Plugging That @#^&! Hole

Nuke it.

For some time now, our nation's airwaves have reverberated with an increasing hoot, holler, and hullabaloo over the BP's ongoing and ever-increasing, historically disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

From the moment the Deepwater Horizon slipped, burning, beneath the waves, carrying with it 11 victims and a suitably-framed government safety award, British Petroleum has thrown everything save the kitchen sink at stopping the leak.  Giant cofferdams, underwater robots, relief wells, even golf balls and other miscellaneous junk have been tried, and failed.

What's next, asking Hollywood for help?  Oops, too late - already tried that too.

Now, we're told that this disaster-in-slow-motion will continue on into the fall, past the elections, and on into Christmas!  To the accompaniment of Mr. Obama's blustering and pontification, BP's 23,000 cleanup workers are doing their best to little effect.

Because it's pouring directly out of the earth, this leak looks likely to be the biggest and worst ever recorded.  Because it's so far underwater - the only place our reigning environmentalist-wacko liberals will allow drilling anymore - fixing problems is like doing emergency repairs on Mars.  Modern technology is great, but this sort of operation is right on the bleeding edge; no surprise that all the fixes aren't working.

That being so, why have we chosen to let the Gulf turn black with petroleum when we could have the problem fixed tomorrow?

Nukes: Solving Problems Fast

What is an oil well?  Just a pipe stuck down in the ground.  Right now, that pipe happens to be a mile underwater, and goes several more miles into the earth's crust.

Something like that should be pretty fragile, right?  There's no longer any serious hope of fixing the pipe and pumping the oil out usefully.  All we need to do is smash the pipe shut so it isn't leaking anymore.

Fortunately, there is a highly effective way to instantly do exactly that: Drop a nuke on it!

BANG! Problem solved.

We don't even have to be the first.  The Russians have used this technique since the 1960s, working 4 out of 5 times.  That's far better odds than anything BP has tried.

This is the one fix BP cannot try themselves: BP has no nukes, and no easy way of getting their hands on any.  Only one man can provide the necessary bomb: Barack Obama himself.  Unfortunately, that's the same man who has, as of yet, done nothing whatsoever except talk.

So when Obama's daughter Malia asks, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?", know this: he himself personally can actually plug that hole with a simple phone call to the Navy.

What's worse for the environment: a small amount of radiation a mile underwater?  Or billions of gallons of oil covering thousands of miles of seacoast and who knows how much terrain underwater, for God only knows how long?

Nuclear power has long been the cause of utmost hypocrisy by environmentalists.  Now, it looks like nuclear weapons are too.  About time!

Meanwhile, the leak pours on, while Mr. Obama sits on the quick and obvious solution.  Maybe BP can buy a nuke from North Korea?

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments
Wow, I never though of that, but it makes a lot of sense. It does seem to be fixable problem. It's just a pipe with stuff pouring out. Can't we just detonate a bomb and bury the thing? As you said, it's miles under water.
June 3, 2010 8:22 AM
Looks like National Review picked up on this one too. An idea whose time has come?
June 3, 2010 2:28 PM
Hey, here's a YouTube video of when the Russians tried this.
June 4, 2010 12:04 PM
The Times say the Feds say no way to a nuke

Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says
The idea of sealing the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico with a nuclear blast is among the wildest of ideas proposed by scientists and other creative types who have deluged agencies and BP with calls and e-mails.

June 4, 2010 8:34 PM
The Times is saying that the oil spill gives Obama a chance to get his presidency back on track.

Don't Get Mad, Mr. President. Get Even.
If Mr. Obama is to have a truly transformative presidency, there could be no better catalyst than oil.

No high-powered White House meetings or risk analyses were needed to discern how treacherous it was to trust BP this time. An intern could have figured it out. But the credulous attitude toward BP is no anomaly for the administration. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs was praised by the president as a "savvy" businessman two months before the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Goldman. Well before then, there had been a flood of journalistic indicators that Goldman under Blankfein may have gamed the crash and the bailout.

It's this misplaced trust in elites both outside the White House and within it that seems to prevent Obama from realizing the moment that history has handed to him. Americans are still seething at the bonus-grabbing titans of the bubble and at the public and private institutions that failed to police them. But rather than embrace a unifying vision that could ignite his presidency, Obama shies away from connecting the dots as forcefully and relentlessly as the facts and Americans' anger demand.

