There's a gushing wound in the Gulf, pumping out tens of thousands of barrels a day of this country's toxic lifeblood -- oil.
Right now, Louisiana is choking to death on the stuff. Soon enough, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will be, too. Later, it will be Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. And maybe more states up the Eastern Seaboard.
That poisonous vein has been gushing out of control for 50-odd days. The oil field is hardly in any danger of exsanguination anytime soon, though south Louisiana, in particular, is in imminent danger of becoming an uninhabitable toxic wasteland -- a giant dead zone -- with countless thousands breathing in benzene fumes as they watch their jobs, their ecosystem and their culture sink beneath the soiled sea, the muck-filled marshes and befouled bayous.
BUT THAT'S not important now, according to the Kearney (Neb.) Hub. What's important is that President Obama might be pissing off Indonesia and Australia by canceling on them a second time to tend to an American BPocalypse:
To their credit, the foreign leaders have graciously accepted Obama’s excuses. They are legitimate. Many Americans opposed much of his health care reforms, but they accepted his judgment regarding the visits to Indonesia and Australia. If Obama believed health reforms would sink without his guiding hand, then it is understandable why he stayed home to finish what he started.YES, PEOPLE out in the boonies of Nebraska really can be that clueless. Some of them, like the editors of the Kearney Hub, even get paid for it.
We’re less supportive about Obama excusing himself from the Indonesia-Australia visit for a second time. For all practical purposes, there’s not much Obama can do now about the oil spill other than to act interested.
He’s recently played that role well, having visited the Gulf Coast three times to express that he cares about people’s hardships and to prove that his boot remains on BP’s neck.
Appearances are important for Obama’s approval rating at home. Being present is the best way to demonstrate his resolve to end the Gulf crisis.
However, there’s a pressing need to follow through on his commitments to our Southern Hemisphere allies. Indonesia and Australia are valued trading partners and important to U.S. interests in many other ways.
Obama could fulfill his obligation to those nations while his deputies at home tend to the Gulf crisis.
Let me explain this to the booboisie out in Kearney so that even their newspaper editors might be able to understand.
I'm going to start asking some questions now. Try not to panic.
Now what would be the equivalent if BP ran amok in rural Nebraska?
How about this: What if, say, an oil company decided to bury a massive oil pipeline deep beneath the rolling farmland of Nebraska? Not only that, let's say the oilmen, to cut costs, didn't install equipment that could be relied upon to shut off the oil flow once it had started.
And let's also say the oil company decided to use thinner pipe -- to save costs -- and run the pipeline at pressures much higher than the industry norm.
NOW, IMAGINE that -- despite all the sweet nothings and promises of right-of-way fees whispered into the ears of the Hub editors' fellow members of the booboisie -- one day it all went to shit. The pipeline blew. It blew deep underground, nobody could stop it, and not a body knew what to do.
That pipeline blew and blew and blew, pumping millions and millions and millions more barrels of petroleum deep into the Ogallala Aquifer, eventually poisoning it for decades, if not forever.
In a matter of weeks, vast swaths of Nebraska were rendered too damned arid to grow much of anything other than winter wheat, or maybe some sugar beets and potatoes -- not on 15 inches of rain a year. In some places, crops outright failed. In others, yields plummeted without irrigation.
Meantime, streams fed by the aquifer were fouled, killing everything in them. And then the birds and other wildlife started to die, having drunk the fetid water or eaten what was in it.
Drinking water supplies suddenly were poisonous. Livestock began to die en masse, either of thirst or poisoning. And the government, faced with a logistical nightmare, was failing badly at trucking in sufficient drinking water for humans.
Seemingly overnight, 31 percent of the state's total employment had been to some degree threatened, if not eliminated. Not that any of that would matter if you lived somewhere with no drinkable water.
IF SOME future BP, through utter negligence and recklessness, were to do that to Nebraska, what would it mean for the state's future viability? What would it mean for its citizens' lives? Their livelihoods?
