What is Seepage and Why Can’t Anyone in the Media Explain It?

One of the things I hate about our media is how they simply refuse to inform their readers, and instead are always focused on process or the immediate political impact. Here is the NY Times discussing the seepage:

A pressure test of BP’s undersea well that has kept fresh oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will be allowed to continue for another day, despite concerns about potential new problems near the well, the government official overseeing the spill response said Monday.

The government ordered BP to step up monitoring of the well after “undetermined anomalies” were discovered on the seafloor nearby. The government’s top official in the Gulf response, retired Coast Guard admiral Thad W. Allen, said that government scientists had talked late Sunday with BP about a seep and the possible detection of methane around the well.

A seep — usually a flow of hydrocarbons from the seafloor — could be evidence that oil, gas or both are escaping from the well up to the seafloor, which could prompt the government to order BP to remove the cap and resume oil collection. But seeps also occur naturally.

Did that clear things up for you? No? Me either. Here’s the WaPo:

The federal government, concerned about seepage near BP’s damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, authorized the company Monday to keep the well shut for another 24 hours provided that BP engineers continue to “rigorously monitor” the sea floor for any signs that the situation is worsening.

In a statement early Monday, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the official in charge of the U.S. response to the oil spill disaster, said a federal science team conferred with BP representatives Sunday night on specific issues, “including the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well.” He said the federal scientists “got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations.”

The conference call followed a letter to BP that Allen released Sunday night. It pointed to unanswered questions about monitoring systems that the company committed to as a condition for the government to extend an operation in which BP used a new capping mechanism to shut down the well and conduct pressure tests. The letter noted that during the operation, called a well integrity test, scientists detected a “seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head.”

In his statement Monday, Allen said that “monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team.”

Ok. So Thad Allen is telling BP to do some tests, but wtf is seepage? Why should I be concerned? Aren’t things always seeping up from the floor of the ocean? Anyone? CNN?:

Testing on a capped oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue for another day, officials said Monday, as the federal government says it has received satisfactory answers from BP regarding a seep near the well.

Thad Allen, the federal government’s oil spill response director, said Monday that a federal science team and BP representatives had discussed several issues during a Sunday night conference call, including the “possible observation of methane over the well.”

“During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations,” Allen said in a statement.

On Sunday, Allen said that testing had revealed a “seep a distance from the well.” He ordered the company to notify the government if other leaks were found.

“When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours,” Allen said in a letter to BP Chief Managing Director Bob Dudley released late Sunday.

Yeah. I still have no clue why I should be concerned about seepage. Fortunately, someone emailed me in response to a tweet I made asking what the hell is meant by a seep:

…it means that the entire oil reserve’s casing might be collapsing. To give you a visual metaphor: they are currently trying to fix the plumbing in the bathroom, maybe stop the shower from leaking. What might be happening now amounts to the huge water main under the house breaking and causing the entire house to sink, bathroom and all.

The problem is that the well is deep underground and under high pressure, so once it springs a leak it just worms its way to the surface through a thousand crevices and makes them bigger and bigger over time. You can’t “plug” them because… well, to use another metaphor, imagine you have a garden hose that’s blocked by a pillow. Once the water works its way through the pillow and soaks through, you have water leaking from every fiber of the thing, and putting a little rubber patch on any given part of the pillow is really just pointless. This is why the government was worried about capping the well: it amounted to blocking the only escape route for the pressure, thereby forcing out of other little holes in the compromised reservoir, which as I said become bigger and bigger with time.

If the reservoir casing is compromised, we’re fucked, end of story.

Now granted, CNN, the NY Times, and the WaPo can’t drop f-bombs, but which of those actually informed you why the seep was a concern? Why doesn’t every MSM story about the “seepage” include a simple description like that to inform people? Instead, we are told what the government and BP are “doing,” but no one understands what they are doing or why.

Am I just being nitpicky? Or shouldn’t the media recognize that their readers most likely don’t have advanced degrees in oceanography and geology or whatever fields would cover this sort of thing? Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?

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165 replies
  1. 1
    BR says:

    Reporters have no clue, and they’ve fired all of their science writers in recent years, so there’s nobody in house to give them that info. And you know, calling a few geologists would be wayyy more work than just speculating on whether Obama is doomed.

  2. 2
    rnoble says:

    Yeah, the reporters just don’t know what they’re talking about. What they do understand, more or less, is process. For a guy with only a hammer, everything looks like a nail, or whatever.

  3. 3
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    Oh good, I was kind of worried my coffee-fueled email to you this morning was answering a rhetorical, rather than actual, question.

    I should probably just get my own damned blog…

  4. 4
    Svensker says:

    Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?

    Bingo. I think they’re told “there could be seepage” and then they all nod their heads and write down “there could be seepage” on their little slates, making squeaking noises with their pencils.

  5. 5
    bkny says:

    the important point was to introduce a new word ‘seepage’ which misleads people into thinking the ‘gushing’ has been contained to a large degree.

    seep·age/ˈsēpij/Noun1. The slow escape of a liquid or gas through porous material or small holes.

  6. 6
    Ohmmade says:

    The problem is the source.

    Why are you listening to unqualified pundits and talking heads in the first place?

    If you want to know anything: http://www.theoildrum.com

    CNN/HuffPo/NYT etc are just information junk-food.

  7. 7
    Ohmmade says:

    The problem is the source.

    Why are you listening to unqualified pundits and talking heads in the first place?

    If you want to know anything: http://www.theoildrum.com

    CNN/HuffPo/NYT etc are just information junk-food.

  8. 8
    David Brooks says:

    I still don’t understand. If the reservoir is “deep underground and under high pressure”, why didn’t it start seeping a thousand years before BP put a hole in it? IOW, did something in BP’s activities cause the “thousand crevices”?

    I do notice that your email said the well is under high pressure; is there some technical difference between well and reservoir I’m missing?

  9. 9
    Violet says:

    Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?

    Bingo.

    They may also be trying not to panic people unnecessarily. Your reader’s email is terrifying. But there’s obviously a way to describe “seepage” without causing mass panic.

    The Gulf has “seeped” oil on its own even before drilling. The question about this seep is really whether or not it’s the worst case scenario your reader describes or something else less worrisome, or even unrelated to the well.

  10. 10

    Maybe Wolf Blitzer wet his self and yelled shrinkage and everyone thought he said seepage?

  11. 11
    Zifnab says:

    Am I just being nitpicky? Or shouldn’t the media recognize that their readers most likely don’t have advanced degrees in oceanography and geology or whatever fields would cover this sort of thing? Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?

    I doubt the reports know. But what’s worse, I doubt the reports even care. We always hear about how newspapers are written at a 6th grade reading level – typically as the punchline in a joke disparaging your average newspaper reader. But if it is deliberately written at such a remedial level, why else would reports fail to include the basics of events unless they simply didn’t know or care enough to think to include it?

  12. 12
    Svensker says:

    P.S. The e-mail you received is absolutely terrifying. Really? This is a real possibility?

  13. 13
    LT says:

    Um, don’t quite get it John. There’s a large amount of oil (and methane gas) in a large reservoir under the sea floor. Some of that oil is naturally seeping through cracks into the sea. That’s natural seepage.

    What’s being proposed here is that the seepage could grow – hugely, perhaps – because there is now more pressure from below because the well has been capped. Actually seems a bit far-fetched to me. There a gazillion gallons of oil at a gazillion tons of pressure in that reservoir. I don’t see how it responds to that one well like that.

  14. 14
    Maude says:

    They don’t know if the seepage,is crude oil, not from the well, dead marine animals or what. They picked up hydrocarbons, but dont know what type.
    The bubbles at the well could be from cement.
    The problem arose when bp’s Suttles said on sunday morning that prolly the cap could stay on until the relief well is completed.
    That was different than what Thad Allen had said Saturday.
    Admiral Allen wants a plane to capture oil in case the cap stack that is closed at this time, has to be opened.
    The concern is that pressure from the well being closed by the cap stack could fracture the rock formation. If that happens, there is no fix.
    If they remove the cap, oil flows until it is contained and captured by vessels at the surface. The pressure on the well would drop.
    I’d like to see the cap stack removed and capture be done.

  15. 15
    Svensker says:

    @Violet:

    I think you should stop channeling me. Kthnxbai.

  16. 16
    Peter says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Rachel Maddow explains it on her show tonight (possibly with a colorful visual metaphor), but she’s just about the only media figure that I would actually expect that behavior from. Most of the rest are way more concerned with the political implications, and with provoking a reaction using vague wording.

  17. 17
    Napoleon says:

    If the reservoir casing is compromised, we’re fucked, end of story.

    The way I understand it that is not necessarily true. The relief well they are digging is to cut into the existing casing close to its terminus point at the reservoir, therefore if the damage is above that point they can put cement into the pipe and cut the flow to the damaged area.

  18. 18
    David Brooks says:

    @Svensker: I find the introduction of Alice into this discussion darkly appropriate.

  19. 19
    Jeff says:

    Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?

    Yes.
    This is another SATSQ.

  20. 20
    LT says:

    @David Brooks:

    I still don’t understand. If the reservoir is “deep underground and under high pressure”, why didn’t it start seeping a thousand years before BP put a hole in it? IOW, did something in BP’s activities cause the “thousand crevices”?

    It did. There are natural seeps like this all over the planet where there’s oil.

