Environmental Issues

rynner2

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#31
'Profound' decline in fish stocks shown in UK records
Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 16:13 UK
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News

Over-fishing means UK trawlers have to work 17 times as hard for the same fish catch as 120 years ago, a study shows.

Researchers used port records dating from the late 1800s, when mechanised boats were replacing sailing vessels.

In the journal Nature Communications, they say this implies "an extrordinary decline" in fish stocks and "profound" ecosystem changes.

Four times more fish were being landed in UK ports 100 years ago than today, and catches peaked in 1938.

"Over a century of intensive trawl fishing has severely depleted UK seas of bottom living fish like halibut, turbot, haddock and plaice," said Simon Brockington, head of conservation at the Marine Conservation Society and one of the study's authors.

"It is vital that governments recognise the changes that have taken place (and) set stock protection and recovery targets that are reflective of the historical productivity of the sea."

In the late 1880s, the government set up inspectorates in major fishing ports in an attempt to monitor what fish were being landed.

"The records are prety reliable," said Callum Roberts from the UK's York University, another of the study authors.

"The Victorians were very assiduous about collecting information; and while some of the landings might have been missed from smaller ports, the larger ports were covered very efficiently," he told BBC News.

Around the same period, naturalist Walter Garstang was beginning to analyse "fishing power" - essentially, the capacity of a fleet to catch fish.

The biggest change over the period was from sail to engine power.

"With sail power, boats could only go at fixed times and only in certain places with a smooth sea bottom," Professor Roberts noted

"But when you got engines, that meant they could fish in any conditions of wind or tide and sea bed."

As waters near the coast became depleted, industrialisation also meant the UK fleet could travel further in search of new grounds - a phenomenon that took off after 1918.

But despite the growing power and range, the amount of fish caught for each unit of effort has gone drastically down, with 17 times more effort required now to catch the same amopunt of fish as compared with the late 1800s.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_ ... 096649.stm
 

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#32
BP attempts to 'catch' Gulf of Mexico oil leak
BP has begun a last-ditch attempt to stop oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico involving placing three hastily built domes over the leaks.
By Nick Allen in Louisiana
Published: 6:48PM BST 04 May 2010

The first of the 98-tonne, 40ft high structures was completed at a welding yard in southern Louisiana and was being moved to the Deepwater Horizon rig which sank on April 22.

The rig is releasing 210,000 gallons of crude a day and the metal contraptions, which resemble giant brown chimneys, will be used to collect and pump oil to a container ship called the Enterprise.

BP said it did not know if the plan would work because the method had not been tried in such deep water before. The rig is nearly a mile down in pitch blackness.

Getting the domes into place will take at least a week and they will capture only 85 per cent of the oil at best. Meanwhile, the rig will continue to leak for at least three months while a $100 million (£66 million) relief well is dug. Until then oil will continue to add to the 130-mile wide slick which threatens five US states and has paralysed the fishing industry.

It came as BP faced accusations it had tried to buy off fishermen by offering them $5,000 (£3,300) not to sue. A waiver was included in contracts the British oil giant gave to fishermen it was recruiting to help tackle the spill.

Troy King, the Alabama Attorney General, said that if the company was trying to limit its liability it would be "bad corporate citizenship" and he would not rule out legal action. BP said the waivers were included by mistake.

The company also came under fire after it emerged its total liability for damages to the fishing and tourism industry may be limited to $75 million (£50 million) under federal law.

The cap was introduced after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, with anything over that payable by a federal fund, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

BP said it would pay "all legitimate claims" but US Senators from coastal states unveiled a plan to lift the cap to $10 billion (£6 billion).

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said: "BP says it'll pay for this mess. Baloney. They're not going to want to pay any more than the law says they have to."

River boat pilots said the oil spill had reached just 15 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River and feared it could ultimately shut down the river's busy shipping lanes, which are used to transport more than half of US grain exports.

Coast Guard Captain Steve Poulin said large patches have broken away and are moving to the north and east, but oil is not expected to hit beaches from Mississippi to Florida before Thursday.

Nick Shay, a physical oceanographer at the University of Miami, said the spill was on the verge of reaching the so-called "Loop Current" which would carry it "like a conveyer belt to the beaches and coral reefs of the Florida Keys.

As the slick's path remained unclear Jan Grant, who manages an inn on St.
George Island, Florida, said: "You mentally want to push it back to the west, and then you feel guilty for doing so." In Bayou La Batre, Alabama, scores of shrimp boats sat idle. Minh V Le, who owns two trawlers, said: "I'm confused about how I'm going to survive, and how my crews are."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/news ... -leak.html
 

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#34
Mythopoeika said:
I'm a little surprised that a pressure dome wasn't already in place to prevent just this sort of accident happening. Bit late to do it now it's gushing away.
Rigs have Blow-out preventers (BOPs) that are supposed to prevent such accidents - but in this case the BOP seems to have at least partially failed.

Deepwater Horizon: scrutiny falls on blowout preventer
13:49 04 May 2010 by Kate Ravilious

A record of reliability will not stop the device at the centre of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster – the blowout preventer (BOP) – from being investigated intensely in the weeks and months to come.

BOPs use a system of massive hydraulics to choke off supply if oil begins to surge up a pipe. "They are normally very reliable," says Per Holand from Exprosoft, a risk assessment company for the oil industry based in Trondheim, Norway. "They have two control switches and a number of different ways of closing the pipe."

Eleven rig workers are reported dead and more than 6 million litres of oil have gushed from the well, which lies under 1500 metres of water in the Gulf of Mexico. The leak is threatening to become the largest ever in US waters.

Why the BOP failed to stem the flow is still unknown: both the switches – manual and automatic – may have failed, or else they worked but the BOP closed only partially. Some experts say the well head must be partly shut because the rate of oil spill is not as great as might be expected.

Others question why the rig didn't have a remote backup switch. "Acoustically controlled remote switches are mandatory in Norway and Brazil, but not elsewhere," says Holand.

Not the first
Deepwater Horizon is the second such accident in less than a year. Just eight months ago, the BOP failed on a deep-water well in the Timor Sea, north-west of Australia. After five attempts and 10 weeks a relief well was drilled and the flow – much smaller than Deepwater Horizon – was stemmed.

