Monday, July 5, 2010

Oil and Obama

I haven't been too critical of Obama's somewhat floundering response to the Gulf oil spill because in truth it hasn't seemed that there was really that much to be done. However one thing he (or his appointees) could do is make sure the cleanup effort is not being needlessly obstructed by government regulations and red tape. This story suggests this is not being done.

The Americans don’t have spill response vessels with skimmers because their environment regulations do not allow it. With the Dutch method seawater is sucked up with the oil by the skimmer. The oil is stored in the tanker and the superfluous water is pumped overboard. But the water does contain some oil residue, and that is too much according to US environment regulations.

In my opinion this regulation (intended to prevent pollution from ships flushing out their fuel tanks with water and the like) shouldn't apply to skimmers which are discharging cleaner water than they took in. It clearly doesn't make any sense for the current spill where the alternative to removing 99% of the oil is removing 0% of the oil. Apparently the Dutch skimmers have now been approved for use in the Gulf after a long delay. Hopefully this sort of thing is not actually a significant problem. However I have seen a number of claims to the contrary (most admittedly by people with axes to grind).

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