  21. 21
    jon says:

    This comment on The Oil Drum blog, from June 13th, explains it in greater detail. “Fucked” is a good descriptor of the situation.

  22. 22
    p.a. says:

    If you think the mass media are clueless about economics (and they are), they are worse on science. (Clueless/supporting the hegemonic power structure, toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe…)

  23. 23
    elm says:

    Why Can’t Anyone in the Media Explain It?

    What is this explain you speak of? Government and BP spokespeople said things, so the NYT and WaPo wrote it down, formatted it nicely, and printed it on paper. The NYT even paraphrased nicely and threw in the “occur naturally” line as a bonus.

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    @Svensker:
    Lolz. Great minds and all.

    And to answer your question, yes the collapse of the reservoir is a possibility. Whether or not it’s happening or going to happen is what they’re trying to figure out.

    As always, the relief well really is the only true solution to this problem. And even that may not work the first time. Or at all.

  25. 25
    LT says:

    @Napoleon: Not to mention there are five miles of rock over that reservoir. And an ocean on top of it. How does it get compromised?

  26. 26
    kc says:

    They’re just stenographers.

  27. 27
    cleek says:

    basically, they’ve put their thumb over the end of a garden hose. but that increased the pressure on the wall of the hose and the hose is weak and cheap and creaky and there’s a good chance the wall will simply rupture and let water out the side.

    so, the wall of the well bore hole is unstable and weak. and now that it’s been pressurized, there’s a chance the wall could fracture/leak/collapse/whatever and let oil out via cracks in the sea floor. and it sounds like that’s already happening. that’s what monitoring the pressure tells them: that oil is getting out somewhere, thus reducing the pressure they’d expect to see.

    and if things look bad, they have to release the pressure before it completely destroys the bore hole,thus killing all life on earth for eons.

  28. 28
    baldheadeddork says:

    I had this frustration for months during the financial crisis, as reporters (not pundits but allegedly working reporters) insisted that derivatives were too complex to explain. But the politics…somehow, despite not understanding the issue they were always confident about its political impact.

    Reporters are lazy. Good papers have good editors who make lazy reporters suffer for turning in weak copy, but that’s not the norm anymore at the national papers.

  29. 29
    Kelly says:

    For details on anything going on in petroleum (or most energy topics) go to http://www.theoildrum.com

    I’ve found mass media are rarely complete and accurate about any topic I have detailed knowledge about. The web is so handy for finding an actual expert to read. I’ve had to develop my BS filters since there is far less wheat than chaff.

  30. 30
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @LT:

    Actually, the fear is that the collapse of the rig’s underwater infrastructure damaged the bore structure “down hole” (The Oil Drum has some pretty comprehensive explanations of how that could have happened, if you’re curious). This would be the scenario I outlined, with gas being the leading indicator of a growing network of leaks.

    It’s very possible that what they’re detecting is, as you say, “just some normal stuff”, but if it’s NOT…

    Well, we’re boned.

    I sure hope you’re correct and that I’m really, really wrong.

  31. 31
    pat kelly says:

    I must be getting old, but I remember seeing sidebars in newspaper and magazine articles that would pull out an explanation of terms or issues. Something like that could cut and pasted next to every story about the leak, the seep, or whatever. And there could be an explanation of the difference between the well and the reservoir, like an earlier comment noted.

  32. 32
    Nied says:

    Keep in mind that if the well structure is collapsing it’s still not necessarily a “royally fucked” situation, depending on where the integrity is compromised. They’re drilling a relief well down to near the bottom of the original casing, the last reporting I saw had them a few feet away from tapping the original well casing. As long as they hit the casing bellow any of the damage they can either relieve the pressure on the original BOP and make a second attempt at top kill (that would only work if the casing is undamaged though) or they could pump drilling mud and concrete through the relief well for a “bottom kill.” As long as the relief well hit the casing below any damage there wouldn’t be much potential for further leaking (and my understanding is they’re trying to get as deep as possible for just that reason).

  33. 33
    LT says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh: I can’t find it over there.

    What does it mean exactly to “damage” a down hole? How do you damage a hole? Seems to me if it’s damaged, good. More like to close up naturally then, right? I can’t see that one down hole, or even many, are going to affect 5freaking miles of rock. I suppose it could, but christ.

  34. 34

    […] in Business, Daily life, Environment, Media, Science at 8:59 am by LeisureGuy Read this post by John Cole. The payoff is in an email he received. From the post: I still have no clue why I […]

  35. 35
    bkny says:

    @baldheadeddork:

    recall during the iraq run-up how al qaeda was romping around northern iraq to the delight of saddam hussein — never mind that that was the no-fly zone that saddam had no control over… but, you never, ever heard a reporter correct the bushie making that claim.

  36. 36
    Zach says:

    That analogy kind of sucks. The oil is a mile below the sea floor; the concern is that the well casing may have failed somewhere much closer to the surface, and the oil may have seeped into the surrounding rock and found another route to the surface.

    More like: you block your shower head and the pipe behind the wall of the shower bursts and water starts seeping out of the wall.

  37. 37
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @LT:

    Another stupid metaphor (sorry, everyone):

    The well is a big huge McDonalds paper cup of diet coke. The 16 year old at the drive in window was none too gentle handing it to you, and he jammed the lid down, spilling it all over your lap.

    Right now, we are/have been occupied with fixing the lid, and mopping up the spill running down the sides of the cup etc. etc. However, what we might also have on our hands is that the ham-fisted teenager also jammed the straw down so hard that it punctured the bottom of the cup, and coke is leaking all over America’s crotch. That straw metaphor is the best I can come up with: the well pipe may have been shock-jammed down into the entire bore, compromising the well casing right at the source.

    Instead of wasting my time torturing the english language to further confuse you, let me just link you to the professionals.

  38. 38
    MobiusKlein says:

    If the natural rate of seepage was high, the oil field would already have been depleted. My understanding is that most oil fields have an (mostly) impermeable cap that is stable over geologic times. The well shaft drills through the hard parts, and also the soft parts.

    But now imagine the well casing has a crack half way up, in the middle of some soft or crack-ridden formation. Then the oil / gas may start leaking out that way. If the flow rate is slow, the channels out will be stable. If the flow is fast, the channels may start eroding and allow faster flow..

    Worst case, a channel reaches all the way to the ocean floor, and we are back to full gusher, except without the ability to pump mud & concrete in to cap it. All for two weeks of no oil flowing.

    If the pressure is still rising, that implies that the containment is not degrading. Or at least not degrading very fast. The location of a well casing leak may also matter a lot.

    INAPG, though. (I’m Not A Petroleum Geologist.)


    as far as the media, it seems they have lost the ability to pose follow up questions. All the stuff about seepage begs for a ‘please explain why seepage matters’ question.

  39. 39
    Zach says:

    There have been some really horrible abuses of science in analogies regarding the spill. The worst was a form of the thumb/hose analogy: someone said that the pressure just builds and builds until you can’t hold it back anymore. That’s a weak thumbed pundit if there ever was one.

  40. 40
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    If you read widely on the topic regularly, things like the seep and collapsing wells will show up here and there and you’ll sort of know what they mean when they pop up in the news. But that takes a lot of time, which is easy for a retired person like me but isn’t for everybody.

    The thing is, if you are a “reporter” for a cable channel, this kind of background research is time consuming and the outlets clearly are not staffed for this, nor do their managers ask for this kind of work to be done. And they have no incentive to do so.

    I watched Rick Sanchez rant for half an hour one day because he thought some technical detail had been withheld from the media and confused the public and viewers … and him. But the info was all out there, it’s just that nobody at CNN bothered to do the work to get it. I wrote him and told him that, and told him where the info had been hiding in plain sight, and pointed out that his and CNN’s blindness to the info was misleading his viewers …. and never heard back from him, of course. But the rant about that subject just disappeared from the radar.

    These media outlets are poorly staffed, or else their staff is poorly prepared to do the work to keep them up to speed on complex stories. Which is why they focus on the easy and gratuitous churn and personality aspects of stories ….

    I used to think that the blogs would be a force that would prove useful in filling in these blanks, but …. let’s just say, that was wishful thinking. The blogs have turned into rant and nonsense factories not unlike what the cable outlets have become.

    Most of the CW about this oil spill is built on myth, disinformation, and agenda-driven spin on a thin diet of facts. But, the information is out there if you dig for it. The problem is that the best information conveyances ever seen by man are being abused and disused, and the consumers of information are settling for info junk food and pop instead of asking for meat and potatoes and insisting on quality.

    I think there is actually a market out there for quality information, but I am not sure that any information stream is motivated or prepared to provide it. Blogs included. Good info is available if you want to dig for it, but most people don’t have the time or motivation to do that. You can see what better info looks like if you watch things like Rachel Maddow, but she is an exception that proves the rule. And she can’t cover everything.

    The bottom line for me is that if people want good info, they are going to have to go and get it themselves, nobody is going to serve it up to you.

  41. 41
    Randy P says:

    I actually thought it was pretty obvious. But I have a degree in physics.

    They have this high pressure pipe. They put a cap on the end of it. To me, even without a degree in physics, it would seem fairly intuitive that if you block something that’s under high pressure but the pressure is still there, you would worry about the whole thing going kaboom.

    Like a steam boiler going up.