What would it mean to Nebraskans' lifestyle and culture? If much of the groundwater was no good and the land uninhabitable because of that, and if hundreds of thousands no longer could farm -- ever -- how would that affect how Nebraskans see themselves? What, then, would be their identity . . . even the city slickers in Lincoln and Omaha?
If you can't get a job, if you lose your identity, if you can't live on your land anymore, if all you know and love is destroyed because of somebody's greed and criminal negligence . . . do you think that might be a kind of genocide?
If all hell were breaking loose all around you, and the news kept going from catastrophic to unthinkable, would you then be so damned upset that President Obama canceled on the Indonesians and Aussies yet again? Wouldn't you want the president of the United States right here, in country, dealing with the crisis that just blew up your world?
WHAT IF that were to happen here? Uh-oh.
According to a story in the Omaha World-Herald, some much lesser, yet awful still, version of Nebraska's petro-nightmare scenario isn't exactly unthinkable:
The ever-widening oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has state lawmakers rethinking whether Nebraska is doing enough to protect the fragile Sand Hills and groundwater-rich Ogallala Aquifer from a planned crude-oil pipeline.SO, PERHAPS the time of geopolitically minded editors of a teeny weenie newspaper in the middle of nowhere might be better spent making sure TransCanada does pipelines a hell of a lot more safely than BP does deepwater oil wells.
The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would pump 700,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sand mines of western Canada.
It would cross 254 miles of Nebraska, including about 112 miles of the Sand Hills, intersecting with a pipeline near Kansas.
Proponents say the pipeline would provide an environmentally safe, politically stable and reliable source of crude oil and avoid risks exposed by the deep-sea drilling blowout in the Gulf.
Opponents worry that the Sand Hills region could host its own oil spill that could contaminate a precious deposit of groundwater.
Duane Hovorka, executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, said a small pipeline leak in the sparsely populated Sand Hills might go undetected for days and do major damage.
“There's a limit to how closely you can monitor that stuff,” Hovorka said. “You can pump a lot of oil into the aquifer before someone discovers it.”
Of key concern is TransCanada's application for a federal waiver to pump the pipeline oil at a higher pressure, using thinner pipe. The pipe could pump more oil and use less steel.
Cesar de Leon, former head of the nation's pipeline safety agency, said there's no question that using thinner pipe at higher pressure “lessens” the safety margin, although he said increased monitoring and maintenance could offset that risk.
Still, de Leon, now a private consultant based in Boerne, Texas, said using the higher pumping pressure “pushes the technological envelope,” which he likened to BP drilling deeper and deeper into the Gulf.
“It's running beyond what's been the norm,” he said of the pipeline project. “I think they'll be successful in getting it, but I certainly think you'd be safer running at a lower pressure.”
TransCanada, the Canadian company building the pipeline, has been safely using thinner pipe made of stronger steel for years in Canada, a spokesman said.
Jeff Rauh said the company plans several extra safeguards, including X-ray checks on every weld, more confirmation of steel integrity and coatings, and burying the pipeline 4 feet deep instead of the required 30 inches.
Historically, pipeline leaks are rare, small and localized, he said. The historic average is less than three barrels, or 126 gallons, he said. Leaks would be especially slow moving through the sands and groundwater of the Sand Hills, Rauh said.
Aerial surveillance of the pipeline would be done every two weeks. The pipe is designed to withstand puncturing by excavation equipment.
“This is a welded pipeline. It is designed for zero leakage,” he said. “However, if a leak occurs, we are absolutely ready to respond.”
A recent draft environmental impact statement on the project acknowledges that oil spills occur and that some could go undetected for “days or weeks.”
The draft statement also concludes Keystone XL would have “limited adverse environmental impacts” if the pipeline adheres to safety rules and laws.
It would be a terrible thing for them to have a certain editorial thrown back in their faces if everything went to shit one day and some future president took off for parts unknown, figuring the White House aides could handle it because, after all, it's only Nebraska.