New bid to halt oil fails as slick nears Florida
Published 03/06/2010 | 05:00
IT appears that the "worst ecologocial disaster" in US history, according to President Barack Obama, has indeed just got worse.
Yesterday, as the highly toxic crude slick crept closer to Florida, another ill-fated effort to contain the oil spill appeared to have come to nothing.
A diamond-edged saw became stuck in a thick pipe at the bottom of the Gulf.
Last night, coast guard Admiral Thad Allen said the goal was to free the saw and finish the cut later in the day. It must be remembered that the latest cock-up is part of the effort to contain -- not plug -- the leak which is gushing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
The only realistic prospect of stopping the leak is a relief well, which is at least two months from completion.
"I don't think the issue is whether or not we can make the second cut. It's about how fine we can make it, how smooth we can make it," Admiral Allen said. If the cut is not as smooth as engineers would like, they would be forced to put a looser fitting cap on top of the oil spewing out. This cut-and-cap effort could temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20pc, though
Allen said officials wouldn't know whether that had happened until the cut could be completed. Engineers may have to bring in a second saw awaiting on a boat, but it was not immediately clear how long that could delay the operation. Live video showed oil spewing out of the new cut, and crews were shooting chemicals to try to disperse the crude.
The effort underwater was frantically taking place as oil drifted close to the northwestern Florida's white sand beaches for the first time and investors ran from BP's stock for a second day, reacting to the company's weekend failure to plug the leak by shooting mud and cement into the well, known as the top kill.
The Justice Department also has announced it started criminal and civil probes into the spill, although the department did not name specific targets for prosecution.
Mr Obama said that it was time to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies and use the money for clean energy research and development.
He said the catastrophic Gulf oil spill shows the country must move toward clean energy, tapping natural gas and nuclear power and eliminating tax breaks for big oil.
Meanwhile, shares in British-based BP PLC were down 3pc.