Links 6/20/10

Cornish ferry stowaway shrew flown home BBC

Potatoes May Power The Batteries Of The Future Hot Hardware

Anxious monitoring near Florida coral reefs for oil spill PhysOrg

Lottery Winner Taps Geffen on Risk-Sharing Secret to Make Films Bloomberg (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

What Many Liberals Don’t Understand About Health-Care Reform Maggie Mahar (hat tip reader Francois T)

Shocking True Tales of Immigration Enforcement Matthew Yglesias

Verizon To Reprimand, Fire Employees Who Try To Save Customers Money Consumerist

Fox pundit: AZ law needed because ‘Middle Easterners coming across that border’ Raw Story

Summers cautious about recovery Calculated Risk. This is a serious change in stance, he was cheerleading not at all long ago.

Cost of Seizing Fannie and Freddie Surges for Taxpayers New York Times

The Inflatable Loan Pool Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Why It’s Different This Time for Housing Barron’s (hat tip reader Doug Smith, via Barry Ritholtz)

How Much Oil Will Be Wasted In The Deepwater Spill? io9 (hat tip reader Richard R)

Deepwater oil spill victims, from waitresses to cabbies and strippers, plead for BP payouts Guardian

Antidote du jour. From reader John M:

These pics were taken last Sunday at Yellowstone National Park. The canyon shots were right at 12:04 PM and the bison were 6:09-6:15 PM Mountain Time (MDT). The second mother bison was wearing a radio collar, but it can’t be seen in these shots.

Video 99 0 00 03-17 Closeups

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  1. attempter

    Re what liberals don’t understand:

    “Perhaps most fundamentally,” they write, “the ACA recognizes that reform, particularly changing the delivery system, is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing, evolutionary process requiring continuous adjustment. The ACA therefore establishes a number of institutions that can respond in a flexible and dynamic way to changes in the health care system.”

    According to the piece the emphasis was in the original, so it’s the scammers themselves who are highlighting the “reform” lie? I thought at first it was the negative reviewer saying, “Here we go again with this crap, which has been proven a thousand times not to work, and which we know by now is always a lie whenever corporate liberals claim to be seeking it.”

    Yes indeed, rank-and-file liberal teabaggers understand nothing if they still haven’t learned the lesson that “reform” is a Big Lie which has never worked once in the neoliberal era. It’s exactly the same as the closely related trickle-down Big Lie, also beloved of corporate liberal astroturfers like Obama and his hacks.

    What I can’t get over is how anyone could be stupid enough to believe this bill will lower costs to the “insured” (of course the insurance model doesn’t even work in concept where it comes to health care, but there we’d be going utterly beyond the comprehension of liberals) when it’s being enacted at the same moment that Obama’s launching his assault to gut Social Security.

    It’s obvious on its face Obama intends for you also to have to pay for far more of your own medical care, and the fact that he wants to do everything via corporate rentiers instead of directly and inexpensively proves that he does NOT want to reduce costs to the system anywhere. He only wants to reduce government expenditures which benefit the people, in order to free up more to be looted by the rackets.

    Go by this rule of thumb and you’ll never be wrong:

    Obama doesn’t want to cut expenditures or the deficit, nor does he want to cut costs anywhere in the system. He only wants to maximze the amount looted by corporations.

    Here’s another example of the corporatist model, predating Obama but ardently embraced by him:

    Rather than actually making loans, the two companies — Fannie older and larger, Freddie created to provide competition — bought loans from banks and other originators, providing money for more lending and helping to hold down interest rates.

    Again, the goal is to increase system costs where possible, if that enables the bank rackets to extract greater rents.

    The “home ownership” propaganda was meant only provide cover. On its face the system doesn’t seek to create owners, but debtors, and it was always predestined to concentrate all land in the hands of the banks. That premeditated liquidation is going on now.

    Needless to say, anybody who really wanted to spread home ownership and to do it efficiently would’ve had the government directly lend to sound borrowers at non-usurious rates.

    I like the way that swine in the piece advertises being a Republican and drives around in a Hummer even as by his own testimony he’s a parasite leeching off a disgusting corrupt government bloat. That’s your typical Republican. I guess that’s one way that corporate liberals are less repulsive – they’re not as prone to condemn “welfare” as such even as they’re leeching off it.

    1. D. Warbucks

      “He only wants to maximze the amount looted by corporations.”

      I used to think Bush was the best president ever. But Obama really stokes my hopes. If only he wasn’t a Liberal.

  2. michel

    The intellectual disease of our time is to advocate expensive solutions which do not affect the problems to which they are directed. In fact, they often make them worse, and the problems, unlike the bad effects of the alleged solutions, are mostly imaginary in the first place.

    Its called hysteria.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      If we’re going to be precise, it’s not an “intellectual disease.” It’s also not “hysteria.” And, well, further, it’s not particularly “of our time.” It does appear to happening though. Read a history book. Get used to it.

