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Aug 12 2012

That’s not a still from the latest sci-fi blockbuster

It’s one of a series of photos of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. That’s the real price of oil you’re seeing.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    insipidmoniker, 37th Emu of the Mild Dyspepsia

    Kinda wish it was a still from a Michael Bay movie. That looks like an astoundingly terrible disaster.

  2. 2
    Aliasalpha

    Kinda wish it was a still from a Michael Bay movie. That looks like an astoundingly terrible disaster.

    so are Michael bay movies.

  3. 3
    mythbri

    It’s okay, PZ. No one talks about it anymore but Rachel Maddow, so it doesn’t matter.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    Kinda wish it was a still from a Michael Bay movie.

    Even Michael Bay can’t spend that much money.

  5. 5
    rogiriverstone

    We need to be more ethical, responsible and critical in our science thinking & applications.

  6. 6
    anuran

    Yeah, but as long as the Little People are paying for it and not The People Who Matter it’s all good.

    Socializing costs and privatizing profits is The American Way.

  7. 7
    No One

    As horrible as these photos are, there isn’t a lens wide enough to capture the scope of economic and environmental damage.

  8. 8
    madscientist

    Burn, baby, burn! I mean Drill, baby, drill! Hopefully there aren’t too many of those fiascos; the extreme drilling environment is becoming more common though as we exhaust the easy sources.

  9. 9
    Keith Peterson

    I probably going to be hated for saying this, but exactly what do you want us to do besides drill for oil?

    Even if we stopped using petroleum for our energy needs, we’d still need it to create the plurality of chemicals we use in society.

    We humans seem to have gotten ourselves into a huge mess.

  10. 10
    Jacob Schmidt

    Keith, the problem, as far as I can tell, isn’t necessarily that we use petroleum products. The problem is that we use them irresponsibly and inefficiently, creating an unnecessarily large demand for it. Coupled with the fact that most of the American government is pushing against health/safety/hazard regulations within the oil industry while subsidizing the industry at the same time.

    Yes, we are dependent on oil for many things. That doesn’t mean we have to be stupid about it. And no, I don’t hate you. I just don’t like that you’ve assumed the proposed solution (especially when one was not even proposed) was to absolutely stop drilling.

  11. 11
    alysonmiers

    I am aware that we are dependent on oil. That doesn’t mean we can’t look for different energy/manufacturing resources in order to reduce our dependency. We should be striving to become better. The day we stop growing is the day we die.

  12. 12
    chrisv

    As noted, Rachel Maddow oftens comments on this subject. Spills like DH occur often in post-colonial countries and you know they don’t get the attention given to DH.

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/nigeria/120624/nigeria-oil-pollution-sickens-communities

  13. 13
    Nick Gotts

    I probably going to be hated for saying this, but exactly what do you want us to do besides drill for oil? – Keith Peterson

    Stop flying. Travel less, and use public transport, or cycle or walk, wherever possible. Insulate houses much better and adapt to temperature changes by adding or removing clothing rather than turning up the heating or aircon. Buy fewer electrical appliances and pay more attention to how much energy they use. Buy less stuff altogether. Eat much less meat and dairy. Pressure governments to reach binding and fully-monitored limits on GHG emissions, to introduce carbon rationing (google “contraction and convergence”), and to invest in renewable energy and research on ways to store it.

    Even if we stopped using petroleum for our energy needs, we’d still need it to create the plurality of chemicals we use in society.

    Most petroleum is used as a fuel. Non-fuel uses are on the order of 15% of the total for US oil – not trivial, but clearly reducing fuel use is key.

    We humans seem to have gotten ourselves into a huge mess.

    Well we certainly won’t get out of it by shrugging our shoulders and twiddling our thumbs.

    Incidentally, PZ could have used a picture of drought-shrivelled crops alongside that of Deepwater Horizon.

  14. 14
    Nick Gotts

    Oh – and don’t have more than two children, particularly if you live in a rich country. None is good. Campaign to improve the status of women and girls (a proven way of reducing birthrate, as well as improving social justice).

  15. 15
    Lord Elmo Bringer Of Death

    Christ PZ, that point is about as intelligent as someone posting a still of the Challenger exploding saying “you see good little christian children, that there is the real cost of human curiosity.”