  42. 42
    Wag says:

    The well is a big huge McDonalds paper cup of diet coke. The 16 year old at the drive in window was none too gentle handing it to you, and he jammed the lid down, spilling it all over your lap.

    A pretty good analgy, but I would replace the Diet Coke with a hot cup of coffee, because we’re potentially getting burned in the process.

  43. 43
    Hugin & Munin says:

    Jesus, people, stop linking to that POS dougr post in the comments at theoildrum. You are just lending it credibility it doesn’t deserve.

  44. 44
    Wag says:

    The worst was a form of the thumb/hose analogy: someone said that the pressure just builds and builds until you can’t hold it back anymore. That’s a weak thumbed pundit if there ever was one.

    …or a cracked and leaky hose, which actually would make this a reasonable analogy for the possible leakage.

  45. 45
    Randy P says:

    @David Brooks: Excellent point. I think the answer is that the seepage we’re worried about would be between the top of the pipe and the part thousands of feet down in the rock where it taps into the reservoir. Although that is itself surrounded by rock, and the pipe itself is built to withstand the pressure, so I’m not sure how much of an issue it is.

    Hmmm. I thought I understood this, but now I’ve confused myself again.

  46. 46
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @Hugin & Munin: I know it’s flawed, but it does contain a pretty good explanation of how the structure of the well casing might become compromised during a catastrophe.

    I’m not saying this IS happening, just trying to explain why some experts keep worrying about seepage!

  47. 47
    Peter says:

    @Hugin & Munin: Thank god, I’m not the only one who was having that exact thought.

    It’s classic Armchair Scientist Speculation. Even assuming that the writer’s grasp of theory is sound (I have no idea if it is or not, I am not a geologist, nor do I have any fucking clue who dougr is. Linking him as a ‘professional’ is disingenuous because you have no way to know if he knows what he’s talking about or not), the data being mined to draw the conclusions is extremely specious at best.

    Literally all he is doing it looking at a limited camera feed from five thousand feet down, and guessing at doomsday scenarios based on this non-data. It’s meaningless hyperbolic speculation, and isn’t worth paying attention to until there is some actual data to back it up.

  48. 48
    LT says:

    @Hugin & Munin: People keep sending me there – I can make no sense of that comment whatsoever.

    It’s all bullshit, if you ask me. If that five miles of rock explodes and a gazillion gallons of oil fill the Gulf, it will be an event shaped over a million years. It would have nothing to do with humans. Except for the fun dying part afterwards.

  49. 49
    Hugin & Munin says:

    Stick with the FPers at TOD. Some of the commentors are excellent (w00t! ROCKMAN), but much of the garbage there is doomer static.

  50. 50
    Napoleon says:

    @LT:

    Easy, all the oil is not going up the pipe but for one of a series of possible reasons is flowing up the hole outside of the pipe, and the more that does that the more it could wear away the rock and material outside of the pipe, or find natural cracks at some higher part of the formation it can then use to migrate to the surface.

  51. 51
    El Cid says:

    For comparison, here is brief reporting from BBC News:

    He said the scientists received the answers they wanted about how BP was monitoring the seabed in case of any new leaks.
    __
    The well began leaking oil into the Gulf after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 workers.
    __
    BP had hoped the cap could stay in place until relief wells stopped the leak for good.
    __
    But with pressure readings from within the well lower than expected, scientists had raised concerns that oil could be leaking into the surrounding undersea bedrock.
    __
    And in his letter to BP chief managing director Bob Dudley, Adm Allen said: “Given the current observations… including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance…
    __
    “I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the wellhead be confirmed.”

  52. 52
    El Cid says:

    This from AOL News.

    1. What’s a seep?
    __
    A seep, as defined in this context, is a stream of hydrocarbons flowing from the seafloor, The New York Times reports. An amount of unidentified substance near the well — the “seep” in question — and “undetermined anomalies” at the well head were discovered during the tests over the weekend. The seep could indicate that the well is leaking from places other than the damaged well head. Or it could be a naturally occurring seep unrelated to the well.
    __
    2. What happens if there is indeed a seep, and it’s coming from the well?
    __
    If the seep is coming from the well, BP will have to reopen the valves to avoid causing more damage to the well. If the valves are reopened, oil will flow into the gulf again for up to three more days, but the blow to containment efforts could be even bigger than that: The valves on the new containment cap were meant to be closed only temporarily to test the pressure of the well for indications of additional damage; after the test, they were supposed to be reopened, with oil continuing to be collected and processed at the surface. That’s why it seemed like good news when BP’s Chief Operating Officer, Doug Suttles, announced Sunday morning that the tests indicated the valves could remain shut until relief wells are completed in August — meaning the flow of oil into the gulf would be stopped for good. If oil is seeping from the well, BP may have to keep the valves open, after all, to relieve the pressure.
    __
    3. Any other downsides to keeping the valves closed?
    If the valves are left closed before collection capabilities on the surface reach 100 percent, then we will never know exactly how much oil has been escaping for the past three months. That would raise the likelihood that BP could escape some liability, The New York Times points out.

  53. 53
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    Even here in this thread, you can start to see a picture of how technically fragile and risky this kind of oil well is, and how much risk is presented to the surrounding environment every day in this business.

    Then add in the fact that none of these oil companies have a coherent, tested plan for mitigating these risks or providing incident management that is built to handle these kinds of failures, nor does the government oversight have the stuff or the teeth to insure that reasonable standards are met and provide proper regulation …. Even a layman can understand that this business is a collection of bad accidents waiting to happen.

    Plenty of blame to go around, plenty of lessons to be learned. This is what you get when you let oilmen run things and trust them to look out for your health and safety.

  54. 54
    YAFB says:

    @Hugin & Munin:

    +1,000

    If anyone’s going to link to that “dougr” comment (it’s by a guy from a “Doomer” site called Godlike Productions, not an oil industry tech), it would be more honest to at the same time link to the rebuttal comments and articles on the Oil Drum that have dealt with it.

    Dougr has been challenged numerous times in the Oil Drum comments to substantiate his concerns. He refuses, or is unable to, do so.

  55. 55
    DBrown says:

    The thing is – if BP doesn’t releave the presure by venting oil, the whole FUC#ing thing can be undermined and allow the entire contents underground to spew into the ocean in mear days (not years if just venting through the pipe)- talk about a disaster. That is why the Feds want BP to pump top side and the greedy bastards just want to keep it covered and cross their fingers and hope this doesn’t happen (read we are Fuc# royally if it does!) Someone has to order them to pump or else the gamble (to save BP a few bucks) could cost us the Gulf for generations (and even the East coast would suffer.)

  56. 56
    El Cid says:

    I don’t know why I can’t post this, but there’s a helpful article about oil seeps with diagram from the satellite mapping company NPA group. Just Google search npa group seep and it should be the first article.

  57. 57
    Bill H says:

    @Hugin & Munin:
    Word. Even Olbermann was touting that nonsense a while back.

    Reputable sources indicate there might be some problems with the bore, and the latest indications are a bit troubling, but “doom” is an unlikely scenario to say the least. Actually, even with the “seep and anamolies” thing, the bore problems still appear to be minor, if they exist at all.

  58. 58
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    I’m baffled at why not a single journalist has pulled up a Geologist with an emphasis in petrolium to ask a few simple questions since this whole thing started:

    1) Generally, how thick is the “shell” of the cavern that contains oil? Because of the Pressures involved and the kinds of rock that would actually contain such an oil reserve with minor seepage, someone out there knows this.

    2) What is the erosion rate of rocks referenced in the previous question (the shell) when put through a high pressure oil wash?

    3) If you allow said high pressure oil wash to flow unimpeded for 3 months, would it be enough to erode the shell of the cavern near the well?

    Additionally, if you know you are going to try a high-pressure cap, why didn’t you survey the area for seepage beforehand to find out if you get new seepage due to the cap? Did BP do such a thing? If so, did this seepage exist before the high pressure cap?

    Why these questions haven’t been asked yet/answered yet is criminal.

  59. 59
    David Brooks says:

    @Randy P: said “if you block something that’s under high pressure but the pressure is still there, you would worry about the whole thing going kaboom.”

    No, not under the conditions you describe. My (simple-minded) point was that the high pressure was always there. We have done nothing to increase the pressure, as far as I know. By putting our thumb on it, we return to the status quo ante, which has held for millennia.

    What I understand now is that our drilling activity may have also made irreversible changes to the surrounding rock formations and, in the worst case scenario, the degradations are now in a state of positive feedback. That’s the new information.

  60. 60
    jlw says:

    Ugh. Imagine that when Poppinfresh says —

    I’m not saying this IS happening, just trying to explain why some experts keep worrying about [MacGuffin]!

    — he’s not talking about the oil spill in the Gulf but, instead, ACORN or Obama’s birth certificate or how health insurance reform is going to lead to death panel concentration camps. You’d laugh, or cry, or put your face in your palm.

    The whole dougr/God Like Productions conspiracy theory has been thoroughly discredited by the regular contributors at The Oil Drum. Indeed, if Mr. Poppinfresh is concerned about the implications of dougr’s comment, there was in fact a front page post a week or two ago about the comment and why it is most certainly incorrect. Even if the integrity of the casing around the borehole has been compromised, and the oil has found a crack that leads from that breack to the surface, the relief well will be able to seal the reservoir.

    If we on the left are going to go on and on about being “reality based” we ought to be careful about promoting this kind on nonsense.

