? But...that other one was 40 feet tall and weighed 200,000 pounds! You can go from something that is 40 feet tall to something that is 5 feet tall? Why wouldn't you have just started with the smaller one? That way, if it worked, you could always lower the bigger one on top of it later, right? (Have I mentioned I'm not a scientist?) I don't know, but here's what they're saying about this plan: "The smaller dome will not capture nearly as much seawater as the large dome did....But it might also mean that less of the oil is captured." Really?

You don't say! A dome that is one-eighth the size of the original dome is going to not capture as much seawater, nor as much oil? Fascinating! I did not see that coming! Wait a minute. Yes, I did! Who wouldn't?! Oh, let me guess...the engineers and the scientists? Probably. Geez.

But here's my absolute favorite idea that they're getting ready to try. (For those of you new to the blog here, that's my way of implying that it's probably one of the stupidest things I've ever heard of.) I had to check various sources online to see if this was true because it seemed completely insane and something that I would have thought had been concocted by 14-year old boys. Ready? Remember, I'm not making this crap up. "Engineers will use golf balls and shredded automobile tires in what they call a "junk shot" to try to clog the oil well." Um, what now?

According to a one Kent Wells, the senior vice president of exploration and production for BP, "We'll be pumping pieces of tire. We'll be pumping knots in ropes...There's a little bit of a science in this, even though it sounds odd." What, exactly, IS that "little bit" of a science that you're implementing here? Because it doesn't just sound odd. It sounds freaking weird and useless. You're going to try and throw golf balls in there? And tires? Tell me something, if you can throw all of that stuff in there and get it to stop leaking, what so you just throw a big ol' LID in there and cap the damn thing off?! Golf balls and tires?! Good Lord, man.

I don't get why this relief effort is turning into an episode of The Three Stooges (with or without Shemp, it's your call). They seem a bit clueless when I read things like "Officials were testing some of the 30 pounds of "tar balls" that washed up on Alabama's Dauphin Island to determine whether they came from the spill." Do they usually have "tar balls" washing up onto that island? Oh, no? They don't? Then where in the hell do they think that they came from!? Of course they came from the damn spill! Again, NOT a scientist, but do you really need to be one to figure that out?!

We're doomed. Doomed.