Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

Book Review: Picturing America’s National Parks

September 1st, 2016

Book Review: Picturing America’s National Parks by George Eastman Museum Assistant Curator Jamie M. Allen

Cover of "Picturing America's National Parks" by Jamie M. Allen (2016).

Cover of “Picturing America’s National Parks” by Jamie M. Allen (2016). (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Landscape Photography Classics and Much More

To accompany the George Eastman Museum exhibition, Photography and America’s National Parks, the Eastman Museum and Aperture Foundation teamed up to publish assistant curator Jamie M. Allen’s new comprehensive book on the history of photography in our nation’s parks called Picturing America’s National Parks.

The George Eastman show, made up of the work of more than 50 photographers from all eras in the history of photography, includes landscape photography greats such as Ansel Adams, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Imogen Cunningham, John K. Hillers, Philip Hyde, William Henry Jackson, the Kolb Brothers, Eadweard J. Muybridge, Eliot Porter, Bradford Washburn, Carleton E. Watkins, Edward Weston and Minor White, as well as a good number of other renowned photographers who also happened to make exposures in the National Parks such as George Eastman, Andreas Feininger, Lee Friedlander, Johan Hagemeyer, Martin Parr, Stephen Shore, Garry Winogrand and others. The exhibition has also turned out to be one of the most popular and prominent museum shows of the year.

You See It “Everywhere”

As such, during the run of the exhibit from June 4 – October 2, 2016, Photography and America’s National Parks has enjoyed significant publicity, while the book, Picturing America’s National Parks, already has attracted even greater press exposure. The exhibition or the book or both were introduced or reviewed in Antiques Magazine, Outdoor Photographer magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Aperture, Real Clear Life, the Rochesteriat, the Nature Conservancy magazine, the Rochester City Newspaper, Smithsonian Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Museum of Photographic Arts, Visit Rochester, The Atlantic, Tween Tribune, Artsy, Outside Magazine, AnOther magazine, Mother Jones magazine, USA Today, Yahoo News, Slate, Audubon magazine, Artbook, Travel & Leisure magazine, Pop Photo, and many others. The book can be found online to purchase, borrow or to read more reviews at Amazon.com, Aperture Foundation, Target.com, Bookshop.com, eBay, Google Play, Library Resource Finder, Sweet, Abelardo Morell, Schaumburg Library, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art bookshop, Worldcat, Fraser Muggeridge Studio, Loot, LibraryThing, Lenscratch, Photolucida, ALA Booklist, Beyond Words, PDN Online and many, many others too deep in Google search results to track down.

Fascinating, Well-Written and Leavened With Significant Detail

Like her pre-show introductory article in Antiques magazine, assistant Curator Jamie M. Allen’s main essay in the book is well written, smooth flowing and easy to read, yet packed with interesting history of both the national parks and early photography in them. The rest of the book displays the photographs with titles and an accompanying text for each of the featured photographers, interspersed with several paragraphs at a time on various historically relevant points such as the invention of the mass produced Kodak camera, the increase in availability of the automobile, the development of photomechanical and photolithographic postcards for sale at park concessions, 18-by-60-foot Colorama photo advertisements for the national parks, caretakers in the national parks and the National Park Service’s social media campaign #findyourpark.

Interspersed with the images from each major contributor at approximately every 16 pages, a timeline page provides the reader with significant dates in the history of photography and the history of the national parks. These timeline pages are loaded with fascinating tidbits that enrich the reading experience of the book. Despite many details included, the timelines present history in general, broad strokes. There are significant points of history, especially of the parks that are not detailed, but this would require a much larger, more difficult to read book.

A Popular Populist Approach

Ms. Jamie M. Allen approaches her subject from a populist perspective, which is somewhat unusual for a museum curator. More than one of the reviews of Picturing America’s National Parks said it was a comprehensive history of photography in the national parks. This is partly true, depending on the definitions of these terms. On a more close reading though, I would say that this volume is not necessarily the history of fine art photography or landscape photography in the national parks, but it could more accurately be described as the history of all photography in the national parks, or a history of cameras and images of any kind from any source made in the national parks.