  16. 16
    consciousness razor

    Most petroleum is used as a fuel. Non-fuel uses are on the order of 15% of the total for US oil – not trivial, but clearly reducing fuel use is key.

    And use other fuels as much as possible of course. Along the same lines, a lot of the non-fuel petroleum products don’t need to be made of petroleum either. For example, plastics are great and all, but maybe we don’t need to make all of our useless junk out of it. Or maybe we don’t need quite as much useless junk as we’ve become accustomed to. That could of course destroy our useless junk-based economy, which I’m sure would be very bad, but probably not as bad as a Michael Bay movie.

  17. 17
    sadunlap

    Keith Peterson #9

    I probably going to be hated for saying this, but exactly what do you want us to do besides drill for oil?

    The U.S. keeps the price of oil artificially low (use of something called the “Strategic Oil Reserve”) and the political consequences of adopting a policy more like other countries prevents change. Gas in Hong Kong, the last time I was there, was about U.S. $6.

    Anecdotal evidence proves zero but stories are fun to tell:
    In many U.S. towns (I remember horrible sleepless hotel stays in Monterey California and a small town in Oregon) we have teenagers driving around in circles all night long blasting their radios – they call it “cruising.” At the same time that we have a vitally important resource which we need for our economy, fought wars to control, etc. we also have a bunch of over-privileged teenagers with a voracious sense of entitlement burning it for fun. The market does not work like magic.

    What to do besides drill? Conserve, even ration as needed (a rancher or a bus line needs fuel in order to make a living, a spoiled teenager, not so much). Private automobile transportation has proven a disaster (L.A. and London have all-day “rush hours” most days). The list goes on.

  18. 18
    consciousness razor

    Christ PZ, that point is about as intelligent as someone posting a still of the Challenger exploding saying “you see good little christian children, that there is the real cost of human curiosity.”

    How is drilling for oil like curiosity? Or maybe you think it stands for Freedom™ or The American Dream™.

  19. 19
    ibyea

    Wow, at first I thought it was a still from that Battleship movie. It looks incredible.

  20. 20
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    ‘shopped.

  21. 21
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Lord Elmo Bringer Of Death:

    Christ PZ, that point is about as intelligent as someone posting a still of the Challenger exploding saying “you see good little christian children, that there is the real cost of human curiosity.”

    Uh, yeah, except it wasn’t human curiosity that made the Challenger blow up; it was human error compounded by groupthink. That photo is an accurate depiction of the price of “cheap” oil.

    Sadunlap: In addition to “cruising,” there are all the idiots who just leave their cars running when they’re waiting in parking lots, or let them run while they go into the store for “just a minute,” etc. etc. While I can’t verify this, it seems that the more gas-inefficient the vehicle, the more likely its owner will idle it.

  22. 22
    mythbri

    As long as the U.S. is subsidizing the oil and gas industry and allowing regulators to make nice with cocaine and prostitutes instead of doing their job, the price of oil is 11 human lives. Countless marine lives. Wetlands and natural flood zones. Dead seas.

    It costs a lot.

  23. 23
    feralboy12

    Christ PZ, that point is about as intelligent as someone posting a still of the Challenger exploding saying “you see good little christian children, that there is the real cost of human curiosity.”

    Sorry. Not seeing the equivalency here.
    On the one hand, you have a tragedy that killed seven volunteers 26 years ago. Yeah, using that to show the dangers of a basic human instinct would be ridiculous.
    On the other hand, here you have an accident by a company in an industry that has them fairly routinely, the sort of accident that spells ecological disaster over wide areas, while many are claiming that regulating that industry and enforcing a certain level of safety precautions cuts too far into the profit margins of those companies.
    Well, other than those minor differences…

  24. 24
    bjarndoolaeghe

    while many are claiming that regulating that industry and enforcing a certain level of safety precautions cuts too far into the profit margins of those companies.

    That there is a big part of the problem indeed.

    Companies will push for profit, that’s what they do. It is the job of government to regulate and protect all the other parties, in this case certainly the environment. Dangerous industries, such as oil drilling or to name another good example, nuclear power should always be tightly regulated and have mandated high safety standards.

    Somehow people only seem to get properly upset about safety when it’s about things that hit them directly, like cars that don’t work right to take a simple example.

    Huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Drill Baby Drill! My Hummer is thirsty! *sigh*

  25. 25
    sosw

    In addition to “cruising,” there are all the idiots who just leave their cars running when they’re waiting in parking lots, or let them run while they go into the store for “just a minute,” etc. etc. While I can’t verify this, it seems that the more gas-inefficient the vehicle, the more likely its owner will idle it.

    This reminds me that I probably need to start my car just to idle it for a while…

    …because I haven’t driven it in over a month and I want it to be able to start the next time I do.

  26. 26
    Balstrome

    It always amazes me about people who complain about a thing, what is wrong with their abilities to convince other people to see things their way? Are these other humans really that stupid that the right thinking people’s point of view can not be understood.

    Where do the people who want to change things for the better go wrong in attempting to put their position across, what errors do they keep making when trying to convince other people to see their world view.

    Of course, it would be better for everyone and the world, if the stupid people just handed over the reins to the planet and allowed those who actually know how to solve these problems to step up and fix things. But that would not be a democracy, would it?

  27. 27
    Ing

    It always amazes me about people who complain about a thing, what is wrong with their abilities to convince other people to see things their way? Are these other humans really that stupid that the right thinking people’s point of view can not be understood.

    Where do the people who want to change things for the better go wrong in attempting to put their position across, what errors do they keep making when trying to convince other people to see their world view.

    Ehebebebebebebebebebeb…What?

  28. 28
    culchpile

    And some huge fraction of US military resources is spent on keeping foreign petroleum supplies secure for us. That is, all our Mid-Eastern involvement, and more. It’s a hidden tax on energy use. What could have been accomplished if some fraction of those trillions of $ had been spent on alternative energy programs by government or industry? Would Deep Water Horizon have even been built if we had developed alternatives to subsidized petroleum?

  29. 29
    cyberCMDR

    I’d like to see some development in using thorium reactors to produce more electrical power for transportation. Thorium is more abundant, and has the potential to enable reuse of spent fuel rod material (producing waste products with much shorter half lives).

    If thorium becomes a valuable energy resource, it could drive costs and technology development to enable environmentally safe rare earths mining here in the US, since they are often found together. Nuclear energy however is tied to uranium, and nobody seems interested (outside of India) in designing a good thorium reactor.

  30. 30
    Holms

    1. These photos are fucking awesome. I mean that in the sense of instilling a profound sense of awe, as opposed to ‘way cool duuuuuuude!’

    2.
    KG:

    Eat much less meat and dairy.
    Oh hell no.

  31. 31
    Holms

    FOR FUCKS SAKE

  32. 32
    dianne

    exactly what do you want us to do besides drill for oil?

    Besides methods already mentioned…

    Use alternative sources of energy.

    Research better ways to create alternative sources of energy. (Caution: requires application of taxpayer’s money.)

    Use technology to reduce the amount of movement by car and/or airplane needed. For example, use Skype or similar videoconferencing product rather than insisting on face to face meetings.

    Produce more genetically modified food products that can thrive in the local environment rather than requiring (for example) copious amounts of water in a desert (as in…I’m serious here…rice grown in Texas.)

    Conversely…beware of false economy and “greenwashing”. For example, the local foods movement. Great in theory, but food produced locally in a marginal area may actually require more carbon than that produced in a place where it can be produced readily and shipped. An example I remember seeing (but can’t remember where or would provide link) is that mutton produced in Britain actually costs twice or more as much carbon as mutton produced in New Zealand and shipped to Britain. This has to do with the fact that NZ sheep can graze off nearby hills for their entire lives whereas British sheep need food brought in, if I understand correctly.

  33. 33
    Nick Gotts

    And use other fuels as much as possible of course. – consciousness razor

    Well there’s a problem with that. At least two, in fact. Most current biofuels are either made from stuff we could eat (corn), or are fueling (pun intended) the destruction of rainforest for sugar cane or palm oil plantations. The diversion of American corn into biofuel production contributed to the food price crisis of 2008, and will do so to that of 2012-13.

    Eat much less meat and dairy. – me

    Oh hell no. – Holms

    Not only would it benefit the environment and poor people, it would benefit you too, if your diet is anything like the western average.

