Why so slow? Here's why skimming ships sat and watched as BP oil spilled

John Mauldin writes a weekly e-newsletter that deals with economics and investments, but his Aug.13th commentary pertained to a special seminar he attended in Baton Rouge on the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill. He answered a question I had wondered about myself: There are advanced oil skimming ships that can process hundreds of thousands of gallons of oily seawater daily. How come nobody called one of them to the disaster site early on?

The answer -- courtesy of Mauldin, who is quoting here from the Christian Science Monitor -- is interesting:

"....'But citing discharge regulations that demand that 99.9985 percent of the returned water be oil-free, the EPA initially turned down the offer (of a Dutch skimming ship). A month into the crisis, the EPA backed off those regulations, and the Dutch equipment was airlifted to the Gulf.'

Really? For 0.0015 percent clean water from badly contaminated, toxic water? It takes a month to get that decision? I can guarantee you that there were people arguing for such a decision early on, and some rookie environmentalist at the EPA who never had responsibility in the real world made things a lot worse. Moving on:

'A giant Taiwanese oil skimming ship, The A Whale, is only now working on the spill. It can process 500,000 barrels of oily seawater per day, but it also needed the same waiver from the EPA which, expressed in another way, limits discharged water to trace amounts of less than 15 parts-per-million of oil residue. It also needed a waiver from the Jones Act, which prevents the use of specialized foreign ships from the North Sea oil fields because they use non-American crews. Previously, the skimmers had to return to port to offload almost pure seawater each time they filled up with water.' ( http://reason.com/archives/2010/07/09/the-governments-catastrophic-r)

Ok, Let's get this straight. The oil industry screwed up by not having enough disaster equipment and ships available. That's bad beyond words. But for the government to compound that by not allowing needed ships to do the work, just because they did not have US union workers is just as bad. You expect better from government in a disaster, or we should."

Couldn't have said it better myself. You can read his whole report here:

http://frontlinethoughts.com/gateway.asp

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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