Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's Unstoppable: Oil Well Blowout May Never End

By Washington's Blog

June 24, 2010 "Washington's Blog" -- As I have previously noted, it is now clear that there is damage to BP's well beneath the sea floor.

Recently-retired Shell Oil President John Hofmeister told MSNBC yesterday:

The question is whether there is enough mechanical structure left at the base of the reservoir to hold the cement when they start pouring cement in [from the relief well].

***

The more oil we some coming out, the more it tells you that the whole casing system is deteriorating. The fact that more oil would be coming out rather than less oil, would suggest that the construction within the pipe is offering no resistance whatsoever, and we’re just getting a gusher.



Newsweek gives a balanced view regarding the risk of a total structural failure of the well:

The likelihood of a complete collapse is difficult to assess, in part, engineers and legislators say, because BP hasn’t shared enough information to evaluate the situation. But a handful of clues suggest that the company is concerned. On Friday, BP spokesperson Toby Odone acknowledged that the 45-ton stack of the blowout preventer was tilting noticeably, but said the company could not attribute it to down-hole leaks. “We don’t know anything about the underground portion of the well,” he said. But, the stack “is tilting and has been tilting since the rig went down. We believe that it was caused by the collapse of the riser.” The company is monitoring the degree of leaning but has not announced any plans to run additional supports to the structure.

As many have speculated ... concerns over structural integrity are what led BP to halt “top kill” efforts late last month. When it was digging this particular well, the company ran out of casing–the pipe that engineers send down the hole–and switched to a less durable material called liner. This may have created several weak spots along the well that would be particularly vulnerable to excessive pressure or erosion. So instead of sealing the well, the company has been focused on trying to capture the oil as it flows out the top.

At this point, some experts say, additional leaks wouldn’t matter much. “It’s very possible that there are subfloor leaks,” says [Roger Anderson - an oil geophysicist at Columbia University]. “But that doesn’t change the strategy moving forward.” The linchpin of that strategy involves drilling relief wells that would absorb all possible leaks, both at the top and the bottom of the hulking, teetering structure. Relief wells are drilled straight down into the sea bottom. After running parallel to the existing well for a few thousand meters, they cut in and intersect the original well bore. BP is drilling two such wells, one on either side of the main well. Once they are complete, the company will use them to pump heavy fluid and cement into the main well, stopping the oil at its source. The approach usually has a 95 percent success rate.
But to work, the well must be sealed as far down as possible–if it’s sealed too high, oil could still escape through any leaks beneath the seal. In this case, relief wells will have to drill down to 5,500 meters, and that takes time, at least until August. The real question now is whether the entire structure can hold out long enough.

One of the dangers which the relief wells are racing against is that the blowout preventer (BOP) is leaning ... and might fall over.


The well casing itself is attached to the BOP. And - as discussed below - the BOP is very heavy. So if the BOP fell over, it would likely severely damage the structural integrity of the casing.

As Think Progress points out:

In a press teleconference Monday, National Incident Commander Thad Allen announced that the riser package is tilting “10 or 12 degrees off perpendicular,” twice the 5.5 degree tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa:

The entire arrangement is kind of listed a little bit. I think it’s 10 or 12 degrees off perpendicular so it’s not quite straight up.

As the Times-Picayune notes:

The integrity of the well has become a major topic of discussion among engineers and geologists.

"Everybody's worried about all of this. That's all people are talking about," said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of geoscience programs at University of Houston. He said the things that BP has being doing to try to stop the oil or gain control of it have been tantamount to repeatedly hitting the well with a hammer and sending shock waves down the pipe. "I don't think people realize how delicate it is."

"There is a very high level of concern for the integrity of the well," said Bob Bea, the University of California Berkeley engineering professor known to New Orleanians for investigating the levee failures after Katrina, who now has organized the Deepwater Horizon Study Group. Bea and other engineers say that BP hasn't released enough information publicly for people outside the company to evaluate the situation.
***

When wells are drilled, engineers send links of telescoping pipe down the hole, and those links are encased in cement. The telescoping pipe, called casing, unfolds like a radio antenna, only upside down, so the width of pipe gets smaller as the well gets deeper.

The cement and layers of casing are normally quite strong, Van Nieuwenhuise said. But with the BP well, there are several weak spots that the highly pressurized oil could exploit. BP ran out of casing sections before it hit the reservoir of oil, so it switched to using something called liner for the remainder of the well, which isn't as strong. The joints between two sections of liner pipe and the joint where the liner pipe meets the casing could be weak, Van Nieuwenhuise said.

Bill Gale, an engineer specializing in fires and explosions on oil rigs who is part of Bea's Deepwater Horizon Study Group, said the 16-inch wide casing contains disks that are designed to relieve pressure if necessary. If any of those disks popped, it could create undesirable new avenues for the oil to flow.

Bea said there are also concerns about the casing at the seabed right under the blowout preventer.

Van Nieuwenhuise said he's never actually heard of oil from a blown out well rupturing the casing and bubbling up through the ocean floor. He would consider that an unlikely, worst-case scenario.

A more likely problem, he said, is that oil could find its way into open spaces in the casing string, known as the annulus, and travel up the well in areas where it isn't supposed to be. This scenario could be one reason why more oil than expected is flowing at the containment cap that BP installed earlier this month to collect the oil.

Bea is more concerned about the worst-case scenario than Van Nieuwnhuise. In an answer to a question, Bea said, "Yes," there is reason to think that hydrocarbons are leaking from places in the well other than the containment cap.

"The likelihood of failure is extremely high," Bea said. "We could have multiple losses of containment, and that's going to provide much more difficult time of trying to capture this (oil)."

Meanwhile, observers monitoring the video feeds from the robotic vehicles working on the sea floor have noticed BP measuring a tilt in the 40-ton blowout preventer stack with a level and a device called an inclinometer.

***

Bea said BP isn't sharing enough information for others to know. If there is oil and gas escaping from the sides of the well, it could erode the sediments around the well and eat away at the support for all the heavy equipment that sits above. Bea said reports that BP is using an inclinometer is significant news. "It tells me that they are also concerned," he said.

Here are videos of BP measuring the tilt of the BOP.

While the BOP weighs 40 tons, the riser package as a whole weighs over 450 tons. If the BOP and riser package fell over, it would inflict severe damage to the attached well casing.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Money-saving measures BP took while designing the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico appear to have dogged efforts to bring the massive oil spill under control.

Documents released by congressional investigators show that modifications to the well design BP made last year included a reduction in the thickness of a section of the casing — steel piping in the wellbore

The modification included a slight reduction in the specified thickness for the wall of a 16-inch-diameter section of pipe toward the bottom of the well, according to a May 14, 2009, document.

***

The condition of the well also limits how much oil and gas can flow into containment systems now being used successfully to capture some of the flow. Even if a vessel could capture all the hydrocarbons gushing from the well, some would have to be released to keep well pressure under control.

Marvin Odum, president of Houston-based Shell Oil, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell, told the Houston Chronicle last week that the integrity of the well casing is a major concern. Odum and others from the industry regularly sit in on high-level meetings with BP and government officials about the spill.

If the well casing burst it could send oil and gas streaming through the strata to appear elsewhere on the sea floor, or create a crater underneath the wellhead - a device placed at the top of the well where the casing meets the seafloor - that would destabilize it and the blowout preventer.

The steel casing used in oil wells is strong, said Gene Beck, petroleum engineering professor at Texas A&M, but pressures deep in a well are powerful enough to split strong steel pipe or "crush it like a beer can."

The strength and thickness of casing walls are key decisions in well design, he said. If the BP well's casing wasn't strong enough, it may already be split or could split during a containment effort.

BP spokesman Toby Odone said the decision to reduce the pipe thickness was made after careful review. The company said it doesn't know the condition of the well casing and has no way of inspecting it.

BP is drilling two relief wells to intercept the Macondo well near the reservoir and plug it with cement. A rupture in the Macondo well casing probably wouldn't affect that effort, said Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of geoscience programs at the University of Houston.

"When they start the bottom kill the cement will try to follow oil wherever it's escaping, so it would actually hide a lot of sins in the well bore," Van Nieuwenhuise said.

So far there are no signs that the section of the pipe below the sea floor is leaking.

The blowout preventer has been listing slightly since the accident, but officials believe that may have happened when the Deepwater Horizon sank while still attached to the well via a pipe called a riser.