      [P.S. The “problems” are almost always “imaginary” to those who are not suffering the consequences.]

  3. LeeAnne

    “The ACA does not establish a rigid bureaucratic structure to be changed only episodically through arduous legislative action. Rather, it establishes dynamic and flexible structures that can develop and institute policies that respond in real time to changes in the system in order to improve quality and restrain unnecessary cost growth.”

    Ahhh -the blessed ease of dictatorship.

  4. rjs

    io9 oil comparison is outdated; even govt now puts it @ 60K b/d, and best case scenario is relief well success in august

    & with potato batteries for electricity and corn ethanol for fuel, who cares if we can eat, as long as we can drive and turn on the TV

  5. LeeAnne

    and corporatism: “Verizon To Reprimand, Fire Employees Who Try To Save Customers Money”

    Do we really need to be reminded that customer service for retail customers doesn’t exist? Try getting an adjustment on the phone and you get a hard sell for another Verizon FREEDOM feature –the corporatist honorific for 9/11 under the never-let-an-Orwellian-opportunity-go-to-waste.

  6. rjs

    Tony Hayward Gets His Life Back, Goes Yachting – Just call it the latest in a two month series of public relations disasters by the CEO of BP: (AP) In what one environmentalist described as “yet another public relations disaster” for embattled energy giant BP, CEO Tony Hayward took time off Saturday to attend a glitzy yacht race around England’s Isle of Wight. Spokeswoman Sheila Williams said Hayward took a break from overseeing BP efforts to stem the undersea gusher in Gulf of Mexico so he could watch his boat “Bob” participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. The 52-foot yacht is made by the Annapolis, Maryland-based boatbuilder Farr Yacht Design.

    1. jest

      “The 52-foot yacht is made by the Annapolis, Maryland-based boatbuilder Farr Yacht Design.”

      Well, at least they can spin this as “economic stimulus.”

      At least it wasn’t made in China.

      1. Glen

        A Farr 52 OD designed to the TP 52 rule? Nice raceboat, we’ve got one (not a Farr, but a Bakewell-White TP 52) that races locally. Very fast boats.

        According to the race organizers, Tony is not on the crew list, so he’s not actually out racing the boat. There’s no room for dead weight passengers on these boats, you gotta know what you’re doing and be a useful part of the crew.

        I’ll bet if Congress quizzed him on how to race his boat, he wouldn’t know a damn thing about that either. (I know that’s a cheap shot, but I’ve crewed on a couple of boats where the owners never actually raced, and the “hired gun rock stars” called the owners “check writing dildos”. I never did that because that is a bit of a cheap shot.)

        1. Skippy

          Was about to pull out the protest flag but, would rather beers to YC committee.

          Skippy…He did say…helms a lee Tony, and now he knows why its called a BOOM.

  7. jest

    ‘What is most exciting is that under the new legislation, Congressional lobbyists will not be able to block the process: “The secretary of health and human services (HHS) is empowered to expand successful pilot programs without the need for additional legislation.”’

    I’ll have to admit, this scares me a bit.

    Now the insurance lobby can simply go straight to the executive branch to get what they want, rather than dealing with the messy process of dealing with a series of senators and representatives.

    “Successful” programs such as Medicare Advantage can be forced on us fairly easily, despite it being a notorious giveaway to corporations.

    And the Pharma lobby has already shown how easy it is to gain access to this administration and affect policy at the drop of a hat.

    I hope Kathleen & the next HHS secretary have what it takes to make something like this truly beneficial to us, rather than Pfizer.

  8. alex

    re: “Summers cautious about recovery”

    Are you sure this isn’t reason to be hopeful? If Summers has ever been right about a major policy issue in his life, please name it. Despite his vaunted reputation as a “genius” (and for all I know or care he is one academically) he has been wrong about every major policy issue he’s ever been involved in. From “shock therapy” for eastern Europe in the 90’s to blocking regulations of derivatives to the strong dollar to the “financial innovation” that so enriched his mentor Bob Rubin, Summers has been wrong about everything. No wonder he’s had a successful career. It’s only the (to borrow Tony Hayward’s phrase) little people that get judged on how badly they screw up. Financial titans are simply anointed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      He’s supposed to be a cheerleader too. If he can’t bring himself to fake it, that says things may not be too rosy. He may be part of the effort to set the stage for new stimulus, but given the mood on spending (ex Afghanistan, of course the Administration has no compunctions about asking for more money for its military adventures), there will need to be visible deterioration before any new measures would be passed, which means the impact would be blunted because stimulus would arrive late.

  9. alex

    Interesting article in the NYT about the Fannie/Freddie bailout. “The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the final bill could reach $389 billion.”

    But of course the article concentrates on its effect on home owners and “the market”. Nowhere is it discussed that the federal government was under no obligation to rescue Fannie/Freddie and their bond holders, or that the whole thing is a back door bailout for the banks.