  61. 61
    YAFB says:

    @Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac:

    It’s not a cavern, it’s hydrocarbons permeating a geological formation. There is no large cave containing a sea of oil.

    One possible confusing feature is that the “sea bed” you can see on the cams is actually a very deep bed of silt. The rock is way below that.

    If the casing is compromised in the silt phase, then it’s not hard to see how gas and oil would find its way to the surface of the silt bed, and given they intend going for a bottom kill, that shouldn’t be a big problem as long as it doesn’t get a lot worse. If it’s compromised in the rock phase, or if there is cracking around where the drill enters the rock phase, then that’s a different matter.

    I think the major concern is that they preserve enough integrity in the well casing that they can cap it again and supply enough back pressure to make sure the bottom kill works once the relief well’s ready. So a cautious approach might be to start drawing off oil again. But that might lead to erosion of the bore if there is a bad leak. These are the sorts of concerns I’m sure they’re juggling right now.

  62. 62
    Peter says:

    @DBrown: Doesn’t your assertion sort of fly in the face of the fact that what everyone’s worried about is that the pressure readings are lower than normal?

  63. 63
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    …what the fuck? So because I try to explain to Cole what the term “seepage” means in this context, I’m a birther?

    On second thought, I’d rather not have to deal with a blog at all. Too many egomaniacal assholes shoving whole trucks worth of words in your mouth.

  64. 64
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    @David Brooks: David Brooks is right (never thought I’d say that). This is more like if you had a watertower on top of a building than the so called Gardenhose. If you turn off the flow of water out of the watertower, you wouldn’t expect the watertower to explode.

    The only way this might be complicated is if the Oil flowing out were being replaced by a higher pressure fluid looking for a way out, and then you cap the well. IANAGeologist, but I’m fairly sure that this doesn’t occur when you drain an oil reserve. Oil is already more dense than most fluids you’d find at the bottom of the ocean, so it seems unlikely.

  65. 65
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    Too many egomaniacal assholes shoving whole trucks worth of words in your mouth.

    True. But you get used to it, it’s an acquired taste.

  66. 66
    scav says:

    @Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac: I’d simply love watching a solid geologist responding honestly to those questions because if people are eyerolling at the complexity of seepage, a word one has at least a chance of understanding based on a garden variety dictionary. . . You’re really asking questions not about a nice tidy little area “the shell of the cavern near the well” but quite possibly about the entire stratigraphic column along side the well and casing because we don’t know where the casing may have failed internally, and if you think the entire stratigraphy of that area is simple and well known! And I’ve only sat through lectures where geographer/geologists started to get going into details — I’m a poor little economic geographer so this is only my wild stab at the complexities they could bring up.

  67. 67
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    Oil is already more dense than most fluids you’d find at the bottom of the ocean

    You mean, like water? So that is why oil floats on water, it’s more dense than water?

    I think we’ve invented Republican Science. Or did I misread something?

  68. 68
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    I’ve just never experienced it for such a totally innocuous reason. To go from “This is the general reason why they are so worried about the risk of seepage”, all the way to “You are basically Sarah Palin” in an hour is impressively horrific.

  69. 69
    Perry Como says:

    @LT: Centrist drilling faeries?

  70. 70
    Nied says:

    @Hugin & Munin:

    Jesus, people, stop linking to that POS dougr post in the comments at theoildrum. You are just lending it credibility it doesn’t deserve.

    No kidding, what’s worse is that most of his theories have already been refuted by subsequent events. BP put a cap on the well (which according to him they absolutely would not attempt to do for fear of the entire structure collapsing) and reports of seepage aside, it hasn’t collapsed completely as he predicted it would. Hell we haven’t even seen the type of further erosion he had talked about, the BOP is still upright and none of his predicted attempts to reinforce it have come to pass. What’s more even if the BOP structure collapsed in the manner he described, it still wouldn’t lead to the “unstoppable leak of DOOM!” scenario he paints. BP could still continue to drill a relief well, and when they hit the original casing could still do a bottom kill.

    Seriously the guy’s idea is only slightly more plausible than the quickly debunked “GIANT METHANE BUBBLE OF DEATH!!!!1!!one” theory.

  71. 71
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    It is unusual for it to happen in such a short cycle. But in a hyena refuge, once the pack starts to bark … well, you see what happens.

    It’s all theatrical. If you disagree with anything, no matter what it might be, buttons will be pushed until the button that works on you is found. That’s how it works, most of the time.

    It’s a little like intellectual whack-a-mole. Wear a helmet, trust your instincts, and stay in the fray. Keep posting!

  72. 72
    4tehlulz says:

    There is another option: Reporters are just lazy fucks.

  73. 73
    Fred Fnord says:

    It’s the reporter’s job to make sure that people aren’t panicked by corporations. ‘Seep’ sounds like such an innocuous word that nobody should worry about it, right? And it sounds self-explanatory… it’s just a little bitty leak, not really a problem, all of these people are just worrying over nothing, but hey, they’re going to be a little oversensitive for a while, so that’s all right.

    For one thing, it’s really bad to get people worked up over corporations, because then they might actually demand regulation and stuff. And for another, it’s a lot harder to get them terrified about the ‘right’ things (i.e. things that ensure that the Republicans win big in November) when they’re terrified about the ‘wrong’ things (i.e. things that could actually impact their lives.)

    —fred

  74. 74
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @4tehlulz:

    I think it is more accurate to say that producers and news directors, the people who actually decide what gets aired, are the lazy fucks. Lazy journalistically or intellectually, not necessarily lazy in terms of getting stuff on the air and keeping the segments on time. That’s hard work.

    But they have no incentive to produce a quality information product. Quality info does not sell when you are in the fast food info business. It would be like trying to sell a lovely pâté at Burger King. People want burgers and fries. They want to be told that what they already think they know is true, and they want to see that somebody on tv is talking their language. So they gulp down the crap.

  75. 75
    scav says:

    @Perry Como: giggle I want some of those. Far more amusing than the tooth fairy. But, honestly, the combination of inadequate design, poor construction, possibility of bad internal seals, the shocks / pressure involved in the original blowout, the tensions resulting from the collapse of the upper rig and infrastructure communicated downpipe and then a month or so of unregulated gushing, does sound rather like the description of a really bad date and those can lead to not only to compromises but also compromising positions.

  76. 76
    YAFB says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    Oh give me a break.

    A few of us pointed out that the “dougr” comment (which some of us have been having to clarify all over the web ever since it went viral) is not written by an expert and not considered reliable by those who are knowledgeable in the field. It’s sloppy, half-informed woo, with an agenda of spreading alarm and crying “Wolf!” from someone who’s a moderator of a site, Godlike Productions, that specializes in scary stories. Google it and you’ll see the disclaimers on its forum front page – mentions of role-playing etc.

    If someone has a problem with people pointing that out, well, tough really.

  77. 77
    sven says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Great comment; I can’t count the number of times I’ve had some of the same thoughts.

    I also think the immediacy of the current news environment plays a large role. The 24-hour networks have always had to provide instant coverage but now newspapers also have to throw stories together for their online editions.

    This is one reason I think the influence of Fox News is still underestimated. Conservatives push a few simple narratives that all journalists are aware of. Within minutes of any story breaking Fox has already framed the story to reinforce one of those narratives. It is like the optical illusion of the old/young woman many of us saw as kids. If someone hands you the illusion saying ‘here is a picture of an old woman’ it certainly biases the results. Fox News gets in so early with the conservative frame on news stories that it becomes difficult, even for some unbiased journalists, to ‘unsee’ the old woman.

  78. 78
    Hugin & Munin says:

    Mr. Poppinfresh: Quit being such a WATB. You got jumped on for trying to rebunk BS. If you don’t know why it is BS, then you should do more research and refrain from linking to it as the the thoughts of “professionals.” Strangely enough, the actual posts at the website you linked to are a great place to start, and coincidentally, actually include links and sources.

  79. 79
    Jon H says:

    Seep: imagine a helium tank, with a pipe leading to an opening in the bottom of a box of dry Quaker oatmeal. The helium represents the hydrocarbons. The oatmeal represents the deep sediment that makes up the seafloor.

    The helium tank’s valve is slightly open. The helium comes through the pipe, emerges into the box, and percolates up through the oatmeal, emerging at the top, where it enters the air and continues rising.

  80. 80
    Jon H says:

    @Fred Fnord: “‘Seep’ sounds like such an innocuous word that nobody should worry about it, right? ”

    Well, it killed Olestra.

  81. 81
    jlw says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh: To go from “This is the general reason why they are so worried about the risk of seepage”, all the way to “You are basically Sarah Palin” in an hour is impressively horrific.

    If you are referring to me, please note that I wasn’t attacking you, I was just showing how completely lazy it is to say, “I’m not saying this IS happening, just trying to explain why some experts keep worrying about seepage!” and using dougr’s conspiracy-laden comment as a source of “expertise.”

    The original point of this thread (if I interpret it correctly) is that the media ought to provide more context and expertise in its reporting. I think it is fair in this context to criticize the introduction of a discredited conspiracy monger as the kind of “expert” the media ought to be using. Just as we rightly criticize a reporter presenting Orly Taitz as an expert on Obama’s birth certificate, we ought to be critical of presenting dougr as an expert on the implications of data concerning the Macondo well.

    I’m sorry if that analogy hurts your feelings. Like you, I’m just trying to help.

