"A House energy panel investigation has found that the blowout preventer that failed to stop a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a 'useless' test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn't strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil."
-- Washington Post
On the other hand, don't the words "top hat" have a certain elegance about them?
So much nicer than "containment dome," don't you think? You can almost see something called "top hat" gliding effortlessly to the very bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, scoping out the scene a mile below the surface, and then, with sophisticated professionalism -- or is it professional sophistication? -- and a few bars of Irving Berlin or Cole Porter in the background, coming to a stop precisely where it needs to come to a stop, and taking control. Setting things right.
Of course, this particular "top hat" is doing no such thing -- the oil is still gushing, thousands and thousands of gallons of it every day -- but it's nice to dream, isn't it? Kind of takes your mind off the shrimp you won't be eating, and the tar balls washing onto the beaches.
Perhaps it'll even take your mind off "junk shot."
"Junk shot" is the furthest thing from elegance -- even further from elegance than "containment dome" was. "Junk shot" is what the boys from BP have waiting in the wings once it becomes clear that "top hat" isn't quite up to dealing with the spill either.
"Junk shot" is Option C, after "containment dome" and "top hat." Or maybe we should be counting "blowout preventer" as Option A, in which case "containment dome" and "top hat" are really Options B and C, which makes "junk shot" Option D. Unless, of course, they come up with something else in the meantime, which is entirely possible, in which case...
They do seem to be making this up as they go along, don't they? Or do you think that something called "junk shot" represents the triumph of scientific inquiry and environmental stewardship?
"Junk shot" meaning -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- "jamming a lot of stuff into the hole."
Now why didn't we think of that?! You've got a broken well pipe and a gusher that threatens to bring on a decades-long nightmare for the entire Gulf region and everyone whose livelihood depends on it. All your fancy equipment has been of absolutely no use in shutting the gusher down.
So how about some golf balls?
Some golf balls, and some shredded rubber tires -- just shove 'em down into the hole and maybe that'll make it stop. That's what the boys from BP are thinking. Seriously.
That's what a "junk shot" is: golf balls, and shredded rubber tires. With some heavy mud on top. (Can't forget the heavy mud -- that's called a "top kill.")
Do you find yourself wondering whether a gazillion-dollar operation like the oil industry might have been smarter to think things through a little more carefully before it all went horribly wrong? To come up with a better emergency plan than golf balls and shredded tires?
Personally -- and I'm no expert -- I'm thinking umbrella parts and Etch A Sketch dials. Shoe laces. Moose antlers. (Not too big, though -- they have to fit into the hole.) Bubble wrap. Canned vegetables. Refrigerator magnets. You know, the good stuff.
And if all else fails, some of the boys from BP.
They deserve a closer look.
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.