Ocean's Thirteen: Crime without punishment


Nobody knows if BP will be able to cap the raging oil well and end the spill in the coming days, weeks, or months. But what we do know is that there will be no real punishment for its crimes against our environment, our wildlife, and the men and women who have for generations lived for the sea and by the sea. This is no mere accident. It is a high crime against men, women, children, and the natural world. 

Punishment means that the company’s top execs spend some real time in the slammer for the deaths of twelve workers, and for those environmental crimes which occurred through their cost cutting practices and Cheney chicanery. In an ideal world the company and all its profits would be confiscated: their billions used to clean up the mess if the cleanup is even possible. And that’s for openers.

There is of course the Cheney question. Nobody knows what happened in those secret meetings with oil company execs which Cheney held in the White House, but an educated guess would be that the relaxation of safety standards that brought about this tragedy came in with Halliburton’s Oil Slick Dick – deregulation for fun and profits.

Disgrace is what happens to most of these people, but disgrace is hardly a true reckoning for BP and its minions, the BP execs behaving as if the very questioning of their motives and competence is an act of incredible colonial rudeness.  Continued...

Obama's Press Conference on the Gulf Oil Spill: We as a society will have to determine our risks


President Obama held a press conference on the Gulf oil spill where he covered the disaster and the broader issue of the decisions we must make as a society about the risks inherent with using oil.

Selected excerpts:

The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy. But make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.

After reading the report’s recommendations with Secretary Salazar and other members of my administration, we’re going to be ordering the following actions:

• First, we will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska

• Second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia.

• Third, we will continue the existing moratorium and suspend the issuance of new permits to drill new deepwater wells for six months.

• And four, we will suspend action on 33 deep water exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico

Let me make one broader point, though, about energy. The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil tells us something about the direction of the oil industry.

And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there’s probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept.

The video and full transcript are linked here.

NOAA Expects Busy Atlantic Hurricane Season


An “active to extremely active” hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year according to the seasonal outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service. As with every hurricane season, this outlook underscores the importance of having a hurricane preparedness plan in place.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is projecting a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

• 14 to 23 Named Storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
• 8 to 14 Hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
• 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

“If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.”  Continued...


New Video of Oil Plumes: Cousteau: "This is a nightmare"


ABC News sent Sam Champion with Philippe Cousteau, correspondent for Planet Green and grandson of Jacques Cousteau, in special diving hazmat suits to get a look at the oil plumes building underwater as a result of the mixture of the spill and dispersants.
For the first time since the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy over a month ago, "Good Morning America" Weather Anchor Sam Champion, along with Philippe Cousteau and a team of specially-trained divers, reported from under the water in the Gulf of Mexico to see first-hand what is happening beneath the surface. Wearing special hazmat dive suits, the team is the first to dive in - and document - the oil-laden waters off of the Louisiana coastline.
What they found lead Cousteau to remark: "This is a nightmare."  Continue to video...


Live Video Feed of the Gulf Oil Disaster


Following pressure from Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) and other members of Congress, BP has released a live video feed of the damaged underwater well that is gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The feed may be slow or freeze at times -- or may go to other content without warning. 

Click on the button to clear ads if they get in the way of the picture (they were added by those who posted the video link).  We'll keep this connected while it's available.  Continue to feed...


President Obama on Gulf Oil Spill: "Ridiculous spectacle"; no more cozy relationships


THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I just finished meeting with some of my Cabinet and administration officials about the ongoing efforts to stop the BP oil spill. And I wanted to give the American people an update on these efforts, but I also want to underscore the seriousness and urgency of this crisis.

The potential devastation to the Gulf Coast, its economy, and its people require us to continue our relentless efforts to stop the leak and contain the damage. There’s already been a loss of life, damage to our coastline, to fish and wildlife, and to the livelihoods of everyone from fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners. I saw firsthand the anger and frustration felt by our neighbors in the Gulf. And let me tell you, it is an anger and frustration that I share as President. And I’m not going to rest or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil in the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of the Gulf are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.

Now, the most important order of business is to stop the leak. I know there have been varying reports over the last few days about how large the leak is, but since no one can get down there in person, we know there is a level of uncertainty. But as Admiral Thad Allen said today, our mobilization and response efforts have always been geared toward the possibility of a catastrophic event. And what really matters is this: There’s oil leaking and we need to stop it –- and we need to stop it as soon as possible. With that source being 5,000 feet under the ocean’s surface, this has been extremely difficult. But scientists and engineers are currently using the best, most advanced technology that exists to try to stop the flow of oil as quickly as possible. Continued...