Drilling for oil in more than 1000 metres of water was rare a decade ago, but the profit to be made from squeezing the last few drops out of conventional wells has made deep-water exploration economically feasible. Such wells are now common off the coasts of Brazil, Angola and Nigeria as well as in the Gulf of Mexico.

A giant containment chamber with a dome on top to funnel the oil directly to the surface is being constructed. "Domes have never been used at this kind of depth before, and it is probably going to be difficult to position," says Ken Arnold, an offshore production facility expert based in Houston, Texas.

In theory the risks of an accident at depth are no greater than those in shallow water, but dealing with a deep-water accident is far more challenging. "You can't see and touch what you are trying to repair, and fewer pieces of equipment are rated for that pressure and depth," says Arnold.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1 ... enter.html

By a spooky coincidence, I recently (during this oil spill) read a crime novel set in Louisiana - as part of the background colour (nothing to do with the plot) it was revealed that the hero's father had been killed by a blow-out on a Gulf rig, in the days before BOPs.
 

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#36
Oil slick hits Chandeleur Islands off Louisiana

Oil from a massive slick in the Gulf of Mexico has started washing ashore on an island chain off the coast of Louisiana, US officials have confirmed.

Pelicans and other birds covered in oil have been found on the uninhabited Chandeleur islands, which are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge.

A federal maritime agency said there was "oiling all over" the islands.

Earlier, workers began lowering a giant funnel over the leaking oil well at the bottom of the sea to harvest the spill.

Remote-controlled submarines are being used to lower the 90-tonne containment device in an operation expected to take two days.

Oil has been leaking unstopped for 18 days from the well, 50 miles (80km) off Louisiana, since an explosion destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig, operated by Transocean and leased by BP, last month.

On Thursday, the US Coast Guard confirmed for the first time oil had made its way past protective booms and was washing up on land.

Freemason Island, the southernmost of the "back islands" of the Chandeleur chain, was the first to be hit by a sheen of oil, although there was no evidence yet of medium or heavy crude.

Heavier concentrations of crude remain further offshore, and the Coast Guard said weather forecasts suggested it would stay there until the weekend.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8666276.stm
 

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#37
Caroline Lucas becomes Britain's first Green MP
Caroline Lucas has become Britain’s first Green MP in an historic moment for environmental politics.
By Louise Gray
Published: 6:35AM BST 07 May 2010

The leader of the Green Party snatched Brighton Pavilion from Labour by just over 1,250 votes.

The win is a breakthrough for the party after more than 20 years of campaigning in Britain. It is also a significant moment for the UK Parliament, as the only major European legislature that has never had a Green MP before.

After a close three horse race, when both the Tories and Labour looked like they might take the seaside resort, the Green Party supporters were ecstatic. :D

Ms Lucas said the Green Party had finally taken its “rightful place” in Parliament.

“After the recession, after people’s faith in politics has been trampled into the mud after the expenses scandal, it was not the best time to ask people to take a risk and put their faith in politics, but that is what the people of Brighton Pavilion have done. The word historic fits the bill.”

The former MEP and Oxfam worker, who gained 16,238 votes, was immediately surrounded by the cheering crowds.

The 49-year-old has always been the bookies favourite but after neighbouring seats in Hove and Kemptown went to the Tories it looked like all was lost.

But Ms Lucas, who is married with two children, is a popular figure with the public – especially with middle class commuters living in places like Brighton – and did well on televised events and in debates.

The Greens also benefited from the support of celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Greta Scacchi, best-selling author Philip Pullman and comedian Alistair McGowan.

etc...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/electio ... en-MP.html
 

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#38
This is all we need! :roll:

Gulf of Mexico oil slick: Sarah Palin fuels anti-British sentiment
Sarah Palin has fuelled growing anti-British sentiment over the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster by saying "foreign" oil companies like BP were not to be trusted.
Nick Allen in Louisiana
Published: 5:37PM BST 06 May 2010

The former Alaska governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate attacked the British oil giant over the recent Deepwater Horizon spill and a previous one in her state in 2006.

Her comments came despite the fact her husband Todd Palin worked for BP for 18 years, as a production supervisor, and only left the company last year to spend more time with his family. 8)

Mrs Palin urged those in the Gulf of Mexico to "learn from Alaska's lesson with foreign oil companies." She added: "Don't naively trust – verify." As an oil slick the size of Luxembourg loomed off the US coast her intervention added to growing anger at BP among environmentalists and those who face losing their livelihoods.

etc...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... iment.html

Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean, an American company:
Transocean LTD. NYSE: RIG is the world's largest offshore drilling contractor. The company rents floating mobile drill rigs, along with the equipment and personnel for operations, to oil and gas companies at an average daily rate of $142,000 (2006).
...
Transocean employs 26,300 people, and has a fleet of 136 vessels and units (March, 2009). It was incorporated in the Cayman Islands, the principal office is in Houston, Texas.
...
The head of BP Group told CNN's Brian Todd on April 28 that the accident could have been prevented, and focused blame on rig owner Transocean.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transocean
Of course the oil industry is multinational, and it's difficult to pin down ownership of a company (they all seem to own bits of each other), but trying to put all the blame on BP is just a simplistic search for a scapegoat - just what you'd expect from Palin, in fact! :twisted:
 

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#39
Funnel 'placed over' Gulf of Mexico oil spill

[Video: BP's Doug Suttles: "It will undoubtedly have some complications"]

A giant concrete-and-steel funnel has been placed over a blown-out oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in a bid to contain oil leaking from it.

The oil firm, BP, said it might take up to 12 hours for the containment device to settle in place, but that everything appeared to be going as planned.

It is hoped it will be able to collect as much as 85% of the oil and begin funnelling it to ships above by Monday.

Oil from a slick caused by the leak has washed ashore on islands off Louisiana.

US officials announced on Friday they had closed Breton National Wildlife Refuge to the public after a silver sheen of oil reached the shoreline. The refuge includes the Chandeleur Islands chain.

"The refuge closure is important to keep the public safe, to minimize disturbance to nesting colonial sea birds, and to allow personnel conducting cleanup operations and recovery efforts to work safely and efficiently," the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.

The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani on Dauphin Island, an inhabited barrier island three miles (5km) off the coast of Alabama, says there is a faint but distinct smell of oil in the air.

