It keeps going, and going, and going

The West Atlas Rig has now been leaking oil into the Timor Sea (the Montara oil spill) for more than two months. Up to 2,000 barrels a day, every day, since August 21.


The slick continues to grow and spread. In one direction, it’s now reached Indonesia.

October 21, 2009

Several attempts to clean up the spill have been made – spraying the area with dispersants (which, even if it worked, wouldn’t alter the fact that the oil is still pouring out), some shenanigans about bringing another rig across, tow lines snapping, and PTTEP refusing the assistance of a rival company, and then the utter failure a few weeks back to plug the leak with mud. Apparently, oil company rhetoric notwithstanding, we don’t actually have very good technology for fixing the big holes in the seabed that we keep drilling.

Of course, it’s just remote bits of our ocean territory that are being despoiled, so it’s not like we’re going to be putting pressure on our local MPs to apply more resources to fixing the problem. Is it a major topic of debate in Parliament? Hell no.

The thing that gets me is that we’re acting as if this is a disaster that’s concluded, that we just need to tidy up after, rather than one which is continuing to get worse. Every single day. It’s extraordinary.

ELSEWHERE: Andrew Bartlett has a good write-up of the situation at Asian Correspondent.

AND CONSIDER: If the destruction of wildlife and the long-term pollution of our oceans doesn’t move you – what about the loss of all that precious, precious oil?

UPDATE: The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society argues:

“It is shocking that ecosystem and wildlife monitoring around the rig wasn’t in place to start with” said Dr Bossley. “If the Australian Government is serious about mitigating the threats of oil spills they should immediately freeze all new oil and gas exploration applications; develop much stronger conditions and controls over all oil and gas rig and shipping activities; and identify and fully protect all cetacean critical habitats in a network of marine sanctuaries before any oil and gas acreage is released again. The fox minding the henhouse is not good enough.”

It’s a good point.


19 responses to “It keeps going, and going, and going

  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself. All that profitable oil going to waste. This is a tragedy.

    Speaking of drilling holes in the ground, whatever happened to that mud volcano in Indonesia?

  2. I have often wondered how it is that the oil and gas industry is able to persist with the claim that their operations are worlds best practice, when we have regular spills around the Australian coastline; and that the Government (of each political leaning) persist with the claim that they are responsibly regulating.

    Last week the Government and industry released their joint monitoring programme – a good six weeks after the spill started. Even a cursory read of document reveals how much baseline information has to be gathered, which begs the question why was this not collected before the drilling began?

    There is no mention of monitoring any impacts to Indonesian ecosystems.

    The document also contains unsubstantiated statements that impacts of the oil spill on marine animals ‘remain unlikely’. The document claims that experts have been consulted, so why then does civil society need to remind policy makers that marine animals can ingest oil-derived toxic compounds either directly from the water or with their food. That poisonous vapor can also be inhaled by whales and dolphins and especially when the volatile components evaporate into the air from freshly spilled oil.

    With anywhere from 10 to 20 million litres of oil spilled into the ocean it is a good bet that there will be chronic longer-term effects of oil entering the food-chain potentially affecting the whole system. Much of this will happen far from sight and if marine animals are killed or otherwise affected – days, months and years into the future – we are unlikely to be witness to this.

    None of this information is particularly ground breaking nor new. We have know most of this information for a few decades. Why then is this not openly admitted? And more to the point why is it that there is minimal public (and media) concern?

  3. In order that people understand the bright green future that awaits them we should turn off all sources of energy for a month – no electricity or petrol or even wood for your barbie.

    Obviously the tactic of having the demigods of righteousness sit on the sidelines carping and bitching and saying “I told you so” everytime something goes wrong is not enough.

    If we banned energy for a year, we could even make serious inroads into the over-population problem! Look what happened when DDT was banned for no good reason other than making environutters feel good about themselves – millions died on the alter of their righteousness.

  4. Surely even you can see that the human race’s habits are unsustainable over the long term SB, and I’m not talking about climate change. I don’t know what DDT is, but I do know that unless we learn to live sustainably then the human race risks commiting ecological suicide, and many more millions will die than those who died when “DDT” was banned, whatever that is.