***

But the longer the well flows uncontrolled the more likely it is that the well casing could be damaged or the blowout preventer damaged further. Sand and other debris that flows through the pipes at high velocity can wear through metal over time, said Van Nieuwenhuise.

The chances of the well eroding from underneath and the blowout preventer tipping may seem unlikely.
"But everything about this well has been unlikely," said David Pursell, an analyst with Tudor Pickering Holt & Co

Indeed, oil industry expert Rob Cavner says that he wouldn't be surprised if the BOP ended up falling over entirely:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Did 9/11 Justify the War in Afghanistan? Using the McChrystal Moment to Raise a Forbidden Question

Editor's NOTE:

This article by David Ray Griffin is quite lengthy but I encourage readers to proceed to the end. Follow the link to the original article.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert


by Prof. David Ray Griffin
Global Research,
June 25, 2010



There are many questions to ask about the war in Afghanistan. One that has been widely asked is whether it will turn out to be “Obama’s Vietnam.”1 This question implies another: Is this war winnable, or is it destined to be a quagmire, like Vietnam? These questions are motivated in part by the widespread agreement that the Afghan government, under Hamid Karzai, is at least as corrupt and incompetent as the government the United States tried to prop up in South Vietnam for 20 years.

Although there are many similarities between these two wars, there is also a big difference: This time, there is no draft. If there were a draft, so that college students and their friends back home were being sent to Afghanistan, there would be huge demonstrations against this war on campuses all across this country. If the sons and daughters of wealthy and middle-class parents were coming home in boxes, or with permanent injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome, this war would have surely been stopped long ago. People have often asked: Did we learn any of the “lessons of Vietnam”? The US government learned one: If you’re going to fight unpopular wars, don’t have a draft – hire mercenaries!

There are many other questions that have been, and should be, asked about this war, but in this essay, I focus on only one: Did the 9/11 attacks justify the war in Afghanistan?

This question has thus far been considered off-limits, not to be raised in polite company, and certainly not in the mainstream media. It has been permissible, to be sure, to ask whether the war during the past several years has been justified by those attacks so many years ago. But one has not been allowed to ask whether the original invasion was justified by the 9/11 attacks. (Editor's emphasis throughout)

However, what can be designated the “McChrystal Moment” – the probably brief period during which the media are again focused on the war in Afghanistan in the wake of the Rolling Stone story about General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, which led to his resignation – provides the best opportunity for some time to raise fundamental questions about this war. Various commentators have already been asking some pretty basic questions: about the effectiveness and affordability of the present “counterinsurgency strategy” and even whether American fighting forces should remain in Afghanistan at all. But I am interested in an even more fundamental question: Whether this war was ever really justified by the publicly given reason: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

This question has two parts: First, did these attacks provide a legal justification for the invasion of Afghanistan? Second, if not, did they at least provide a moral justification? Read it ALL...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dylan Ratigan Says Fianancial Reform Bill a Gift to Wallstreet

Wall Street Reform: Politicians Lie, Media Applauds, America Suffers

Dylan Ratigan
Huffington Post
Posted: June 25, 2010 02:45 PM


The same Washington spinsters who have driven our country into the ground seem to be out in full force this morning, claiming that their latest policy "victory" is the most "sweeping change" of our financial regulatory system since the Great Depression.

Actually, it is nothing more than window dressing.

The real sweeping change of our financial system took place over the past 20 years. The irresponsible repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. The Commodities and Futures Modernization Act of 2000 by Larry Summers and Bob Rubin -- the one that legalized the most destructive financial instruments of all, derivatives. The leverage exemption at the SEC in 2004, asked for (in person) and received by Hank Paulson and friends. (Editor's bold emphasis)

Of course, there are small victories here -- there is better investor protection and, most importantly, an awakened citizenry.

What's not fixed?


- The Cops (regulators and ratings agencies) working for the crooks.

- Banks still Too Big To Fail.

- Banks gambling with your deposits.

- Banks allowed to "mark to myth" and use off-balance sheet accounting to bonus themselves into the atmosphere, with the taxpayer taking the fall.

- Banks getting trillions from the Fed, Fannie and Freddie -- AKA you, the future and present taxpayer.

What does it mean for us?


It means that the same people who brought you these horrible changes -- rising wealth discrepancy, massive unemployment and a crumbling infrastructure -- have now further institutionalized the policies that will keep the causes of these problems firmly in place.

Meanwhile, all involved in the facade try to pretend that this should be considered a success because, gosh, real financial reform is just too hard and those crafty banksters will just outsmart us anyhow. Many in the media are either too complicit, too confused or too lazy to contradict this spin, but the rest of us shouldn't buy that BS. Real and lasting financial reform is actually quite easy to implement -- and the last time we had a crisis of this magnitude, we kept the banksters in check for 70 years.

Time and time again in America, they don't win -- we do.

And I believe as we head towards election time with leaders whose only plan for creating new jobs is a few more workers manicuring soon-to-be even bigger Bankster bonus-fueled estates coupled with a few more government handouts, this lesson will be learned once again.

US Congress Advances Financial Reform Bill

Provisions of the negotiated financial reform bill

By The Associated Press (AP) – 1 hour ago

Some highlights of the compromise legislation to overhaul financial rules:

___
OVERSIGHT

A 10-member council would monitor threats to the financial system. It would decide which companies were so big or interconnected that their failures could upend the financial system. Those companies would be subject to tougher regulation.

If such a company teetered or posed a threat, the council could close it. The bill calls for taxes on the banking industry to cover the costs of doing so.

The council would be led by the Treasury secretary. Other members would include: the Federal Reserve chairman, bank regulators, the head of a new consumer financial protection agency and an insurance expert appointed by the president.

The council could overturn new rules proposed by the consumer protection agency. That's supposed to happen only to rules deemed a threat to the financial system.

___

CONSUMER PROTECTION

A new independent office would oversee financial products and services such as mortgages, credit cards and short-term loans. The office would be housed in the Fed. A new force of on-site examiners would enforce the rules.

But not everywhere. Auto dealers, pawn brokers and others would be exempt from the bureau's enforcement. For community banks, the new rules would be enforced by existing regulators.

Regulators could block rules proposed by the consumer agency. They would do so if they felt a rule could weaken banks.

Currently, consumer protection is spread among various bank regulators. Non-bank companies that offer loans are barely regulated.

State consumer laws would apply to financial companies — unless federal regulators voted to block them on a case-by-case basis. Under the current system, state rules don't apply to national banks. Some states' consumer protection laws are tougher than the federal standard that applies to national banks.

___

FEDERAL RESERVE


The Federal Reserve would continue supervising two types of financial companies: bank-holding companies and state-chartered banks that are members of the Fed system.

The Fed would lead oversight of big, interconnected companies whose failures could threaten the system. Those companies would be identified by the council of regulators.

If the council voted to close such a company, the Fed would run that process.

The Fed's relationships with banks would face more scrutiny from the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm. The GAO could audit emergency lending by the Fed after the 2008 financial crisis emerged. It also could audit the Fed's low-cost loans to banks, and the Fed's buying and selling of securities to implement monetary policy.

___

CAPITAL CUSHIONS


Big banks would have to reserve more money to protect against future losses. The standards would be as high as those for small banks. Certain hybrid securities would cease to count as Tier 1 capital, a key measure of a bank's strength. Banks would have to find other capital to replace the securities.

That accounting change would not apply to banks with under $15 billion in assets that already hold such securities. Larger banks would have to phase the securities out in five years.

___

DERIVATIVES

Derivatives are financial instruments whose values change based on the price of some underlying investment. They were used for speculation, fueling the financial crisis. They were traded out of the sight of regulators.

The new law would force many of those trades onto more transparent exchanges.

Banks will continue trading derivatives related to interest rates, foreign exchanges, gold and silver. Those deals earn big profits for a handful of Wall Street titans.

But riskier derivatives could not be traded by banks. Those deals would run through affiliated companies with segregated finances. The goal is to protect taxpayers, since bank deposits are guaranteed by the government.

The change would apply to the risky mortgage investments that caused the crisis to spread.

The law prohibits government bailouts for banks that face big losses on derivatives.

___

BANK RESTRICTIONS

Bank holding companies that have commercial banking operations would not be permitted to trade in speculative investments. However, bank holding companies will be allowed to invest up to 3 percent of their capital in private equity and hedge funds.