Meanwhile, some scientists say the oil may be spread more widely. Small, black particles have been found in samples taken from below the surface, away from the visible slick, our correspondent adds.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8668753.stm
 

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#40
How big is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?
Elena Egawhary
BBC News

Thousands of tonnes of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico after the disaster at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig over two weeks ago. But how does this leak compare with the largest offshore spills on record?

[Graphic]

...

In terms of lives lost (11 workers died in the rig explosion), financial cost and environmental damage, the Deepwater Horizon incident is clearly serious. But it is not one of the world's largest spills in terms of size alone.

In fact, based on the estimate above, it would not register in the largest 50 single incident, offshore oil spills that have occurred worldwide. Even the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill - despite the controversy and coverage - is not in the top 10. :shock:

However the potential for damage caused by Deepwater Horizon is apparent when looking at the events of June 1979 in the Bay of Campeche, also in the Gulf of Mexico.

In that spill, the exploratory oil well Ixtoc 1 suffered a blowout and wasn't capped until more than nine months later, having released 461,000 tonnes of oil in total.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8664684.stm
 

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#41
Is there no end tohuman ingenuity? ;)

'Volcano' of oil to be absorbed using stockings stuffed with HUMAN HAIR as daily cost to BP hits £6.7m
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 8:35 AM on 10th May 2010

As fears grow last night that BP's attempt to put a lid on the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is doomed to failure citizens on the Louisiana coastline are pitching in – by donating their HAIR to soak up the spill.

Barbershop and salon cuttings are being stuffed into nylon stockings to form a ‘hair boom’ that which will be placed in areas of the spill to soak it up.

Astonishingly, each pound of hair is capable of absorbing as much as a gallon of oil.

Around 450,000 pounds of human hair has already been received for the effort

WHY HAIR?

It’s thought the idea of using hair to soak up oil came from Alabama hairdresser Phil McCrory.

McCrory had his ‘eureka’ moment while watching footage of Alaskan sea otters saturated with oil after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1998.

He said: ‘I was thinking, well, if the otter was getting saturated with oil, then the hair that I sweep up should do the same thing.’

An experiment with hair cuttings and a pair of his wife’s tights confirmed his theory.

He added: ‘You shampoo your hair because it gets greasy. Hair is very efficient at collecting oil out of the air, off surfaces like your skin and out of the water, even petroleum oil.’

While hair and fur typically absorb around four to six times their weight in oil, industrial booms, which are filled with synthetic microfibers, can mop up to 15 times as much.

The news of the hair-raising effort comes as BP revealed that the cost of the clean-up operation had rocketed from £4million a day to £6.7million.

etc...

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldne ... z0nW2MK0kY
 

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#42
BP to use 'top hat' to stem Gulf of Mexico oil slick
BP is set to make another attempt at containing oil gushing deep in the Gulf of Mexico as a massive slick threatened Louisiana shores west of the Mississippi Delta.
Published: 11:24PM BST 10 May 2010

BP now aims to deploy a small "top hat" dome over the leak after its effort over the weekend to cover it with a huge metal box was hampered by a build-up of crystallised gas hydrates.

Fears of a prolonged environmental and economic disaster for the Gulf Coast are growing after the setback for BP, which contracted the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded on April 20, killing 11 people and triggering the spill.

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said that the new plan is to have an oil-barrel-sized container at the leak site, a mile down from the water's surface, within 72 hours.

Then oil would be siphoned up to a tanker.

"There will be less seawater in the smaller dome and therefore less likelihood of hydrate formation," he said at BP's American headquarters in Houston.

The company is also spraying chemical dispersants at the ruptured well – an operation he said was showing some success.

The well is spewing an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf.

It threatens tourist beaches, wildlife refuges and fishing grounds across four states and has forced President Barack Obama to rethink plans to open more waters to drilling.

The top hat is one of several options BP is weighing up to stem the flow of oil into the Gulf.

Other options include trying to block the well's failed blowout preventer with a "junk shot" of rubber or other materials, or fitting a new valve or preventer.

A relief well being drilled to try to finally plug the ruptured well could still take 75 to 80 days to complete.

The company has incurred $350 million in costs so far from response, containment, relief well drilling and payments to Gulf Coast states, suggesting the final bill could be much higher than many analysts predicted.

Mr Hayward rejected the notion that BP, one of the world's largest oil companies, was ill prepared to deal with such an incident.

"Frankly, it's been far more effective than any spill response hitherto in terms of containment offshore and preventing oil from getting to the shore. That is a fact," he said.

"This is the largest, most comprehensive spill response mounted in the United States oil and gas industry by probably two orders of magnitude."


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/news ... slick.html
 

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#44
Scientists find vast unreported oil leak from Deepwater Horizon
[BP video shows oil and gas gushing 5,000 feet below the sea's surface]
Anne Barrowclough

A plume of oil 10 miles long and three miles wide is pouring into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

The plume is one of a number that scientists have found gushing into the sea a mile underwater, increasing concerns that the size of the spill could be thousands of times more than has been calculated so far, according to The New York Times.

“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, from the University of Georgia, who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather information from the spill. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column,” Ms Joye told the newspaper.

After studying video of the gushing oil scientists on board the research vessel Pelican which is gathering samples and information about the spill said it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day, or 3.4 million gallons a day. The flow rate is currently calculated at 5,000 barrels a day.

The vast amounts of oil pouring from the rig which exploded on April 20 killing 11 people is depleting the oxygen in the immediate area, raising fears that the oxygen level could fall so low it would kill off most of the sea life near the plumes. Oxygen levels have already dropped by 30 percent near some of the plumes, increasing the possibility that it would fall so low it would create dead zones around the rig said Dr Joye.

“If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months,” she said. “That is alarming.”

News of the plumes came as the Obama administration increased pressure on BP with a demand for ‘immediate public clarification’ from Tony Hayward, the chief executive, over the company’s intentions about paying the costs associated with the spill. “The public has a right to a clear understanding of BP’s commitment to redress all the damage that has occured or that will occur in the future as a result of the spill,” said Ken Salazar, the interior secretary.

The company is still struggling to cap the leaking underwater oil well. Last night they were making a second attempt to insert a mile long catheter into the leaking pipe by remote control, after a previous attempt to stem the flow by clogging a faulty seabed valve with rubbish hit a snag.