  82. 82
    cervantes says:

    Let me try one more time to explain this. From some deep oil reservoirs there is indeed a bit of seepage to the surface that occurs naturally, through fissures in the crustal rock. However, obviously, these must be very slow and not prone to increasing over time or the reservoir would have been drained millions of years ago.

    The Macondo reservoir was under a couple of miles of rock, through which BP’s contractors drilled a hole. The hole is encased in steel, so that the oil will just come up the hole and not leak out the sides. The fear is that there is now one or more holes in that casing, at unknown depths from the surface. When the well was gushing, the path of least resistance was still up the well to the top, so little if any oil went out those hypothesized leaks. With the top capped, however, pressure can begin to force material through the holes in the casing. As it flows, it could tend to erode and enlarge whatever fissures it finds to the surface; and the leaks themselves can grow if the flow rate increases and entrained silicaceous material abrades the steel. If that were to happen, and it’s only an if, you would have a situation that is essentially impossible to control. The bottom kill might still work if the lowest damage to the well casing is high enough, which is highly likely but — otherwise we’re totally screwed. Meanwhile, the leak rate might increase rapidly and become immense before the relief well gets there. Or it might not, and we just have a little bit of slow seepage.

    It’s all just a hypothetical danger, but it could be really bad. That’s why Thad Allen has promoted a lot of caution. This has nothing particularly to do with Doug R and the BOP detaching.

    I think reporters don’t want to sound like Chicken Little in the likely event that nothing terrible happens. But, the sky falling cannot be entirely ruled out.

  83. 83
    Hugin & Munin says:

    What TZ, you aren’t the head of the egomaniacal asshole club?

    As if.

  84. 84
    sven says:

    @Hugin & Munin: Did you just coin ‘rebunk’ or has it been around for a while?

  85. 85
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @YAFB:

    Oh give me a break.

    Best laugh I have had today.

    Your break is in the mail.

  86. 86
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    @scav: “You’re really asking questions not about a nice tidy little area “the shell of the cavern near the well” but quite possibly about the entire stratigraphic column along side the well and casing because we don’t know where the casing may have failed internally, and if you think the entire stratigraphy of that area is simple and well known!”

    And you’ve proved my point. The fact that it’s so far into this, and these basic questions haven’t been addressed is sad and strange. I’m fairly interested in this stuff and haven’t seen this information anywhere. We’ve been doing deep water drilling for long enough to at least have simulations and data about these oil reserves, right? I’d bet that these oil companies have fairly large datasets about oil reserves, if a oil well has ever collapsed on itself during drilling and they might have an answer to why, etc.

    Right now we’ve got nothing. I’ve seen news stories from everything from “world ending explosion” out of the bottom of the ocean to “there is nothing that could possibly go wrong”.

    I don’t care if the Geologist has to get technical, Someone such as Maddow would be able to keep it technical and yet be able to explain it, as she often does in highly technical areas.

  87. 87
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @Hugin & Munin:

    Retired.

    Do a post count over the last month, sort it in descending order by post totals, and look toward the top of your list. Start there.

    Another way to find them is to wait for the pictures of pet ass boils to show up, and then see who pipes up right away all happy to see the ass boils. That list will get you started :)

  88. 88
    Mike G says:

    Explaing technical issues is hard work for a journalism major and has to actually be researched and fact-checked. So much easier for a reporter to bloviate about the ‘optics’ and the political horse race, which cannot be objectively verified and they’ll never be called out if/when they’re wrong.

    This is good news for John McCain.

  89. 89
    El Cid says:

    @cervantes: We don’t need all yer damn ‘science’. This all started when the oil was put there 6,000 years ago for His chosen people here in the US of A to be close to, and then the liberals made us give the oil God gave us to the British and then the environmentalists sent ACORN troops to blow up the well at the bottom of the ocean.

    Now what is it about that what you don’t get?

  90. 90
    El Cid says:

    @Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac: Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is often on CNN and gives really simple explanations with little toy visual aids.

    It’s better than Fox & Friends Taliban killer monkey photo.

  91. 91
    YAFB says:

    @YAFB:

    Just to clarify, because I try to nail this whenever this comes up.

    “Dougr” allegedly plagiarized his controversial Oil Drum comment from SHR, who is in fact the Godlike Productions moderator. Here’s a Godlike Productions thread discussing this: http://www.godlikeproductions......113164/pg1

    This is part of the disclaimer from the Godlike productions site:

    Disclaimer:
    The reader is responsible for discerning the validity, factuality or implications of information posted here, be it fictional or based on real events. Moderators on this forum make every effort to review the material posted on this site however, it is not realistically possible for our small staff to manually review each and every one of the more than 10,000 posts GodlikeProductions gets on a daily basis.
    ___
    The content of post on this site, including but not limited to links to other web sites, are the expressed opinion of the original poster and are in no way representative of or endorsed by the owners or administration of this website. The posts on this website are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or factual information on behalf of the owner or administration of GodlikeProductions. This site may contain adult content and if you feel you might be offended by such content, you should log off immediately.
    ___
    Not all posts on this website are intended as truthful or factual assertion by their authors. Some users of this website are participating in internet role playing, with or without the use of an avatar. NO post on this website should be considered factual information on face value alone. Users are encouraged to USE DISCERNMENT and do their own follow up research while reading and posting on this website. Godlikeproductions.com reserves the right to make changes to, corrections and/or remove entirely at any time posts made on this website without notice. In addition, Godlikeproductions.com disclaims any and all liability for damages incurred directly or indirectly as a result of a post on this website.

    The emphasis is theirs.

  92. 92
    El Cid says:

    @Mike G: It took me about a minute of Googling and I found a pretty easy to understand explanation. I bet journalism majors have used Google. The downside is, of course, it will take an extra minute or two to read these.

  93. 93
    GrammyPat says:

    Mark Seibel of McClatchy Newspapers made a commendable effort yesterday to define and explain the implications and repercussions of “seepage”. Over the past few years, I’ve found McClatchy’s reporting and editing to be serious and informative.

    If I’ve done this correctly, the link is:

  94. 94
    demimondian says:

    Oh, Lord, another “chicken little” moment — right up there with “mortgage crashing” and the like.

    Look — seepage is bad. The reservoir has been compromised by this thing called a “well”. If the well casing has fractured, then capping it will lead to an initially-slow, but ever-accelerating, leak. It will start out as a seepage of hydrocarbons from the seabed near the well, but, given time, will eventually turn into a fountain of oil spewing from the rock at the bottom of the sediment layer straight through into the Gulf itself.

    OMFG!

    Well, not necessarily, and, frankly, most likely no. The key word is “given time”. Remember that mile of soft sediment between the sea floor and the rock below? How it’s been working against us? It’s thick, it’s heavy, and it tends to fill in spaces left behind. Well, now it works *for* us — the very things which make it hard to work though also make it hard for oil, in particular, to escape though it.

    Does that mean “everything’s hunky-dorey”? No. But it also means that the likelihood we’re fucked is very small indeed.

  95. 95
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @El Cid:

    Yes, but why should they? They are paid to entertain, not to educate.

    And the thing is, it’s the customers who decide what they get. If the customers wanted education, and rewarded the providers for educating them, they’d get education. But the customers want Hell Yeah! shows, and that’s what they get.

  96. 96
    scav says:

    @Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac: yeah, it would be nice, only with the news media so busy rushing to be first, they never take the time to listen to, let alone seek out, those people that give complicated answers with a lot of qualifying statements. Because there probably isn’t a simple, guaranteed, tidy little answer to these questions, because reality is complex, frustrating and doesn’t match up to our models of it — and our media environment seems uniquely focused on providing LCD answers to people that want simple “facts” fast.

  97. 97
    trollhattan says:

    From what I’ve managed to glean the maximum pressure attained beneath the new cap does not yet equal the pre-blowout reservoir pressure, which is both a disappointment and a source of concern that the well might be compromised and possibly the source of seeps/leaks discovered within a reasonable distance from the wellhead. (No idea what constitutes “reasonable.” A mile? Five miles?)

    There is a several hundred psi difference and the most positive spin I’ve read is it could be that so much product has escaped from the reservoir since April 20, the pressure observed today is also the reservoir pressure. That would mean they have equilabrium and therefore, an intact well structure.

    However, nobody can evidently verify this theory so a diligent ongoing search for leaks is not only prudent, it’s mandatory. Yes, natural surface seeps occur but there’s good cause to be suspicious of any that appear near Macondo. As we’ve discovered to much pain, the burden of proof remains entirely with BP and the other related companies who delivered this mess.

    To reiterate previous comments, kill via a relief well remains the only acceptable resolution. Everything else is just a holding action.

  98. 98
    farmette says:

    I think it would be helpful to know the answers to the following before writing an article discussing the well cap/seepage:

    1) Does oil naturally seep in visible and measurable amounts from the non-drilled sea floor?
    2) Does oil normally seep from the sea floor near an active or inactive well?
    2) How is seepage measured/identified?
    2) Was visible and measurable oil seeping from the sea floor prior to, as well as after, the well collapse?
    3) Did the recent cap placement increase the measurable and/or visible amount of oil seeping from the sea floor?
    4) Has the seepage always been in the same location over time or have “new” locations been identified?

  99. 99
    YAFB says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    I’m not laughing. I’ve seen too many people scared half to death by that dougr comment being spread around. It’s sick.