___

EXECUTIVE PAY


Shareholders would have the right to cast nonbinding votes on executive pay packages. The Fed would set standards on excessive compensation that would be deemed an unsafe and unsound practice for the bank.

___

RATINGS AGENCIES


Ratings agencies would have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and would face increased liability standards. The Securities and Exchange Commission would have to conduct a study to determine whether to change the long-standing practice where banks select and pay ratings agencies to rate their new offerings. The SEC would have to consider whether an independent board should select ratings agencies to assess the risks of new financial products.

___

MORTGAGE LOANS

Lenders would be required to obtain proof from borrowers that they can pay for their mortgages. They would have to provide evidence of their income, either though tax returns, payroll receipts or bank documents. That provision seeks to eliminate so-called stated-income loans where borrowers offered no proof of their ability to make mortgage payments. Lenders would have to disclose the maximum amount that borrowers could pay on adjustable-rate mortgages. Mortgage lenders are barred from receiving incentives to push people into high-priced loans.

Premeditated Negligence and the Profit Motive

The Planned Nightmare in the Gulf: Drive for Cost-Cutting Trumped Safety at Every Step

By: David Dayen
Friday June 25, 2010 10:14 am
Firedoglake.com

NPR’s Fresh Air had a compelling show yesterday with New York Times science reporter Henry Fountain. He had a hand in several of their articles showing the negligence at work in building the Deepwater Horizon rig. When asked if a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, since blocked by a district court judge in Louisiana, is enough, Fountain had an interesting response. He said that when you look at disasters from NASA over the years like the Space Shuttle Challenger or the Apollo I mission, they usually grounded themselves for a couple years to figure out what was wrong. That showed a commitment to their astronauts and to use federal dollars toward the safest possible purpose. In the world of deepwater drilling, precisely the opposite calculus is made. It’s all about doing the same job for less money, and the consequences be damned. Here’s how Fountain summed up:

“One of the things I learned is that this particular well that had the blowout wasn’t really unusual. … But one of the things is, it really goes back to our need for oil, and not just for cars but for pretty much everything — plastics, fertilizers and society,” he says. “And the problem is, is that the easy oil has basically been gotten: the oil from land, the oil from shallow offshore wells. So going forward, we’re going to have more of these wells drilled in extreme conditions. So, in a way, there’s potential for more disaster in the future, and it seems to me that if there were ever an argument for pursuing alternative energies, the argument is being made now — in a pretty hard way, but it’s being made.” MORE...

Citizens Take Action to Stop Gulf Oil Catastrophe

by Chip on Thu, 2010-06-24
WarIsacrime.org

New Emergency Committee Condemns “Drill, Baby, Drill” Ruling; Demands “Stop Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico” | Press Release
Calls for Mass Independent Action to Stop Gulf Oil Catastrophe |


See: GulfEmergencySummit.org

A new Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster, formed this past weekend following an Emergency Summit in New Orleans, has condemned the Federal Court decision to overturn a temporary ban on oil drilling and has called for a complete half to offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, demanding that all those affected by a shutdown be provided full compensation, retraining and new employment if needed.

“Judge Feldman’s decision that the government didn’t make its case to shut down deepwater drilling flies in the face of common sense and sanity,”
said committee member and NOLA resident Elizabeth Cook. “The oil lapping at our shores, killing our wildlife and marine life, IS the case for shutting down deepwater drilling.”

“This decision is an outrage,”
said committee member Larry Everest, an author and writer for Revolution newspaper. “Millions of gallons of oil are spewing into the Gulf everyday, BP has removed even its temporary cap on the gusher, and the system is basically saying ‘drill, baby, drill.’ The people must act to stop this catastrophe. This system is not a fit caretaker of the earth.”

The new Emergency Committee argues that this decision and the entire course of this disaster show that “the response to this catastrophe must not be left in the hands of BP and the government.” Organizers state, “We won’t sit by or be reduced to passive spectators, we’re committed to getting out the truth, mobilizing mass independent action, and galvanizing many, many more to act to stop the oil catastrophe.” On Monday, June 21, the new Committee organized the first protest at the offices of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command Center now in New Orleans, where it presented the following demands:

1) Stop oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Full compensation, retraining, and new employment for all affected.

2) Immediately end use of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research on human and environmental impact of dispersants and make public all findings. Immediately begin remediation of damage caused by dispersants.

3) The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop and clean up the blowout gusher, prevent oil from hitting shore, protect wildlife, treat injured wildlife, and repair all devastation. Full support, including by compensation and a major public works program, must be given to peoples’ efforts on all these fronts and to save the Gulf.

4) No punishment to those taking initiative independent of BP and the government to protect the environment and public health; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer. Those responsible for this crime against the environment and the people should be prosecuted.

5) Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Complete transparency and disclosure of all information and documentation, including scientific and technical data, concerning every aspect of this disaster.

6) Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

7) Immediately provide all necessary medical services to those suffering direct and indirect health effects from the oil disaster. Immediately protect the health of and provide all necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies concerning the impacts of the oil disaster.

Contact: Larry Everest 504-644-7214

Initial Endorsers:
William Quigley, Loyola University; Legal Dir., Center for Constitutional Rights*
Michael G. Hadfield, Marine Biologist, University of Hawaii*
Larry Everest, author Oil, Power & Empire, Revolution newspaper
John Pearse, Prof. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California,
Santa Cruz*
Eloise Williams, Lower Algiers Environmental Committee, New Orleans
Elizabeth Cook, Women United for Social Justice, New Orleans
Andy Washington, Civil Rights Activist, New Orleans
Survivors Village, New Orleans
Ben Gordon, Pax Cristi, New Orleans
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Sharon Jasper, public housing activist, New Orleans
C3-Hands Off Iberville, New Orleans
George Mahdi, Social Worker, New Orleans
Endesha Juakeli, housing activist, New Orleans
Randy Poindexter, New Orleans
Rebecca Austen, New Orleans
Gilda & Sain Reed, New Orleans

* for identification purposes only

Wikileaks and the New Whistleblower's

WikiLeaks Founder Drops 'Mass Spying' Hint

By Andrew Fowler

June 24, 2010 "ABC" -- WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has given his strongest indication yet about the next big leak from his whistleblower organisation.

There has been rampant speculation about WikiLeaks' next revelation following its recent release of a top secret military video showing an attack in Baghdad which killed more than a dozen people, including two employees of the Reuters news agency.

Bradley Manning, a US military intelligence officer based in Iraq, has been arrested on suspicion of leaking the video but it is also claimed that Manning bragged online that he had handed WikiLeaks 260,000 secret US State Department cables.

In an interview with the ABC's Foreign Correspondent, Mr Assange said cryptically of WikiLeaks' current project:

"I can give an analogy. If there had been mass spying that had affected many, many people and organisations and the details of that mass spying were released then that is something that would reveal that the interests of many people had been abused."

He agreed it would be of the "calibre" of publishing information about the way the top secret Echelon system - the US-UK electronic spying network which eavesdrops on worldwide communications traffic - had been used.

Mr Assange also confirmed that WikiLeaks has a copy of a video showing a US military bombing of a western Afghan township which killed dozens of people, including children.

He noted, though, it was a very intricate case "substantially more complex" than the Iraq material WikiLeaks had released - referring to the gunship video.

European news media are reporting that Mr Assange has "surfaced from almost a month in hiding", speaking at a freedom of information seminar at the European parliament in Brussels.

But during the course of the past month, Mr Assange has been talking to Foreign Correspondent for a program examining the efficacy of the WikiLeaks model.

"What we want to create is a system where there is guaranteed free press across the world, the entire world, that every individual in the world has the ability to publish materials that is meaningful," he said.

Whistleblower speaks

The program has also spoken directly to former computer hacker Adrian Lamo who blew the whistle on Bradley Manning after a boastful online discussion in which Lamo alleges the military intelligence adviser revealed himself as a significant WikiLeaks source.

"He proceeded to identify himself as an intelligence analyst and pose the question: What would you do if you have unprecedented access to classified data 14 hours a day seven days a week?" Mr Lamo said.

"He (Manning) was firing bullets into the air without thought to consequence of where they might land or who they might hit."

WikiLeaks has built an information repository it thinks is foolproof. Instead of secret documents physically changing hands, they are anonymously sent to digital drop boxes and stored on servers around the world. Finally, they are posted on the WikiLeaks site.

During Foreign Correspondent's assignment Mr Assange had been preparing to fly to New York to meet his hero - Daniel Ellsberg - the former US military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers which amounted to a devastating expose of the Vietnam War.