Technicians using joysticks are operating robotic submersibles that will attempt to place a 6in-wide relief pipe into the remains of a 21in pipe that used to connect the wellhead to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on the surface.

The aim is to use the relief pipe to pump a mix of densely packed items such as golf balls, knotted rope and lumps of plastic into the oil well’s blowout preventer — the giant safety device that failed to work when the Deepwater rig exploded last month.

...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/w ... 127904.ece
 

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#45
Out of the depths comes war's lethal legacy
Vessels wrecked by the elements, scuttled, or sunk by submarines are emptying their dangerous cargoes into the world's oceans
By Andrew Johnson
Sunday, 16 May 2010

Environmentalists are becoming increasingly concerned that some of the thousands of wrecked ships around the globe, many of them along Britain's coastline and dating back to the Second World War, are ticking time bombs that could be about to wreak one final act of havoc.

Many of the vessels, which have lain almost forgotten at the bottom of the world's oceans for decades, were destroyed by enemy action or scuttled after the war. Some were oil tankers or supply ships packed with aviation fuel and ammunition. More than half are believed to be British. And now, as they rust away, they are starting to leak.

Earlier this year the Royal Navy's auxiliary ship Darkdale sprang an oil leak, prompting a ban on fishing in the area of the South Atlantic where it lay. The vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine as it lay at anchor off Jamestown Harbour in the British territory of St Helena in 1941. It sank with the loss of almost all hands and its cargo of 3,000 tons of fuel oil, 850 tons of aviation gasoline and 500 tons of diesel and lubricating oil.

The former Defence Minister, Quentin Davies, announced earlier this month that a team would be sent to the wreck to determine whether the removal of fuel, oil and ammunition is the most appropriate course of action.

"Before the survey work can begin, a risk assessment is being carried out based on current knowledge of Darkdale and the recent oil leak. This will determine the nature and degree of risk involved in carrying out the full survey," he said.

The Chief Secretary of the island said: "The Governor of St Helena has written to the Secretary of State for Defence seeking assistance to deal with the oil spill in James Bay and consider options for dealing with the wreck of the Darkdale in future. The MoD is currently considering the St Helena government's request."

Such is the concern about war wrecks that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Ministry of Defence have just completed compiling a database of every ship wrecked in Britain's coastal waters – they extend 200 miles out to sea – since 1870. Of the 9,905 wrecks catalogued, around a third are thought to be from the Second World War. Each is now to be individually risk assessed, Beccy Tye, the agency's deputy recorder of wrecks, said.

"There are still sections of the database to complete," she added. "So far it comes up with 12 per cent of the wrecks coming from the Second World War, but I think that's quite low. A lot of wrecks were unknown or unrecorded at the time. I would think the number is nearer to 30 per cent."

Kevin Colcomb, a scientist with the MCA who worked on the database, added that many countries are starting to follow the UK's lead.

"We are ahead of a lot of other countries on this," he said. "The Australians are just starting to do it and the Americans." He said that because many of the ships were "blown to smithereens" not every wreck presents a risk.

The environmental consultancy group Sea Australia, which specialises in pollution, disagrees, however. "As these ships start to corrode it is only a matter of time before their cargoes start causing marine pollution," said consultant Rean Matthews.

Sea Australia has more than 8,500 Second World War wrecks on its database. The Pacific is thought to be at particular risk. In 2008, scientists warned that the pristine lagoons of Micronesia were at risk from oil slicks originating from sunken ships.

Ms Matthews added that one area of concern is the establishment of responsibility for the wrecks when they lie in international waters.

A 2004 survey by Sea Australia found that 51 per cent of wrecks across the globe were owned by the UK, with the next highest, 16 per cent, belonging to the United States.

The MoD said it is only responsible for wrecks in British territorial waters. Sea Australia disagrees.

"If you own the ship and you own the cargo, then are you not also responsible for the cargo causing pollution in somebody else's waters?" asked Ms Matthews. "The short answer to that is 'yes'."

http://www.independent.co.uk/environmen ... 74574.html
 

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#46
BP tube funnelling Gulf Coast oil leak to tanker

The oil company BP says it has started to siphon oil from its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico to a tanker on the surface.

At a news conference, BP executive Kent Wells said so far the system was "working extremely well".

BP has used underwater robots to insert a long narrow tube with a stopper into the leaking pipe.

Earlier, scientists said they had found vast underwater plumes of oil, one 10 miles (16km) long and a mile wide.

BP's 6in-wide (15cm) tube could capture more than three-quarters of the leak; a smaller spill nearby also has to be contained.

The tool became dislodged after it was first inserted a mile beneath the surface on Saturday night.

But it was now back in place, senior executive vice-president Mr Wells said on Sunday at the firm's US headquarters in Houston, Texas.

Meanwhile, researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said they had detected a number of sprawling oil slicks lurking just beneath the surface of the sea and at depths of 4,000ft (1,200m).

Samantha Joye, a marine science professor at the University of Georgia, said: "It could take years, possibly decades, for the system to recover from an infusion of this quantity of oil and gas.
"We've never seen anything like this before. It's impossible to fathom the impact."


Chemical dispersants BP has been dumping underwater may be preventing the oil from rising to the top of the ocean, the scientists said.

The find suggests the scale of the potential environmental disaster is much worse than previously feared since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up on 20 April, killing 11 workers.

Some scientists cast doubt on official estimates of the oil flow rate, saying the widely repeated figure of 5,000 barrels per day dramatically understates the real amount.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8685368.stm
 

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#47
Atlantic coast now under threat as current spreads Gulf oil slick
Scale of disaster apparent as no-fishing zone doubles and controversial dispersant is used
Suzanne Goldenberg guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 May 2010 22.04 BST

There was mounting evidence last night that the scale of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has grown beyond all the initial worst-case scenarios, as thousands of gallons of oil continued to gush from the sea floor.

On the island of Key West, south of Florida, coastguard officials said about three tar balls an hour were washing up on the beaches of a state park. They said the globs of concentrated oil suggest leaking crude has now become caught up in the powerful loop current and could move from the gulf up to the Atlantic coast.

Meanwhile, an oceanographic research ship reported sighting a 10km (six-mile) plume lurking at depths below 1,000 metres and invisible from the surface.

The evidence of spreading environmental damage grew even more compelling with the release of fresh video showing thick clouds of oil billowing from the ruptured well.

