The President's National Oil Spill Commission released preliminary findings today from its investigation into BP's oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
And its initial findings will cause at least two major headaches, I mean headlines, for the White House.
First, the report finds that the White House blocked efforts by federal scientists to publicly reveal how high the oil spill rate was based on modeling they had to estimate the worse-case scenario.
In section 2 called "The Fate of the Oil Released," there are two major issues. First, it says that the numbers that the administration used to base its announcement that most of the oil had just disappeared was in fact not meant to be rigorous accounting. And second, in a section called "The Fate of all Hydorcarbons," a study done in late September concluded that "most of the initial bio-degradation in the plumes involved gaseous hydrocarbons (propane and ethane), rather than oil." Meaning that what happened to most of the oil remains a mystery.
Let's take the first piece. The Obama White House, for whatever reason, and we can make a fair guess, did not want to disclose to the public how bad the oil spill could really be. Much like BP, the government instead chose to paint rosy scenarios about the size and impact of the spill. Who was the White House protecting? Certainly not the good people of the Gulf Coast. Certainly not the American public. And certainly not the Gulf of Mexico.
Now part 2, the White House continues to shakily stand by their initial assertions that 75% of the oil has disappeared. They based that on an "Oil Budget" estimate meant to help responders with their efforts, not as a definitive estimate. However, the commission report states that the Oil Budget was simply not designed to explain, or capable of explaining, the "fate of the oil." It was not robust enough scientifically for that. Much like BP who wants to down play the presence of oil in the ecosystem and its effects because of legal liability, the White House is joining the industry chorus perhaps to down play its political liability.
There's much in this report that's revealing but one last piece perfectly states why the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise is in the Gulf conducting independent science and why we're thankful others are as well. In the study mentioned above, much of the bio-degradation the Administration hoped was eating the oil was not. It is eating gaseous hydrocarbons like propane and ethane. The oil is still out there and instead of 'fessing up to the extent that remains and the damage it will do likely for decades, the government joins with industry to keep us in the dark.
Now the White House hopes we will take their word that we can indeed go forward with more offshore drilling and that it can be done safely. How many more fossil fuel disasters will it take for our politicians to lead us out of this rut and into the secure and environmentally friendly renewable energy future we need? Instead the White House and Congress are all pushing for Drill Baby Drill as per the president's statement back in March.