Instead, concerned about traveling in the US and attracting the interest of authorities, he used Skype to speak to the conference.

He told the crowd: "Leaking is inherently an anti-authoritarian act. It's inherently an anarchist act."

Mr Assange has been quoted as saying he feels perfectly safe in Europe, "but I have been advised by my lawyers not to travel to the US during this period".

Daniel Ellsberg, named by Henry Kissinger as "the most dangerous man in America", told Foreign Correspondent that Mr Assange was "a good candidate for being the most dangerous man in the world, in the eyes of people like the one who gave me that award".

"I'm sure that Assange is now regarded as one of the very most dangerous men and he should be quite proud of that."


Wikileaks: A Publisher Of Last Resort
"privatized censorship"

Video


Wikileaks editor interview on censorship.

Posted June 24, 2010



Assange:

"We in the West have deluded ourselves. We have never had a free press. In the West we now have privatized censorship. There are hundreds of examples."


Hail To The Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers like those at WikiLeaks make huge sacrifices and are a vital last resort to check the powers of government

By James Denselow

June 24, 2010 "The Guardian" -- James Madison (drafter of the US first amendment) once wrote that "government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both".

This is certainly true of Afghanistan, where the US-led coalition has been able to avoid a true audit of the impact of its presence via tight control of the media combined with manipulated patriotism.

To avoid greater tragedy in Afghanistan we may have to rely on a new generation of whistleblowers who are making huge personal sacrifices to challenge the official narrative.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is well aware of the impact made by the film "Collateral Murder" below:



which featured US Apache gun camera footage of the killing of 12 Iraqi civilians. Since the arrest of one of his whistleblowers, Assange has been keeping a low profile but is preparing to release the footage of a US airstrike in Afghanistan that may have killed up to 145 civilians. Like Daniel Ellsberg before him, Assange may be the whistleblower that could help change the direction of the conflict.

Such individuals represent a necessary last resort to check the powers of government. Ellsberg was once described as "the most dangerous man in America", yet his actions in publishing the Pentagon Papers were driven by his realisation that the greater danger was the fact that there were no longer effective checks and balances to a war in Vietnam that was entirely detached from reality.

In his book, Secrets, Ellsberg describes how once, traveling back from Vietnam, defence secretary Robert McNamara assessed his visit by saying that "things aren't any better at all. That means the underlying situation is really worse". However, 10 minutes later in front of a press conference, he announced: "I'm glad to be able to tell you that we're showing great progress in every dimension of our effort."

Ellsberg's decision to become a whistleblower was based on his answer to the question he asked himself: "How could we possibly have justified doing this?" It is likely that the departure of Britain's special envoy to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, was prompted by a similar dilemma .

Yet Cowper-Coles may embrace the very British syndrome of officials maintaining a dignified silence until years later when an autobiography is released one day describing how they knew it was a complete mess all along. Foreign Office lawyer Elizabeth Wilmshurst followed a similar pattern, resigning quietly after deciding that war would be illegal, before emerging much more forthrightly to speak at the Chilcot inquiry seven years later.

Meanwhile US General Stanley McCrystal's honest description of the serious disunity at the head of Afghanistan operations may(did) cost him his job, but beyond being a blow to the image of Barack Obama's conduct of the war is unlikely to change its central tenets, as the focus will remain on the general's naivety rather than the substance of his argument.

Speaking truth to power is too important to be left to such outdated methods. We are all complicit in the actions of our democratically mandated government and as Ghandi once observed, "coercive power, legitimate or otherwise, depends on the co-operation, on the obedience and support, on the assent or at least passive tolerance of many people".

Katharine Gun of GCHQ refused to tolerate the secret US spying on UN security council members in 2003, yet her whistleblowing cost her job and almost her freedom.

Constitutional US lawyer Glenn Greenwald outlined recently how "the Obama administration's assault on whistleblowers is more extreme than any prior administration, including the Bush administration". Greenwald pointed out that the US security establishment is deeply concerned with how the release of footage highlighting civilian casualties damages people's trust in their government's prosecution of the war.

This fear drives governments to throw the book at those individuals who raise their head above the parapet and speak out. US army specialist Bradley Manning, the rumoured source of the Apache video, has disappeared into US custody in Kuwait.

WikiLeaks's Assange claims that he is now under tight surveillance and is afraid to travel to the US. Although these individuals can be easily smeared with accusations of treason and being unpatriotic, more often than not history vindicates their actions.

For more background information on Wikileaks
see THIS...

The Real Consequences of An Ocean Floor Collapse

Nick Doms
SOTT
Tue, 22 Jun 2010 15:49 EDT

A collapse of the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico is in our near future but all depends on how such will occur. Two possible scenarios have been analyzed and described by several oceanographic institutions including the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) known for its in depth maritime expertise.

The two possible scenarios are either a complete collapse of the ocean floor right above the Deepwater Horizon well and surroundings or a partial collapse in the form of a mud slide on one side of the well.

The first scenario is unlikely at this time but remains a possibility given the number of crevices that have been created naturally due to the high pressure inside the well. This pressure is created by the large amount of methane gasses that is building up inside the well.

Should this scenario occur, then the prediction is that a vast amount of oil and methane will be released immediately into the water and towards the surface. The aftermath would be a tidal wave, caused by the fast displacement of a large amount of water that will reach the shores of all the Gulf States.

The immediate danger will be to cope with the height of the wave along the shoreline and not necessarily the mixture of oil and Corexit. Both products will obviously affect the local population in the aftermath of the tidal wave and during clean up.

The second scenario, a partial collapse of one side of the well in the form of a large mud slide, will cause a similar effect but to a far lesser extent given that the collapse will happen in a more or less slow motion fashion where water will replace oil and methane over a brief period of time.

A wave is expected to form off the Gulf Coast but will cause less damage and will be far less destructive.

Nevertheless, the impact on the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will be enormous. The tourism industry represents a combined annual income of 150 billion dollars for Alabama and Florida. This industry has been hit hard and may not be able to recover within the next few years after a collapse.

The fishing and shrimping industry that represents the livelihood of small business owners will be affected for at least 10 years and maybe longer.

The ports of New Orleans, Pascagoula and Mobile are and will be inaccessible until the cleanup has been completed. The three ports rely on European and Asian trade for 50% of their annual revenue.

The environmental impact is hard to measure but one thing is certain; 80% of the world's dolphin population lives in the affected area of the Gulf of Mexico and the whale population migrates to the region to have their babies there.

The BP solution to place relief wells to pump out the oil and methane gas may seem like a good solution but it also represents serious dangers to the integrity of the well's surface and may cause further cracks and crevices to open.

For the time being this may be the only solution available and let's hope that the first scenario never occurs.

NOTE:

I have been unable so far to independently validate the claims made in this article. I encourage readers to investigate them and report back. If these scenario's are even remotely possible i.e. <10% probability, they should be taken seriously.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AFGHANISTAN EMBROGLIO

'Afghan War Is Lost and US Govt Has To Face It'


Submitted by Chip
Warisacrime.org
Wed, 2010-06-23 06:13




U.S. taxpayer dollars are finding their way to the pockets of the Taliban, according to a new 75-page congressional report about the military's use of Afghan security firms. The firms are used to ensure the safe passage of supply convoys. If the U.S. doesn't pay up, almost without fail the convoy gets attacked. Brian Becker, Director of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition says Afghanistan case is hopeless.


Obama's real McChrystal problem: Afghanistan plan in trouble

By GLENN THRUSH
Politico
Updated: 6/22/10 9:43 PM EDT

The challenge facing Obama in responding to Gen. Stanley McChrystal has an obvious parallel in Harry Truman’s firing of Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s MacArthur moment was more than an embarrassment for the White House — it was a reminder of just how badly Barack Obama’s “good war” in Afghanistan is going.

The challenge facing Obama in responding to his loose-lipped Afghanistan commander has an obvious parallel in Harry Truman’s firing of Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

But it might actually be more comparable to another, more chronic presidential leadership crisis: Abraham Lincoln’s dilemma during the Civil War, when he was forced to repeatedly reshuffle his general staff in the face of vacillating public opinion, insubordination and, above all else, uncertainty about how best to win a bloody war he couldn’t afford to lose.

“Afghanistan is a mess, and it’s getting worse. To make matters worse, the president’s been dealing with internal squabbling on this for some time,” says Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, who has written extensively on Afghanistan.

