Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gulf oil spill: 'This disaster just got enormously worse'

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

    Miami Herald -

    If the growing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico isn't contained soon - and the latest efforts suggest that's unlikely - then the damage to the fragile region will intensify over the coming summer months as changing currents and the potential for hurricanes complicate the containment and cleanup efforts.

    "It's all lose, lose, lose here," said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska marine scientist who's familiar with both the current Gulf oil spill and the Exxon Valdez disaster two decades ago.

    "The failure of the top kill really magnified this disaster exponentially," he said. "I think there's a realistic probability that this enormous amount of oil will keep coming out for a couple months. This disaster just got enormously worse."

    As the federal government and BP try yet another strategy to curb the flow of oil from the blown well a mile below the surface of the Gulf - one that could increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent - scientists anticipate a range of disastrous effects, only some of which are well understood.

    The damage to the shorelines of Gulf states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida is literally only the surface of the problem: The damage to the sea floor could be extensive, and oil could also devastate marine life between the Gulf floor and its surface, as well as in coastal areas far from the leaking wellhead.

    If none of the short-term solutions plugs the well, the only long-term fix - drilling two relief wells to stem the flow of oil - likely won't be completed until late July or August. President Barack Obama on Saturday called the news about the latest failed attempt "as enraging as it is heartbreaking."

    "As I said yesterday, every day that this leak continues is an assault on the people of the Gulf Coast region, their livelihoods, and the natural bounty that belongs to all of us," he said in a White House statement.

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