Worst environmental disaster in history…taken care of?

oil killer logoAfter nearly 90 days, the Gulf of Mexico oil leak has finally been capped, at least temporarily. Following delays and apprehension, the wellhead was capped on Thursday afternoon as part of a test evaluating the amount of pressure within the well. If all goes well through Friday, the well could remain shut indefinitely.

Brought to you by BP, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and whether or not the well remains shut, cleanup and recovery from it will no doubt last years.

The longer the test lasts, the more hope for a long-term solution to the oil leak. As of early Friday morning, nearly 12 hours after the well was capped, everything remained quiet a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

bp oil cap

Yet despite the promise of a successful pressure test, those involved have stressed that these are just that — tests. While the cap could remain on the well permanently if pressure holds, BP and the government may also decide to let the oil flow again and try to collect all of it. The cap could also allow closure during hurricanes when collection is impossible.

oil cap leak

Cautious optimism is the doctrine of the day for BP and the U.S. government, for whom the three-month oil spill has been utterly embarrassing, not to mention atrocious, deathly and economically disastrous for all life in the Gulf region. President Obama has called the cap a “positive sign” but will not go further. Indeed, Thad Allen, who is in charge of the government’s spill response, asserted that the cap was in reality only meant to be used during inclement weather. The Gulf of Mexico currently stands in the midst of hurricane season.

The cap would be used to more efficiently siphon oil onto ships on the surface. Two ships are above the well right now with two more slated for arrival in about a week. With all four ships in use, and given success of the pressure test, BP should be able to capture all of the oil leaking from the well — roughly 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day, according to the latest, obviously rough estimates.

As Day Two of the test begins, BP is at least 12 hours closer to shutting down the flow of oil for good. The cap will hopefully buy them time to drill a relief well to permanently stop the leak. But at this point, there is little trust in hope in the Gulf region. While oil drillers and politicians plea for a lift on an Obama administration ban on new offshore drilling to save jobs, fishermen and others tied to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico face an uncertain future. Some hardly believe anyone involved in the spill response anymore. Most see little hope for the future, regardless of any success in stopping the leak.

“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a dead man, in my opinion,” a local crabber told the New York Times. Millions of barrels of oil still float in Gulf waters and no one has even attempted to estimate the horrible ruination imposed on flora and fauna, indeed the entire food chain of the region.

With one offshore oil spill, BP has effectively ended life as anyone in the region knew it, and immediately ended the lives of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and countless members of the animal world. And still some 42,000 offshore oil wells continue to draw oil from American waters.

Which will come first: an end to our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels, or the BP oil spill cleanup process? An unfortunate riddle for the ages. Let’s just hope that both come as soon as humanly possible.

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