“If there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that the president has an opportunity to reattach himself to a new policy, fire this guy and start with something new,” Clemons said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to reset. But he can’t do anything until he fires McChrystal.”

The general has already apologized for comments attributed to him and his leadership team in a caustic Rolling Stone story, in which his aides reportedly portrayed the commander in chief as a disengaged dilettante and blasted Obama’s Afghanistan team as feckless. He’s been summoned back to Washington to face a furious president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who could remove him from command, reprimand or demote him.

Obama on Tuesday said the comments in the article showed “poor judgment, but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.”

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs clearly opened the door to Obama relieving the general of command, saying, “All options are on the table.”

But even if Obama sacks his Afghanistan commander, McChrystal’s comments have laid bare a nasty internal battle among members of Obama’s joint military-civilian Afghanistan team that is splintered by personality conflicts and divided over how to end the longest war in American history.

Underlying everything is a far bigger problem. Obama’s strategy of shifting the military’s focus — and 30,000 troops — from Iraq to Afghanistan hasn’t yet yielded a major breakthrough. And it’s not clear how many troops he will be able to pull out of the country by next July, his self-imposed deadline for commencing withdrawal.

The Coming Era of Energy Disasters

By: Michael Klare,
Tomgram: 3:00pm, June 22, 2010,
original HERE...

Isn’t it strange that, no matter how terrible the news from the Gulf, the media still can’t help offering a lurking, BP-influenced narrative of hope? Here’s a recent headline from my hometown paper, for instance: “Signs of Hope as BP Captures Record Oil Amounts.” The piece is based on a BP report that, last Thursday, its woefully inadequate, ill-fitting “top hat” had captured more than 25,000 barrels of the gushing oil -- that is, five times more than it long claimed was spewing from its busted well (25 times more than it originally suggested).

With semi-official estimates in the range of 35,000-60,000 barrels escaping a day (and those numbers regularly on the rise), this represents a strange version of hopeful news. Ominously enough, by the end of July, with a new, larger, “tighter” cap theoretically in place, BP is aiming to capture up to 80,000 barrels a day (that is, 20,000 barrels more than it has publicly acknowledged might possibly be spewing from the floor of the Gulf). In all such articles, the real narrative of hope, however, involves the relief wells, the first of which is now within “200 feet” of the busted well. Usually, the date for one of those wells to plug the leak is given as “early August” or “mid-August” and it’s regularly said that the drilling of those wells is advancing “ahead of schedule.”

Whatever “signs of hope” do exist, however, they’re already badly beslimed by on-gushing reality. On the very day that BP announced its 25,000-barrel capture, huge amounts of methane were also reported to be pouring into the Gulf. Until now, this had evidently been largely overlooked (or under-reported), even though methane in high concentrations can deplete water of its oxygen and so suffocate marine life, creating vast dead zones and inhibiting the natural breakdown of the spilling oil. According to John Kessler, a Texas A&M oceanographer, the Deepwater Horizon spill represents “the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history.”

Meanwhile, if you read carefully, you’ll note that those relief wells are no sure thing. They might not do the job until the fall or even, worst-case scenario, Christmas, or (even-worse-case scenario) they might fail entirely, leaving the well to spew oil and natural gas (with its methane) for an estimated two to four more years. And let’s not forget general bad weather, as well as hurricane season bearing down on the Gulf, the possibility that the well’s casing might be cracking or eroding -- meaning even more spillage or seepage -- and that a “clean-up” in which, in Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s words, the Gulf ecosystem would be “restored and made whole,” may not, as Naomi Klein wrote recently, be “remotely possible, at least not in a time frame we can easily wrap our heads around.”

Worse yet, the disaster in the Gulf is largely being dealt with as a one-shot nightmare. It isn’t. Consider our potential American Chernobyl as just a precursor to a future filled with “unexpected” energy mega-disasters, as Michael Klare, TomDispatch regular and author of the invaluable Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, suggests.

Tom Englehardt


BP-Style Extreme Energy Nightmares to Come
Four Scenarios for the Next Energy Mega-Disaster

By Michael T. Klare

On June 15th, in their testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the chief executives of America’s leading oil companies argued that BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was an aberration -- something that would not have occurred with proper corporate oversight and will not happen again once proper safeguards are put in place. This is fallacious, if not an outright lie. The Deep Horizon explosion was the inevitable result of a relentless effort to extract oil from ever deeper and more hazardous locations. In fact, as long as the industry continues its relentless, reckless pursuit of “extreme energy” -- oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium obtained from geologically, environmentally, and politically unsafe areas -- more such calamities are destined to occur.

At the onset of the modern industrial era, basic fuels were easy to obtain from large, near-at-hand energy deposits in relatively safe and friendly locations. The rise of the automobile and the spread of suburbia, for example, were made possible by the availability of cheap and abundant oil from large reservoirs in California, Texas, and Oklahoma, and from the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But these and equivalent deposits of coal, gas, and uranium have been depleted. This means the survival of our energy-centric civilization increasingly relies on supplies obtained from risky locations -- deep underground, far at sea, north of the Arctic circle, in complex geological formations, or in unsafe political environments. That guarantees the equivalent of two, three, four, or more Gulf-oil-spill-style disasters in our energy future.

Back in 2005, the CEO of Chevron, David O’Reilly, put the situation about as bluntly as an oil executive could. “One thing is clear,” he said, “the era of easy oil is over. Demand is soaring like never before… At the same time, many of the world’s oil and gas fields are maturing. And new energy discoveries are mainly occurring in places where resources are difficult to extract, physically, economically, and even politically.”

O’Reilly promised then that his firm, like the other energy giants, would do whatever it took to secure this “difficult energy” to satisfy rising global demand. And he proved a man of his word. As a result, BP, Chevron, Exxon, and the rest of the energy giants launched a drive to obtain traditional fuels from hazardous locations, setting the stage for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and those sure to follow. As long as the industry stays on this course, rather than undertaking the transition to an alternative energy future, more such catastrophes are inevitable, no matter how sophisticated the technology or scrupulous the oversight.

The only question is: What will the next Deepwater Horizon disaster look like (other than another Deepwater Horizon disaster)? The choices are many, but here are four possible scenarios for future Gulf-scale energy calamities. None of these is inevitable, but each has a plausible basis in fact.

Scenario 1: Newfoundland -- Hibernia Platform Destroyed by Iceberg

Approximately 190 miles off the coast of Newfoundland in what locals call “Iceberg Alley” sits the Hibernia oil platform, the world’s largest offshore drilling facility. Built at a cost of some $5 billion, Hibernia consists of a 37,000-ton “topsides” facility mounted on a 600,000-ton steel-and-concrete gravity base structure (GBS) resting on the ocean floor, some 260 feet below the surface. This mammoth facility, normally manned by 185 crew members, produces about 135,000 barrels of oil per day. Four companies (ExxonMobil, Chevron, Murphy Oil, and Statoil) plus the government of Canada participate in the joint venture established to operate the platform.

The Hibernia platform is reinforced to withstand a direct impact by one of the icebergs that regularly sail through this stretch of water, located just a few hundred miles from where the Titanic infamously hit an iceberg and sank in 1912. Sixteen giant steel ribs protrude from the GBS, positioned in such a way as to absorb the blow of an iceberg and distribute it over the entire structure. However, the GBS itself is hollow, and contains a storage container for 1.3 million barrels of crude oil -- about five times the amount released in the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

The owners of the Hibernia platform insist that the design will withstand a blow from even the largest iceberg. As global warming advances and the Greenland glaciers melt, however, massive chunks of ice will be sent floating into the North Atlantic on a path past Hibernia. Add increased storm activity (another effect of global warming) to an increase in iceberg frequency and you have a formula for overwhelming the Hibernia’s defenses.

Here’s the scenario: It’s the stormy winter of 2018, not an uncommon situation in the North Atlantic at that time of year. Winds exceed 80 miles per hour, visibility is zilch, and iceberg-spotter planes are grounded. Towering waves rise to heights of 50 feet or more, leaving harbor-bound the giant tugs the Hibernia’s owners use to nudge icebergs from the platform’s path. Evacuation of the crew by ship or helicopter is impossible.