The Obama administration responded by doubling the no-fishing zone to 19% of the waters in the gulf.

Fighting the spill is risky. Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, acknowledged that authorities were relying heavily on Corexit, a chemical banned in the UK because of its effects on limpets and other sea life.

"There has been a real reliance on them, maybe more than anybody thought would ever happen," she told the Senate environment and public works committee.

The mounting evidence forced administration officials to admit for the first time yesterday that they had underestimated the risks of offshore drilling.

In two highly charged hearings in the Senate, Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, conceded there had been failures in oversight by the agency responsible for policing offshore drilling. "We need to clean up that house," he said.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS), the regulatory body for offshore drilling, was notorious in the George Bush era for sex-and-cocaine fuelled parties in Colorado. :shock:

Salazar, under heated questioning from some senators, was forced to concede that the agency had not been entirely cleansed in the 15 months under his charge. "We need to have the right regulatory regime in place and we will work hard to make sure that happens," he said.

He admitted that the disaster had been a "wake-up call" and had persuaded him that policing of safety and environmental regulations on offshore oil rigs may have been inadequate. "My initial read on that is there should be additional safety requirements," he told the committee.

etc...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2 ... ntic-coast

If tar balls get swept around Florida by the Gulf Stream, the North Atlantic drift could carry them to Cornish beaches in less than a year... :(
 

rynner2

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#48
The secret life of a suburban garden
How many different species would you expect to find in a rather scruffy, small suburban garden? Juliette Jowit invited four ecologists round for a 'bioblitz' – with unexpected results
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 May 2010 20.59 BST

There are four bodies lying and crouching in our tiny back garden. The ecologists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) got here only minutes ago, but, while the kettle boils, they are already grubbing about behind our bins, under our windowsills, in the lawn, flowerbed and log pile.

They are doing a "bioblitz" – trying to find as many species of animal and plant as possible in this small, suburban south-west London garden. Our back garden is only 12 paces long and seven wide, with, now I look at it through the eyes of ecologists, pitifully few flowers. Happily, they appear undaunted. "The great thing is, even with gardens like this that look fairly sterile, there's always something there," says the museum's insect specialist, Stuart Hine. "We'll move plant pots, and we'll have a look through your log pile . . . Lots of spiders, centipedes, woodlice, slugs – they'll all be there."

Bioblitzing is the latest buzz-word in conservation, and this one marks the opening of the NHM's new Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, which encourages the public to learn to identify more of the 55,000 species of flora and fauna that exist in England alone. (A questionnaire carried out for the opening suggests that less than a third of the population know what a sycamore tree looks like, while two-thirds do not recognise a peacock butterfly.)

A proper bioblitz would last 24 hours in a public place, bringing together members of the public and experts. "The idea is it's a snapshot, a moment in time," explains Hine. "It's finding everything of biological origin in one place in one time."

While we have been talking, John Tweedle, who runs bioblitzes under the museum's Open Air Laboratories scheme, has already filled nine test tubes with bugs and slugs from around the birdbath. Hine is grubbing for spiders under the windowsill, and finds the intriguingly named missing sector orb weaver, a lace web and a Tegenaria species of house spider – plus the egg sac of a false widow spider. Gill Stevens, the director of the new centre, is studying lichens on the log pile – a useful indicator of air pollution, she says. There are not many varieties, which may be connected to the fact that I live under the Heathrow flight path.

The centre runs three drop-in sessions for the public each week. Stevens says people can describe their find, send in pictures, or even post samples of things such as rocks, fossils or birds' eggshells found on the ground. "It's about encouraging people to learn more about the environment where they live; that they don't have to go somewhere exotic to see natural history. We have to take a bit more responsibility for the quality of the environment we live in, and to do that we have to understand it a bit more."

I won't pretend that the creatures in this particular suburbia are exotic (except for the parakeets). But still, some of the creatures they find have relatively exotic names: the vestal cuckoo bee, buff-tailed bumblebee, hairy-footed flower bee, spittlebug, wolf spider, and the lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing – the latter a moth with (confusingly) red upper-wings.

A week later, I am sent the final results: 87 species of flowering plant plus 27 mosses and a single fern on the plant list; 11 birds plus plenty of worms, slugs, algae, ladybirds, woodlice, flies, an ant, hoverflies, a weevil, bees and spiders – including a handful of things that had still not been identified. In all, nearly 200 different species – in just two hours, in this rather scruffy, badly planted patch of suburbia.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2 ... ban-garden
 

rynner2

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#49
The black hole at the bottom of the Gulf
No one seems to know the extent of the BP disaster
By David Randall and Margareta Pagano
Sunday, 23 May 2010

Some 33 days, nearly a billion dollars of expenditure, and umpteen official statements after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico – and the world is still none the wiser about how many millions of gallons of oil are leaking into the ocean every day, how much has already been discharged into the sea, and – more to the point – how this, maybe the world's worst oil disaster, can be stopped.

As scientists revise upward their guesstimates of the daily spill of crude into the sea (with some putting it as high as three million gallons a day), and BP halving its assessment of how much of the leak it is capturing, the attempts to deal with the disaster are, despite America's best efforts alongside one of the world's premier corporations, proving unequal to the task.

On Tuesday, BP engineers will attempt to plug the spewing well 5,000ft down on the ocean floor by spraying mud and cement into it. If that fails, there is a back-up plan which sounds about as hi-tech as throwing snowballs at the moon. It is called the "junk shot", and consists of trying to clog the well with golf balls, shredded tyres, and other refuse up to and including human hair. It has, more than a month after the calamity began, come to this.

And, with the frustration and impotence comes anger. President Obama raised the possibility of criminal prosecutions in his weekly radio address yesterday, saying: "First and foremost, what led to this disaster was a breakdown of responsibility on the part of BP and perhaps others, including Transocean and Halliburton."

Meanwhile, untold quantities of oil are creeping slowly ashore. Yesterday, sheets of rust-coloured heavy oil started to clog fragile marshlands on the fringes of the Mississippi Delta, damaging fishing grounds and wildlife. Brown and orange globs and sheets of foul-smelling oil the consistency of latex paint have also begun coating the reeds and grasses of Louisiana's wetlands, home to rare birds, mammals and a rich variety of marine life. A deep, stagnant ooze sat in the middle of a particularly devastated marsh off the Louisiana coast, where Emily Guidry Schatzel of the National Wildlife Federation was examining stained reeds. "This is just heartbreaking," she said. "I can't believe it." And on Grand Isle, Louisiana, officials closed the public beach, as thick gobs of oil resembling melted chocolate washed up.