  100. 100
    El Cid says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Not that I don’t understand that consumers could demand more. After all, I’m not some fancy elite — I just read and follow this shit.

    The problem is people have to not just be cynical, but aware of better information and sources of information. Most people are aware of what the major news media says and then they hear a contrasting view from right wing TV and radio and viral e-mails, and that’s pretty much it.

    A century or so ago, the very best selling newspapers were published by soshullist organizations, labor unions, urban ethic societies, and etc. In the days when subscriptions paid for publishing, this worked. Shortly later the business press introduced newer technologies and a model of funding by advertisers for which subscriptions were mostly a source with which to prove to your advertisers that eyeballs were reading your paper.

    Since then you pretty much got the establishment business press and a comparatively tiny dissident / radical / alternative / blog press.

    My Lai broke on such a tiny news service, and later was picked up by the establishment press, so they are significant, and their breaking stories are typically unattributed by the billion dollar media.

    But even though I know what reality is, it just really is ridiculous that people often turn to the sources which certainly should be and could be decent reports of what reality is instead of sorting through a selection of some valuable contributions and other reams of utter bullshit.

  101. 101
    demimondian says:

    @trollhattan: To go further, it seems wildly unlikely that there’s no casing damage. A several hundred psi reduction in the charge behind the well seems rather unlikely, given the fact that the flow rate from the uncapped well doesn’t appear to have been falling. It seems far more likely that the seepage is real.

    The question which needs to be answer — and the good reason to be exceptionally cautious about predicting anything is that we don’t know how fast the seepage is getting worse, but that we do have good reason to suspect that it won’t get worse very fast.

    @farmette: +1 to all of these. Another one is “Given the possibility that this will happen again, should we make it mandatory that drillers measure the background leakage level around every well?”

  102. 102
    HyperIon says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    Plenty of blame to go around, plenty of lessons to be learned.

    I agree.

    This is what you get when you let oilmen run things and trust them to look out for your health and safety.

    No. This is what you get when extremely complex phenomena are routinely used to provide the “benefits” of modern life. They are not well-understood by those who reap the benefits. (Do you know how the power grid works?) Eventually things go wrong. Then those benefiting get interested in knowing why/how. That’s when some folks realize that complexity is in itself a problem.

    No way that most people can/will comprehend the details of the BP scenario. It’s fucking complicated. Like a whole bunch of things that we base our good life on. This is just going to keep happening…in agriculture, in climate science, in transportation, in pharmaceuticals, in finance.

    Guess what? Entropy hates complexity and it wins every time.

  103. 103
    Zandar says:

    I refudiate the seepage.

  104. 104
    kevin says:

    So, it sounds like we may have “broken the planet”…. I hope not.
    My hunch is that anything scary we hear about this is simply designed to keep us from interfering with BP and their attempts to get at the oil. I am inclined to believe that at least a handful of top engineers know this thing can be stopped in a way that means no oil can be extracted in the future. That is what BP is afraid of. They would rather we were afraid of the world ending so we sit on the sidelines.

    See, the oil keeps flowing into the gulf and as bad as that seems to us, BP will let it flow for years if they can still get to some of it. But, if we stop them with our petty environmental concerns then they lose. So, you have engineers working for BP sort of hinting that what is at stake is not the future of the gulf, but the future of the planet, and thus creating such fear as to keep us out of the way.

    The future of the planet is, indeed, at stake because of these guys… we already knew that. Now is a sort of moment of truth. Not whether the world will end or not. Rather, whether the forces of wealth and greed shall prevail over the united citizenry of the entire planet.

    So far, with the help of the country with the largest and most powerful military in the world they are succeeding.

    That’s on you Mr. Obama!

  105. 105
    Svensker says:

    @El Cid:

    It’s better than Fox & Friends Taliban killer monkey photo.

    Really? I don’t think anything could be better than that.

  106. 106
    scav says:

    @Zandar: seepage, see page run. run page run!

    ok, where are my meds. . . .

  107. 107
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @HyperIon:

    No.

    Actually, yes. The oil companies have people who understand the technical issues and the risks. And they either don’t give a shit, or else do a flawless imitation of organizations that don’t give a shit.

    Why else would they have been caught buying boilerplate “disaster plans” from some third party vendor to fool regulators into thinking they actually had disaster plans?

    Why else would they roll out PR damage control measures right after a rig goes down, trying to mitigate exposure of their sloppy practices and spin down the size of the oil release?

    It’s a good idea to replace MMS with something that works, but unless that replacement looks and acts like a strong, competent regulatory agency that can and will protect the public interests, that new agency won’t solve the problem.

    Until that happens, the oil companies are in charge, and they are not our friends.

  108. 108
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    This is what you get when extremely complex phenomena are routinely used to provide the “benefits” of modern life.

    If that were true, airplanes would be raining from the sky every day.

    Complexity can be managed. We know how to do it, and have models that work. But it takes time, work, money, will, committment and discipline … things that have been glaringly missing from the oil business at the exploration and development levels.

    It took Red Adair, arguably the best well tamer in history, ten months to stop the flow at Ixtoc in shallower water. And as near as we can tell, absolutely nothing learned from that disaster has been applied to disaster response planning by the oil companies since then. Total failure on their part, and total failure on our part for not requiring them to make, and show, progress in that area.

  109. 109
    kevin says:

    Hyperlon and Couch Potato guy are both right… and here is the divergence of common aims they seek to create with the grandiose end of the world scenario. And yes, before you ask… I will take that bet.

  110. 110
    liberal says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    And the thing is, it’s the customers who decide what they get.

    False. It’s the advertisers who decide.

  111. 111
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @El Cid:

    I agree pretty much.

    What do you think the remedy is? I like baby steps, but that’s just me. I tend to think that big problems get solved via series of small measured improvements, toward an ambitious goal in small bites.

  112. 112
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @liberal:

    Oh no, not at all. Advertisers are not making daily news decisions.

    Advertisers are responding to ad rates, to what it costs to get the eyeballs. News directors decide what to say and use to get the eyeballs. Producers make sure that those decisions are carried through at air time.

    Ad rates are grounded in ratings. Ratings are driven by viewer response. Viewer response is ….

    You get the idea. The day that viewers tune out of FoxNews is the day that FoxNews changes its mode of operation to something else. Journalism, maybe? We will probably never know.

    Advertisers don’t generally care why people watch something, they just want to know the demographics and the numbers. That’s about it. P&G doesn’t care about the politics of the people who buy Tide(tm). They just count the boxes of soap and manage their ad budget accordingly.

    Unless there is a big PR problem involved, such as having A Tiger Woods scandal overshadow your expensive Tiger Woods ad campaign. But bottom line, they are just making a business decision. Nobody at P&G is going to care whether Fox is talking about imagined deficits or whether the world is better off without Saddam.

  113. 113
    El Cid says:

    @Svensker: Well, I meant “better” as in “less ridiculous”. As far as entertainment value of the flat-out most stupid moment I’ve ever beheld on FOXNOOZ, the Taliban killer monkey image clearly wins.

  114. 114
    sven says:

    @liberal: Exactly, even if a liberal version of Fox News had the same ratings (a big if) it seems unlikely that it could generate the same revenues. When half or more of your programming would be exposes of corporate America it seems unlikely that sponsors would be lined up out the door.

  115. 115
    sven says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Next up, the third in our week-long series on how America’s largest companies avoid paying corporate income tax, but first a word from our sponsors….

  116. 116
    Little Dreamer says:

    Well, I understood what it was, and didn’t realize others didn’t (and I don’t have a degree in anything); but I think of the activity inside a pressurized petroleum well as akin to the magma inside a volcano, if you cut off the path, it goes somewhere else. If it breaches the sea floor, they can’t fix it and I think they’re afraid to address that possibility because it would be a disaster of gigantic proportions and the current meme is to talk about getting this disaster fixed so we can go back to pulling more oil out of the gulf to please Palinites. Idiotic really, but, as we already know, environmental concerns are just flies to swat away.

  117. 117
    Little Dreamer says:

    @sven:

    #1 on that list should be “they incorporate in Delaware” which is a corporation friendly state.

  118. 118
    mcd410x says:

    My favorite example of the msm taking a term like seepage and running with it is Lower Ninth Ward. In New Orleans somewhere and includes poor people. That’s what I know after hearing it 95,000 times.

  119. 119
    Little Dreamer says:

    @kevin:

    No, we haven’t completely broken the planet, we will just have one body of water that will be completely poisoned if this breach blows wide open. There will be affects from that, but it’s not going to really affect the growth of potatoes in Idaho – so, you can still eat potatoes for a while, until a blight comes along to ruin that option also. It’s a domino effect, this is just one tile. It’s not the entire string of tiles yet.

  120. 120
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @Little Dreamer: @Little Dreamer:

    What did the potato say to the sheep?

    I only have eyes for ewe ;)

    Hey, the thread is yours, gotta go. I am a little nervous about that house thing and I am limping around on a bad foot today.

  121. 121
    El Cid says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Proctor & Gamble may not care about the politics of the people watching the shows on which they advertise, until such time as the shows begin suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Proctor & Gamble, or seriously questioning the industry in which P&G produces. Or which consistently shows the need for regulations or the ending of tax breaks which might weaken P&G’s activities and profits. Then it matters.