This populist view of photography in the national parks puts significant emphasis on the various ways that photographs have helped to establish, preserve, depict and popularize the national parks. Allen observes that the history of the national parks is inextricably intertwined with the history of photography. After reading this inspiring book, I would go beyond saying that photography helped popularize the national parks to say that apparently the national parks helped popularize photography. In the development of the West, Allen points out that images produced on location at several of the most popular parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite became a hot commodity. A cottage industry in photograph sales developed with photographers establishing small shops where tourists could purchase various types of photographic reproductions of the scenery they had enjoyed during their visit and in some cases purchase photos of themselves in the scenery.

Intertwining Histories of National Parks and Photography

The development of postcards, the snapshot camera and many other aspects of photography that were popular rather than professional, were a large part of the story of the intertwining histories. In addition these aspects make a more interesting read than a mere compilation of the great photographers who have depicted the national parks. Because some of the professionals have been left out, the collection of photographs represented acts less as a survey of those famous for photographing the parks and more as a compilation of famous people and ordinary people who also made images in the national parks.

Both the exhibition and the book tie all of this history into current trends by bringing to light the masses of images and selfies made each day and shared hourly on social media. However, Allen and the Eastman Museum go beyond the mere mention of this phenomenon, to incorporating it as an activity at the exhibit. In the entryway to the show a photograph of the Grand Canyon containing a life-sized figure of George Eastman standing on the rim gives visitors to the show an opportunity to make a selfie with Mr. Eastman and the Grand Canyon in the background to take home, share on social media and discuss the exhibit with friends online. This feature and the encouragement of phone snapshots in the museum makes the visitor experience more fun while portraying the museum as cool and up to date in their delivery of history, not to mention making the show and the museum extremely popular, as well as the objects of considerable buzz.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Allen and her team are to be commended for their fanning of the media flames through her appearance on local TV and the comprehensive development of publicity across the country, but also in their exhaustive and colossal volume of research necessary for such a project. As excellent as done, their research was not necessarily perfect, or perhaps for sake of simplicity and accessibility they chose to leave some information out. For example: the timeline for the 1960s is missing the introduction of color to photography books. Though the timelines are a small part of the overall book presentation, this was a major breakthrough for the parks, for photography and for the fortunes of Kodak because it caused a huge spike in the popularity of color film. It also was part of what led to the popularization of the coffee table photography book, which changed the face of the photography industry and paved the way for more photographers to make a living in the medium.

In the timelines, there is also no mention of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which during the 1960s, especially in the Western U.S., but also all over the world, greatly advanced the momentum of the movement to conserve more public lands and to further popularize the national parks themselves. The timeline entry for 1963 mentioned that David Brower and Eliot Porter published several books on the parks, but the mention of popular books by Philip Hyde in the Exhibit Format Series, who is represented in the Eastman Museum collection, also is omitted. David Brower called Philip Hyde his go-to photographer because he produced the images for many books that made or protected national parks just in the 1960s alone, such as The Last Redwoods (1963), Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon (1964), The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland (1965), Not Man Apart (1965) Navajo Wildlands (1967), The Grand Colorado (1969) and even more volumes in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s book, Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula (1962) was the first book to ever raise funds to purchase land to make a national park service unit, Point Reyes National Seashore. It was also published the same year as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, (also not mentioned in Picturing America’s National Parks) in 1962, giving both books the shared title of the first major book projects published in color.