BP, in charge of the cleanup, said that it will be at least Tuesday before engineers can shoot mud into the blown-out well. This has been tried on land, but never 5,000ft underwater. Crews will shoot the mud into a crippled piece of equipment atop the well. Then engineers will direct cement at the well to stop the oil permanently. BP executives say the only guaranteed solution to stop the leak is a pair of relief wells crews have already started drilling, but the work will not be complete until August.

etc...

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 80693.html
 

rynner2

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#50
A historic moment for anyone who cares about the environment
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Friday, 28 May 2010

History doesn't always come in thunderclaps or cheering crowds, and yesterday it was made with very little outward fuss when a woman in a pale blue trouser suit got to her feet from a green leather bench and began to speak.

It was precisely 3.30 in the afternoon, and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Hugh Bayley, had just issued a two-word invitation: "Caroline Lucas." And with that, the first MP of the Green Party, in fact the first MP of a new national party for many years, began her maiden speech and her party's political life at Westminster. Henceforth, the environment has its own representation in our politics.

It had been a long journey to get there, she said. Indeed it had: nearly 40 years from the Green Party's origins as the Ecology Party in the 1970s, and nearly 20 years in the case of Ms Lucas herself, who began her rise in the party at the moment of the Greens' false dawn: in the Euro elections of June 1989, when they got 15 per cent of the UK vote, burst on to the national political scene, and then blew it.

Thrust into the spotlight, such were the antics of the Greens' grassroots, rejecting the "cult of leadership" and insisting that the party spoke with several voices at once – I listened to the debates with an inward groan at Green Party conferences at places like Wolverhampton and Bridlington – that by the mid-1990s they had dissipated their credibility entirely and had become little better than a political joke. Caroline Lucas has led the way back to reality, and to the realisation of the truly noble aim of having a politics based on concern for the Earth, as much as on concern for equality, or freedom – the ideal of Petra Kelly of Germany's Die Grünen, the charismatic inspiration for Green parties the world over.

etc...

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 85107.html
 

rynner2

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#51
Oil spill creates huge undersea 'dead zones'
Clouds of crude and chemical dispersants have formed in the Gulf of Mexico and oceanologists fear these could have devastating effects on the food chain
By Emily Dugan
Sunday, 30 May 2010

The world's most damaging oil spill – now in its 41st continuously gushing day – is creating huge unseen "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico, according to oceanologists and toxicologists. They say that if their fears are correct, then the sea's entire food chain could suffer years of devastation, with almost no marine life in the region escaping its effects.

While the sight of tar balls and oil-covered birds on Louisiana's shoreline has been the most visible sign of the spill's environmental destruction, many scientists now believe it is underwater contamination that will have the deadliest impact. At least two submerged clouds of noxious oil and chemical dispersants have been confirmed by research vessels, and scientists are seeing initial signs of several more. The largest is some 22 miles long, six miles wide and 3,300 feet deep – a volume that would take up half of Lake Erie. Another spans an area of 20 square miles.

More than 8,300 species of plants and animals are at risk. Some, such as the bluefin tuna, which come to the Gulf to spawn, could even face extinction. Scientists predict it will be many months – even years – before the true toll of the disaster will be known.

In previous spills, oil rose to the surface and was dealt with there, but due to the use of dispersants, as well as the weight of this particular crude oil and the pressure created by the depth of the leak, much of the oil has stayed submerged in clouds of tiny particles. At least 800,000 gallons of dispersants were sprayed at escaping oil in a frantic attempt to keep it offshore, but it now seems this preventative measure has created a worse disaster. The chemicals helped to keep the oil submerged and are toxic to marine life, resulting in unprecedented underwater damage to organisms in the Gulf.

Once these harmful substances enter the food chain, almost nothing will escape their effects. Forests of coral, sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, game fish and thousands of shellfish could all face destruction. What happens next to these underwater clouds – or plumes – depends largely on the currents. If they do eventually rise to the surface, they may end up on the shoreline months or years from now, causing a second wave of destruction.

etc...

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 87039.html
 

rynner2

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#52
Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Transocean silent as BP bears the brunt of anger
As BP bears the brunt of anger over the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, drilling company Transocean is staying out of the spotlight.
By Philip Sherwell, US Editor
Published: 7:46PM BST 05 Jun 2010

[video]

They are not the usual images of a buttoned-down oil industry executive honouring employees at a corporate gathering. But in the video posted on the Transocean website, Steven Newman performs an impressive Bollywood dance routine accompanied by four scantily-clad women.

The American chief executive of the world's biggest offshore oil drilling company was fulfilling a pledge to demonstrate his dance moves if the company's Indian division achieved top safety award targets.

Mr Newman and Transocean have very different safety concerns now. The firm owned operated the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig that was blown apart in April while drilling a well for BP, killing 11 workers and unleashing the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

As a result, Mr Newman seems to have lost the taste for the spotlight that he in displayed in Mumbai last year. Instead, he and his company have maintained a notably low profile, even as oil this weekend reaches the white sand beaches of Florida and grim images of seabirds coated in crude dominate front pages.

Their absence is in stark contrast to the spectacular vilification of British firm BP and its chief executive Tony Hayward, who has become public enemy number one for both Washington and the wider American public.

In his latest broadside, President Barack Obama on Friday night scolded BP for spending $50 million on a television advertising campaign in which the energy giant apologised for the oil slick and explained its role in the clean-up process. He claimed the company should not be spending money on a PR offensive while allegedly "nickel-and-diming" (shortchanging) locals hit by the spill.

Yet while lambasting BP for even seeking to defend its reputation, Mr Obama has showed no apparent interest in directing similar wrath at Transocean - fuelling suggestions that as a foreign company, BP is simply a convenient whipping boy and a politically easier target. :roll:

"Transocean has done a very good job of hunkering down and keeping quiet while BP takes the flak," said a US oil industry source. "BP is clearly the 'responsible party' for the response under American law. But this was Transocean equipment and workers and at some stage they are going to have to answer questions about their role."

