Oil Spill and More

I used to be familiar with that part of Gulf of Mexico years ago. Blue, serene ocean, sometimes tumultuous with stormy waves and flashing froth, and sometimes so somber and calm, that only the slightest wave movements could be visible. It used to take about two hours, more or less, in a helicopter ride from New Orleans to the seismic exploration vessel I was working in, exploring oil and gas in the middle of seemingly no where, with kilometer after kilometer long cables, four and sometimes six of them in parallel, sprawling on the ocean water supported by buoy and electrical "birds" to keep all the geophones and other signal sensory equipments in balance.

To me it was amazing how the science and human ingenuity worked like magic, using sound reflection and refraction technology to map the sub surface layers of rocks under ocean, measuring the differences in densities and seismic velocities, called acoustic impedance, and plenty of mathematics and computer algorithms to decipher the wiggly meanings from subsurface seismic reflection and refraction data.

Some of these memories still feel so fresh and vivid as if it happened only yesterday.

The images now I see in the news, the oil spill known as the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the same vicinity of the ocean I was familiar with is heartbreaking, as "the oil making its way ominously and relentlessly, like an invading army, toward the area’s delicate and heartbreakingly vulnerable wetlands".

I would not blame the columnist Bob Herbert describing the latest catastrophe in following terms, "The risks unleashed by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are profound — the latest to be set in motion by the scandalous, rapacious greed of the oil industry and its powerful allies and enablers in government. America is selling its soul for oil." - but would have definitely like to ask him what is the alternative to oil and gas for our energy hungry world where the very civilization we all feel proud of and take as granted? Can we sustain our levels of ease, comforts and ways of life if the supplies of oil and gas suddenly cease to exist? The answer would be a resounding no I believe. Our world, and us the human populace is ill prepared to face the very much inevitable, because the fossil fuel is not infinite.

It is not to say that there are no alternatives. Alternative fuels are talks of the day, at least they used to be only a few months and years ago, especially in the summer of 2007 and 2008 when the oil price jumped high like a rocket, and it has the possibility of doing so in not so distant future unless the world slides into a greater depression that everyone seems to be fearing about. Even if the depression lasts longer than expected and anticipated, when the economy rebounds and the hunger and demands for energy multiplies many folds, the price of fossil fuel will jump again to record high, that's possibly a high probability. The question that bothers me more these days is whether the nations, and their governments, are doing enough, in unison, to support the scientific communities, universities and research labs to deliver the world the required alternative fuels, that will be eco friendly, and desirably has less or no damage to the environment and health, and is equally important factor is that they are affordable to masses and easily available. These are all complicated problems to resolve, not by any one nation or corporation, but by global unity and cohesion.

Perhaps someday the world conscience will wake up to the call of real urgency.

Link to Bob Herbert's article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/opinion/22herbert.html