In Briefs: BP

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Is BP really claiming that it is impossible to measure how quickly oil is coming out of a broken pipe?

Have they heard of physics? Do they thus not know how much oil they have when it’s flowing through a working pipe? WTF.

AKIE BERMISS: well Molly, maybe they’re talking about particle physics. like quantum mechanics style. and they’re saying you can’t measure how much oil is coming out of the pipe at any given moment because, you know, by observing it you change the nature of it. like, if we leave it alone, its possible — through the uncertainty principle — for there to be no oil coming out of the pipe at all. as soon as we try to measure how much oil coming out, then oil IS coming out. but we can’t really know how much, because we’d have to measure it in infinitesimally small increments to be sure of the analog nature of its ejaculation. indeed, one might think, through conventional physics, that simply gauging the pipe and the rate of expulsion, one might be able to surmise, at least, a lower limit of the amount of oil being blasted into the gulf day and night. but, if you think about it MUCH more abstractly, there are all kinds of possibilities — for example what if the oil is coming out SO fast that the oil molecules are getting entangled and interfering with one another. then there could some cancellation. cutting back on the number of barrels that are really actually making it into the ocean. because when oil molecules collide… at speeds nearing the speed of light, they probably break up in to energy and heavy particles that can cause other full oil molecules colliding with them to turn into things other than oil like air, or gas, or bananas.

so, yeah. they do have point there.

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Also, since oil and water are both elements and both come from the Earth in some way, if you think about it in a philosophical Zen way, at some point those elements will become one, because of the nature of the universe, so really why are we even worrying about this?

AKIE BERMISS: isn’t that exactly what Rush Limbaugh said last week?

DAN SZYMBORSKI: I know absolutely nothing about oil drilling and I know we’re in the humor rather than the news zone, but is it really that implausible? I would imagine that it’s a complex procedure, more than turning on your bathtub, and the flow might not be as “neat” to measure as that.

MATTHEW DAVID BROZIK: Why can’t they just, um, turn off the oil?

Admittedly, I know less than nothing about (a) this crisis (believe it or not); and (b) oil drilling generally, but isn’t the idea behind (b) that we put a mechanism into the Earth under the water, by which we tap into the subterranean oil deposits and then draw the oil out? What it we stop drawing the oil out? Will the oil still come out? What if we close the mechanism at the point where it goes underground? What it we remove the entire mechanism?

Is there a succinct diagram/explanation of what’s wrong somewhere?

DAVE TOMAR: My understanding is that it takes a billion dollars to open up the seal to access a suspected oil supply and then another billion to close it, whether it is found to contain oil or not. I think that ‘turning it off’ as it were, is a rather complex process that takes a tremendous amount of time and money even under normal, non-disastrous circumstances. this is all secondhand stuff explained to me by an oil-industry engineer a number of years ago so take it for what it’s worth .

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: My general feeling is, if your company is technologically advanced enough to set up the equiptment to drill for oil in the ocean floor, you should be advanced enough to a) not have this shit happen where something breaks, and failing that, since accidents happen, b) have a system in place to, as Matthew says, somehow stop the oil from leaking in the event that a mechanism fails.

At the very, VERY least, you should be able to measure how much oil is coming out of the pipe and how quickly it is theoretically going to fuck up the nearest coastline.

BP (and according to newsweek, your initials stand for ‘Beyond Petroleum’, which is almost funny now), you failed on all three counts.

DAVE TOMAR: Unfortunately for us, it’s very difficult to know whether oil companies make specific decisions based on feasibility or cost. I guess we can probably assume the latter in most cases, but in what capacity is a total mystery to me.

CHRIS PUMMER: I’ve got a good friend who worked on these offshore rigs for a couple years. It is incredibly difficult work done under incredibly difficult circumstances. Much more difficult, than say, capping a running hose while it’s in a swimming pool. That’s probably not so easy, either. This is like that, but obviously on a much, much bigger scale.

That’s the most damning thing. We know this is a huge fuckup, but have no idea exactly how big a fuckup it really is because the technology is probably more on par with tapping a maple tree for sap than any space-age shit that gives us any real control over the geological elements.

Just a nice reminder that we ultimately have very little control over our human domain, outside of the ability to make it uninhabitable.

MATTHEW DAVID BROZIK: To be clear: I wasn’t minimizing the complexity or risk involved. Just wondering what, specifically, the problem is.

What Chris writes reminds me of a point made by Stephen Jay Gould that I found keenly insightful: Mankind is unlikely to ruin Earth irreparably. That is, Earth will be fine. Mankind is going to wipe out mankind. But, again, the planet is hardier than we can, and do, imagine. It will fix itself, when we’re gone.

CHRIS PUMMER: That is what I had in mind when I chose uninhabitable instead of destroy. I doubt we’re capable of the latter.

It also reminds me how MC Hawking said of creationists that Stephen J. Gould should stick his foot right up their asses.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I still think Toyota sticking with the catchphrase “Moving forward” is funnier than BP sticking with “Beyond Petroleum”.

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Maybe their new slogan should be “Who Likes Shrimp Anyway?”

HOWARD MEGDAL: “Now, a manageable number of shrimp varieties” superimposed over Bubba dying in Vietnam.

JESSICA BADER: Y’know, what with all of the shellfish being killed by the oil spill and the conspiracy theorists being their usual nasty selves, I’m surprised nobody has linked the oil spill to the secret Jewish cabal that controls the universe yet.

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: BP: If You Think the Gulf Coast is Oily, You Should See Our Congressional Testimony

MATTHEW DAVID BROZIK: I’d like to think that I know something about humor, even if I know nothing about oil drilling. But I don’t see why “Beyond Petroleum” is funny. And I don’t mean that in a “This is not a laughing matter” way. I mean… why is it funny?

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I guess I see it as funny on two points:

1) BP stands for British Petroleum. Changing it to “Beyond Petroleum” sounds like the worst kind of lameass PR spin. Kind of makes me laugh, in a teeth-grinding way.

2) Then I think of it as Beyond Petroleum as in, ‘our company does not stand just for petroleum, but for things beyond it, like epically irresponsible environmental disasters.’

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: BP: You Like Oil So Much? Have Some Fucking Oil. You’re Welcome.

MATTHEW DAVID BROZIK: Meh. Also, they started with “Beyond Petroleum” years ago, before any (substantial) spin was called for. (Except, didn’t BP absorb [ahem] Exxon or Amoco or someone people didn’t much care for?)

I could see if people were thinking Petroleum Beyond… Our Control. (“Beyond Controleum?”)

DAVE TOMAR: Beyond Controleum:-) Very nice.

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: See! I told you it was funny.

ZOE RICE: Why has no one looked at the positives in all this? The Gulf of Mexico suddenly struck black gold like Jed Clampett. Who needs fish when you can move to Beverly. Hills, that is.

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