The BP Transocean Gusher’s Risk: Some Links and Notes

This post is  mostly about the oil spill from the point of view of risk. There is a great deal of risk in this crisis and it is a part of the story which is  something we need to really understand and work out in terms of making sense of these events. It is really important to  understand the parameter of risk for this crisis and for all the related crises that may or may not emerge over time.

Life is pretty damned difficult for lots of people and lots of eco-systems when things are working out within the context of the agreements and arrangements within which life and the economy ordinarily operate. When there is a large and sudden unplanned change it often causes a great deal of harm.  This gusher is a large and unexpected change. But in addition it is just a very bad thing. It is if nothing else a huge waste of valuable oil and gas. Forty days into this crisis it is still gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico. So I want to go through this set of issues related to risk.

Understanding a Salt Water Ecology is Difficult 

One of the things many of us did not like in this crisis is that we feel that the impact and risk were so downplayed and minimized in the early days when this was developing.  It seemed to many of us (how rightly time will tell) that those in charge were not considering the reality of a major gusher in that place.  I first began to deal with this crisis on-line with the following tweet: “BP Oil spill seen from space: old worry-” That tweet was posted on April 27, 2010.  Since then the story and the situation have continued to develop.

I want to start with a link that will give people an idea of how much science, skill and knowledge is required to make an assessment of toxic impacts on the environment.  When I write the word toxic I am including the sticky, choking and smothering qualities of oil besides it direct bio-chemical toxicity. Use this link to get an idea of the field. 


II. Tourism and Export Dollars as Well as the Natural Treasures

In the case of many Louisiana coastal industries a small relative amount of damage can have a disproportionately huge impact.  appearance of the landscape, taste and health of fish and many other things of similar nature can be very subtle and difficult to measure. Beyond that the nature of the things being marketed is that they react in complex and varied ways to the damage done by oil. Some things will heal and some will deteriorate in an accelerated manner. Determining the likely results requires some accounting for currents, rainfall, winds, acidity in the water and many other factors. 

A. Lodging

People will not choose a less desirable site without some adjustment in real cost most of the time. A minor amount of damage can have a large impact on lodging for fishing and recreation. See this link to understand the lodging industry in Louisiana. 


B. Seafood

With seafood there is a great deal to the complexity of how an oil spill can affect things. I hope that we can all look back and see this as a minor incident but it  will take a long time to know for sure. The next few links can educate you a bit about how this real industry really operates. 







III. The Lingering Risks of Oil Spills

One of the first things that we have to understand is that this is not likely to be completely cleared up any time soon. The Exxon Valdez experience makes us expect bad effects that will linger and persist. 


IV. This Particular Spill and Dealing with It

Much of what I have covered so far is about oil damage as a general thing. Some is about Louisiana’s risk towards all oil spills. Now we want to look at this particular spill and how it is being dealt with and should be dealt with in the exact situation we are all in right now. The next site is the grandfather of all sites on this incident if you want to understand the crisis read through the sites content if you can. 


First Note:  So far the Damage has not Been all that Huge as Far as we Know

The truth is that by almost any measure this has been a relatively modest landfall so far. Even someone like me who is highly committed to the idea that this is a stressed and fragile environment will admit that this has so far not been as catastrophic as it could be. The following text is lifted from GOHSEP’s site. I have my doubts about some of it but I think it is a fairly excellent survey and much better than no source or the average source of measurement. 

“Oil Sightings Report June 2, 2010

Sighting: Oil found on mangrove trees in the canals of East Grand Terre near the Grand Bank Bayou area.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Tar balls found scattered in a rip line made up of mostly trash in the south west inlet of Wilkinson Bay.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Boom is washing up on an unnamed island at Grand Island Port in Barataria Bay. There is no oil in the grass but not in the water.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Tar balls found scattered in a rip line at the southern end of Lake Grand Ecaille.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Oil sheen approximately 40 yards wide by two miles long just outside Baptiste Collet.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Blackish oil slick with some red/brown and foamy areas 4.5 miles east of the Southwest Pass Lighthouse.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Jefferson Parish:
Sighting: Ribbon of sheen with surface foam in Bay Dosgris off of Little Lake.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Grey sheen running approximately mile south down the Barataria Waterway.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Rip line with grey sheen extending approximately 300 yards south of the mouth of Bayou St. Denis in the Barataria Bay Waterway.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Oil found on the mangrove trees in the canals of East Grand Terre at the north east side of Little Bayou Chevreau.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Thick oil found in grass on an island one mile south of Manilla Village.
Date: 2 Jun 10.

Sighting: Small area of grey sheen in north east corner of Hackberry Bay.
Date: 2 Jun 10.”

So while we do not yet know what this spill will amount to in the end we do know what  may be at risk and that risk is hard  to assess. So we have to do something.

Note: Responses and Plans

In this segment I provide some links and a little analysis as to how the response is going and how it may go. There is too much to cover well in a short blog post. The barrier islands are an idea being given attention.



I have seen the development of restored barrier islands in the context of an entire system of renewal as a good idea. My idea for policy is outlined in the post behind the following link.


So if you read through all of this I hope that you have a better sense of what is at risk. There will probably be more posts on this subject later.

One response to “The BP Transocean Gusher’s Risk: Some Links and Notes

  1. Pingback: Awareness of Pain: A Post With Many Links « Franksummers3ba's Blog

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