"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Revkin Comes Up with the Ross Perot Solution

This approach solves every problem.

You just get the experts into a room, and ask them what to do! And then you do that!

Ross Perot ran for US President on this theory, but Revkin is just acting in an unappointed advisory capacity when he says:
To my mind, if the “ top kill” procedure being prepared for midweek fails, Obama must step forward far more forcefully and publicly engage an oil-well SWAT team drawing on the country’s leading lights in hydraulics, deep-ocean engineering and geology, from the Pentagon outward.
Brilliant, Andy! Thanks so much! Where would we be without you?

Dude, if the top kill fails and the junk shot fails, we spend a couple months drilling relief wells, hope the pressure drops, and grin and bear it meanwhile.

That's the size of it according to the "leading lights", as I understand it.

I really think "ask smart people" is not especially helpful. Does Revkin really think the Pentagon is better at dealing with broken oil wells than the oil industry?

If you know a sufficiently smart person with a realistic idea that isn't already on the table, speak up. Otherwise, the bleachers are over there, sonny. Go get yourself some popcorn, settle in, and watch the game.

Update: From another excellent piece on The Oil Drum:

As the complexity of the job becomes evident there are also reports that the Government are stepping back from taking over the problem, should this try fail.

After days of lambasting the company's handling of the spill, the Obama administration appeared to step back from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's threat on Sunday to "push out" BP if it did not do enough to plug the leak.

The U.S. government needs BP's deepwater technology to try to shut off the oil well, said Carol Browner, President Barack Obama's adviser on energy and climate change.

"Obviously, we need the BP technology, but we are not relying on them ... we have our own minds in there," she told CNN, referring to the team of government scientists working with BP to battle the disaster.

How silly. The government should appoint Revkin to take over. That would be so much better. He would get smart people in the room and ask them what to do!


Anonymous said...

It's just a miserable rock-and-hard-place dilemma and we have to deal with it. A Byron King was quoted in the WaPo today: "If you could control an oil spill with lawyers and regulation-writers, and by signing papers and obtaining court injunctions . . . then maybe the U.S. government could do something," said Byron W. King, an energy analyst at Agora Financial. "But really, Uncle Sam has almost no institutional ability to control the oil spill. For that, you need people with technical authority, technical skill and firms with industrial capabilities."

Although, I certainly see a role for some government oversight, collaboration and possibly even authorizations of certain strategies. This article in NYTimes really had me ambivalent about the expertise that is being assembled:
Then, he said, the well has to be told who’s boss: “I’m here, I’m touching you, I’m telling you you’re dead,” is how he describes it. “You just don’t know it yet.”

Ambivalent because I suspect that a lot of the top expertise and experience probably does come in a package deal with this kind of cowboy mentality. And although I know this is just a human interest story and unlikely reflects the BP war-room ops, it does give me more confidence knowing that there is some coordination and consultation going on with EPA, NOAA and whatever other specialized expertise the government can bring to bear.

manuel moe g said...

On Revkin, I am still floored by his confession by way of self-congratulation:

"Welcome to journalism, where the peer review comes after the fact. I still stand by my body of climate coverage from 1985 onward as just about the best anyone could hope to do on this insane beat."


As if "peer review after the fact" forgives you from the responsibility to publish something sensible.

From Revkin's posting:

"President Obama not only has the authority, but the obligation — however politically risky that might be — to take ownership of efforts to stanch the flow."

From Revkin 6:17pm update:

"One option for stanching the oil that I guarantee will never pass political muster is the nuclear one successfully used four times by the Soviet Union"

Logically, taking both together: "President Obama has the obligation to nuke the Gulf, however politically risky that might be."

The Revkin article is space-filling silliness.

Michael Tobis said...

Nobody should get the idea that various branches of the government aren't engaged. NOAA and the Coast Guard in particular are all over this. (And of course, Interior's fingerprints are all over the original problem.)

I am not sure whether the Army or National Guard is involved in some of the logistics on land but I expect they would be if needed.

Steve Scolnik said...

