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Guest Post - Dmitry Orlov - An American Chernobyl

by: EJ on 05/26/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

More perspectives on the Gulf oil spill from Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects. In this post from his blog, Club Orlov, Dmitry Orlov compares the Gulf oil disaster to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986. "Translate "industrial accident" into Russian and back into English, and what you get is "technogenic catastrophe". An apt term indeed!

The drawing of parallels between industrial accidents is a dubious armchair sport, but here the parallels are just piling up and are becoming too hard to ignore:

* An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 spewed radioactive waste across Europe

* A recent explosion and sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform is spewing heavy oil into the Gulf of Mexico

These accidents were both quite spectacular. At Chernobyl, the force of the explosion, caused by superheated steam inside the reactor, tossed the 2500-tonne reactor lid 10-14 meters into the air where it twirled like a tossed penny and came to rest back on the wrecked reactor. The cloud of superheated vapor then separated into a large volume of hydrogen gas, which detonated, demolishing the reactor building and adjoining structures. At Deepwater Horizon, a blowout of a recently completed oil well sent an uncontrolled burst of oil and gas, pressurized to over 10,000 psi by the 25000-foot depth of the well, up to the drilling platform, where it detonated, causing a fire. The rig then sank, and came to rest in a heap of wreckage on top of the oil well, which continues to spew at least 200,000 gallons of oil a day. Left unchecked, this would amount to 1.7 million barrels of oil per year, for an indefinite duration. This amount of oil may be enough to kill off or contaminate all marine life within the Gulf of Mexico, to foul the coastline throughout the Gulf and, thanks to the Gulf Stream, through much of the Eastern Seaboard, at least to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and possibly beyond. A few tarballs will probably wash up as far north as Greenland.

The Chernobyl disaster was caused more or less directly by political appointeesm: the people in charge of the reactor control room had no background in nuclear reactor operations or nuclear chemistry, having got their jobs through the Communist Party. They attempted a dangerous experiment, executed it incompetently, and the result was an explosion and a meltdown. The Deepwater Horizon disaster will perhaps be found to have similar causes. BP, which leased and operated Deepwater Horizon, is chaired by one Carl-Henric Svanberg--a man with no experience in the oil industry. The people who serve on the boards of directors of large companies tend to see management as a sort of free-floating skill, unrelated to any specific field or industry, rather similarly to how the Soviet Communist party thought of and tried to use the talents of its cadres. Allegations are already circulating that BP drilled to a depth of 25000 feet while being licensed to drill up to 18000 feet, that safety reviews of technical documents had been bypassed, and that key pieces of safety equipment were not installed in order to contain costs. It will be interesting to see whether the Deepwater Horizon disaster, like the Chernobyl disaster before it, turns out to be the direct result of management decisions made by technical incompetents.

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Guest Post - Richard Heinberg - This Is What the End of the Oil Age Looks Like

by: Heather on 05/25/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

This just in from Richard Heinberg, author of Blackout, Peak Everything, The Oil Depletion Protocol, The Party's Over and Powerdown. Richard shares his invaluable Peak Oil perspective on the situation in the Gulf. Thanks Richard!

Deepwater Horizon: This Is What the End of the Oil Age Looks Like

Lately I've been reading the excellent coverage of the …

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Feeling Anguished Over the Gulf Oil Spill?

by: EJ on 05/07/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

Geri Hall and Gavin Crawford from CBC's wonderful This Hour Has 22 Minutes give you some great greenwashing tips for how to distract yourself from thinking about the recent gulf oil disaster. Surprisingly, or perhaps, sadly, not surprisingly, this video was made months ago.

Or, if you prefer your analysis a little more in-depth and less …

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Good News for a Change

by: EJ on 03/19/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

The Post Carbon Institute launched the first of a series of interviews they will be hosting on their media library entitled the "Post Carbon Exchange". Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg talks with Lester Brown, Founder of the Earth Policy Institute, about hopeful developments in alternative energy, as well as the importance of …

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Guest Post - Open Letter to President Obama from the Post Carbon Institute

by: EJ on 03/01/2010
Posted in: Peak Oil

Asher Miller, Executive Director of the Post Carbon Institute wrote the following letter to President Barack Obama. He says, "In the State of the Union speech, President Obama made numerous observations and proposals pertaining to the economic well-being of the United States. It is the position of Post Carbon Institute that the President, however …

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