BP's recklessness is just the latest variation on a story we know by heart. The company's heedless disregard of risk and lack of safeguards at Deepwater Horizon are all too reminiscent of the failures at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and A.I.G., where the richly rewarded top executives often didn't even understand the toxic financial products that would pollute and nearly topple the nation's economy. BP's reliance on bought-off politicians and lax, industry-captured regulators at the M.M.S. mirrors Wall Street's cozy relationship with its indulgent overseers at the S.E.C., Federal Reserve and New York Fed - not to mention Massey Energy's dependence on somnolent supervision from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Given Toyota's recent game of Russian roulette with Americans' safety and Anthem Blue Cross's unconscionable insurance-rate increases in California, Obama shouldn't have any problem riveting the country's attention to this sorry saga. He has the field to himself, thanks to a political opposition whose hottest new star, Rand Paul, and most beloved gulf-state governor, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, both leapt to BP's defense right after the rig exploded. The Wall Street Journal editorial page perfectly set forth the conservative establishment's party line on May 26: "There is zero evidence so far that this blowout resulted from lax regulation or shoddy practices." Or as BP's Hayward asked indignantly, "What the hell did we do to deserve this?"

If Obama is to have a truly transformative presidency, there could be no better catalyst than oil. Standard Oil jump-started Progressive Era trust-busting. Sinclair Oil's kickback-induced leases of Wyoming's Teapot Dome oilfields in the 1920s led to the first conviction and imprisonment of a presidential cabinet member (Harding's interior secretary) for a crime committed while in the cabinet. The Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s and the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 sped the conservation movement and search for alternative fuels. The Enron scandal prompted accounting reforms and (short-lived) scrutiny of corporate Ponzi schemes.

This all adds up to a Teddy Roosevelt pivot-point for Obama, who shares many of that president's moral and intellectual convictions. But Obama can't embrace his inner T.R. as long as he's too in thrall to the supposed wisdom of the nation's meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred.

That doesn't require a temper tantrum. Nor does it require him to plug the damn hole, which he can't do anyway. What he does have the power to fix is his presidency. Should he do so, and soon, he'll still have a real chance to mend a broken country as well.
June 6, 2010 6:45 AM
NYTimes says nobody was in charge of the oil drilling platform.

Before Oil Spill, It Was Unclear Who Was in Charge of Rig
A hodgepodge of oversight agencies granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate and made a disaster more likely on the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Investigators have focused on the minute-to-minute decisions and breakdowns to understand what led to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 people and setting off the largest oil spill in United States history and an environmental disaster. But the lack of coordination was not limited to the day of the explosion.

New government and BP documents, interviews with experts and testimony by witnesses provide the clearest indication to date that a hodgepodge of oversight agencies granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate and made a disaster more likely on the rig, particularly with a mix of different companies operating on the Deepwater whose interests were not always in sync.

And in the aftermath, arguments about who is in charge of the cleanup - often a signal that no one is in charge - have led to delays, distractions and disagreements over how to cap the well and defend the coastline. As a result, with oil continuing to gush a mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, the laws of physics are largely in control, creating the daunting challenge of trying to plug a hole at depths where equipment is straining under more than a ton of pressure per square inch.

Tad W. Patzek, chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas, Austin, has analyzed reports of what led to the explosion. "It's a very complex operation in which the human element has not been aligned with the complexity of the system," he said in an interview last week.

His conclusion could also apply to what occurred long before the disaster.

Deepwater oil production in the gulf, which started in 1979 but expanded much faster in the mid-1990s with new technology and federal incentives, is governed as much by exceptions to rules as by the rules themselves.

Under a process called "alternative compliance," much of the technology used on deepwater rigs has been approved piecemeal, with regulators cooperating with industry groups to make small adjustments to guidelines that were drawn up decades ago for shallow-water drilling.

Of roughly 3,500 drilling rigs and production platforms in the gulf, fewer than 50 are in waters deeper than 1,000 feet. But the risks and challenges associated with this deeper water are much greater.

"The pace of technology has definitely outrun the regulations," Lt. Cmdr. Michael Odom of the Coast Guard, who inspects the rigs, said last month at a hearing.
June 6, 2010 6:51 AM
If you can't do it the easy way, you gotta do it the hard way.

Ambitious Effort Begins to Contain All Spill Oil
Engineers removed a cap that had been diverting about 15,000 barrels of oil a day, planning to replace it with a new one to collect more oil.
July 11, 2010 2:38 PM
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