Archive for May, 2010

31
May
10

U.S. prepares for the worst after best hope of oil solution falls apart

NEWS
U.S. prepares for the worst after best hope of oil solution falls apart

Monday, May 31, 2010

Earth

••• After the failure of BP’s ‘top kill’ attempt to plug the leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well, company officials say it may take a week to implement the next bid.

Hours after the British oil giant acknowledged failure in its ‘top kill’ attempt to plug the underwater well, company officials said it could take a week to implement the next bid – placing a cap over the leak.

‘Right now we are going to a containment operation,’ BP Managing Director Bob Dudley told CNN’s State of the Union program of the latest attempt to deal with the ruptured well about 1.5 kilometres under water.

‘Because this is being done at 5,000 feet with robots, we’re going to take our time, do it extremely carefully. By the end of the week, we should have this in place,’ Dudley said.

While the ‘top kill’ would have sealed the well using a combination of heavy drilling fluid and eventually cement, the new effort aims only to contain most of the leak, and might temporarily increase the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

The well will only be sealed when BP finishes drilling two relief wells – which are supposed to be a better long-term solution – but those are not expected to be ready until August.

That means the relief well won’t be completed until the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama’s top energy advisor, Carol Browner, said on Sunday that the spill was ‘probably the biggest environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country.’
‘I think what the American people need to know is that it is possible that we will have oil leaking from this well until August when the relief wells will be finished,’ she said.

The spill has dumped between 18 million gallons (68 million litres) and 40 million gallons (150 million litres) into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

The leak began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.

Some 500 people braved rains in New Orleans’ French Quarter on Sunday to denounce BP for the oil spill, as well as the Obama administration’s response to the disaster.

The new bid underway involves using robots to sever a damaged riser pipe carrying oil from the wellhead and placing a containment device called a Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) over the leak.

Oil would then be siphoned from the device up to a container ship at the surface.

But the process could actually increase the amount of oil leaking into the sea, and it is uncertain how much oil would be contained, Browner said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.

On Friday, Obama visited Louisiana for the second time since the spill began, and he pledged on Saturday to do whatever it takes to help those whose livelihoods have been upended by the catastrophe.

‘We will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimised by this manmade disaster are made whole,’ he said.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen – who is leading the government’s response to the spill – said at a briefing with Obama on Sunday that the federal containment effort had redoubled, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

‘Officials on the ground have increased efforts to be more responsive to needs identified by local communities,’ Allen said, according to Gibbs.

Since the spill began, an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude have leaked into the Gulf each day.

The disaster has already closed stretches of coastal fishing waters, endangering the seafood industry and tourism, and threatening a catastrophe for Louisiana marshes, home to many rare species.

Government data released Thursday suggested between 18.6 million gallons and 29.5 million gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf – far more than the roughly 11 million gallons of crude spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

The spill has been a public relations nightmare for BP, which faced new allegations of negligence on Sunday after The New York Times said internal company files showed the firm had serious concerns about the Deepwater rig weeks before the accident.
• Source(s): BP PLC & AP
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30
May
10

BP: ‘Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied

NEWS
BP: ‘Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Earth

••• BP’s risky ‘top kill’ operation to plug the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has failed, the energy giant says.

BP and federal authorities are now turning to a new strategy to stop the leak, but it will take at least four to seven days before it can be put in place.

At least 75 million gallons are now estimated to have gushed into the ocean since the disaster unfolded five weeks ago, threatening an environmental and economic catastrophe across hundreds of kilometres of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

‘After three full days of attempting ‘top kill’, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it’s time to move on to the next of our options,’ BP Chief Operations Officer Doug Suttles told a news briefing.

Engineers had spent days pumping some 30,000 barrels of heavy drilling fluid into the leaking well head on the ocean floor in a high-pressure bid to smother the gushing crude and ultimately seal the well with cement.

But the effort failed, and when asked specifically why, Suttles had no direct answer.

‘We don’t know that for certain,’ he said, adding that ‘we were unable to sustainably overcome the flow’.

The announcement marks the latest failure for BP, which despite a series of high-tech operations over the past month has appeared powerless to bring the disaster to heel since an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 that killed eleven workers. The rig sank two days later.

The British energy giant had stressed that ‘top kill’ was the best chance at stopping the leak other than drilling an entirely new relief well, a process that has already begun but is expected to take another two months.
Efforts will now focus on severing the damaged riser pipes that lay crumpled on the ocean floor, then installing a containment device that could capture the leaking oil and siphon it to the surface.

BP and the Coast Guard said it would take four to seven days before the contraption – dubbed the ‘Lower Marine Riser Package’, or LMRP – can be put in place.

And Suttle said even if LMRP works, it would only contain a majority of the oil and not all of it.