    I’d like to see some development in using thorium reactors to produce more electrical power for transportation. Thorium is more abundant, and has the potential to enable reuse of spent fuel rod material (producing waste products with much shorter half lives). – cyberCMDR

    The trouble is:

    The use of thorium as a new primary energy source has been a tantalizing prospect for many years. Extracting its latent energy value in a cost-effective manner remains a challenge, and will require considerable R&D investment.

    That’s from the World Nuclear Association, “Representing the people and organisations of the global nuclear profession”.

    IOW, thorium reactors will not make a significant contribution in the forseeable future. We can’t rely on a technology that won’t be ready for large-scale use for decades (if ever) to get us out of the hole we’re in. There is, and I can’t stress this enough, no technical solution to the problem of GHG emissions that is even remotely adequate without radical behavioural and institutional change. Pretending to yourself that there is, is the opposite of rationality and scepticism – it’s as much wishful thinking as any religious belief.

  34. 34
    davros

    If that image hasn’t been photoshopped up the kazoo I’ll eat my hat

  35. 35
    joeschoeler

    I would like to see a source for these pictures, too. The most I found on that link was that the images came from a friend of a friend, and that the original photographer possibly wants to remain anonymous. I have no idea if they are faked, but I want to be cautious before accepting them as genuine.

    That aside, I would love to reduce our dependance on oil. The most sensible way to do that is to tax petroleum products, but any time gas prices increase, people cry bloody murder. Any politician recommending it is commiting career suicide. Instead, we have the half-assed approach of carbon credits.

    And no, I don’t believe that we should stop drilling. Deepwater is a good example of the need for tighter regulations and inspections, but with how addicted we are to oil (we practically eat the stuff), it is not currently feasable to just stop drilling. We should still try harder to move to alternatives, but that is not going to happen overnight.

  36. 36
    Lord Elmo Bringer Of Death

    “How is drilling for oil like curiosity? Or maybe you think it stands for Freedom™ or The American Dream™.”

    Curiosity could be said to be the driving force behind space exploration just as the aquisition of oil is the driving force behind…aquiring oil. My point was that a photo of a deep see rig exploding is irrelevant. It was a huge cost to BP. It was the subsequent uncapped well that was a true cost. But I didn’t see any pictures of that.

    “Sorry. Not seeing the equivalency here.
    On the one hand, you have a tragedy that killed seven volunteers 26 years ago. Yeah, using that to show the dangers of a basic human instinct would be ridiculous.
    On the other hand, here you have an accident by a company in an industry that has them fairly routinely, the sort of accident that spells ecological disaster over wide areas, while many are claiming that regulating that industry and enforcing a certain level of safety precautions cuts too far into the profit margins of those companies.
    Well, other than those minor differences…”

    Thank you for illustrating my point exactly. The two have nothing in common.

  37. 37
    azgeo

    Yes, reducing dependancy on oil would be great, but that disaster was not “the real price of oil”. Rather, it is the price of doing any risky activity within the context of a system which encourages cutting corners in order to maximize profits. Face it, even if we were able to remove oil as a fuel source tomorrow, we still need it for many other things. The important thing is to do it safely, and for that I do not trust a giant corporation.

  38. 38
    consciousness razor

    Well there’s a problem with that. At least two, in fact.

    Yeah, I should probably have said other energy sources, rather than simply “fuels.”

    ———

    Curiosity could be said to be the driving force behind space exploration just as the aquisition of oil is the driving force behind…aquiring oil.

    The exploration of space could be said to be the driving force behind … exploring space. This is how you make an intelligent point?

    My point was that a photo of a deep see rig exploding is irrelevant. It was a huge cost to BP. It was the subsequent uncapped well that was a true cost. But I didn’t see any pictures of that.

    Poor, poor BP. I notice you haven’t said anything about the “true cost” to marine life and all the people living in the wake of the disaster. I didn’t see any pictures of that either, but what would that matter anyway?

  39. 39
    a miasma of incandescent plasma

    Balstrome @26 says:

    Are these other humans really that stupid that the right thinking people’s point of view can not be understood.

    Where do the people who want to change things for the better go wrong in attempting to put their position across, what errors do they keep making when trying to convince other people to see their world view.

