04 June, 2007

10 million pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey

What Seggos discovered—or rediscovered—wasn’t an oil spill, exactly. Rather, it was a mix of gasoline, solvents, and associated poisons bubbling up from the very ground: a thin dribble that betrays the presence of a supertanker’s worth of the stuff submerged in the age-old geology of Greenpoint. It’s actually more than a century’s worth of spills, leaks, and waste dumped by oil companies that has pooled into a vast underground lake, more than 55 acres wide and up to 25 feet thick. First discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1978, the Greenpoint spill has been estimated at anywhere between 17 million and 30 million gallons—three times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill. That makes it the largest known oil spill in American history.
What is noteworthy about this story, as well as this one[1] is that they are mostly ignored in the mainstream press or written off as leftist or alarmist. Modern "conservatism" (which only seeks to "conserve" power and wealth for those who have obtained a substantial enough amount thereof) does not have any answers, any solutions whatsoever to problems like the one in Brooklyn and the Texas-sized floatilla of plastic and sludge in the Pacific Ocean.

Conservatism's oddly fanatic younger sibling, Libertarianism, does not seek to solve these problems either. Certainly, Ron Paul would not be so presumptuous as to seek lower emissions on cars bought and sold in the US, and would definitely not sanction China, Mexico or India for failing to do the same. Yet, for the amount of waste we produce a year in sheer tonnage, the sheer tonnage of carbon emissions from China blowing over the Pacific Ocean and right into our West Coast is even more troubling.

We are a country in love with the plastic grocery bag. Tens of millions of them end up in the Pacific Ocean, whole or shredded, never to bio-degrade. When the federal government warns pregnant women and young children to avoid certain sea food, this is largely why. This from our own "conservative" government, not Michael Moore or Bill Moyers or even Al Gore.

Well, the time to get alarmed is NOW, people.

[1] Excerpt:
Captain Charles Moore Fate can take strange forms, and so perhaps it does not seem unusual that Captain Charles Moore found his life’s purpose in a nightmare. Unfortunately, he was awake at the time, and 800 miles north of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

It happened on August 3, 1997, a lovely day, at least in the beginning: Sunny. Little wind. Water the color of sapphires. Moore and the crew of Alguita, his 50-foot aluminum-hulled catamaran, sliced through the sea.

Returning to Southern California from Hawaii after a sailing race, Moore had altered Alguita’s course, veering slightly north. He had the time and the curiosity to try a new route, one that would lead the vessel through the eastern corner of a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical gyre. This was an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoided. For one thing, it was becalmed. “The doldrums,” sailors called it, and they steered clear. So did the ocean’s top predators: the tuna, sharks, and other large fish that required livelier waters, flush with prey. The gyre was more like a desert—a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingered above it.

The area’s reputation didn’t deter Moore. He had grown up in Long Beach, 40 miles south of L.A., with the Pacific literally in his front yard, and he possessed an impressive aquatic résumé: deckhand, able seaman, sailor, scuba diver, surfer, and finally captain. Moore had spent countless hours in the ocean, fascinated by its vast trove of secrets and terrors. He’d seen a lot of things out there, things that were glorious and grand; things that were ferocious and humbling. But he had never seen anything nearly as chilling as what lay ahead of him in the gyre.

It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Moore could not believe his eyes. Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill.


Bret Moore said...

Listen - the problem is with the subsidies for the petrochemical industry that the government grants. It's simply BAD MARKET ECONOMICS that is ruining the environment. Get the government regulators out of the free market, address pollution through the Tort system (which can easily be done sans regulations; nuisance / trespass / assault / battery), and allow people with green energy proposals to COMPETE on an even playing field. Obviously libertarian free market economics (more specifically, Austrian Economics) is the only solution to the problem that Government has decidedly FAILED to address.

dr von drinkensnorten said...

Sure, then you get the tort reformers (and their highly paid lobbyists) screaming bloody murder whenever a citizen, or those suing on their behalf, comes along to attempt to enforce the laws we already have on the books.

Now, I will be the first to agree that much government regulation, and the enforcement thereof has been woefully ineffective. But laws like the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act are sufficient and I think necessary.

There will always be someone trying to cheat, and a pure free market (so-called economic Darwinism) is no less harmful that Communism at the other extreme (ironically, Chinese industry pollutes with impunity -- but the raison d'etre of the People's Revolution has long been abandoned).

Back on track, instead of Government, especially Big Government weilding regulatory penalties solely, I think we should figure out a way to incentivize with one hand and punish with the other better than we do now -- and it is happening in some places by state and local efforts.

I do not think the tort system is fast or effective enough to put the brakes on offenses occurring currently, nor do I think the tort system has any mechanisms for assigning blame and responsibility for clean up for offenses past. Remember, it took decades for the Brooklyn Oil Slick to form.

The subject bears more study, and I'll take a look at how it is done in Austria -- with due skepticism.

The D.L. said...

i love nerds more than anything in this worldf