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June 29, 2010

Blame the EPA: Dutch Oil Spill Response Ships Could Suck 99% of Oil From Gulf, But Can't Get Approved, Because EPA Demands 99.9985% Purity

And blame the dreamy-headed idealists.

And blame everyone who allowed this to come to pass.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly. Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out.

Unconscionable. Unconscionable.

I read, two weeks ago, two things I could not comprehend:

1) Kevin Costner's oil-separating machines worked

and

2) Kevin Costner's oil-separating machines still had to be cleared by the EPA for use

What? What?

Now I understand: These machines work (and the Dutch machines), but as neither offers the 99.9% purity the EPA demands, it's better to let the coasts be destroyed and the fish killed for a generation.

Note: I am guestimating the 99% figure. The article doesn't specify how clean the Dutch vehicles scrub the oil. I think 99% sounds about ballpark, given that the article says "nearly oil-free."

Can It Get Worse? Just maybe it can.


digg this
posted by Ace at 07:49 PM

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