    Surely even somebody who does not subscribe to AGW can see how important it is to protect the ecosystem and the habitat that supports us.

  5. Look what happened when DDT was banned for no good reason other than making environutters feel good about themselves – millions died on the alter of their righteousness” – SB

    Oh look, a DDT-nutter.

  6. Patrick, ubermoron Rachel Carson led a movement which resulted in DDT being banned:

    Since the banning of DDT, insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue have been on the rise. In fact, the huge toll of diseases spread by mosquitos has caused some public health officials to rethink DDT’s use. In 2006, after some 50 million preventable deaths, the U.N.’s World Health Organization reversed course and endorsed the use of DDT to kill and repel malaria-causing mosquitoes.

    The lesson is that agenda-driven fools should be ignored in favour of a careful weighing of cost and benefit.

    Despoiling the environment for no good reason is reprehensible. So is deifying the environment. We need a balanced approach rather than the ideological madness of ecological doomsday cultists.

  7. SB, your line about Rachel Carson promoting malaria and about DDT being banned is rubbish, as I suspect you know. DDT has never been banned for use against malarial mosquitoes. It was withdrawn from agricultural use in the USA, where it may surprise you to learn that malaria is not a major problem. The reason it isn’t used much in malaria control has nothing to do with Rachel Carson or environmentalism – it’s innefective because the mozzies are immune to it. Of course it also has bad effects on human health as well as the environment, but then you don’t really care about either, do you, as long as you can get those Lyndon LaRouche talking points across?

  8. SB – DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) a well known synthetic pesticide, has never been banned in antimalarial use and remains available for that purpose – and others where necessary- today.

  9. Hal9000, I’m always willing to learn, although I’ve usually found John Quiggin about as useful as LSD when it comes to understanding reality.

    Even lefty enclaves like NPR were reporting that it was a major policy shift by the World Health Organisation when it began again using DDT to kill mosquitoes in 2006.

    It may be that DDT was only banned in some places, but the effect of the WHO declining to support its use in the rest of the world would not be much different to a ban on its use, at least in practical effect. This is why the WHO’s major change in policy is news at all.

  10. SB, DDT was never banned for malaria control. Never.

    However, its use was cut back when DDT resistence started to become a problem.

  11. Even lefty enclaves like NPR were reporting that it was a major policy shift by the World Health Organisation when it began again using DDT to kill mosquitoes in 2006.

    That’s a slight misrepresentation of the article you link to SB. Its second paragraph starts:

    The WHO previously approved DDT for dealing with malaria, but didn’t actively support it.

  12. Great news on the oil- leak front.

    The head of the company says that the more they fail to cap the leak the more confident they become.

  13. The Timor sea oil leak is a travesty of environmental responsibility. Bob Gosford in a Crikeyblog has some good coverage:

    as does the Guardian:

    To assert that the price of using fossils fuel is the irresponsible and / or wanton destruction of the environment smacks of specious reasoning. The oil spill was avoidable. The accident which caused it may not have been, but the response is as poor as they go. The particular method of drilling used means there is always a risk of this kind of accident occurring. The mistake was not having a response plan to this eventual, predictable accident and resourcing such a response plan. Both the Oz Govt and the drilling company are at fault here.

    An NT based firm offered a rig to help within hours but the drilling company declined the offer. In my view a very bad decision and a telling one. The NT rig could have been in place a month earlier than the one which was brought out from Singapore. The decision to refuse another company’s offer of resources is a decision to continue to pollute for at least another month. Quite unacceptable. But rational if you value $$ more highly than environmental responsibility. With a precedent like this there has to be a $$ value placed on pollution to the point where the company would have accepted the initial offer of help from the NT rig.

  14. No misrepresentation at all, zoot. The WHO did have a major policy change when they started using DDT again.

    The fact that the WHO previously approved its use is trivial compared to the fact that they would not take any action to support using DDT, given the size status and mission of the WHO.

  15. SB, as usual, you’re splitting hairs. The simple fact is DDT has never been banned for use against malarial mosquitoes.
    To say WHO “started using DDT again” is a misrepresentation because they never stopped “using DDT”.

  16. Pingback: And now it’s on fire. « An Onymous Lefty

  17. Pingback: Spill baby spill « An Onymous Lefty

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