The setback came a day after President Barack Obama visited the region for the second time since the oil spill began 40 days ago, in an attempt to bring new urgency to the response.

Obama toured some of the affected areas in Louisiana on Friday and pledged ‘to continue to do whatever it takes to help Americans whose livelihoods have been upended by the spill.’
• Source(s): BP PLC
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29
May
10

Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen

NEWS
Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen
President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asked all Americans to join him in remembering and honoring our men and women in uniform who have died in service to the country. The commitment these heroes have demonstrated – the willingness to lay down their lives so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation – has helped make America the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth and it is what we honor on Memorial Day.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.

It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.

Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.

There are any number of reasons America emerged from its humble beginnings as a cluster of colonies to become the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth. There is the hard work, the resilience, and the character of our people. There is the ingenuity and enterprising spirit of our entrepreneurs and innovators. There are the ideals of opportunity, equality, and freedom that have not only inspired our people to perfect our own union, but inspired others to perfect theirs as well.

But from the very start, there was also something more. A steadfast commitment to serve, to fight, and if necessary, to die, to preserve America and advance the ideals we cherish. It’s a commitment witnessed at each defining moment along the journey of this country. It’s what led a rag-tag militia to face British soldiers at Lexington and Concord. It’s what led young men, in a country divided half slave and half free, to take up arms to save our union. It’s what led patriots in each generation to sacrifice their own lives to secure the life of our nation, from the trenches of World War I to the battles of World War II, from Inchon and Khe Sanh, from Mosul to Marjah.

That commitment – that willingness to lay down their lives so we might inherit the blessings of this nation – is what we honor today. But on this Memorial Day, as on every day, we are called to honor their ultimate sacrifice with more than words. We are called to honor them with deeds.

We are called to honor them by doing our part for the loved ones our fallen heroes have left behind and looking after our military families. By making sure the men and women serving this country around the world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home safely. By making sure veterans have the care and assistance they need. In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country – and their families – as well as they have served us.

On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.

A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.

• Source(s): The White House
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29
May
10

The Largest Cleanup Effort in U.S. History

NEWS
The Largest Cleanup Effort in U.S. History

Saturday, May 29, 2010

••• Following up on his press conference discussing the BP oil spill, the President travelled to the Gulf Coast to get another first-hand look at the progress and to be briefed by those on the ground. At the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grande Isle, Louisiana, the President spoke to the frustration those in the local community and across America feel watching the BP oil leak:

Understandably, the feelings of frustration and anger, the sense that any response is inadequate – we expect that frustration and anger to continue until we actually solve this problem. But in the meantime, we’ve got to make sure that everybody is working in concert, that everybody is moving in the same direction. And I want everybody to know that everybody here – at every level – is working night and day to end this crisis. We’re considering every single idea out there, especially from folks who know these communities best.

The President commended those in the area who have “rolled up their sleeves” to help with the clean up, saying that “we’re in this together.” He warned that as frustrating as it is now, the clean-up will be a monumental and lengthy process, but he pledged to ensure that BP compensates those whose livelihoods have suffered and directed small business owners and others in need of help to the resources here at WhiteHouse.gov.

He spoke extensively of what he saw touring the tragedy this morning:

And our response treats this event for what it is: It’s an assault on our shores, on our people, on the regional economy, and on communities like this one. This isn’t just a mess that we’ve got to mop up. People are watching their livelihoods wash up on the beach. Parents are worried about the implications for their children’s health. Every resident of this community has watched this nightmare threaten the dreams that they’ve worked so hard to build. And they want it made right, and they want to make it right now.

I just had a chance to listen to Mayor David Carmadelle of Grande Isle, our host here, telling us heartbreaking stories about fishermen who are trying to figure out where the next paycheck is going to come from, how are they going to pay a mortgage or a note on their boat. And he is having to dig into his pocket at this point to make sure that some of them are able to deal with the economic impact. So this is something that has to be dealt with immediately, not sometime later. And that’s everybody’s driving focus – everybody who is standing behind me. This is our highest priority and it deserves a response that is equal to the task.

That’s why this has already been the largest cleanup effort in U.S. history. On the day this disaster began, even as we launched a search and rescue effort for workers on the drilling rig, we were already staging equipment in the event of a larger-scale spill. By the time we discovered the third breach, a week after the Deepwater Horizon platform sank, we had already stationed more than 70 vessels and hundreds of thousands of feet of protective boom on site.

Today, there are more than 20,000 people in the region working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. We’ve activated about 1,400 members of the National Guard across four states. Nearly 1,400 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. And we deployed more than 3 million feet of hard and sorbent boom, including an additional 100,000 just yesterday for these parishes in Louisiana that face the greatest threat.

