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Wednesday August 20th 2014

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The Black Gold Untold


by IN South Alabama correspondent Dawn Butler..

About the size of Pensacola Beach is Dauphin Island, Alabama, where the oil first came ashore in our neck of the woods. Tar balls, the TV meteorologists turned oilologists, call them. Alabama Governor Bob Riley said he would block Mobile Bay with booms to block the oil, but like the Confederate blockade, Admiral Farragut made it through and so creeps the oil.

This is the message that is unfolding. We are helpless against the crude oil onslaught.

Dispersed oil is still oil. Just because it no longer floats, it is still there. The balls sink to the bottom and end up on the beaches of Dauphin Island and Gulf Shores, as they have already. Is Pensacola Beach next?

No booms stop tar balls. We are helpless.

Former State Senator John Tyson, Sr. told the IN this is the worst man-made environmental disaster in US history. The Gulf Stream loop current can spread the oil from the Florida Keys to the North Carolina coast. The oil slick is already looming across the Mississippi delta, America’s largest and most productive estuary. Sportsmen know Venice Louisiana the way glass blowers think of Venice Italy. The blob is now looming near Texas.

Millions and millions of oil gallons can cover an area of economic destruction that boggles the mind. That is why Tyson, Fred Levin, Robert Cunningham and every other prominent plaintiff attorney in America is harkerning to the masses. Millions are to be made and lost, and we are helpless.

Settlements from Exxon Valdez are still in court 20 years later. The shrimper, snapper boat captain, tourist merchant and real estate renter can take a back seat to the big money grab. The visible media coverage from the cover of Time Magazine to USA today tells us the oil slick is visible on the surface. And the incredible white Gulf beaches are in danger. But as Dauphin Island Sea Lab Director George Crozier said, we can clean the beaches, but the marsh is another story. The damage is toxic. Even the dispersing fluid is toxic, says the Mobile Bay Watch director, Casi Calloway. The damage is compounding, and we are helpless.

Our helplessness is not in a Biblical sense and not for the sake of hyperbole. We are helpless because we are truly helpless, and even helpless to admit it, fighting the oil like we would like to fend off a hurricane. Those who have fought a hurricane know the reality when it comes to Mother Nature. Mother Nature does as she does, when she does, how she does, and why, without concern for soap dispersants, oil booms, piles of sand, lawyers and volunteers. A nuclear blast was used underground, says John Tyson, in the Soviet Union when the Russians tried to close a similar underground oil leak.

How do you spell h-e-l-p-l-e-s-s?

On Dauphin Island the sand is piling up and the National Guard is building miles of fence. BP money is being thrown around as a gesture of good will, $25 million to Alabama announced today. Big contracts are being awarded to local companies. Yellow and orange booms for miles look comforting. But well known causeway restaurant owner John Word said, Even Jo Patti’s is running out of seafood.

The oil takes many forms. The damage takes many forms. The media coverage blows hard, two weeks too early, until it blows out. And then a pretty blonde is killed and the lead story changes. And we remain helpless, tuning in to hear the next lead story, while the coming sound of rising oil prices sucks the vitality out of our dying coast line.

As Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) CEO David Bronner said, If oil prices skyrocket again, our economy is in real danger. Money, food, oil and resources make and break civilizations.

Reporting from across the state line…..Dawn Butler