Dutch Cleanup Assistance Finally Accepted

Dutch Skimmers

On Tuesday of last week, the US finally announced it was accepting the help of 12 foreign countries in the Gulf cleanup effort.

Much has been made of the Obama Administration’s response or lack of response to the B.P. Gulf oil spill. It’s a natural question, understandably people want to know if their government is doing everything possible in the face of a growing environmental disaster.

The fact of the matter is, up until last week, the unofficial government stance on the matter was “thanks, but no thanks,” to offers of foreign aid. In an email released to the press core just weeks ago, the administration quotes:

“While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future.”

The Dutch skimmers combined can handle 146,000 barrels each day.

The Dutch offered to fly their skimmers over just 3 days after reports of the spill surfaced. The Dutch have a government developed safety system that can be deployed in case of a spill from a tanker or well. They pride themselves in being fully capable of handling disasters such as those, so they don’t have to rely on corporations for damage control.

The reason the Dutch offer was refused, sadly, is a matter of over-regulation and lack of leadership. On June 8th, BP reported they had recovered 64,650 barrels of oil, only a fraction of the amount spilled. 64,000 barrels, also happens to be less than a day’s capacity of the Dutch oil skimmers. Currently, the well is outputting 35,000 barrels of oil a day. The Dutch skimmers combined can handle 146,000 barrels each day. These skimmers are able to operate so efficiently due to the fact treat oil invested water, and then pump out sea water that is 98% oil free, to make room for more treatable water.

EPA regulations in the U.S. mandates that the treated water may not be dumped back into the ocean. So U.S. skimmers have to hold onto all the water they clean and sail back to port to offload the treated water, rendering them virtually ineffective compared to the Dutch fleet. The small amount of oil dumped back into the ocean by the Dutch skimmers is so minor, that it would quickly be broken down by naturally occurring bacteria. Sadly, it is all or nothing in the eyes of the EPA.

Then there is the Jones act, which mandates only American built, owned and staffed ships may work American waters. Either of these facts might possible explain why the administration, up until this week, has rejected foreign aid. There is a provision in the Jones act that the administration can waive part of the Jones act in times of emergency.

As the foreign assistance ramps up this week, its hard not to imagine what a fleet of skimmers might have prevented if they had started within the first six days.

Energy, Politics

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