Now, I’ve made clear to Admiral Allen and I did so again today that he should get whatever he needs to deal with this crisis. Whatever he needs, he will get.

Right now, we’re still within the window where we don’t yet know the outcome of the highly complex top kill procedure that the federal government authorized BP to use to try to stop the leak. If it is successful, it would obviously be welcome news. If it’s not, a team of some of the world’s top scientists, engineers and experts, led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, has for some time being – has for some time been exploring any and all reasonable contingency plans.

But our response will continue with its full force regardless of the outcome of the top kill approach – because even if the leak was stopped today it wouldn’t change the fact that these waters still contain oil from what is now the largest spill in American history. And more of it will come ashore.

To ensure that we’re fully prepared for that, and in accordance with input from folks down here, I’ve directed Secretary Napolitano and Admiral Allen to triple the manpower in places where oil has hit the shore or is within 24 hours of impact. This increase will allow us to further intensify this already historic response, contain and remove oil more quickly, and help minimize the time that any oil comes into contact with our coastline. That means deploying more boom, cleaning more beaches, performing more monitoring of wildlife and impact to this ecosystem.

We’re also going to continue to do whatever it takes to help Americans whose livelihoods have been upended by this spill. Gulf Coast residents should know that we’ve gathered all pertinent information regarding available assistance and the federal response in one place at whitehouse.gov.

We have ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they deliver. And the parish presidents and governors here in Louisiana were already giving us some sense of some of the bureaucratic problems that we’re going to have to cut through, but we are going to cut through them. And for those who are in economic distress, if you’ve already filed a claim and you’re not satisfied with the resolution, then whitehouse.gov will point you in the right direction.

As I said yesterday, the Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans, but also as important, allowing many to defer existing loan payments. A lot of folks are still loaded up with loans that they had from Katrina and other natural disasters down here, so they may need some additional help.

If you’re a small business owner and you weren’t aware of some of the programs that have been put in place or haven’t participated, then, again, the White House website will connect you to the resources you need. And we are making sure that all the parish presidents know, and folks like the mayor, other local officials are going to be aware of how they can get immediate help from us.

What’s more, we’ve stationed doctors and scientists across the five Gulf States to look out for people’s health and then to monitor any ill effects felt by cleanup workers and local residents. And we’ve begun setting up a system to track these efforts – excuse me, to track these effects – and ensure folks get the care that they need. And we’ve told BP that we expect them to pay for that, too.

As I’ve said before, BP is the responsible party for this disaster. What that means is they’re legally responsible for stopping the leak and they’re financially responsible for the enormous damage that they’ve created. And we’re going to hold them accountable, along with any other party responsible for the initial explosion and loss of life on that platform.

But as I said yesterday, and as I repeated in the meeting that we just left, I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I’m the President and the buck stops with me. So I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this catastrophe, to defend our natural resources, to repair the damage, and to keep this region on its feet. Justice will be done for those whose lives have been upended by this disaster, for the families of those whose lives have been lost – that is a solemn pledge that I am making.

• Source(s): The White House
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29
May
10

Shell Buys U.S. Gas Assets From East Resources for $4.7 Billion

NEWS
Shell Buys U.S. Gas Assets From East Resources for $4.7 Billion
Saturday, May 29, 2010

••• Royal Dutch Shell, the energy major, has almost doubled its reserves of shale gas with the $4.7 Billion in cash acquisition of East Resources.

East Resources owns and operates more than 2,500 producing oil and gas wells in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado and is actively exploring drilling programs in Wyoming, according to its website. It has been operating in the Marcellus Shale Area for 25 years.

Companies from India’s Reliance Industries Ltd to Japan’s Mitsui & Co are spending billions of dollars on drilling to dislodge natural gas from shale – sedimentary rock composed of mud, quartz and calcite. Shell expects its share of gas in total output to rise to 52 percent in 2012.
“They’ve seen others take material positions in U.S. gas, and this is one way they can also play a part in that business,” said Jason Kenney, head of oil and gas research at ING Commercial Banking in Edinburgh.

The acquisition is the second-biggest oil and gas deal this year, after BP Plc’s acquisition of deepwater assets from Devon Energy Corp for $7 billion in March, according to Bloomberg data.

“We are enhancing our world-wide upstream portfolio for profitable growth, through exploration and focused acquisitions, and through divestment of non-core positions,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said in a statement today.

Exxon Mobil Corp, the biggest U.S. oil company, agreed in December to buy XTO Energy Inc, the country’s largest natural gas producer, for $31 billion to gain control of shale-gas assets.
• Source(s): Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Bloomberg L.P.
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29
May
10

Apple’s iPad makes global debut

NEWS
Apple’s iPad makes global debut

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thousands of die-hard Apple fans mobbed shops worldwide on Friday as the iPad, called a revolution in personal computing by some and limited and overhyped by others, began its global launch.

