Fossil fuels are a dirty business,
a subsidiary document to Fossil
fuels disastersand There she
blows! striking oil, is one in a series
of briefing documents on the problems of power consumption,
posed by the steady depletion of fossil fuels and most particularly
of pumpable oil. One of
a grouping of documents on global concerns at abelard.org.
is no such thing as clean energy, fossil fuels are the dirtiest
form of energy. It’s a given within the oil industry, for
example, that if you see, touch, taste, or smell the product you
are producing, you’re probably in trouble.”
very early days, the oil industry grew up in an atmosphere of
unregulated wild-west adventurism.
Main street of Newtown, Montana, 1915
oil extraction and storage
Oil lake, Los Angeles, California
Kern River, California oilfield sump
The Simms gusher, Humble Texas, about 1906.
It produced about 50 thousand gallons of crude per day
Burning oil storage tankers, USA 1907
greatest oil gusher in US history
Lakeview gusher, 14th day
“A torrent of oil that someone had named the "Trout
Stream" was flowing away from the Lakeview gusher when Frank
Hill took charge. The stream threatened not only to dissipate
the oil so that it could never be recovered but also to flow into
Buena Vista Lake, the source of irrigation water for Miller &
Lux farming operations.
“Work began immediately on
building huge earthen reservoirs to trap the oil in the sloping
land between the wild well and the lake, eight miles away. All
the teams and scrapers that could be hired in the Midway field
and some from as far away as Suisun City, 300 miles to the north,
worked around the clock to build 20 huge sumps, covering some
60 acres. Before the job was done it cost more than $350,000.
400 men labored to build a barricade around the well, lacing sand
bags and sagebrush into a levee to hold back the flow of oil.
“Three pumps, including
two 4-inch pumps and one 6-inch, worked to full capacity delivering
oil to a pair of 55,000-barrel tanks on Producers Transportation
Co. property at Maricopa. The tanks soon proved inadequate to
handle the uncontrolled flow, which reached a peak estimated at
90,000 barrels per day.” — “Finally,
on Sept. 9, 1911, 544 days after the well blew in, the Lakeview
gusher caved at the bottom and died as suddenly as it was born.
It had produced an estimated 9 million barrels of oil, a record
for the time. More than 4 million barrels had been saved. The
remainder was lost.” [Quoted from irwinator.com]
Lakeview oil well site, marked with stone
“A bronze plaque reads:
"America's most spectacular gusher 'blew in' here March 14,
1910. Initial flow was 18,000 barrels per day and later reached
uncontrolled peak of 100,000 barrels per day, completely destroying
the derrick. This Union Oil Company well between Taft and Maricopa
produced nine million barrels of oil in 18 months."
of the oil soaked into the soil or evaporated. Black mist fell
for miles around. Only supreme vigilance kept it from catching
fire. The price of crude plunged by nine-tenths. And when the
flood ended, the well produced less than 30 barrels a day.
a wide oil-soaked sand pavement is topped with desert scrub. Petroleum
fumes waft from nearby wells, and haze hides the scene on many
days.” [Quoted from geology.about.com]
by lightning - allegedly!
Oil tank struck by lightning, Rock City,
Oil tank struck by lightning, Bridgeport,
So far, here we have been
looking at single gushers and oil tanks. But now to give a better
feel for the chaos.
were often forests of oil derricks, as thousands tried to join
in the black gold rush. Were the locals scared? Were they crying
about disaster? Were they worrying about cancer? Judge for yourself.
Here is Huntington Beach, California in 1928.
you can read the excited messages on the postcards sent to girlfriends
and families back East.
“Will have some pretty colored oils
in a few days”
Now another view of Huntington
. Huntington Beach derricks. The dark
block in the picture is a storage tank.
“On a hot, muggy
August afternoon during the summer of 1996, I was hard at work
in a conference room of the Ministry of Aviation Industries of
China (AVIC) in Beijing, discussing human resources for a potential
joint venture between AlliedSignal, the company for which I was
then international human resources vice president, and AVIC. When
the meeting ended, one of my hosts from the ministry graciously
accompanied me outside. As we waited for the car, he noticed that
I was looking up and down the street and then skyward. Visibility
was only about a hundred yards in any direction. I was shocked.