Because it leased the rig, drew up the plans for the well and owned the oil, BP is the "responsible party" under American legislation for the leak, containment and clean-up.

But as Transocean was the rig's owner and operator, its role is also under scrutiny. Both the criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and forthcoming civil compensation cases will examine the firm's actions - yet its name is rarely mentioned by US politicians or media.

etc...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/news ... anger.html

I'm very disappointed at Obama's one-sided demonisation of BP. The Americans wanted the oil, so they contracted with BP to bring it in. BP in turn contracted with Transocean to do the actual drilling. Blame for this disaster spreads far wider than just one company.
 

rynner2

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#54
Solar panels could be a threat to aquatic insects, new research shows
Scientists urge caution after finding that insects fall into 'ecological trap' by mistaking panels for pools of water
David Adam The Observer, Sunday 6 June 2010

Solar panels could wipe out fragile populations of insects, according to a new study that raises fresh doubts about the ecological impact of some forms of renewable energy.

Scientists have discovered that aquatic insects such as the mayfly can mistake shiny photovoltaic panels for pools of water, which they rely on to reproduce. They urge caution on the increasing use of panels until experts work out how they could affect insects and other creatures that feed on them.

"The effect of solar panels on populations of aquatic insects has not yet been researched," said Bruce Robertson, a scientist at the US Department of Energy's Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Centre in Michigan. "It is clear that the worst place to put a solar installation would be in proximity to natural lakes and rivers, where aquatic insects could easily become attracted to them."

The insects mistake the panels for water because both reflect horizontally polarised light – an optical trick in which light waves vibrate in the same direction. Many insects have evolved to detect such polarised light as a sure way to find water, particularly in arid environments.

The insects mate above the panels, which makes them vulnerable to predators, and lay their eggs on their surface, where they perish. Scientists call such natural siren songs "ecological traps". Robertson said: "There is no more severe way to degrade an organism's habitat than by creating an ecological trap. We predict traps should cause rapid population declines where solar panels are common, but it will depend on the extent of solar panels in an area and how many insects are attracted to them. It appears that, once attracted, most die trying to reproduce."

etc...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2 ... ic-insects
 

rynner2

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#55
Some good news:

BP cap captures '10,000 barrels' a day in US Gulf
Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Sunday, 6 June 2010 12:07 UK

A containment cap on a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is now funnelling off 10,000 barrels of oil a day, BP's chief executive Tony Hayward says.

The amount has risen since Saturday, and implies more than half the estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels leaking each day is now being captured.

The spill has been described as the biggest environmental disaster in US history.

Mr Hayward told the BBC that BP would restore the Gulf to its original state.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Hayward said: "As we speak, the containment cap is producing around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the surface."

Asked what amount of the estimate that represented, the BP chief executive said it was expected to be "the majority, probably the vast majority" of the oil gushing out.

"We have a further containment system to implement in the course of this coming week which will be in place by next weekend so when those two are in place, we would very much hope to be containing the vast majority of the oil."

His company, he said, was going to stop the leak and take care of the consequences.
"We're going to clean-up the oil, we're going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf coast to the position it was in prior to this event. That's an absolute commitment, we will be there long after the media has gone, making good on our promises."

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/us_and ... 248409.stm
 

Anome

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#56
rynner2 said:
Solar panels could be a threat to aquatic insects, new research shows
<snip>
The insects mistake the panels for water because both reflect horizontally polarised light – an optical trick in which light waves vibrate in the same direction. Many insects have evolved to detect such polarised light as a sure way to find water, particularly in arid environments.
Of course, freshly washed and polished cars have the same effect. Not to mention the water bowls of pets in the back yard, swimming pools, and other sources of polarised light.

This is like those stories about wind farms killing birds. Surprisingly enough, most birds actually see them and go around. The real impact, when compared to that of burning fossil fuels for power generation are much lower.
 

rynner2

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#57
Saplings from Dutch elm disease survivor could start new family tree
Simon de Bruxelles

The English elm, painted by Constable, elegised by Thomas Gray and all but wiped out by disease a generation ago, could stage a comeback thanks to a rare survivor.

Saplings grown from the elm at Rayne in Essex, one of a handful to survive Dutch elm disease, have shown the same resistance to the disease that protected the 200-year-old parent tree.

Experts from Kew Gardens are now studying the ten-year-old saplings in an attempt to discover the secret that helped the tree survive when millions of others were wiped out.

The elm’s resistance was discovered by Paul King, who helped to clear hundreds of dying elms when the disease first struck. Over the past 25 years he has raised 2,000 saplings with the same traits. Mr King sent the sample plant tissue to a laboratory for micropropagation.

For reasons that have yet to be explained, the saplings are not attractive to the beetle that carries the fungal disease that kills the trees, and the insects avoid them.

Mr King said: “I was working dismantling and clearing diseased elms when Dutch elm disease hit and saw how many were destroyed. As we worked in this particular area we noticed that there were a few trees that seemed to be resistant to the disease.

“While other trees around them died, these were totally unharmed. After about ten years, they were still surviving while every other tree in the area had died and we knew they must be resistant. An expert from the local council took cuttings from one of the mature trees for me which survived.” The original trees are also still healthy.

Previous attempts to re-introduced the elm, once one of the most common trees in Britain, have met with little success. Imported resistant varieties are prohibitively expensive for many landowners and differ in other ways to the tradiitional English elm, Ulmus procera.

Dutch elm disease is native to Asia but was accidentally introduced to Europe in 1910, although at first it only killed a small proportion of trees. It got its name after it was first isolated in Holland in 1921. It largely died out by 1940 but in 1967 a new and deadlier strain of the disease arrived in Britain on a shipment of elm logs from North America. The disease killed an estimated 25 million elm trees across Britain.

Alan Power, head gardener at Stourhead, a National Trust property in Wiltshire, said: “Dutch elm disease was massively devastating in this country. It’s very rare to see a mature elm tree nowadays — there are a few south of the South Downs but they’re very unusual.

“Sad to say a lot of people wouldn’t even recognise them nowadays. So it’s fantastic to hear that a mature tree has survived. The fact that the cuttings have come from the original elm is brilliant. It would be wonderful to see the native English elms back in the countryside.” :D

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/e ... 145697.ece
 

rynner2

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#58
Experts double estimate of BP oil spill size
Page last updated at 03:04 GMT, Friday, 11 June 2010 04:04 UK

As many as 40,000 barrels (1.7m gallons) of oil a day may have been gushing out from a blown-out Gulf of Mexico well, doubling many estimates.