Long queues of customers snaked outside Apple shops in Australia and Japan hours before the opening and similar huddled masses turned out at stores in six European countries, including Britain and France.

The iPad – a flat, 9.7 inches black tablet – also went on sale in Canada as part of a global rollout that was pushed back by a month due to huge demand in the United States.

One million iPads were sold in 28 days in the United States after the product’s debut in early April despite mixed reviews from consumers.

The product is the latest from Apple, which dethroned software giant Microsoft this week as the largest U.S. technology company in terms of market value, to create a frenzy.

At Apple’s flagship store in Paris, set in the prestigious mall beneath the Louvre museum, 24-year-old engineer Audrey Sobgou beamed as she walked away with one of the prized tablets.

Sobgou travelled 127 miles from her hometown in Lille, northern France, and waited nearly two hours before stepping inside the busy Apple store.

‘I’m not a victim of hype,’ she insisted. ‘I know Apple products and it’s about the quality, the interface, how it’s designed and what it can do. With elegance and style.’

Hundreds of people queued outside the Paris Apple store hours before it opened.

In Britain, a few dozen enthusiasts waited outside the Apple store in central London at 3am to get their hands on the iPad when it opened five hours later.

Staff escorted the first group of customers one by one up to buy their iPad after they opened the doors, whooping, chanting and cheering.

‘I queued overnight for about 20 hours since midday yesterday but it was very, very worth it,’ Jake Lee, a 17-year-old student from Essex, told AFP, clutching his treasured iPad.

The iPad also went on sale in Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland and will be followed in July by a launch in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Alejandro Barras, manager of the Apple store in downtown Madrid, said his iPad stock sold out one hour after opening.

Apple aficionados in Zurich camped out overnight in front of the store to buy the tablet and download some of the 5000 available apps – the media applications that run on the device.

In Montreal, an 82-year-old man with a long white beard and a beret stood in line with about 100 people, some of whom arrived at the Apple store at 6am.

‘I’m not a fan of gadgets,’ Jean-Maurice Demers told AFP. ‘But I’m involved in several political committees and community groups and I’m tired of dragging around several kilograms of files.’

Prices in Japan and Australia for the basic 16GB iPad are comparable to US prices, although a significant markup by Apple in Britain and continental Europe has triggered grumbling.

In France, wi-fi models sell for between 499 and 699 euros ($613 and $860), with the 3G models going for between 599 and 799 euros ($736 and $982) .

The multi-functional device is tipped by some pundits to revitalise media and publishing, with many major newspapers and broadcasters launching applications.

As well as the five other European countries, Apple plans to bring the iPad to Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore in July.

Apple has declined to reveal the number of pre-orders received for the iPad internationally, but Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky put it at around 600,000.

The iPad has officially gone on sale in Australia, with hundreds of tech lovers snapping up the touchscreen tablet device within minutes of it being released in Sydney.

Over 200 Apple fans braved the chilly Sydney weather overnight to be the first to get their hands on the new technology when the George Street store opened its doors at 08:00 am (AEST) on Friday.

Rahul Koduri, who had been in the line since 02:00 am (AEST) on Thursday, succeeded in his dream of being the first in Australia to purchase the iPad.

The 22-year-old Blacktown resident, who snapped up two iPads, was delighted.

‘It’s fantastic, it was so worth the wait,’ he said, holding up his two shiny iPad boxes.

‘One of these is for me, of course, and the other is for a family member.’

• Source(s): Apple Inc. and Independent Television News (ITN)
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28
May
10

Obama Visits Gulf, Pledges to Stop Leak

NEWS
Obama Visits Gulf, Pledges to Stop Leak

Friday, May 28, 2010

••• President Barack Obama has told the people of the U.S. Gulf Coast they won’t be ‘abandoned’, in his most impassioned remarks yet on the United States’ worst-ever oil spill.

‘To the people of the Gulf Coast, I know you’ve weathered your fair share of trials and tragedy,’ Obama said, in a reference to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 which triggered a botched government response.

‘I know there have been times where you have wondered if you’re being asked to face them alone,’ Obama said on a barrier island off Louisiana during his second tour of disaster hit-areas on Friday.
‘I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.

‘You will not be abandoned. You will not be left behind. The cameras at some point may leave. The media may get tired of the story. But we will not,’ he said.

‘We are on your side, and we will see this through. We’re going to keep at this every day until the leak is stopped, until this coastline is clean, and your communities are made whole again.

‘That’s my promise to you. And that is a promise on behalf of a nation. It is one that we will keep.’
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