Tools for Supporting International Action on Global Warming: American Power Act


The draft of the American Power Act is now out (see NRDC's first read summary of the entire bill).  The core global warming pollution limits in the bill, covering all major pollution sources, are a solid foundation for Senate legislation to put a final bill on President Obama’s desk this year.  So how does this legislative proposal address the critical international investments that aid our international efforts to address global warming?
The bill includes most of the key tools to aid the world in addressing global warming but doesn’t provide the necessary funding to aid developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation, and adapting to the impacts of climate change (as a coalition of 24 environmental, development, and religious groups has highlighted).  The bill contains broad authorizing language for a program to reduce deforestation, provides for only a small and belated effort to help the most vulnerable developing countries, and doesn’t have any program for clean energy exports.  Failure to provide the president with the needed tools to promote international cooperation will prove penny-wise but pound-foolish (this is one of the carbon program problems that must be fixed).
It is critical that the US become a strong component of international efforts to address global warming by passing a climate and energy bill this year.  To aid in achieving strong international action and providing the US with the necessary tools to support other countries in addressing this challenge such a bill needs several key components  Continued...


NASA's Images of the Gulf Oil Spill


NASA's Earth Observatory has been tracking the oil disaster in the Gulf with day-by-day pictures from its satellite:

The Gulf Coast Oil Spill: An ecological disaster years in the making


The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has now reached the Gulf Coast and will likely eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster in its impact on the ecology of the fragile region. In its potential path: the Mississippi Delta below New Orleans with its wetlands, fishing grounds and wildlife sanctuaries; the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle.
BATON ROUGE, La. (April 30) -- Fingers of greasy sheen from a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico have reportedly begun lapping the Louisiana shoreline, the first salvo in what could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades

Crews in boats were patrolling coastal marshes early today along the coast looking for areas where the oil has flowed in, the Coast Guard told The Associated Press.

AP said the oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening to eclipse even the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in scope. It imperils hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life.
The oil rig disaster is far from over. The Deepwater Horizon offshore rig, built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries and operated by Transocean, Ltd. under lease by British Petroleum (BP) (who denied problems with a similar platform, was a semi-submersible deep water rig that has multiple lines some 5,000 feet below the surface. That means the lines leaking are both under pressure and difficult to cap. The rig exploded on April 20, 2010 with eleven crew members missing and presumed dead. The rig sank on April 22, 2010, setting the stage for one of the worst oil spills in decades.

Brazil and other countries require a special emergency shut-off mechanism on their offshore rigs. The Deepwater Horizon rig was not subject to that requirement by the United States. Continued...

Now is the Time to Shift World Bank Resources to Clean Energy


The World Bank has just announced its intent to seek $86 billion for a general capital increase (the GCI) from its donor countries (see World Bank press release).  It is time for the World Bank to become a full part of the solution to global warming, not part of the problem and part of the solution at the same time. The World Bank needs to seize this opportunity to shift its energy investments to clean energy.  The US should only approve a contribution towards the Bank’s general capital increase if it secures a firm commitment to transition to clean energy.
With the request of a general capital increase from the Bank, individual donor countries will now need to agree to fund this increase and commit to provide specific amounts.  In the case of the U.S., the Treasury Department requests the funding, Congress would then need to authorize and ultimately approve a possible U.S. contribution.  We expect such a request in the coming weeks.   
World Bank is Not Doing Enough to Support Clean Energy Lending.  With over $8.2 billion in energy investments around the world last year the World Bank has a significant influence on developing country energy investments.  In 2009, the World Bank estimates that 40% of its energy sector lending was in “low carbon energy”*—with energy efficiency and renewables** accounting for 21% and 17% respectively .  While the share of “low carbon energy” has increased in the past from only 17% in 2003, fossil fuels are still a large share of the Bank’s energy investments.  The Bank Information Center calculates that from 2007-2009 fossil fuels still made up over 48% of the World Bank’s energy lending, while 35% of their energy loans were for energy efficiency and renewables (excluding large hydro).   Continued...

Information Terrorists Hijack our Airwaves


Attention Mainstream Media!  I have a challenge for you: “A Day Without the Tea Party.” I challenge cable networks and their hosts and pundits, for one day, to ignore the Tea Party movement and focus on issues that affect everyday people, also known as their audience.

Which of the following issues matter to you the most?

• The 989 billion tax dollars and 5,450 lives spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• America's growing homeless population due to the jobless rate.
• America's failing public school system.
• The OECD's recent report that shows the US has nearly doubled the average child poverty level of industrialized nations.
• Potential nuclear weapons in North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.

Inspired by Walter Shapiro's 60-hour cable newsathon diet for Politics Daily, I recently conducted a cable news experiment to find out what issues matter to the media. My roommate just purchased a fancy-schmancy television for our living room, so what better time to conduct my experiment? Full disclosure up front: I am not a scientist, nor a statistician, nor do I have a team of experts readily available for consult. But I do have DVR, timer and calculator apps on my iPhone.

My newsathon objective was to quantify the hours that the moderate and left leaning media were spending on the ever-so-hot Tea Partiers.

But no surprise, the Tea Party movement was the most popular topic of the week. Altogether, the Tea Partiers and their counterparts (like their self-appointed leader, Sarah Palin, the Birthers and the anti-government militia men) received over 25% of airtime. That's an average of 15 hours spent on an unofficial political party that has no official agenda, platform or spokesperson and is unrepresentative of most American people, let alone the audience of the cable news shows I watched.  Continued...