  122. 122
    El Cid says:

    @sven: Well, Fox News was a massive, massive money loser for many of its first years (I don’t recall what it was, 3, 5, whatever) and drawing upon the huge subsidies of Rupert Murdoch not because of imagined future potential, but because of the right wing news & pundit network Murdoch wanted to create. It certainly didn’t begin as a response to viewer demand.

  123. 123
    Little Dreamer says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    Don’t come home needing to limp on the other foot! ;)

  124. 124
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @El Cid:

    I don’t think so. P&G needs the outlets as much as the outlets need them. If P&G deserves bashing, the outlets will bash them and P&G will buy time to counter or do damage control.

    Look at the recent Toyota recall/accelerator thing, and the flood of Toyota ads that resulted.

    The advertisers are not calling these shots. That’s mostly myth. Besides, if P&G foolishly started pulling ad slots in response to deserved bashing, their competitors would be right there to take advantage of it. Look at Ford making hay off the woes of Toyota.

    As long as an outlet has an audience, they can sell that audience to advertisers. That simple.

  125. 125
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @Little Dreamer:

    If I do that I will be on crutches. That hurts my arms just to think about it.

  126. 126
    Little Dreamer says:

    @kevin:

    That is what BP is afraid of. They would rather we were afraid of the world ending so we sit on the sidelines.

    Newsflash: A bunch of “Real Murikans” are NOT afraid of the end of the world, they are looking forward to it! They want Armageddon and everyone but them to go to Hell! They don’t need to be concerned about the health of their planet because they’ve got Jesus!

  127. 127
    Chris says:

    What you really need here is a graphic: a diagram (or series of diagrams) showing a typical rock layer structure with oil well, and what can go wrong.

    This first example is not particularly good but shows the idea of different rock layers.

    This second link has a better diagram of the well itself, but not quite as interesting in terms of rock layers and oil flow.

    Remember that each different rock layer has different characteristics. Some rock is very strong and non-porous and will hold oil (or water) nicely. Other rock is crumbly and/or porous, and oil (or water) will flow through it, at some rate or another.

    Natural seeps are where oil under “enough” pressure works its way to the earth’s surface, or (underwater) the ocean floor, and slowly leaks out. It is close enough to the seep-point, and/or the rock in its way is not terribly competent at holding it back.

    Look at the “completed well” image now, and imagine that there are holes in the plumbing, and at the bottom (“oil sand” area) is the high-pressure oil in the big reservoir the driller is attempting to tap. The pipe gives the high-pressure oil an easy route up through the competent rock. Depending on where the plumbing is leaky, the oil could force its way through less-competent rock and create a new seep, or new series of seeps, that—because there is a great big plumbing pipe in there now—allow the big high-pressure oil reserve to get to the surface. How bad is this? It depends: how big are the plumbing leaks, how competent is the rock through which the new seeps are forming, and just how much rock is there in the way?

    Note that the “set off a bomb/nuke” idea (which can work but is a really big risk) is a really big risk in part because what you are doing is cracking the rock layers and hoping that the result is a “better” barrier to the high-pressure oil coming up out of the reservoir than you had before. But cracking a bunch of rock gives you … a bunch of cracked-up rock, which may be a worse barrier instead.

  128. 128
    Little Dreamer says:

    @Chris:

    I don’t trust these guys to set off a bomb.

  129. 129
    El Cid says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: This isn’t just speculation. There are plenty of academic studies on the role of business influence press coverage. It isn’t myth. It’s just a choice between a completely unconvincing parody of how an entire class of institutions and directors might go about systematically influence the major discussions of the day and a suggestion that this class is simply too stupid or incompetent or lacking in resources to do this. We liberals can theorize about this stuff, but the institutions with the most to game from it simply ignore the rich opportunities presented.

    It doesn’t mean that each particular company always has veto power over every story. GE however pretty directly called the shots in wiping off coverage from their networks dissenting from Iraq invasion mania, and you can find any number of executives just from the Donahue case alone.

    MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue’s talkshow after an internal memo (leaked to the All Your TV website, 2/25/03) argued that he would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war…. He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The report warned that the Donahue show could be “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” An email from a network executive, also leaked to All Your TV (3/5/03), suggested that it would be “unlikely” that Donahue could be used by MSNBC to “reinvent itself” and “cross-pollinate our programming” with the “anticipated larger audience who will tune in during a time of war” by linking pundits to war coverage, “particularly given his public stance on the advisability of the war effort.”

    To argue that then because post facto shows appeared on MSNBC questioning that prior consensus would be utterly irrelevant. When it mattered, it mattered.

    What’s funny is that there was no confusion about this shit when ads began to be the major manner in which newspapers funded themselves in the 1920s. Businesses advertising called the shots and they didn’t care if they did sound crude about it. Go back and read the archives if you’re curious.

    And that’s not even mention a real, not theorized, not conspiracy imagined massive, massive effort by the CIA to implant and/or influence reporters, editors and commentators throughout the newspaper industry, headed up by none other than Phillip Graham of the Washington Post. The only confusing aspect of this is why the CIA thought this necessary, given the utter constant yielding of the press to the US foreign policy establishment line anyway, and whether or not said program actually made any difference.

    We have a choice between viewing extraordinarily powerful and wealthy institutions as helpless and confused, or able to — within limits, certainly — influence major coverage trends to more within their liking.

    I think that such an operative assumption in this reality is just worthless.

  130. 130
    scav says:

    @Little Dreamer: I don’t think Chris was really suggesting it, he was just giving a complex techy detailed description of many of the issues involved — in a manner that not only clarified the context of the seepage issue but took on the earlier Bomb Bomb Bomb. Bomb Bomb The Well meme as well.

  131. 131
    sven says:

    @El Cid: It’s the Efficient Markets Hypothesis of advertising. All eyeballs are equal, institutions don’t matter, etc…

  132. 132
    demimondian says:

    @mcd410x: Ironically, that’s a very nearly perfect usage of the word. “When seepage begins to appears under a levee, get out. You’re fucked.”

  133. 133
    Chris says:

    Incidentally, I just saw a news item claiming that the seepage is not from the busted well.

    If you wonder “how can anyone tell”, the main method is to do a chemical analysis of the seeping oil and compare it to an analysis of oil known to be from the well. The exact composition of each oil field varies, so seeps from one deposit “look different” from oil from another one, in terms of the data that comes out of the analysis.

    It seems to me awfully early to make such a claim, as the analysis takes time, and so does the seepage. Plus, if there’s a leak that has to travel a long distance, and some existing “different” oil in the path of the travel to the seep-point, a “new” seep may push out the different oil for (hours, days, weeks, a year…) before the main-reservoir oil shows up. (But note that if the seep is sufficiently slow, it’s not a problem, it’s basically like any natural seep at that point.)

  134. 134
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    Red Adair’s track record on dealing with offshore drilling problems is actually pretty dismal, but then again he got called in on the Ixtoc runaway in the 70s close to the start of offshore drilling generally when no-one had a lot of relevant experience to draw on.

    John Wright is the guy running the relief well operation in the Gulf. He has a 40 for 40 success rate on dealing with runaway offshore wells. The Macondo well is his 41st and there’s not a lot wrong with the setup that would make this bottom kill operation much more difficult than any other wells he’s attempted to kill before. He’s also got an armoury of instrumentation, drilling tools and techniques that Adair back in the 70s never had to hand.

  135. 135
    Chris says:

    @scav: Right. My reaction to the “nuke the well” idea was: they must be insane. Conventional explosives are safer but still a bad idea. Bombing surface-level wells has been tried, and the success rate is about 20%, i.e., four out of five attempts fail. Chance of success depends on the geological formations involved (about which I know nothing in these specific cases) but is never “good”. With surface-level wells, if one effort fails, you can try again relatively easily; with ocean wells, the stakes are much higher.

    If that is not bad enough, in addition to the obvious logistics issues, this particular well is at very high pressure. The higher the internal well pressure, the more dangerous the “bomb the well” strategy becomes.

  136. 136
    Little Dreamer says:

    @Chris:

    So they’re saying it’s unrelated? I don’t buy it. Perhaps it’s not related to that actual well, but it’s related to an area where the pressure can travel to. Are they stating that even if none of this oil well fire/explosion/leak/cap and recap never occured, this current seepage would probably have appeared anyway? Hmmmm. I don’t think so! Too coincidental.

  137. 137
    Little Dreamer says:

    @scav:

    Oh, I didn’t think Chris was suggesting it, otherwise, he wouldn’t have said it was a “really big risk”! ;)

  138. 138
    Chris says:

    @Little Dreamer: Well, coincidences do happen … but as I said, it seems awfully early to me, to be making such claims.

    As is so often true, the funny explanation (as to why I think it’s too soon to make the claim) is actually a really good one.

  139. 139
    Little Dreamer says:

    @Chris:

    Pretty accurate! LOL

    “Lord forgive them, they know not what they do!”

  140. 140
    Little Dreamer says:

    @Chris:

    They just happened to find this seepage as they put the new cap on the well and the pressure didn’t read what they were hoping it would? Uh… unrelated?

  141. 141
    mpowell says:


    If that were true, airplanes would be raining from the sky every day.

    You may not have noticed, but undersea well blowouts are fairly rare. I’m not sure how they compare in frequency/damage to plane crashes, but I don’t think you can reasonably conclude that the airline industry does a better job of managing risk than the oil industry without some real data to hand. Also: to date, fewer people have been killed by this blowout than the vast majority of airline crashes.