    I’m a home owner, current on his mortgage, and I could care less if Fannie/Freddie collapsed. Why should I? I’ll still owe the same (thankfully affordable) amount no matter who owns my mortgage or how it’s been sliced and diced.

    1. john

      Why should you care if Fannie/Freddie goes belly up? Given that they are 96% of the housing market, I think you’d notice pretty quickly.

  10. reskeptical

    What about the first comment in the Guardian article:

    “In 1978 the Amoco Cadiz went aground off the coast of Brittany. It contained 219,797 tones of crude oil. .Its entire cargo of crude oil spilled into the sea, as did 4000 tons of fuel oil. Current estimates for the Deepwater spill are about 376,623 tonnes.

    The French government presented claims totalling US$2 billion to United States courts.In subsequent legal proceedings in Chicago, United States France was awarded US$120 million from the American oil company Amoco in 1990.

    So if we work on the same rate (dollars per tonne spilt) BP and other responsible parties should pay $180 million for the amount currently spilt and this will be payable in 2022. The legal proceedings should take place in Europe.”

  11. Brett

    Ah, yes the Verizon story. I read this:

    Verizon vehemently denied that they would actually fire CSRs for offering proactively customer service, but they defended ripping off unsuspecting customers.

    and I have to wonder if there is a single market out there that does not thrive on the balance of ignorance?

  12. reskeptical

    Name of the web site says it all.

    This is another complete swindle– can’t we find a better way of spending public money…
    err, I mean stimulating the economy…
    or rather, subsidizing private industry?

  13. Ignim Brites

    The moment a 9/11 level event or even (or perhaps more) a Beslan level event is linked to terrorists that have entered illegally via Mexican, the President, whoever it is, will be impeached and convicted of dereliction of duty. No question about it.

      1. Ignim Brites

        As I recall all the 911 terrorists entered legally (which might be worse) but crucially before 9/11. So your point is not pertinent. I’m just telling you what’s in the cards. If you don’t want to know, it’s ok by me.

  14. Doc Holiday

    “As we approached, we found an extensive oil slick that stretched about 20 nm (20 miles) along the southward flowing jet which merged with the northern front of the Loop Current. The slick was made up of tar balls shaped like pancakes that went from the size of a dime to about 6 inches in diameter,” said Tom Lee, UM Research Professor Emeritus and CIMAS scientist. “The combination of models and satellite images, along with our shipboard observations and ROFFS daily analysis had helped us to identify and study this previously unidentified oil plume located off Florida’s southwest coast and heading toward the Tortugas.”

  15. Hugh

    Re healthcare, when people who opt for a Rube Goldberg contraption begin talking about savings and efficiencies it’s time for a lot of skepticism. This is especially true when better, cheaper, and simpler alternates exist, the various universal healthcare plans most industrialized countries already have. Worse, Mahar is just quoting Orszag, and Orszag has from the beginning been all about gutting entitlements. Just because he/Mahar is repeating this stuff again makes it no more believable this time than last time.

    It is another example of my reasonability paradox, that is if Obama and Orszag were reasonable enough to be trusted to make all these cuts, then they would have been reasonable enough to cut the massively overpriced and underperforming private insurers out of the loop. They did not do the latter. There is no reason to trust they will do the former and still retain the same level of services.

    1. Valissa

      Well said… was thinking about commenting on the inherent BS on that link as well, but your comment is more wonderfully concise and to the point than mine would have been!

  16. Valissa

    Vatican endorses “The Blues Brothers”
    When Jake and Elwood Blues, the protagonists in John Landis’ cult classic “The Blues Brothers,” claimed they were on a mission from God, the Catholic Church apparently took them at their word. On the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, “L’Osservatore Romano,” the Vatican’s official newspaper, called the film a “Catholic classic” and said it should be recommended viewing for Catholics everywhere.

    Life 101 years ago…
    The average US wage in 1909 was 22 cents an hour.
    The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year ..
    A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,
    A dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year,
    and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
    More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME .
    Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!
    Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which
    Were condemned in the press AND the government as ’substandard.’

  17. Doc Holiday

    Old by interesting:

    “Two weeks into the spill, Asper found himself on a research vessel headed to deep water to map the floor of the Gulf.

    Knowing BP had begun using dispersants to sink oil from the spill, they switched gears, grabbed tools and personnel and went looking for what the dispersant might be doing to the oil.

    What they found stirred debate until recently, when other research vessels began to confirm large plumes of dispersed oil below the surface.

    Asper said what they found in two trips to the deep Gulf in early May was ropes of brown, clumpy oil on the surface. Below that was clear water and then at about 3,300 feet of depth, they found oil in the water — little orange globs, big clumps and milky white water.