    It’s because of missing question marks, isn’t it? That’s got to be it…

  40. 40
    Ing

    I love how people are making the straw man that folks are demanding a stop to drilling for oil…RIGHT NOW! THIS INSTANT!

  41. 41
    Ing

    My point was that a photo of a deep see rig exploding is irrelevant. It was a huge cost to BP. It was the subsequent uncapped well that was a true cost. But I didn’t see any pictures of that.

    Yes they were shaken down by the US gov weren’t they?

    That aside, I would love to reduce our dependance on oil. The most sensible way to do that is to tax petroleum products, but any time gas prices increase, people cry bloody murder. Any politician recommending it is commiting career suicide. Instead, we have the half-assed approach of carbon credits.

    Have you considered who will be most impacted by such a tax? Hint, it’s the people with less money because they’ll need the fucking oil to heat their homes in the winter or go to their jobs.

    And no, I don’t believe that we should stop drilling. Deepwater is a good example of the need for tighter regulations and inspections, but with how addicted we are to oil (we practically eat the stuff), it is not currently feasable to just stop drilling. We should still try harder to move to alternatives, but that is not going to happen overnight.

    Are you that fucking stupid that you actually think anyone was talking about over night? Or is that just the only way you can make your point? Because basically what you said was “I agree with you but don’t want to admit I’m agreeing with you so I’m going to pretend you’re an idiot so I can talk down to you”

  42. 42
    davem

    Well, PZ, I see that you often post about your travels around the US, and the outside World, in aeroplanes that use the products of Deepwater Horizon and its ilk. If you really want to stop another Deepwater Horizon, you need to stop travelling by plane NOW, and to start using a car based on renewable energy NOW. …Or look at the pictures, and admit ‘I did this’.

    As far as I can see, the planet is fucked, because noone has the political will to stop the madness. You and I will be OK (just). Our grandchildren don’t have a hope in hell.

  43. 43
    Ing

    @Davem

    Please just take some petrol and ignite yourself, then you can be a flaming idiot

  44. 44
    ck

    @Ing

    Yes they were shaken down by the US gov weren’t they?

    Won’t anyone think of the rich multinational corporations?

  45. 45
    Lord Elmo Bringer Of Death

    Poor, poor BP. I notice you haven’t said anything about the “true cost” to marine life and all the people living in the wake of the disaster. I didn’t see any pictures of that either, but what would that matter anyway?

    This is why I am a daily reader and an extremely rare commenter. When did I say BP was somehow a victim, or even imply it. I clearly stated the cost was the uncapped well, and I wasn’t referring to the lost oil…

    And talk about missing the point,

    The exploration of space could be said to be the driving force behind … exploring space. This is how you make an intelligent point?

    Are you going to say that space exploration isn’t a result of our innate human desire to gain more knowledge. You must be the type of person who sees the only benifit of NASA to be innovations like non-stick frying pans. Oh, and I just can’t quite remember… what was the name of the probe we just landed on Mars? Oh yea, it was go fuck yourself.

    My whole point was that PZ’s post was a cheap and uninformative point. And not one which would bring forth any intelligent or interesting discourse. So, like I should have stated more clearly the first time, showing a picture of the DSH exploding accompanied by a comment that says behold the true costs of oil is so utterly missing the point. When in reality the sinking of that rig is insignificant compared to the actual costs of the developed world’s dependence on oil, which some of the other commenters here have barely touched upon.

  46. 46
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Jesus Christ. When I said “shopped” I was joking. How did I know some fools would really think that?

  47. 47
    bachfiend

    A book recommendation:

    Richard Muller’s recent book ‘Energy for Future Presidents; the Science behind the Headlines’.

    I won’t bother attempting to summarize it, but it’s a good overview of global warming and energy security.

    It’s available as a Kindle, so at least you can look at the beginning to see if it appeals.

  48. 48
    txpiper

    “it’s the people with less money because they’ll need…to heat their homes in the winter or go to their jobs.”

    And eat their meals. Diesel is in between most citizens and starvation. The more it costs, the more expensive their food will be.

  49. 49
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Use fewer plastics and recycle them.

    Don’t you ever wonder why the inner walls of the space station are plastic panels instead of balsa wood and thin spruce panelling, which would absorb pollutants instead of outgassing volatile organic compounds?

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