Gulf Oil Spill: It Ain't Like This Never Happened Before:
This is fucked beyond fucked. And the history tells us it's gonna get more and more fucked before we can stop the fucking and, even then, it'll be ages before it's unfucked. Back in 1979, a Mexican oil well blew out under only 160 feet of water in the Bay of Campeche. The well was two miles deep. It was nine months and 138 million gallons before a relief well was completed. You won't be happy to learn that two months after the blowout, oil reached the Texas shore. You'll be less happy to learn that they (really) called their diversion dome a "sombrero" (instead of a, you know, "top hat"). And that they used dispersants. And that, even four months after the blowout, they didn't know exactly how much oil was flowing. Or that Mexican officials ignored some routine safety measures.
A New York Times editorial from April 12, 1980 wondered, "The enduring question is whether a devastating blowout could occur in our own offshore waters...The accident does suggest that blowout-prevention equipment is not designed to handle the worst emergencies." And it pondered, "Could a blowout in American waters be quickly capped and cleaned up?" before sadly concluding that "Most Americans would accept such blowouts to find oilfields are rich as Mexico's."
It's 2010, and the same questions persist. Thirty years and we've learned almost nothing. Yet everything old is new again.