Without warning, a gigantic, storm-propelled iceberg strikes the Hibernia, rupturing the GBS and spilling more than one million barrels of oil into rough waters. The topside facility is severed from the base structure and plunges into the ocean, killing all 185 crew members. Every connection to the undersea wells is ruptured, and 135,000 barrels of oil start flowing into the Atlantic every day (approximately twice the amount now coming from the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico). The area is impossible to reach by plane or ship in the constant bad weather, meaning emergency repairs can’t be undertaken for weeks -- not until at least five million additional barrels of oil have poured into the ocean. As a result, one of the world’s most prolific fishing grounds -- the Grand Banks off Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Cape Cod -- is thoroughly poisoned.

Does this sound extreme? Think again. On February 15, 1982, a giant drillship, the Ocean Ranger (the “Ocean Danger” to its habitués), was operating in the very spot Hibernia now occupies when it was struck by 50-foot waves in a storm and sank, taking the lives of 84 crew members. Because no drilling was under way at the time, there were no environmental consequences, but the loss of the Ocean Ranger -- a vessel very much like the Deepwater Horizon -- should be a reminder of just how vulnerable otherwise strong structures can be to the North Atlantic’s winter fury.

Scenario 2: Nigeria -- America’s Oil Quagmire

Nigeria is now America’s fifth leading supplier of oil (after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela). Long worried about the possibility that political turmoil in the Middle East might diminish the oil flow from Saudi Arabia just as Mexico’s major fields were reaching a state of depletion, American officials have worked hard to increase Nigerian imports. However, most of that country’s oil comes from the troubled Niger Delta region, whose impoverished residents receive few benefits but all of the environmental damage from the oil extraction there. As a result, they have taken up arms in a bid for a greater share of the revenues the Nigerian government collects from the foreign energy companies doing the drilling. Leading this drive is the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (MEND), a ragtag guerrilla group that has demonstrated remarkable success in disrupting oil company operations.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) rates Nigeria’s innate oil-production capacity at about 2.7 million barrels per day. Thanks to insurgent activity in the Delta, however, actual output has fallen significantly below this. “Since December 2005, Nigeria has experienced increased pipeline vandalism, kidnappings, and militant takeovers of oil facilities in the Niger Delta,” the department reported in May 2009. “[K]idnappings of oil workers for ransom are common and security concerns have led some oil services firms to pull out of the country.”

Washington views the insurgency as a threat to America’s “energy security,” and so a reason for aiding the Nigerian military. “Disruption of supply from Nigeria would represent a major blow to U.S. oil security,” the State Department noted in 2006. In August 2009, on a visit to Nigeria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised even more military aid for oil protection purposes.

Here, then, is scenario #2: It’s 2013. The Delta insurgency has only grown, driving Nigeria’s oil output down to a third of its capacity. Global oil demand is substantially higher and rising, while production slips everywhere. Gasoline prices have reached $5 per gallon in the U.S. with no end in sight, and the economy seems headed toward yet another deep recession.

The barely functioning civilian government in Abuja, the capital, is overthrown by a Muslim-dominated military junta that promises to impose order and restore the oil flow in the Delta. Some Christian elements of the military promptly defect, joining MEND. Oil facilities across the country are suddenly under attack; oil pipelines are bombed, while foreign oil workers are kidnapped or killed in record numbers. The foreign oil companies running the show begin to shut down operations. Global oil prices go through the roof.

When a dozen American oil workers are executed and a like number held hostage by a newly announced rebel group, the president addresses the nation from the Oval Office, declares that U.S. energy security is at risk, and sends 20,000 Marines and Army troops into the Delta to join the Special Operations forces already there. Major port facilities are quickly secured, but the American expeditionary force soon finds itself literally in an oil quagmire, an almost unimaginable landscape of oil spills in which they find themselves fighting a set of interlocked insurgencies that show no sign of fading. Casualties rise as they attempt to protect far-flung pipelines in an impenetrable swamp not unlike the Mekong Delta of Vietnam War fame.

Sound implausible? Consider this: in May 2008, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Joint Forces Command conducted a crisis simulation at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that involved precisely such a scenario, also set in 2013. The simulation, “Unified Quest 2008,” was linked to the formation of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom), the new combat organization established by President Bush in February 2007 to oversee American military operations in Africa. An oil-related crisis in Nigeria, it was suggested, represented one of the more likely scenarios for intervention by U.S. forces assigned to Africom. Although the exercise did not explicitly endorse a military move of this sort, it left little doubt that such a response would be Washington’s only practical choice.

Scenario 3: Brazil -- Cyclone Hits “Pre-Salt” Oil Rigs

In November 2007, Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro (Petrobras), announced a remarkable discovery: in a tract of the South Atlantic some 180 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, it had found a giant oil reservoir buried beneath a mile and a half of water and a thick layer of salt. Called “pre-salt” oil because of its unique geological positioning, the deposit was estimated to hold 8 to 12 billion barrels of oil, making this the biggest discovery in the Western Hemisphere in 40 years. Further test drilling by Petrobras and its partners revealed that the initial find -- at a field called Tupi -- was linked to other deepwater “pre-salt” reservoirs, bringing the total offshore potential to 50 billion barrels or more. (To put that in perspective, Saudi Arabia is believed to possess reserves of 264 billion barrels and the United States, 30 billion.)

With this discovery, Brazil could “jump from an intermediate producer to among the world’s largest producers,” said Dilma Rousseff, chief cabinet official under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and thought to be his most likely successor. To ensure that the Brazilian state exercises ultimate control over the development of these reservoirs, President da Silva -- “Lula,” as he is widely known -- and Rousseff have introduced legislation in the Brazilian Congress giving Petrobras control over all new fields in the basin. In addition, Lula has proposed that profits from the pre-salt fields be channeled into a new social fund to alleviate poverty and underdevelopment in the country. All this has given the government a huge stake in the accelerated development of the pre-salt fields.

Extracting oil a mile and half under the water and from beneath two-and-a-half miles of shifting sand and salt will, however, require the utilization of technology even more advanced than that employed on the Deepwater Horizon. In addition, the pre-salt fields are interspersed with layers of high-pressure gas (as appears to have been the case in the Gulf), increasing the risk of a blow-out. Brazil does not experience hurricanes as does the Gulf of Mexico, but in 2004, its coastline was ravaged by a surprise subtropical cyclone that achieved hurricane strength. Some climatologists believe that hurricane-like storms of this sort, once largely unknown in the South Atlantic, will become more common as global warming only increases.

Which brings us to scenario #3: It’s 2020, by which time the pre-salt area off Rio will be host to hundreds of deepwater drilling rigs. Imagine, then, a subtropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and massive waves that suddenly strikes this area, toppling dozens of the rigs and damaging most of the others, wiping out in a matter of hours an investment of over $200 billion. Given a few days warning, most of the crews of these platforms have been evacuated. Freak winds, however, down several helicopters, killing some 50 oil workers and flight crew members. Adding to the horror, attempts to seal so many undersea wells at such depths fail, and oil in historically unprecedented quantities begins gushing into the South Atlantic. As the cyclone grows to full strength, giant waves carry the oil inexorably toward shore.

Since the storm-driven assault cannot be stopped, Rio de Janeiro’s famous snow-white beaches are soon blanketed in a layer of sticky black petroleum, and in a matter of weeks, parts of Brazil’s coastal waters have become a “dead ocean.” Clean-up efforts, when finally initiated, prove exceedingly difficult and costly, adding immeasurably to the financial burden of the Brazilian state, now saddled with a broken and bankrupt Petrobras. Meanwhile, the struggle to seal all the leaking pre-salt wells in the deep Atlantic proves a Herculean task as, month after month, oil continues to gush into the Atlantic.

Scenario 4: East China Sea -- A Clash Over Subsea Gas


At one time, most wars between states were fought over disputed borders or contested pieces of land. Today, most boundaries are fixed by international treaty and few wars are fought over territory. But a new type of conflict is arising: contests over disputed maritime boundaries in areas that harbor valuable subsea resources, particularly oil and natural gas deposits. Such disputes have already occurred in the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, the East and South China Seas, and other circumscribed bodies of water. In each case, the surrounding states claim vast offshore tracts that overlap, producing -- in a world that may be increasingly starved for energy -- potentially explosive disputes.

One of them is between China and Japan over their mutual boundary in the East China Sea.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both countries have signed, each is allowed to exercise control over an “exclusive economic zone” (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles (about 230 standard miles) from its coastline. But the East China Sea is only about 360 miles across at its widest point between the two countries. You see the problem.