The US Geological Survey says that flow rate could have been reached before a cap was put on the well on 3 June.

BP's chairman has been asked to meet Barack Obama next week, amid assurances from the UK and US that bilateral ties will not be affected by the crisis.

UK PM David Cameron and President Obama will discuss the spill at the weekend.

Oil has been leaking into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April and sank off the coast of the US state of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.

BP said the device placed on the well collected 15,800 barrels of oil on Wednesday - slightly up on the 15,010 barrels collected in the previous 24-hour period.

Late on Thursday, the Obama administration announced that the chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, had been asked to meet Mr Obama and the officer in charge of the relief effort, Adm Thad Allen, at the White House.

The meeting will be held amid growing worry about whether BP would have enough cash to pay for the clean-up operation and compensation for those affected.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has warned that Washington would "not pay a dime" for cleaning up and that BP would be held responsible for all damages.

And the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, accused BP of a "lack of integrity" over its approach to the spill.

Ms Pelosi is among a number of US politicians who have suggested that BP should be forced to suspend dividend payments until it is clear the company has enough cash

That has raised concerns in the UK, where BP's dividends form a crucial part of pension funds for millions of Britons. The sharp criticism from the US has been described by some UK politicians as growing anti-British rhetoric.

On the markets BP's shares closed down 6% in London on Thursday, having earlier fallen as much as 12%.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/us_and ... 290238.stm

Preventing BP paying dividends would hurt Americans too, as they hold about a third of BP shares. They won't like the fall in share price either. It's a mixed up ol' world.
 
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#59
rynner2 said:
Experts double estimate of BP oil spill size
Page last updated at 03:04 GMT, Friday, 11 June 2010 04:04 UK

As many as 40,000 barrels (1.7m gallons) of oil a day may have been gushing out from a blown-out Gulf of Mexico well, doubling many estimates.

...

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/us_and ... 290238.stm

Preventing BP paying dividends would hurt Americans too, as they hold about a third of BP shares. They won't like the fall in share price either. It's a mixed up ol' world.
Having 'British' in the title is probably a hangover from the days, when British was still a byword for quality and reliability.

What I find really depressing is reading that oil spills and pollution in Nigeria easily dwarf even the spill in the Mexican Gulf.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell

Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it

The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades

John Vidal, environment editor The Observer, 30 May 2010

...
 

rynner2

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#60
Oil spill disaster: The guilty parties
The blowout of Deepwater Horizon involved more than one organisation. There were other companies, and a regulator. And behind them, ourselves and our insatiable cars.
By David Randall and David Usborne

...while BP has responsibility for this spill, is it the sole villain of this ugly piece? Or are there other companies, bodies and even governments that should carry some of the can? Time for as cool a look as can be achieved at the three levels of possible responsibility: the immediate accident, the planning and oversight, and the wider dilemma of our insatiable need for oil.

This was a BP operation, but other companies were involved, although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the companies mentioned in this report. There were 126 people working on the Deepwater Horizon rig, yet no more than eight of them were BP employees. Some 79 worked for Transocean, the firm that owned and operated the rig. A further 41 worked for contractors such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp, a BP partner on the well. BP had 65 per cent of it, Anadarko 25 per cent and Mitsui Oil Exploration 10 per cent.

There was also a firm called M-I Swaco, a contractor providing mud-engineering services on the rig, two of whose workers were among the 11 killed. Halliburton, Dick Cheney's former company, had four staff on the rig, and was responsible for "cementing" on the sea bed. Another firm, ironically called Cameron International, supplied the rig's blowout preventer valves, which, as it happened, prevented no such thing. The rig suffered a catastrophic blow-out on 20 April, in which the 11 men lost their lives.

Which of the above companies bears blame, and in what degree, will be the subject of Congressional inquiries, and, ultimately, will be decided in the courts. (There are now at least 160 class action lawsuits filed against BP, and thousands more legal claims by individuals and small business have been filed.)

The best guide so far as to what went wrong is contained in a report produced by the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, led by Professor Robert Bea of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California, Berkeley. In his report, dated 20 May, he itemises seven steps which led to the blowout. They are worth quoting in full:

"Improper well design

* Improper cement design...

* No cement bond logs, ineffective oversight of operations

* Bad decision-making – removing the pressure barrier – displacing the drilling mud with sea water 8,000ft below the drill deck...

* Early warning signs not detected, analyzed or corrected

* Improper operating procedures

* Flawed design and maintenance of the final line of defense."

It seems unlikely that no other company than BP was responsible for these failures. Professor Bea does not specify any other company than BP, but he does have harsh words to say about one other organisation, the US regulator in this area. In the summary of his paper, he says: "The information available to me so far indicates that BP plc and the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service failed to properly assess and manage the natural hazards in a prudent manner. Consequently, the public, resources and environment were, and are, being severely punished."

Even now, 54 days into the disaster, no one has any precise figure for the amount of oil leeched into the ocean. Scientists, not normally given to inexactitude, say it could be anywhere between 40m and 109m gallons. The total siphoned off the fractured well is about four million gallons, with the latest cap snaring about 650,000 gallons a day.

We have learnt in the past painful months that there exists nowhere on Earth the technology to immediately sort out such a deep-sea blowout. BP, the US government and the best minds of the energy industry have a problem where they have no alternative but to make up techniques as they go along. The only known solution – a relief well – will not be operational until mid-August.

Risk assessment as an activity gets a pretty bad press these days, but if ever a situation needed one doing it was drilling for oil a mile down on the ocean floor. For what we have learnt the hard way is that, whatever adherence or non-adherence to the present regulations, an enterprise was undertaken for which, if it went wrong, there was no immediate remedy. This is a failure of BP's planning and a failure of regulation.

The world has an unquenchable need for oil, and the Western part of it has an additional need to get it from cheap, reliable and politically friendly places. That is a realistic given everywhere, and regarded as a virtual birthright in the US. It plainly should be reduced, and satisfied with non-fossil means of propulsion as soon as possible. But, ultimately, that incessant demand is why BP and its partners were drilling in the Gulf.

etc...

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