Outstanding Image Choice and the Making of an Evergreen Title

I like Allen’s image choices for the sections on Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White and many of the others because she used photographs we don’t often see from these well-known masters. Adams as usual gets a huge amount of credit for his work in the national parks, most of which is well-deserved. However, also as usual, Adams gets credit for some of the accomplishments of other photographers such as the help in conservation and formation of national parks, which Adams did do some and quite effectively, but not more than or even at the same level as photographers such as Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter, who essentially took over the Sierra Club Books from Ansel Adams after they transitioned to color. The description under Ansel Adams carried on at length about conservation and the national parks, whereas the Philip Hyde description mentioned it only briefly, especially in light of his much greater volume of work on wilderness and national park protection campaigns. When I asked Allen about the difference, she said that originally her text included much more about Philip Hyde’s work in preserving national parks, but that her editors cut some of it. Apparently editors need educating as well about the figures behind major conservation efforts.

To illustrate this point and to show an example of how the descriptions were presented, here is the entry for Ansel Adams:

Ansel Adams‘ (American, 1902-1984) lifelong passion for the national parks began in 1916 when, at the age of 14, he read James Mason Hutching’s 496-page book In the Heart of the Sierras (1886) and convinced his parents to take him on vacation to Yosemite Valley. Equipped with a No. 1 Brownie camera that his parents had given him, Adams took his first images of Yosemite that year. Soon after, he became involved with the Sierra Club, starting as the custodian for the club’s headquarters in Yosemite and later leading tours and participating in trips to the Yosemite High Country. He was eventually elected to the board of directors and lobbied for additional areas to be set aside as national parks and monuments. By the 1930s, Adams’ photographic work had become well known, and in 1941 he was invited to participate in a project to photograph all the national parks. Organized by the Secretary of Interior, the initiative was abruptly cancelled when the United States entered World War II. Adams continued the project independently, supported by a series of Guggenheim Fellowships. His images of the parks have come to represent the grandeur of the American landscape, conjuring a sense of pride for American viewers in both the land itself and the preservation of these spaces through the National Park Service. Adams’ photographs have also had broad international appeal, establishing the national parks as globally recognizable icons.

Compare that to the entry for Philip Hyde, which is also excellent, but not as thorough:

In 1946, Philip Hyde (American 1921-2006) became one of the first students to attend the newly formed photography program at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). Here he studied under Edward Weston, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and many other influential photographers of the time. After graduating, Hyde served as the official photographer of the Sierra Club High Trip during the summer of 1950, thus beginning his long relationship with the organization. His involvement with the club blossomed into relationships with other groups, including the Wilderness Society and the National Audubon Society. Hyde’s photographic work was used to advocate for and realize the preservation of places such as the Grand Canyon. While he photographed the characteristic vantages of many national parks, his images also show atypical views, such as a sand dune at the Grand Canyon.

Regardless, even with some omissions, Picturing America’s National Parks is destined to be a staple of bookstores, libraries, schools and universities for many years to come. I like the accessibility of the approach, the innovative layout and the depth of information presented in an easy to digest format. I like the cover art, but don’t particularly like the no dust-jacket cover. However, this keeps the costs down also adding to accessibility. Besides, this type of jacketless cover will likely prove ideal when the book is used as a textbook. It certainly ought to be mandatory reading for anyone studying photography, the national parks or any related outdoor curriculum.

BP Oil Spill: Who Is Responsible For Oil Drilling And Spilling?

May 27th, 2010

The Quintessential Summary of the Most Important and Bizarre Aspects of the BP Oil Spill, the Response and Who Is Responsible…

Cleaning Spilled Oil In The Mississippi River Delta from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2010. Photograph courtesy of Greenpeace and the Mobile Press-Register.

See also the blog post, “New Oil Spills Threaten Fresh Water.”

A neighbor of mine installs solar power systems, lives completely off the grid and drives only restaurant oil powered vehicles. He has a sign on the side of his work truck that says, “Vegetable Oil Powered Vehicle. NO WAR REQUIRED.” He was a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam war, which if you dig a bit you will find was also a resource war like those of the 21st Century. Recently this neighbor had black T-shirts printed that have a picture of an oil drilling rig in flames sinking beneath ocean waves with a slogan across the top, “Happy Earth Day 2010.” His dark sense of irony is not humor.

