The Methane Bubble
Vol: 106 Issue: 20 Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I was intrigued by a headline linked on today’s Drudge Report to a report issued by Texas A&M University’s Dr. John Kessler. The link suggested methane levels in the Gulf were at “levels only seen during mass extinction events.”
But when I tried to follow the link, so many had already hit the site that it crashed their server. It took a little little digging, I was able to find snippets of his report elsewhere on the ‘net.
Dr. Kessler, an expert on geology and mass extinction events, said that the methane levels in the Gulf are about a million times higher than normal.
The other link, (that also returns a “404 error”) is to an article that confirms a large fissure leaking oil and methane from the ocean floor miles away from the Gulf wellhead salvage operation.
The 100 foot fissure was discovered weeks ago by the NOAA research ship Thomas Jefferson — but thanks to the news blackout imposed by the Obama administration, it was difficult to confirm and so most news organizations were unwilling to run with it.
The media has been kept away from the emergency salvage measures being taken to forestall the biggest catastrophe in human history. The federal government has warned them away from the epicenter of operations with the threat of a $40,000 fine for each infraction and the possibility of felony arrests.
Why is the press being kept away? Given all we know about the Obama administration, if the news was good then Obama would be showing up aboard a salvage ship to give speeches about how his administration ‘saved the world’.
Obama would flood the Gulf with reporters from MSNBC, NBC, CNN and any other news organization that has yet to shake its Obama-Messiah complex to explain how Obama’s administration saved the world.
Instead, the government has imposed flyover restrictions, blockades, banned photographers from public beaches and imposed gag orders on those working on the spill or the cleanup. CNN’s Anderson Cooper complained that it wasn’t just BP contractors blocking access, but federal wildlife officials and the National Guard.
Why would President Obama, the most narcissistic, media-savvy politician in decades, permit one of the biggest media blackouts in American history? What is the administration trying to hide?
What could be SO bad that it would warrant Obama calling in the Coast Guard, the National Guard, local and state sheriffs, even U.S. wildlife officials to keep images of the Gulf spill out of the media, choosing public deception over political capital?
Since BP capped the well last week, the information has been tightly controlled by both BP and the government. What little has been reported is nebulous at best. Noted the Associated Press:
“Ever since the cap was used to bottle up the oil last week, engineers have been watching underwater cameras and monitoring pressure and seismic readings to see whether the well would hold or spring a new leak, perhaps one that could rupture the sea floor and make the disaster even worse.”
But the AP’s flying blind like everyone else. It’s all “could” and “may” or “might” – but when the only sources of information are BP and the federal government, nobody dares to speak in terms of concrete facts-on-the-ground.
“Small amounts of oil and gas started coming from the cap late Sunday, but “we do not believe it is consequential at this time,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said. Also, seepage from the sea floor was detected over the weekend less than two miles away, but Allen said it probably has nothing to do with the well. Oil and gas are known to ooze naturally from fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.”
See? “We don’t believe” and it “probably” has nothing to do with the well. How does one analyze that?
On the one hand, there are parades of geologists and environmental scientists and experts warning of potentially catastrophic consequences for the Gulf, not so much from the oil as from the methane.
The concentrations of methane gas coming out of the wellhead are as high as 40% — in a normal well methane concentrations are closer to 5% says Dr. Kessler.
One of the few things confirmed by the government is that methane is seeping from the seafloor two miles away from the well. One other thing confirmed by the government is that the well head pressure is below what scientists anticipated, indicating a leak somewhere below the cap.
“. . . perhaps one that could rupture the sea floor and make the disaster even worse.”
This is a very difficult situation to analyze, but what clues there are to work with are disturbing. Clearly, all is not well on the seafloor. The government doesn’t want the public to know exactly what.
I read a report that said the upper strata of the ocean floor surrounding the BP wellhead has begun to bulge, perhaps as much as thirty feet. Based on the reports filed by Dr. John Kessler at A&M the consequences could be unthinkable.
Dr Kessler envisions much the same scenario as does Matt Simmons, whose credentials include membership on the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Petroleum Council and who was a former energy advisor to George Bush.
An erupting methane bubble that could collapse the ocean floor, creating a towering tsunami followed by a toxic cloud of deadly gas and chemicals. The predictions range from the death of the Gulf of Mexico to the mass extinction of human life on earth.
Other scientists dismiss the doomsday scenario as impossible. One of our OL members, a petroleum geologist, emailed me to say that the doomsday scenario discussed in June 29’s “Dead Zone” OL “had no basis in good science.”
I’m not a petroleum geologist or a scientist of any kind. I admit that I don’t know scientifically and am in no position to challenge his assessment of the science.
That said, I’ve never been to the sun but I know it is 93 million miles away. Very little of what we know is the result of our own personal investigation.
Most of what we know in terms of science is the result of personal investigation by scientists in their fields of expertise. Most of what we know about what is going on in the world is the result of personal investigation by journalists.
And in theory, in a free and open society, our government fills in the blanks.
But in analyzing this situation, there is a breakdown in the normal order of things. What I used to call a ‘hitch in my giddyup’ that keeps nagging me – everything is a bit out of synch.
BP scientists are ‘cautiously optimistic’. The government is ‘cautiously optimistic’. The media, which is under a government-imposed blackout on any real facts, is ‘cautiously optimistic.’
Still, even the government acknowledges that the possibility exists that the disaster could get ‘even worse’. NOBODY is taking any victory laps.
That is one story.
On the other hand, we have A&M’s Dr. Kessler, who is not dependent on the media for the facts, is not subject to government imposed censorship, and whose expertise is unquestioned, who says methane levels in the Gulf are “a million times normal’.
In his view, the methane leak unwillingly acknowledged by the uncharacteristically media-shy government portends a disaster of biblical proportions.
That is the other story.
What worries me is that nobody in the government is directly addressing the Doomsday scenario. If it is baseless, then why not? If they are really just ‘merchants of doomsday’ then why not go after them like the administration goes after the ‘birthers’ or the Tea Party?
The administration hasn’t simply blocked reporter access to the story. Recall that reporters that violate the blockade risk felony arrest and fines of up to $40,000.00 for each ‘infraction’. The government doesn’t impose restrictions that tight on matters of national security.
Heck, any terrorist or foreign spy can use a handy search tool provided by the Washington Post to find any one of 10,000 US government ‘secret locations’ across America. But if a Washington Post reporter got too close to the oil spill, somebody could go to jail?
I don’t want to sensationalize the story. But there is zero doubt that the government is lying about the leak. There is no other reason for imposing a media blackout. What we don’t know – for sure — is what they are lying about.
We do know that there is too much methane in the Gulf and the experts not under government imposed gag orders predict that if it blows, it will be quick and deadly.
Which brings up another seemingly unrelated issue that disturbs me. Obama is a politician and he is in political trouble. His image is suffering and the public perception is that he is disengaged from what is happening to the Gulf States.
The oil spill is destroying the Gulf states’ tourist industry – Mrs. Obama even cut some commercials encouraging tourism to the Gulf. The Obamas had a vacation scheduled for this past weekend. What an amazing photo-op for the president to promote the Gulf tourism industry!
So he took his family to Maine, which is about as far away from the Gulf of Mexico as you can get without leaving the United States.
That bothers me almost as much as Dr Kessler’s report.