There are other, more interesting things to write about. But
someone is WRONG on the Internet, so it must be corrected.
Moreover, we must speculate about the rationale for this
misstatement. And wonder why it was printed in a prominent
Save the Planet, Let Someone Else Drill
Friday, August 1, 2008
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes lifting the
moratorium on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on
the Outer Continental Shelf. She won’t even allow it to come to a vote.
With $4 gas having massively shifted public opinion in favor of
domestic production, she wants to protect her Democratic members from
having to cast an anti-drilling election-year vote…
…Compare the Niger Delta to the Gulf of Mexico, where deep-sea U.S.
oil rigs withstood Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without a single
undersea well suffering a significant spill.
Granted, the bit about “no oil spills” is an Official
Republican Talking Point®, but it is
wrong. Krauthammer’s only potential out, is that one could quibble
about how bad a spill has to be before it is considered “significant.”
According to Geotimes,
8 million gallons of oil spilled due to Katrina. This was the
second-largest ever in the USA (after the Exxon Valdez, which spilled
11 million gallons of oil). Not all of it went into the
water, though. Quite a lot of it went onto land.
that ended up in water was estimated to have been about 750,000
gallons. (But not all from offshore rigs and pipelines.
full report is a 15MB PDF linked on this page)
After McCain made a similar statement, it was repeated in numerous
publications, including the Wall
Street Journal. But several others
After the corrections were out, pre-drilling folks stopped
“not one drop” was spilled, and started saying things like “no
The change in wording suggests that people were getting the message
that the talking point was wrong. But rather than disseminate
true message, they just changed the wording slightly.
The strategy here is to repeat repeat repeat the lies. When
are caught, you merely insert a weasel word and continue the
repetition. without skipping a beat. It is the repetition
important, not the truth. It is the repetition that is
not the truth. It is the repetition that is important, not
Did I mention that it is the repetition that is important?
There are a few important points to this story. One is that
can’t trust everything you hear and read, even if it comes from a
supposedly reputable source. Sometimes the reports are
sometimes they are lies. Second, the number of repetitions is
an indication of truth. Third, the process of peer review is
important. Here, I am not referring only to the first level
peer review, which occurs before something makes it into print.
Perhaps more importantly, it is necessary to look and see
what responses came out after a particular fact or story is published.
One thing I learned in doing this (from the Geotimes article):
NOAA responds to about 100 incidents every year on
average, varying in size and impact, Callahan says. The Coast Guard
responds to many more spills, he says, “but this would
include smaller events where it is more of a law enforcement
action” that does not call for NOAA scientific support.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is involved when
their scientific expertise could be helpful in the management of the
Over 100 incidents per year in the US alone. Rather that talk
about the potential impact of new offshore drilling, and quibbling
about whether is is “significant,” perhaps we should be looking at the
total environmental impact of oil operations in the USA. We
should consider the question of whether conservation measures could
save more oil than the amount that could be produced by opening new
areas to drilling.
The other thing to keep in mind about the oil problem is this: what is
important is not just the amount of oil that is
left, or the amount that is being pumped. What affects the price is the
balance between the rate at which oil is being
converted to usable fuel, and the demand for the fuel. The amount
is important only insofar as it affects the rate of
The number of oil wells is only one factor in a complex equation that
describes the rate of fuel production.. By focusing the
debate on the number of wells, we fail to appreciate the rest of the