    “We’re not sure what that is, but our working hypothesis is that that’s actually gas hydrate crystals that are leveling off there,” Asper said. “I don’t know if it’s important, but it’s really interesting.””

    ==> … “gas hydrate crystals that are leveling off”… hmmm,,… not much info on this, but yes, curious!

    > I’m looking at plume stories today (again).

  18. Doc Holiday

    Gulf oil spill plumes: What is known so far (not much)

    … In many of the images coming from the fluorescence detector, the field was filled with tiny orange specs, strongly suggesting oil, along with tiny white specs — sometimes looking like clouds — which the team suspects are methane hydrate crystals that can form when methane accompanies oil billowing from an undersea blowout. Some estimates put the methane content of the blowout at about 40 percent of the oil-methane mix spewing from the wellhead — in contrast to roughly 5 percent methane in a typical well.

  19. Doc Squealing Holiday

    Ah yes, very interesting FYI:


    There are different types of these deposits. In China, the deposit is in a high, frozen plateau, but many are in marine sediments. Last summer American scientists on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico drilled exploratory holes to look for gas hydrates buried deep in the sand. They discovered pockets of highly concentrated gas hydrate–examples of a deposit type that is estimated to hold 6,700 trillion cubic feet of the gas in that area alone.

    “A lot of people think of it as unstable,” says U.S. Department of Energy’s methane hydrate R&D manager Ray Boswell. “It’s not particularly volatile.” Boswell points out that we’d actually have to work to pull it across a phase boundary, so extraction means melting the solid substance into its water and methane gas components underground. That process could likely be done with existing technology. Boswell’s work aims to provide a better scientific understanding of this energy source–where it is, what production would require, and how it exists in the natural environment–so that the public can make informed decisions about whether and how we pursue it.

    Hmmm … ==> Gas-Hydrate Deposits in Gulf of Mexico

    > The Minerals Management Service estimates that the Gulf may hold 6,700 tcf of methane hydrate in sand—enough to satisfy U.S. natural gas demand for about 290 years, if all of it could be removed economically.

    >> Drill baby drill!

    ==> Researchers said that one of the cruise’s main accomplishments was showing that scientists could predict where to drill. “When we hit it on the first hole, everyone was squealing,” said Ann Cook, a geophysicist finishing her PhD. at Lamont who was on the cruise.

    Hydrate deposits have been found in waters off the Carolinas, and in the permafrost of Alaska’s North Slope, but researchers say the Gulf discovery is especially promising because it sits in thick reservoirs of permeable sand that make extraction with current oil production methods possible. Energy companies in the Gulf already have infrastructure in place to remove conventional fossil fuels.

    “Not all hydrates are created equal,” said Ray Boswell, technology manager at the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory who also co-led the expedition. “The ones in sand reservoirs will likely be the first to be developed.” However, engineers must first figure out how to safely extract it. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it is thought that some gas hydrate deposits could become unstable if disturbed.

    ??? I wonder what happens when you mix shitloads of [46(H2O)•8(CH4)] with 2-butoxyethanol??

    1. D. Warbucks

      The thing is we just don’t want people to have health care or retirements. Since there is still some figmentary amount of democracy though, we need to squander it all on ourselves before we can credibly say “no money left for wimpy liberal entitlement programs”

    2. Hugh

      I am just surprised that you would place any faith in Peter Orszag or what he has to say on entitlements. What I saw in your post looked a lot like what was in the White House fact sheet on Medicare which has been out for months. This sheet envisioned some $309 billion in savings, i.e cuts from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years. Most of these “savings” would come out of Medicare. There were also $313 billion in additional savings from the two programs. $110 billion of these were mainly from Medicare and concerned half-ass “productivity” adjustments, another euphemism for cuts, and then $75 billion was projected for Medicare Part D (good luck with that). What we are looking at here is something in excess of $400 billion in cuts to Medicare over 10 years.

      None of this as far as I can tell has anything to do with expected savings from cutting Medicare Advantage subsidies which is a whole other problem. Those always were a scam.

      So basically you are asking us to trust people to make huge changes in programs that are most of what is left of our social safety net when they don’t believe in that safety net, when they refused to entertain simpler, cheaper, more effective proposals and could not bring themselves to cut waste in the insurance, medical, and drug industries. These are the same people mind you that couldn’t even reform a small agency like the MMS, although its problems were known for years before the Deepwater Horizon blowout. For many of us, that isn’t just a bridge too far. It is several bridges too far.

  20. Doc Holiday

    This is getting fun..

    ==> DOE’s methane research program was established in 2000 and reauthorized by a broad 2005 energy policy law. Since 2001, the program has spent about $76 million on field projects in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska to improve hydrate exploration methods, quantify resources and evaluate challenges to production.

    But more work needs to be done, according to the NRS report, which was required by the original 2000 law.

    “Research on methane hydrate to date has not revealed technical challenges that the committee believes are insurmountable in the goal to achieve commercial production of methane from methane hydrate in an economically and environmentally feasible manner,” the report says.