  142. 142
    Chris says:

    @Little Dreamer:

    They just happened to find this seepage as they put the new cap on the well and the pressure didn’t read what they were hoping it would? Uh… unrelated?

    Yeah. On the other hand, if they only started looking for seepage after putting on the cap … it could have been ongoing and nobody noticed until they looked.

    As usual, there’s not really enough information available (“did they look here before and this is new, or did they just not look? how fast is this seep? what sort of analysis have they done so far to come up with whatever conclusions they have?”) to make a good decision (but on the other hand, if I had all the raw data, I’d be overwhelmed by it and be unable to make any conclusion anyway :-) ). So I have to fall back on the smell test, and the claim “these are not the droids is not the oil you’re looking for” smells pretty bad right now.

  143. 143
    lawnorder says:

    I think everyone who understands a bit of what is going on is trying to keep panic in check. Truth is that seepage is very, very, very bad news.

    Metaphor that helped me understand – and dread – the seep scenario: If you have a leaky garden hose, while the water is flowing the other leaks are small or non existent. The minute you plug the top of the hose – like attaching one of those garden hose Miracle Gro fertilizer thingies to it- the leaks on the garden hose get a lot stronger.

    Now imagine instead of a garden hose you had a water bed leaking…

    Except the water bed has 4 million gallons of oil and heavens know how much gas methane.

    You quickly reach the point of “I don’t even want to think about it” for this kind of scenario. I guess journalists and experts are thorn between making this risk very clear and panicking people, or keeping people in the dark and hoping for the best. So they lather on the jargon to keep it “hidden” in plain sight.

  144. 144
    Little Dreamer says:

    @lawnorder:

    but the question is are they doing this because they are concerned about widespread panic concerning the state of the environment, or because they want to save the oil industry? I go with the latter. Most of those on the other side of the political fence couldn’t give two shits about the environment.

  145. 145
    scav says:

    I’m still wrestling with the concept that the news media might be trying to keep panic in check – from what I can see, they’re usually the ones fomenting panic judging from how they report the weather, not to dig ver deeply into other obvious topics involving supposed beheadings on the border and missing white girls. ETA: and SHARKS!

  146. 146
    trollhattan says:

    @mpowell:

    I think this is stretching the analogy in the wrong direction. The total number of deepwater wells ever drilled anywhere would be equaled by the number of commercial airline flights worldwide taking off in what, an hour? Fifteen minutes? Commercial air travel is “safer” by orders of magnitude, not least because the hazards are largely known and dealt with proactively.

    Better perhaps to compare drilling to the Space Shuttle–their safety record sparkles in comparison. Although drill accidents can have quite a gruesome death toll.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_Alpha

    As ad odd coda, the drilling industry themselves are trying to make BP look like bad actors so they can get back to it.

    http://www.saveusenergyjobs.co.....fographic/

  147. 147
    lawnorder says:

    @ Little Dreamer:
    I would say all 3, but mostly they don’t want panic. I myself find the prospect of a leaky seabed daunting. I haven’t told my kids about it yet.

    “Save the oil industry” would be a concern if there was any chance this catastrophe would stop people from drilling oil. How I wish this was true! I highly doubt it. Chernobil didn’t stop nuclear plants from being built. Iraq and other wars didn’t stop us from wanting oil.

    Some people have ALREADY said that since the gulf of Mexico is fucked, might as well drill it to death. Which is a very bad idea because the gulf stream would transport the oil all over the world.

  148. 148
    Little Dreamer says:

    @scav:

    Manipulation comes in many varieties, but it’s all still manipulation.

  149. 149
    Little Dreamer says:

    @lawnorder:

    I think it comes down to how badly do Palinites want to eat seafood?

  150. 150
    Chris says:

    @trollhattan:

    the drilling industry themselves are trying to make BP look like bad actors

    That part is easy, just point to the facts. :-)

    so they can get back to it.

    I’m of two minds about this part, as it takes very little of a drop in marginal supply of oil to increase the per-barrel price. An increase in oil (and hence gasoline) prices hurts a lot of people. On the other hand, I think an increase in gasoline prices, to or above $4/gallon, is probably the only way we in the USA will really get serious about efficiency, conservation, alternative fuels, and so on.

    I kind of like the idea of imposing seriously steep oil taxes (let’s say, $100 per barrel, for argument’s sake, to bring in roughly $730 billion per year) combined with using that money to eliminate and/or offset the most regressive taxes we have (again, for argument’s sake, let’s say Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes—$730B should completely wipe them out—along with easing various state food taxes, perhaps). Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that $100/bbl in oil taxes would raise the gasoline price from roughly $3/gal to roughly $7/gal.

    (Edited to fix numbers, using 80 million barrels / day world consumption with 25% of that being US consumption)

  151. 151
    Little Dreamer says:

    @lawnorder:

    and not only will it ruin the rest of the bodies of water worldwide, eventually, that oil will go on the world market where it won’t save the U.S. one fucking dime!

  152. 152
    Little Dreamer says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    These media outlets are poorly staffed, or else their staff is poorly prepared to do the work to keep them up to speed on complex stories. Which is why they focus on the easy and gratuitous churn and personality aspects of stories ….

    I know you’re busy and not here to respond to this, but, the news channels don’t care about stories anymore, they only care about how the reaction to the stories affects the ideological war we currently have going on here. That’s the only thing that matters to them now! The political divide is good for their ratings.

  153. 153
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Am I just being nitpicky?

    No, you’re identifying a profound problem. I’ve noticed that whenever a TV Talking Head show tackles the “controversy” over climate change they invite two politicians to discuss it. That’s a signal to me to immediately change the channel.

  154. 154
    JohnR says:

    @mpowell:
    not to be offensive, but this:

    “Also: to date, fewer people have been killed by this blowout than the vast majority of airline crashes. “

    is simply a ludicrous argument. You’re taking a one-dimensional measure of consequences and applying it to two different things, one of which it is strikingly not appropriately applied to. To illustrate, using that logic, you would contend that bootleg alcohol is a far greater problem for the nation than untreated sewage discharge into drinking water, because methanol poisoning blinds far more people than cholera and typhus combined.

  155. 155
    karoli says:

    UGH. What a bunch of fearmongering nonsense. I live 30 miles south of Santa Barbara where natural seeps are a part of life. Walk on the beach, get oil on your feet. Not because of drilling, because well, oil leaks out of the earth there.

    Here’s more information: Oil Seeps

  156. 156
    AhabTRuler says:

    @demimondian: Yep. Same with dams. When you see seepage, yer fucked, git out.

  157. 157
    Blue Shark says:

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/vid.....cnn?hpt=T1

    By CNN … Pretty good for lay observers.

  158. 158
    goatchowder says:

    Stephen Colbert nailed this better than anyone could.

    The corporations are the Deciders. The job of the press, is to write those decisions down. Then go home! Job done! And they can write that novel they’ve had kicking around, the one about the intrepid reporter speaking truth to power, you know, FICTION!

  159. 159
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    “Seepage” sounds like a BP propaganda word for “a gusher somewhere else”.

    If you want a picture, imagine those cartoons with the dam about to blow. The oil executive has his finger plugging up the leak – and suddenly another one springs up just out of arms reach.

    And the oil executive says (talking loudly so as to be heard over the ominous rumbling the dam is making) “Oh, it’s a seep…”

  160. 160
    Little Dreamer says:

    Is it just me, or does the COO of BP look like a well rested, deeply tanned, “recently got a haircut, and shed a few pounds in the gym” George W Bush?

  161. 161
    bobk says:

    You hit it – the reporters don’t understand it at all and cannot explain it. They prove daily why the mass media and newspapers are in such trouble – unqualified staff, shoddy reporting, “analysis” grade school children are better at, and a general tendency to be gossip columnists who are more at home writing for People Magazine. “Real reporting” – why that’s hard work dadgummit!!!

  162. 162
    scav says:

    @karoli: Yeah, as a former S Barbarian myself, I can see the logic. People throw up after they drink too much so vomiting simply can’t be a symptom of poisoning.

    @Little Dreamer: Ahh, now I feel less guilty Little Dreamer. Through no fault of our own, we just somehow inhabit entirely distinct wavelengths on the Snark dial. AM or FM?

  163. 163
    Little Dreamer says:

    @scav:

    They only change course and try to tamp it down when a hallowed industry is looking at severe recrimination. I think it’s the stock options package offered to the media employees, energy is probably a big chunk of their investment.

  164. 164
    mo says:

    “Fucked” is a good descriptor of the situation.

  165. 165
    Caravelle says:

    Am I just being nitpicky? Or shouldn’t the media recognize that their readers most likely don’t have advanced degrees in oceanography and geology or whatever fields would cover this sort of thing? Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?

    I think you are totally right and this post is a perfect illustration of the problem, thank you for making it.

    Although now I want your e-mailer to write a detailed article on the whole thing, because my follow-up question is : what does he mean by “fucked”, exactly ? I assume it means all of the oil in the reservoir will make its way to the surface, except for the amount caught by relief wells I guess. Do we know how much oil this is, how long it will take to all get out, and should we root for it getting out fast but in great quantities, or seeping out at a lower rate for years ? And considering karoli’s post earlier, at what amount of oil seepage (and in what environment I guess) is it not a problem anymore ?

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