Over the last 10 years, the battle has heated up over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Oil drilling promoters claim it would ease our pain from high gasoline prices. Fact is that the total amount of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is enough to power America’s gas guzzling habit for only a few weeks. We could “develop” far more extra oil than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could provide, merely by cutting down on driving and increasing car pools. Carl Donohue of Skolai Images wrote a quality blog post about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and recent hearings held on its wilderness status. His previous well-written post was called, “A Tragedy In The Gulf of Mexico.” The controversy of oil drilling has been in the news for a long time.

‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ Has Been The Call For Too Long

On the front page of Section E of the Sunday November 6, 2005 Denver Post, the headline read, “The Big Rush To Drill.” The article covered most of the page and jumped to 4E. It discussed the future of natural gas and oil drilling in the Colorado Rockies. An area east of Parachute, Colorado called the Roan Plateau had 70 gas and oil drilling sites on it. The Roan Plateau next to Interstate 70 and the Colorado River, is rich in both energy resources and wildlife habitat. The article said nothing of what would happen to the water supplies of most of the West’s major cities if oil somehow leaked into the Colorado River.

The Earth Island Journal Spring 2010 issue had “To Drill Or Not To Drill,” splashed across the cover. Members of the Earth Island Institute will remember that cover as a timely one for years to come.

The Natural Resource Defense Council issued a press release on January 26, 2010 titled, “Oil and Polar Bears Don’t Mix. Stop Shell Now.” It said Shell gave the green light to exploratory drilling off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It pointed out that though the NRDC won a major court victory defeating Shell’s oil drilling plan two years ago, the oil giant is back gunning for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge again. “The shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are Alaska’s main birthing ground and denning area for polar bears…. The oil industry has no proven method for cleaning up oil spills in icy water.” The press release further explained that polar bears that swim in oil slick waters or step in oil washed up on shore and try to lick off the toxic oil would die. Whales would also suffocate or be poisoned and “hundreds of thousands of birds would be killed… and seal populations would be severely impacted by the spilled oil.”

A thick black soup in our ocean waters, covering our beaches, saturating our fragile wetlands, and destroying aquatic life and industries, is not the only legacy of oil drilling and spilling. Robert Redford in 2009 warned us in an article for the Natural Resource Defense Council, “We Can’t Drill Our Way Out of This Mess.” In November 2008 just after Barack Obama was elected, Robert Redford also wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in which he said, “Part of the change Americans just voted for in overwhelming numbers was to move away from the failed energy philosophy of ‘drill, baby, drill’ to a more farsighted strategy.”

Even after the spilled oil began to wash ashore on the Gulf Coast and President Barack Obama had put a freeze on additional oil drilling permits, there were still 17 offshore oil drilling projects that were given the go-ahead without any hesitation. Isn’t it time to say enough? To find permanent alternatives? Currently it is difficult for elected representatives of the American people to make any more than small changes in any policy because corporations now legally have the same rights as citizens. This further escalates the manipulation of the political process that has been increasing for years. Is this government by the people, for the people or a free system? Our political process is like a giant Super Bowl ad, produced by the companies with the deepest pockets. What will happen in 10-15 years when fossil fuels are much more scarce? Will we keep burning fossil fuels until we can hardly breathe and have to walk in sludge everywhere? We cannot allow corporate greed and an obsession with growth to dictate our future. Growth enriches the few and leaves most of us worse off.

Who Is Responsible for the BP Oil Spill?

It’s time we snap out of our denial. Who is responsible for the BP Oil Spill? Every single one of us who drives a car, truck or bus that is powered by petroleum. I think I am doing my part. I recycle. I drive very little, less than 8,000 miles a year, even with all my traveling. I eat local, organic food. I minimize my footprint. However, I realize none of this is enough as long as I am contributing to the need for offshore oil drilling or any kind of oil drilling. Now that I have been jarred out of my complacence, I plan to buy an all-electric car as soon as possible. Hello, they have been available for some time. And, don’t believe the propaganda about batteries not being good enough yet. I highly recommend the documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It is an eye-opener.