    Leaders of methane hydrate research programs at DOE and the U.S. Geological Survey have noted similar hurdles to commercialization. At a congressional hearing last summer, they called for more research to ensure the resource is economically and technically viable.

    And Ray Boswell, a senior management and technology adviser at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, later wrote in the journal Science that the instability of hydrates in the face of pressure or temperature changes and the physical barriers of the Arctic and deep-water settings have kept hydrates out of mainstream energy exploration.

    “Solving these issues would provide a new and potentially vast global resource to meet mid- and long-term energy demands,” he wrote

    “Once we have learned better how to find the most promising gas hydrate deposits, we will need to know how to produce it in a safe and commercially-viable way,” says study co-author Ray Boswell, Ph.D. He manages the National Methane Hydrate R&D Program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W. Va. “Chemistry will be a big part of understanding just how the hydrates will respond to various production methods.”

    One of the more promising techniques for extracting methane from hydrates involves simply depressurizing the deposits, Boswell says. Another method involves exchanging the methane molecules in the “clathrate” structure with carbon dioxide. Workers can, in theory, collect the gas using the same drilling technology used for conventional oil and gas drilling.

    ==> Also see:

    The pressure and temperature for gas hydrate stability are related. For a gaseous guest reacting with liquid water, the relationship is non-linear, but is still a simple equation (see footnote [16]). The phase boundary, the pressure and temperature conditions where hydrate first becomes stable if enough water and guest are present, looks like a swooping curve. The following figure is the phase boundary for chlorine hydrate, the first hydrate discovered.

    Footnote: The equation is traditionally written as: P = a*e^bT P is pressure, a and b are scaling constants, e is the base of the natural logarithm, and T is the temperature.

    > Ok, I’m officially ready to spew seaweed!

  21. Doc Holiday

    one more: Where Hydrate is Happy

    > Of Gas Hydrates, Concrete, and Oil Rigs

    … this is the problem , I go chase the drift of oil plume data and end up off the map chasing this stuff … . I wonder how many BP people or EPA people, MMS people really understand what they are doing? The oil spill suggests that there is at least a 1 in 14,000 chance that a deep well explosion can’t be contained, and thus as we go forward, this will happen again in the near future, somewhere else, and the retards that have all the facts, will once again, not have a clue what to do!

    Just imagine, this is just a small sample of retarded oil engineering — and now everyone will look the other other way, while the financial engineers go about expanding derivatives, and who can say how many other well educated people wil help shape our lives…….. barf…

  22. Doc Holiday

    Hold the F’ing Phone …duh.

    The Doc Holiday light just came on:

    See: “Additionally, DOE and BP Exploration Alaska have undertaken a project to characterize, quantify and determine the commercial viability of onshore gas hydrates and associated free-gas resources in the Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River and Milne Point field areas in northern Alaska”

    Beyond the studies with DOE and BP, USGS is also working with the Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, to assess the resource potential of other selected gas hydrate and free-gas accumulations on public lands in northern Alaska. Researchers will then use information from this study to assess and characterize the gas hydrate potential in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and state lands. The goal of this joint work is to assess the economically recoverable resource potential of gas hydrates and associated free-gas accumulations across the entire North Slope of Alaska by 2007.

    Several Gulf of Mexico gas hydrate research programs are also in progress. The most comprehensive study is a joint industry project led by ChevronTexaco and DOE that is designed to further characterize gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. The joint project is planning to drill and core multiple Gulf of Mexico sites in the spring of 2005. While the primary goal of the Gulf of Mexico Joint Industry Project is to better understand the safety issues related to gas hydrates, the results of the program will also allow a better assessment of the commercial potential of marine gas hydrates.

    ==> This was no accident — it wasn’t the oil they were after…. and a few billion in damages is like a handful of pennies in front of a steamroller ….

    ==>>> Gulf of Mexico drilled exploratory holes to look for gas hydrates buried deep in the sand. They discovered pockets of highly concentrated gas hydrate–examples of a deposit type that is estimated to hold 6,700 trillion cubic feet of the gas in that area alone.

    Anyone wanna guess that this deepwater drilling is really just R&D that taps into 6,700 trillion c/f of $$$$$ ?? Huh… huh… Anyone know what 6,700 trillion c/f of gas?? “Enough to satisfy U.S. natural gas demand for about 290 years???

    * Tinfoil hats are on sale in the lobby.

  23. Doc Holiday

    ==> Safety and Seafloor Stability

    Seafloor stability and safety are two important issues related to gas hydrates. Seafloor stability refers to the susceptibility of the seafloor to collapse and slide as the result of gas hydrate dissociation. The safety issue refers to petroleum drilling and production hazards that may occur in association with gas hydrates in both offshore and onshore environments.