In addition, the U.N. convention allows mainland states to claim an extended EEZ stretching to their outer continental shelf (OCS). In China’s case, that means nearly all the way to Japan -- or so say the Chinese. Japan insists that the offshore boundary between the two countries should fall midway between them, or about 180 miles from either shore. This means that there are now two competing boundaries in the East China Sea. As fate would have it, in the gray area between them houses a promising natural gas field called Chunxiao by the Chinese and Shirakaba by the Japanese. Both countries claim that the field lies within their EEZ, and is theirs alone to exploit.

For years, Chinese and Japanese officials have been meeting to resolve this dispute -- to no avail. In the meantime, each side has taken steps to begin the exploitation of the undersea gas field. China has installed drilling rigs right up to the median line claimed by Japan as the boundary between them and is now drilling for gas there; Japan has conducted seismic surveys in the gray area between the two lines. China claims that Japan’s actions represent an illegal infringement; Japan says that the Chinese rigs are sucking up gas from the Japanese side of the median line, and so stealing their property. Each side sees this dispute through a highly nationalistic prism and appears unwilling to back down. Both sides have deployed military forces in the contested area, seeking to demonstrate their resolve to prevail in the dispute.

Here, then, is Scenario #4: It’s 2022. Successive attempts to resolve the boundary dispute through negotiations have failed. China has installed a string of drilling platforms along the median line claimed by Japan and, according to Japanese officials, has extended undersea drill pipes deep into Japanese territory. An ultra-nationalistic, right-wing government has taken power in Japan, vowing finally to assert control over Japanese sovereign territory. Japanese drill ships, accompanied by naval escorts and fighter planes, are sent into the area claimed by China. The Chinese respond with their warships and order the Japanese to withdraw. The two fleets converge and begin to target each other with guns, missiles, and torpedoes.

At this point, the “fog of war” (in strategic theorist Carl von Clausewitz’s famous phrase) takes over. As a Chinese vessel steams perilously close to a Japanese ship in an attempt to drive it off, the captain of that vessel panics, and orders his crew to open fire; other Japanese crews, disobeying orders from superior officers, do the same. Before long, a full-scale naval battle ensues, with several sunken ships and hundreds of casualties. Japanese aircraft then attack the nearby Chinese drill rigs, producing hundreds of additional casualties and yet another deep-sea environmental disaster. At this point, with both sides bringing in reinforcements and girding for full-scale war, the U.S. president makes an emergency visit to the region in a desperate effort to negotiate a cease-fire.

Such a scenario is hardly implausible. Since September 2005, China has deployed a naval squadron in the East China Sea, sending its ships right up to the median line -- a boundary that exists in Japanese documents, but is not, of course, visible to the naked eye (and so can be easily overstepped). On one occasion, Japanese naval aircraft flew close to a Chinese ship in what must have seemed a menacing fashion, leading the crew to train its antiaircraft guns on the approaching plane. Fortunately, no shots were fired. But what would have happened if the Japanese plane had come a little bit closer, or the Chinese captain was a bit more worried? One of these days, as those gas supplies become even more valuable and the hair-trigger quality of the situation increases, the outcome may not be so benign.

These are, of course, only a few examples of why, in a world ever more reliant on energy supplies acquired from remote and hazardous locations, BP-like catastrophes are sure to occur. While none of these specific calamities are guaranteed to happen, something like them surely will -- unless we take dramatic steps now to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and speed the transition to a post-carbon world. In such a world, most of our energy would come from renewable wind, solar, and geothermal sources that are commonplace and don’t have to be tracked down a mile or more under the water or in the icebound north. Such resources generally would not be linked to the sort of disputed boundaries or borderlands that can produce future resource wars. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout)

Until then, prepare yourselves. The disaster in the Gulf is no anomaly. It’s an arrow pointing toward future nightmares.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Details Emerge on Weakness in Well Design

By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Dot Earth - New York Times blog
June 21, 2010, 11:47 am

The New York Times has published a detailed and devastating report on weak links in the design and operation of the blowout preventer that was the last line of defense against an uncontrolled seabed gusher like the one at BP’s Macondo Prospect well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The central component of blowout preventers is a powerful device called a blind shear ram that crimps the well pipe in an emergency. These complicated rams are controlled by shuttle valves that deliver hydraulic fluid. The reporting package includes an annotated trove of documents, including a risk analysis from 2000 identifying a shuttle valve in the preventer as the source of more than half of the total “failure likelihood.”

There’s a great package of explanatory graphics and animation. (Editor's NOTE: in the New York Times article HERE... including a video which demonstrates how the blind shear ram is designed to work)

The story shows how companies doing offshore oil drilling had shifted progressively to cutting the risk of failure by adding a second blind shear ram to blowout preventers. The well installed by the Deepwater Horizon team for BP did not have the twin rams. The story includes responses from BP and Transocean on the absence of the backup equipment.

There’s also a passage in the story vividly showing how industry pronouncements about the safety of deepwater drilling — which undoubtedly contributed to President Obama’s decision to support expanded oil and gas development off American coasts — were a smokescreen:

Last year, Transocean commissioned a “strictly confidential” study of the reliability of blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs.

Using the world’s most authoritative database of oil rig accidents, a Norwegian company, Det Norske Veritas, focused on some 15,000 wells drilled off North America and in the North Sea from 1980 to 2006.

It found 11 cases where crews on deepwater rigs had lost control of their wells and then activated blowout preventers to prevent a spill. In only six of those cases were the wells brought under control, leading the researchers to conclude that in actual practice, blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs had a “failure” rate of 45 percent.

For all their confident pronouncements about blowout preventers (the “ultimate failsafe device,” some called it), oil industry executives had long known they could be vulnerable and temperamental.

There’s much more in the package, which demonstrates the vital role of investigative teams who can take the time to dig deep. Let’s hope The Times and other media can find ways to invest in such efforts even as they race to find new sources of income in an online world where “ information wants to be free.”

Lapses Found in Oversight of Failsafe Device on Oil Rig

By by David Barstow, Laura Dodd, James Glanz, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbina.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: June 20, 2010

It was the last line of defense, the final barrier between the rushing volcanic fury of oil and gas and one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history.

Its very name — the blind shear ram — suggested its blunt purpose. When all else failed, if the crew of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig lost control of a well, if a dreaded blowout came, the blind shear ram’s two tough blades were poised to slice through the drill pipe, seal the well and save the day. Everything else could go wrong, just so long as “the pinchers” went right. All it took was one mighty stroke.

On the night of April 20, minutes after an enormous blowout ripped through the Deepwater Horizon, the rig’s desperate crew pinned all hope on this last line of defense.

But the line did not hold.

For days, technicians and engineers worked furiously to figure out why, according to interviews and hundreds of pages of previously unreleased notes scrawled by industry crisis managers in the disaster’s immediate aftermath.

Engineers sent robotic submersibles 5,000 feet deep to prod the blind shear ram, nestled in the bosom of a five-story blowout preventer standing guard over the Macondo well.

They were driven on, documents and interviews reveal, by indications that the shear ram’s blades had come within a few maddening inches of achieving their purpose. Again and again, they tried to make the blades close completely, knowing it was their best chance to end the nightmare of oil and gas billowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

“If that would’ve worked,” a senior oil industry executive said of the blind shear ram, “that rig wouldn’t have burned up and sunk.”

Much remains unknown about the failure of this ultimate failsafe device. It continues to be a focus of inquiries, and some crucial questions will not be answerable until the blowout preventer is recovered from the sea.

But from documents and interviews, it is possible to piece together some of the decisions and events that came into play when the Deepwater Horizon most needed the blind shear ram.

Engineers contended with hydraulic fluid leaks that may have deprived the ram of crucial cutting force. They struggled to comprehend what was going on in the steel sarcophagus that encased the shear ram, as if trying to perform surgery blindfolded.

They wondered if the blades had by chance closed uselessly on one of the nearly indestructible joints that connect drilling pipe — a significant bit of misfortune, given a decision years before to outfit the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer with just one blind shear ram when other rigs were already beginning to use two of them to guard against just this possibility.

But the questions raised by the failure of the blind shear ram extend well beyond the Deepwater Horizon.

An examination by The New York Times highlights the chasm between the oil industry’s assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality. It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.

It also shows that the Obama administration failed to grapple with either the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers or the sufficiency of the nation’s drilling regulations even as it made plans this spring to expand offshore oil exploration.