Revkin claims that the Russkies have successfully nuked at a depth of 5000 feet?
No, no, that was Harry S. Stamper and his crack drill team of Jayotis "Bear" Kurleenbear, Max Lennert, Rockhound, Oscar Choice, Charles "Chick" Chapple and some others.

Paul said...

Hat tip to Greenpa in the comments on Dot Earth:

Folks; I just discovered something - took me 5 seconds, literally - Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who keeps saying "we can't replace BP!" - was THE man Bush put in charge of... the Katrina non-response. Wikipedia:

"On September 9, 2005, Allen was given full command of the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff elevated Allen following the removal of Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D. Brown from that position"

Why isn't that plastered all over all front pages- and why isn't Allen being removed; immediately?

Gravityloss said...

There's two levels.

What to do with this particular oil disaster right now and in the coming weeks and months.

How to stop these things from happening in general.

The solutions are totally different of course.

skanky said...

"I am not sure whether the Army or National Guard is involved in some of the logistics on land but I expect they would be if needed."


If you meant in the efforts to directly tackle the leak, then disregard this post. :)

coby said...

Michael, this is just argument by ridicule and misses one aspect of the issue that I suspect plays a non-insignificant role.

Absolutely, BP is using the best experts it has available (maybe the best period, I don't know) but it has different goals from those a gov't assembled group of experts would hopefully be given.

BP has two goals here, stop the loss of valuable oil and minimize the PR debacle. Additionally, I guarantee they are imposing on themselves the constraint that the well must not be destoyed. A gov't panel would hopefully have the goals of stopping the leak and minimizing the overall environmental impact and no great concern for the integrity of the well.

BP's priorities are manifect in its overuse of dispersants, certainly with only the goal of reducing the visible impacts in mind, ie surface oil slicks. And foget the nukes, but is it really impossible to simply blow the thing up with conventional explosives? I don't know, but is that option on the table?

Yes, BP has the tools and the expertise but they do not have public interest in mind.

Michael Tobis said...

1) There is no saving the well. It's messed up (see Bommer's talk). The relief wells will be drilled regardless.

2) Not sure why the dispersant thing is happening, but it seems clear to me that the more dispersant, the less shoreline damage, and that shoreline damage is the key. There is much mockery of
BP's claim about the dilution factor of the whole Gulf, but it seems perfectly sound to me.

3) I don't know if the nuke rumor is real. Basically you have the pressure of miles of rock forcing fluid up a tube. The idea is to put pressure back down the tube.

I am not sure how an explosion would narrow the tube.

4) Forcing drilling mud down there (which is designed to weigh the same as rock) makes sense. Failing to try makes no sense, since that is the cleanest fix. They have been working very hard to set that up.

I'm sure their PR people are on this, but I promise you they aren't running the show. Just a little poking around the engineering sites makes that abundantly clear.

coby said...

I'm still trying, but I have been unable to get that video stream working.

If it is true that the well is a total write off already, then I agree there is no reason to doubt they want as much as anyone else to stop the geyser by any means possible and no reason to think a gov't team will have any advantages.

Things are looking very different down there right now (Pacific Time 16:48), to me at least.


Michael Tobis said...

It's not obvious, but you have to click on the image at the right to play the video.

coby said...

I did get that part of it eventually, but the pop up player just whirls away stuck "configuring" or some such. I am hoping tomorrow after a reboot it will go...

coby said...

Michael, I have watched the talk and read a fair bit on the oil drum, great resource, and I have not come across anything that rules out saving the well (in my uniformed eyes).

Can you elaborate on your confidence that the well is not savable? If they can get it cemented without destoying the casing, what is to stop them from mounting new hardware on top and reopening it?

Michael Tobis said...

As I understand it there is a piece of the "drilling string", i.e., the giant drill bit, stuck in the cavity below the sea floor and protruding into the BOP.

Anyway there is no hurry.

The oil will belong to BP or whatever its successor organization is. Most likely there will be a relief well and a cap this summer.
Then there will be a lot of value extracted from that general area.

I suspect enthusiasm for expanding offshore drilling areas has gone away. Most of America's offshore oil reserve appears to be off Texas and Louisiana anyway AIUI. The stuff off the other coasts does not appear nearly as worthy of the risk.