    Seafloor Stability

    Along most ocean margins the depth to the base of the gas hydrate stability zone becomes shallower as water depth decreases; the base of the stability zone intersects the seafloor at about 500 meters, a depth characterized by generally steep topography on the continental slope. It is possible that both natural and human induced changes can contribute to in-situ gas hydrate destabilization, which may convert hydrate-bearing sediments to a gassy water-rich fluid, triggering seafloor subsidence and catastrophic landslides. Evidence implicating gas hydrates in triggering seafloor landslides has been found along the Atlantic Ocean margin of the United States and off northern Europe. The mechanisms controlling gas hydrate induced seafloor subsidence and landslides are not well known; however, these processes may release large volumes of methane to the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere.


    Throughout the world, oil and gas drilling is moving into regions where safety problems related to gas hydrates may be anticipated. Oil and gas operators have described numerous drilling and production problems attributed to the presence of gas hydrates, including uncontrolled gas releases during drilling, collapse of wellbore casings, and gas leakage to the surface. In the marine environment, gas leakage to the surface around the outside of the wellbore casing may result in local seafloor subsidence and the loss of support for foundations of drilling platforms. These problems are generally caused by the dissociation of gas hydrate due to heating by either warm drilling fluids or from the production of hot hydrocarbons from depth during conventional oil and gas production. The same problems of destabilized gas hydrates by warming and loss of seafloor support may also affect subsea pipelines.

    Several Gulf of Mexico hydrate research programs are underway. The most comprehensive study is a Joint Industry Project (JIP) led by ChevronTexaco which is designed to further characterize gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. Participants include ConocoPhillips, Total, Schlumberger, Halliburton Energy Services, MMS, Japan Oil Gas and Metals National Corporation, and India’s Reliance Industries. The JIP is planning to drill and core multiple Gulf of Mexico sites beginning in April 2005. While the primary goal of this JIP is to better understand the safety issues related to gas hydrates, the results of the program will also allow a better assessment of the commercial potential of marine gas hydrates.

    In anticipation of gas hydrate production in Federal waters, MMS has recently launched a project to assess gas hydrate energy resource potential on acreage under MMS jurisdiction. The MMS must update its resource assessment models to include gas hydrates, as fair market value must be determined for offshore tracts to be offered in the next “Five Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program.” An effort is underway using seismic amplitude data, existing core holes, shallow well logs, temperature data, gas composition distribution, and sediment thickness over salt to delineate and estimate the areas on the slope of the Gulf of Mexico which are likely to contain gas hydrates, and those areas where they are unlikely to occur. Four occurrence types will be evaluated: vein-filled muds adjacent to vent areas, pore-filling of sands which occur completely within the gas hydrate stability zone, pore-filling of sands which straddle the gas hydrates stability zone with free gas trapped below, and gas hydrates contained in cap rock. Economic models are being developed for the final evaluations.

    On-shore Alaska and the offshore Gulf of Mexico are proven exploration targets for gas hydrates. In the Gulf of Mexico, industry has begun assessing hydrate potential on their oil and gas leases. Industry-Government partnerships are expected to drill hydrate prospects on the North Slope of Alaska in the near future — hence, the first domestic production of hydrates is expected to occur in Alaska, where gas from the hydrates will either support local oil and gas field operations, or be available for commercial sale if and when a gas pipeline is constructed. In both Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, critical drilling and transportation infrastructure exists, which will allow gas hydrate prospects to be drilled and produced from existing installations.

    The timing for expected commercial production of hydrates is uncertain. The DOE has estimated that gas production from gas hydrate could begin about 2015. In September of 2003, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) reported that we will not likely see significant production from gas hydrates until sometime beyond 2025. However, initial production from gas hydrates will most likely occur much sooner, especially in areas such as the North Slope of Alaska or in other countries. Estimates vary on when gas hydrate production will play a significant role in total world energy mix; however, it is possible that hydrates will be able to provide a domestic supply of gas.


    Our knowledge of naturally occurring gas hydrates is limited. Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence suggests that: (1) a huge volume of natural gas is stored in gas hydrates; (2) production of natural gas from gas hydrates may be technically feasible; (3) gas hydrates hold the potential for natural hazards associated with seafloor stability and release of methane to the oceans and atmosphere; and (4) gas hydrates disturbed during drilling and petroleum production pose a potential safety problem. The USGS welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with domestic and international scientific organizations and industry to further collective understanding of these important geologic materials.

