Interesting, this points out what many believe, that having just been in office for less than a year and a half, the Obama administration should have corrected decades of ill-preparedness and, within a month, instituted technologies and whip the Navy and Coast Guard into shape so they would be better equipped to deal with this matter.
Matthews speculated that perhaps we could send divers 5,000 feet below the surface of the water, with torches, to shut off the leak. He has been criticizing the administration for days, yet he knows so little regarding the mechanics, the existing technology, and the hardship involved in undertaking such an enterprise.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what I‘m asking about. Is the problem getting a submarine to get—can we use our fleet of submarines to go down there and get men, frogmen, down there with torches and begin to close up that—that hole in that pipe? What is the problem, getting there? Is it the transportation to the bottom of the sea, a mile down, or is it the technology of closing that hole?
EARLE: We don‘t have submersibles that can go to 5,000 feet, except for the Alvin, a few systems that exist in the whole world. There are only four submersibles that can go to half the ocean‘s depth. And this country doesn‘t have any of those. It‘s Japan, China, France. We‘re not—and Russia—we‘re not in the game to go really deep with manned systems.
MATTHEWS: How did we drill—how did we drill this pipeline? How did we create this oil well down there, if we couldn‘t get down there?
EARLE: We have got the technology to actually accomplish that kind of work in the deep sea, even essentially nearly twice as deep, and the robots that are developed to be able to go down for maintenance, inspection and repair. But that‘s under normal circumstances.
To deal with something of this sort is a major challenge that I think nobody anticipated that we would ever have to do this. There are some unique problems with dealing in deep water and dealing with the oil that comes out of such an area, as compared to what is released at the surface. For one thing, of course, it‘s cold. And then there‘s the pressure. These are factors that we‘re just not prepared to have to—to deal with. And we have to get up to speed fast. The technologies arguably do exist. I mean, the capability is there.
EARLE: But we haven‘t made the investment to have a garage filled with submarines, a garage filled with remotely-operated systems, and the talent to be able to go down independently of industry and respond.
MATTHEWS: Well that was an exquisite description of a horror. Thank you so much, Sylvia Earle of the National Geographic, terrible horror, nonetheless.
This is not Hurricane Katrina. I know there are many salivating at the prospect of comparing Barack Obama to George W. Bush in terms of his response to this man-made crisis, but this case does not provide a realistic comparison.
The issue of stopping the flow of oil into the gulf, following the destruction of the Deep Water Horizon oil rig, is an issue of operational and technological inadequacy, of decades of neglect, and industry shortsightedness, this new administration is working diligently with the tools in its possession, unfortunately the tools are not good enough. I know some might expect Barack Obama to go down to the bottom of the ocean and wrestle this beast into submission, but realistically speaking, it is not feasible.