“What happened to all the stakeholders — Congress, environmental groups, industry, the government — all stakeholders involved were lulled into a sense of what has turned out to be false security,” David J. Hayes, the deputy interior secretary, said in an interview.

Even in one significant instance where the Minerals Management Service did act, it appears to have neglected to enforce a rule that required oil companies to submit proof that their blind shear rams would in fact work.

As it turns out, records and interviews show, blind shear rams can be surprisingly vulnerable. There are many ways for them to fail, some unavoidable, some exacerbated by the stunning water depths at which oil companies have begun to explore.

But they also can be rendered powerless by the failure of a single part, a point underscored in a confidential report that scrutinized the reliability of the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer. The report, from 2000, concluded that the greatest vulnerability by far on the entire blowout preventer was one of the small shuttle valves leading to the blind shear ram. If this valve jammed or leaked, the report warned, the ram’s blades would not budge. This sort of “single-point failure” figures prominently in an emerging theory of what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon’s blind shear ram, according to interviews and documents. Some evidence suggests that when the crew activated the blind shear ram, its blades tried to cut the drill pipe, but then failed to finish the job because one or more of its shuttle valves leaked hydraulic fluid.

These kinds of weaknesses were understood inside the oil industry, This sort of “single-point failure” figures prominently in an emerging theory of what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon’s blind shear ram, according to interviews and documents. Some evidence suggests that when the crew activated the blind shear ram, its blades tried to cut the drill pipe, but then failed to finish the job because one or more of its shuttle valves leaked hydraulic fluid.

These kinds of weaknesses were understood inside the oil industry, documents and interviews show. And given the critical importance of the blind shear ram, offshore drillers began adding a layer of redundancy by equipping their blowout preventers with two blind shear rams. . And given the critical importance of the blind shear ram, offshore drillers began adding a layer of redundancy by equipping their blowout preventers with two blind shear rams. MORE...

BP oil disaster: How much oil is left?


BP oil disaster: The underwater oil field still holds 94 to 97 percent of its oil, meaning that it could keep gushing for another two to four years.

By: Associated Press / June 17, 2010
Washington

BP CEO Tony Hayward says the reservoir that feeds the gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico probably still holds about 2 billion gallons of oil.

Appearing before a House subcommittee, Hayward estimated that the reservoir tapped by the out-of-control well holds at least 50 million barrels of oil. At 42 gallons per barrel, that's 2.1 billion gallons.

According to government estimates of daily flow figures, anywhere from 73.5 million to 126 million gallons gushed from the breached wellhead — whether into the water or captured.

That means the reservoir likely holds 94 to 97 percent of its oil. At the current flow rate, it would take from two to nearly four years for all the oil to leak from the field if it can't be stopped.

Editor's NOTE:

As I have already indicated in previous posts, the precise size of the Macondo Well is a closely guarded secret. CEO Tony Hayward is unlikely to have been honest and forthcoming in stating that the well originally held 50 million barrels. Oil Service insider's have indicated that it more than likely contained a minimum of 1 billion barrels and perhaps as much as 10 billion barrels in order for BP to have thought drilling the well made economic sense.

Recall that BP has consistently underestimated the severity of the oil leak by as much as 2 orders of magnitude. The initial leak estimate by BP was 1000 barrels per day, it is now at least 60 thousands barrels per day and could be as much as 120 barrels per day.

As University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye see THIS... has indicated, it is impossible at this early stage to fully estimate the potential ramifications of the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Until further scientific studies are carried out and until the original size of the oil deposit is known, it will be difficult to make appropriate projections and plans for what is likely to ensue. To date, the federal government and BP have failed to be transparent and open with the scientific community and the public and have refused to release the most important data.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Armada of U.S. and Israeli Warships Head for Iran

Kurt Nimmo
Infowars.com
June 19, 2010

More than twelve U.S. and Israeli warships, including an aircraft carrier, passed through the Suez Canal on Friday and are headed for the Red Sea. “According to eyewitnesses, the U.S. battleships were the largest to have crossed the Canal in many years,” reported the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday.



The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Egyptian opposition HERE...members criticized the government for cooperating with the U.S. and Israeli forces and allowing the passage of the ships through Egyptian territorial waters. The Red Sea is the most direct route to the Persian Gulf from the Mediterranean.

Retired Egyptian General Amin Radi, chairman of the national security affairs committee, told the paper that “the decision to declare war on Iran is not easy, and Israel, due to its wild nature, may start a war just to remain the sole nuclear power in the region,” according to Yedioth Internet HERE..., an Israeli news site.

The passage of a warship armada through the Suez Canal and headed for the Persian Gulf and Iran is apparently not deemed important enough to be reported by the corporate media in the United States.

Egypt recently rejected an Israeli request to prevent Gaza aid ships from passing through the Suez Canal. According to a report by al-Jazeera, HERE... Israel appealed to Egyptians asking them to prevent the passage of Iranian ships through the Suez Canal. The Egyptians responded that due to international agreements on movement through the Suez Canal, Egypt cannot prevent ships from passing through the canal unless a ship belongs to a state that is at war with Egypt. Iran and Egypt are not at war.

The United States and Israel, the sole nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, have not ruled out a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear program.

A number of Israeli politicians and scholars have admitted Israel has used its nuclear weapons for “compellent purposes,” in short forcing others to accept Israeli political demands HERE....

Israel’s threats to use nuclear weapons have increased significantly since it was discovered in 2002 that Iran was building uranium enrichment facilities. Israel’s former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “called on the international community to target Iran as soon as the imminent conflict with Iraq is complete,” the Sunday Times HERE...reported on November 5, 2002. The United States invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003.

Earlier this month Israel leaked to the press that they had permission from Saudi Arabia to use their air space to attack Iran. “In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran,” the Sunday Times reported on June 12. On June 14, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to UK Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf issued a categorical denial of the report.

On June 17, Iran’s parliament warned it will respond in kind to inspection of its ships under a fourth round of sanctions imposed on the country by the UN Security Council. “Even if one Iranian ship is stopped for security-check, we will act likewise and thoroughly inspect any (western) ship passing through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Hossein Ebrahimi said.

Also on Saturday, Iran accused the United States of “deception” and insisted its missile program is for self-defense after a top U.S. official claimed that Iran had the capacity to attack Europe. “The Islamic Republic’s missile capability has been designed and implemented to defend against any military aggression and it does not threaten any nation,” Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi HERE...said in a statement carried by state media.

Vahidi announced on April 10 that Iran will use all available options to defend itself if the country comes under a military attack. “Americans have said they will use all options against Iran, we announce that we will use all options to defend ourselves,” Vahidi told the Tehran Times HERE....

Analysts: Israel viewed as world's 6th nuclear power

After PM Netanyahu withdraws from upcoming nuclear summit in Washington, analysts at Jane's Defense Weekly estimate Jewish state has between 100 and 300 nuclear warheads, adding that weapons can be fully functional 'in a matter of days'

AFP
Published: 04.10.10, 10:10 / Israel News

Israel, whose prime minister withdrew Friday from next week's US-hosted nuclear summit, is viewed as the sixth country to have acquired nuclear weapons -- a title it has neither denied nor confirmed.

The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) estimates Israel has "up to 200" warheads delivered on land-based short-range Jericho 1 and medium-range Jericho 2 missiles.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a US advocacy group co-created by Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, puts the figure at 100 to 200.

Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East with a program dating back to the 1950s under Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.

It was developed with the help of France and is centered on the Dimona reactor in the southern Negev desert.

According to Jane's, the Israeli strategic force could be deployed by the Jericho 2 missile, which has a range of up to 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles), or the five-year-old Jericho 3, which reaches up to 7,800 kilometers.

It is also believed to be able to deploy by air, using F-16 fighter jets, and even by sea through its submarine fleet, providing an opportunity for a second strike if its land systems are attacked.

Israel acquired three diesel-powered Dolphin-class submarines in 1999-2000 which are capable of launching adapted Harpoon cruise missiles fitted with nuclear warheads.

In addition, Jane's says some observers believe Jerusalem has developed tactical nuclear weapons such as landmines and artillery shells.

"Some analysts believe that Israel probably keeps most, if not all, of its nuclear arsenal in an unassembled mode," the latest Jane's briefing says, adding that "fully functional weapons could be completed in a matter of days".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly withdrew Friday from next week's nuclear summit in Washington, underscoring Israeli reluctance to expose its own nuclear program to scrutiny.