    Thank you, Madam Chair (Yves)

  24. Doc Hydrate


    Throughout the world, oil and gas drilling is moving into regions where safety problems related to gas hydrates may be anticipated. Oil and gas operators have described numerous drilling and production problems attributed to the presence of gas hydrates, including uncontrolled gas releases during drilling, collapse of wellbore casings, and gas leakage to the surface. In the marine environment, gas leakage to the surface around the outside of the wellbore casing may result in local seafloor subsidence and the loss of support for foundations of drilling platforms. These problems are generally caused by the disassociation of gas hydrate due to heating by either warm drilling fluids or from the production of hot hydrocarbons from depth during conventional oil and gas production. The same problems of destabilized gas hydrates by warming and loss of seafloor support may also affect subsea pipelines.




    before the


    of the






    1. Doug Terpstra

      What could possibly go wrong with mining massive deposits of methane under the sea floor? Would Pandora mind such mining?

      Though inhaling methane may have other side effects, as I recall, raw methane is one of the worst possible gases contributing to global warming. Imagine an umcontained blowout of methane going directly atmospheric. Wow! We won’t need glue and paper bags anymore, or much of anything.

  25. Doc Can't Shut Up

    That report is very interesting to red in retrospect!!!

    ==> Their biggest concerns now are these hazards that represent a tremendous risk, and that is why they are backing some of these projects that we are involved with them in, to be able to identify and really identify and assess the occurrence of these hazards before they go in and set up unknowingly and have the whole thing turn to quicksand under their feet—and I think it was brought out in the first session—that there are two areas of concern here.

    One is the natural triggering of these hydrates, just by natural phenomena—be it seismic, the water temperature changes, gas chemistry, whatever. And then there is the anthropogenic, or man-induced activities, when you actually go in there and try to drill or establish a site that might trigger these, because one thing we do know that these hydrates occur right on the phase boundary. If you put up the phase diagram that we try to present to our students, we are right on the edge there, and it doesn’t take much to kick these things over into either a gaseous state if they are in the hydrate or vice versa. And so that is where this monitoring station is going to come in, to better identify just what causes these changers so we will have a better understanding and establish safer procedures in their assessment.
    But when the time comes, the majors in the Gulf are very keen on letting you know that they want to be in the number one seat to produce hydrates and to use the facilities that they have established there.
    Mr. WALDEN. Tell us more about the so-called hydrate mounds offshore. Do they have exceptional potential for commercial methane production because of hydrate——
    Dr. WOOLSEY. The mounds are more of curiosities. They, more or less, are the tip of the iceberg, let’s say. They are, in most cases, you find these in the vicinity of a source of methane, which is typically associated with a salt dome. And in the case of salt domes, there is a myriad of fractures that tend to characterize this—the area around the salt domes. And gas, then—these fractures provide conduits for the natural gas to migrate up to the surface. And then when this gas that is probably in a rather warm state, moves into this colder zones near the sea floor, with the pressures in the range of 150 psi at about 500 meters and temperatures in the range of about 4 degrees centigrade, they freeze up.
    And so these are typically in the upper reaches, and so—also, when they freeze, they become lighter than anything around them, so they will actually work their way up toward the surface. And they will actually breach the sea floor, very often on a submersible or an undersea video, you can see an escarpment on the sides of these mounds. And it will be just blue ice there, right there on the surface.

    And then maybe you will come back a week later and it is gone. And where this large area was inhabited by this big mound of blue ice, now you have got a big slump, a big subsidence. And very often it is breached, and you will see an avalanche that had formed. If you look and just do a survey of these types of occurrences, you will see some mega occurrences that are measured in many tens of miles.
    Mr. WALDEN. Really?
    Dr. WOOLSEY. There is one off the coast of Norway, I think, where the avalanche is measured some 160 miles in extent. So some of these can be quite large.
    And in our area, we have this almost catastrophic disassociation along our slope off the Gulf Coast. And one of the peculiarities that we have in the region are what we refer to as ”loop currents.” When you get real strong trades blowing into the Caribbean, and we get a real strong jet of water coming up through the strait of Yucatan, and a little push of loop current up close to our shore. And these loop currents will maybe occupy the bottom area there for maybe as much as six weeks or so. And so there is an opportunity for a warming of these sediments. And we will go from maybe 4 degrees C up to 11 degrees C. And then all of a sudden, we might see these various mounds dissociate rapidly. And these mounds might be just all associated with a more common substratum of hydrates. And the whole thing could—and very often does—give way. And if you are downstream of that, it can be quite hazardous.
    Mr. WALDEN. How high are those mounds from the sea floor?
    Dr. WOOLSEY. Usually a pretty good—an average height would be maybe 5 meters, something like that.
    Mr. WALDEN. Oh.
    Dr. WOOLSEY. Say 3 to 5 meters. And maybe they would be measured laterally by as much as 100 meters or so. And then you see the smaller ones, but usually the ones that are more often studied are more in that realm.