The executive looked at me and said, "My children do not
know the sky is blue."
“He said he had discovered
this when he had taken his family on an outing to the Great Wall
of China, some 45 miles north of Beijing. When the children got
out of the car, they shrieked and began crying: they thought something
was terribly wrong because the sky was a brilliant blue. He said
it took him considerable time to calm them and to explain the
difference between the polluted Beijing air and the blue sky.
“ A decade earlier, my wife had visited Beijing in
winter. She recalls it as "like being inside a vacuum cleaner
bag while vacuuming in a freezer." A decade later, when I
visited in 2006, my lungs were so affected by the atmospheres
in several China cities, I could not return to work for a week
after the trip.” [Hofmeister,
removal / valley fill coal mining (MTR) - Kentucky, Tennessee,
Virginia, West Virginia - the Appalachians
Mountaintop removal mine, Appalachians. Image:
is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia
in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques.”
— “Mountaintop removal involves clear cutting
native hardwood forests, using dynamite to blast away as much
as 600 feet of mountaintop, and then dumping the waste into nearby
valleys, often burying streams. While the environmental devastation
caused by this practice is obvious, families and communities near
these mining sites are forced to contend with continual blasting
from mining operations that can take place up to 300 feet from
their homes and operate 24 hours a day. Families and communities
near mining sites may also suffer from airborne dust and debris,
contamination of their drinking water supplies, and flooding from
broken slurry impoundments such as the Buffalo Creek disaster
which left more than 100 dead and thousands homeless.” [Quoted
Satellite view of some mountaintop removal
mines in West Virginia. Mines are the grey areas,deforested areas
5:18 mins. Video on how Mountaintop
Removal mining works and its consequences. One of the least
emotional videos I have seen. (Made for a benefit concert.)
when oil-transport or extraction at sea goes wrong
“The oil tanker “Prestige
foundered off Cape Finisterre in 2002, leaking 80,000 tonnes of
heavy fuel oil on to Spanish beaches. It was his [the 76-year-old
master, Captain Apostolos Mangouras] first SOS in 32 years and
in a force 10 gale with 25-foot waves, he tried to rescue his
ship after being refused safe haven in a Spanish port. Desperate
for a scapegoat, the Spanish authorities threw him in jail for
three months and then kept him under house arrest for a year pending
trial. Numerous investigations blamed the pollution incident on
the decision by Spanish authorities to refuse the Prestige access
to a port.”
Gulf of Mexico leak, satellite photo from
NASA, taken 19 June 2010. NASA image courtesy the MODIS
Rapid Response Team
June 19, 2010, oil spread northeast from the leaking Deepwater
Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil appears as a maze
of silvery-gray ribbons in this photo-like image from the Moderate
Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra
“The location of the leaking well is marked
with a white dot. North of the well, a spot of black may be smoke;
reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
say that oil and gas continue to be captured and burned as part
of the emergency response efforts.”
It is not clear how much
oil is escaping from the leak 5,000 metres below the water surface.
This widget from pbs.org
calculates different possible amounts that may be leaking into
the Gulf of Mexico, according to different estimations. Compare
with other major
Refresh the page to reset
move slider just below ADJUST LEAK RATE
to change calculation rate.
[Note: leakage is given
here in US
gallons. 100 million US gallons = 331,100 metric
tonnes = 2.4 million US barrels.]
In my view, no-one
yet knows how big this gusher is and very likely reports are exaggerated
to make it more ‘interesting’. Present reports
[22/06/10, Day 63] claim about 25,000
barrels a day are being collected.
it is unlikely that this leak is, so far, greater than a very
large tanker spill. So it hardly qualifies as the greatest ecological
disaster in American history, as claimed
by the Obama administration.
Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk
by John Hofmeister
[amazon.co.uk] publishing 25 June 2010, but some copies already available