26 June 2010

Payoff Time in the Gulf : Hitting the Petro Jackpot

Everyone loses:
Hitting the Petro-Jackpot

The gulf is carpeted with long wide dark and slimy rainbow slivers and miles of weathered henna colored crude oil mousse...
By Larry Ray / The Rag Blog / June 26, 2010

GULFPORT, Mississippi -- Winds, tides and ocean currents, changing like spinning wheels on a slot machine, have finally lined up to announce a Petro-Jackpot! Floating and submerged oily, syrupy petroleum filth is the unwelcome payoff as it finally glides into the Mississippi Sound.

BP's uncontrolled gusher of oil has assaulted our protective pristine offshore barrier islands and now is flowing into the shallow marine nursery grounds off the Mississippi coastal shoreline. The gulf is carpeted with long wide dark and slimy rainbow slivers and miles of weathered henna colored crude oil mousse that bob and drift toward the horizon. This menace is now within sight of our miles of white beachfront along coastal Highway 90.

The futility of pleading "Somebody do something!" becomes evident. Trying to skim and contain the millions of gallons of floating oil before it comes ashore is like trying to scoop up and dispose of billions of flu germs from ten thousand sneezes. Oil, assisted by a rolling sea, splashes over and eases under so-called oil containment booms. Also consider that we have had a daily heat index here averaging 100º to 108º for the past month. Suffocating heat adds to the futility of trying to sop up oil and tar before it arrives to coat the blazing beach sand.

All the political rhetoric, naive denial, and assurances that "our beaches" are pristine and somehow exempt from the nautical nuance of Ma Nature, has stopped. The hastily produced TV commercials showing happy kids splashing along our water's edge, and couples strolling on the beach with a setting sun turning the water golden have been pulled off the air.

Now multi-faceted environmental damage begins right here on the beaches and in the seafood-rich waters fronting Gulfport and Biloxi. Recovering from this long term damage will not be like recovering from Hurricanes Camille and Katrina. The area around Valdez, Alaska has yet to truly recover from a much smaller amount of oil carelessly loosed on its shores 21 years ago when a fully loaded Exxon oil tanker ran aground splitting open its tanks just offshore.

Looking at today's NOAA oil trajectory map, above, one can visualize a double lobed, fat tube of 30-weight toothpaste being squeezed, with the cap having been unscrewed right at the flat line just off Gulfport. Governor Haley Barbour has urged churches to have special prayer services. I wonder if entreaties to a higher power to cause the deluge to somehow miss "our area" suggest that the glop would be prayed away to "some other area?" This has puzzled me since I was a little kid.

During an active hurricane season here a few years ago a large evangelical church's sign on a main Gulfport street proclaimed, "Glory... God turned the storm!"

A category three hurricane, indeed, veered away from our coast right into Florida causing several deaths and terrible destruction in the tens of millions of dollars.

How about we call off the location-specific prayer tug-of-war and instead all go take a nice walk down the beach in a couple of weeks?

There's lots of power in reality checks too.

[Retired journalist Larry Ray is a Texas native and former Austin television news anchor. He also posts at The iHandbill.]

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