    And what you find with the larger or more typical type mounds, the biologists often refer to them, from their perspective of interest, as a chemosynthetic community, because you have such an abundance of life—that profusion of life around them.
    One problem that we have had in studying the shallower occurrences is that the deep troll shrimpers, after the imperial red shrimp will go out as deep as 700 meters sometimes trying to pick these things up. And so we have learned a lot from the shrimpers—where not to put our expensive equipment. Now they are not supposed to go in these regions. These areas are supposed to be protected by the Minerals Management Service, but they are quite ubiquitous out on the slope below 500 meters.
    Mr. WALDEN. Okay. Thank you, Dr. Woolsey.
    Dr. Tent, based on your testimony, are you suggesting that Alaska would be the best location for a pilot development of hydrate resource because the on-land permafrost deposits could probably be extracted with the least potential for catastrophic impact?
    Dr. TRENT. Potential for what now?
    Mr. WALDEN. That doing the development in the permafrost, you could extract it there with the least potential for catastrophic impacts. Is that better than out in the ocean?
    Dr. TRENT. Well, I believe we know far more about it, with all the wells that have been drilled in Prudhoe Bay area.
    There is still some problems that exist in having good bonding between the casing and the permafrost as we go through it, but not a serious problem.
    The other thing, of course, we have the infrastructure, the roads. There has been—with Dr. Collett and the Japanese, we have identified at least two existing pads that we can put a new winter ice road to and drive a rig right to them, and that would save a considerable amount of money when it comes to doing basic research.

    1. Skippy

      Hay Doc want to have some real fun[!], sea temps and hydrates

      See: Methane clathrate

      Then see: Clathrate gun hypothesis

      The clathrate gun hypothesis is the popular name given to the hypothesis that rises in sea temperatures (and/or falls in sea level) can trigger the sudden release of methane from methane clathrate compounds buried in seabeds and permafrost which, because the methane itself is a powerful greenhouse gas, leads to further temperature rise and further methane clathrate destabilization – in effect initiating a runaway process as irreversible, once started, as the firing of a gun.[1]

      Skippy…enjoy Doc.

  26. DH

    Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says the shrimp catch in May could be the second-worst on record because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Courier newspaper in Houma, La., says reasons cited include areas closed because of the spill and some shrimpers’ decisions to clean up oil instead of trawling. Biologist Marty Bourgeois says preliminary figures show 4.1 million pounds of headless shrimp landed last month. That’s two-thirds below last year’s May catch of 17.4 million pounds.

      1. charcad

        Isn’t this Shrimp Flambeau? Do you have to cook it? Can’t you just ignite it, wheel out and serve hot?

    1. emca

      ‘4.1 million pounds of headless shrimp’

      is that normal? What happen to their heads?

      Dissolved by non-volatile petroleum products (tar pancakes?)

  27. Shrimp Holiday

    Inquiring & Probing Shrimp hounds FYI:

    Federal records kept since 1990 give the worst May as 3.6 million pounds in 1993, the spring after Hurricane Andrew.

    Read more:

    BP Oil Spill Ingredients

    Vegetable, peanut, or raw BP crude, for frying
    1 cup masa harina
    3 tablespoons red curry powder
    1 teaspoon Sicilian sea salt (mafia brand)
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1-2/3 cups ice cold water
    1 egg yolk
    1 pound large shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled and deveined
    2 very ripe plantains or ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices … never mind.

  28. Steve Bunnell

    Hate to break it to you regarding the batteries, but they are valueless as a a power source. The energy coming out of the ‘potato batteries’ is entirely derived from the metals used in the electrodes- and it takes of hell of a lot of energy to make those metals. As an energy source, they’re a lose-lose proposition. The only upside is that the metals are easy to store. You could get the same result from rigging up the electrodes in the same way, but subbing salt water for the potatoes.

    It’s the same math that makes hydrogen suck. The energy has to come from somewhere else first to make the hydrogen.

  29. Doc Holiday

    Alien update 10,000: Chicxulub crater!!!!

    In March 2010, following extensive analysis of the available evidence covering 20 years’ worth of data spanning the fields of palaeontology, geochemistry, climate modelling, geophysics and sedimentology, 41 international experts from 33 institutions reviewed available evidence and concluded that the impact at Chicxulub triggered the mass extinctions during K-T boundary including those of dinosaurs.[5] The BBC reported that “their review of the evidence shows that the extinction was caused by a massive asteroid or comet smashing into Earth at Chicxulub..

    ==> Crazy baby..

    Understanding Mars subsurface methane hydrates and brines and potentials for microbial habitats

    Also see:

  30. Goodnight

    The upcoming experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have sparked fears among the public that the LHC particle collisions might produce doomsday phenomena, involving the production of stable microscopic black holes or the creation of hypothetical particles called strangelets and general shit like systemic economic collapses, oil well catastrophes. Two CERN-commissioned safety reviews have examined these concerns and concluded that the experiments at the LHC present no danger and that there is no reason for concern, a conclusion expressly endorsed by the American Physical Society.

    With a budget of 9 billion US dollars (approx. €7.5bn or £6.19bn as of Jun 2010), the LHC is one of the most expensive and stupid scientific instruments ever built.

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