For weeks now I have been inundated with BP Oil Spill press releases from the environmental organizations to which I subscribe. I have been listening every day on NPR for blow-by-blow updates on the unfolding tragedy. If you want to make yourself sick, do an internet search on the BP Oil Spill and read the articles and comments. I feel I may have something to say about this maritime Chernobyl, but frankly I have not been sure what to add to the maelstrom, other than the idea that every one of us who uses petroleum is part of the problem and partly responsible. Here’s a timeline of the bizarre developments in this Century’s largest environmental catastrophe:

Wacky Timeline Of An Oil Drilling Maritime Chernobyl

April 20, 2010: Environmental Defense Fund issued a press release outlining how damaged ocean ecosystems are and how only 25 percent of U.S. Fisheries will be able to continue. The majority of all fishing communities are already on the brink of collapse. Catch shares, a method of regulating fishing and stabilizing the 50 fish stocks that are threatened has been working and could be expanded with introduction to Congress. Read More >>

April 20, 2010: two days before Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform located 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast suffered a catastrophic explosion that caused the oil drilling platform to sink. Nearly a mile below the Gulf of Mexico water’s surface an oil gusher started with an oil well blowout. Eleven oil drilling rig workers are missing and considered dead, while 17 others were injured. In Depth Summary >>

April 21, 2010: National Public Radio later said that President Barack Obama held an emergency White House meeting about the BP Oil Spill disaster.

April 22, 2010: Earth Day: Celebrations worldwide mark the 40th Anniversary of the day that commemorates environmental awareness. Much of this year’s focus is on the development of energy alternatives to petroleum and coal.

CNN Breaking Oil Spill News Story Titled: “Exploded Oil Rig Sinks! (DRILL! BABY! DRILL! HAPPY EARTH DAY!)”

April 23: The New York Times and other major media first reported the BP Oil Spill catastrophe three days after it occurred. Treehugger blog in its BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet said the oil spill was reported on April 20 but does not identify who reported it. I can not find any reports before April 23 in the online versions of the major papers. If anyone finds it sooner, let me know which media.

April 30: The Nature Conservancy reported that the first wave of oil came ashore around noon, approximately 45 miles south of New Orleans on the Mississippi River Delta. The seas were running six to eight feet high and an abnormally high tide made it impossible for responders to employ the booms that would normally help to contain the oil slick.

An Environmental Defense Fund press release quoted an e-mail from Paul Harrison, Senior Director for Rivers and Deltas, leader of EDF’s Coastal Louisiana restoration campaign for the last four years writing from the Gulf Coast, “News accounts can hardly do justice to the epic human and environmental tragedy that is unfolding…. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming ocean fisheries to sustainability…. It appears that the oil slick will most directly devastate the salt marshes and the species that rely on them along the coast—including hundreds of migratory bird species that are nesting and breeding as we speak. This area also produces 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters. We are doing everything possible to coordinate with our colleagues at National Audubon, NWF, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Gulf Restoration Network, and others—as well as coastal community contacts—to monitor the extent of the damage and provide whatever support we can. For those interested in doing what you can to help go to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Website, where you can sign up to volunteer.

May 2: Greenpeace issued it’s new “Spill, Baby, Spill” bumper sticker to raise awareness and funding for oil spill cleanup support and to fight new oil drilling.

May 3: Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential candidate and the Alaskan who added the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” to the language said that even though the BP Oil Spill is potentially the worst ever, it is no cause for giving up off-shore drilling.

May 5: The Sierra Club’s new Executive Director Michael Brune reported on his visit to the Gulf Coast. He described oyster boats and crab nets sitting idle and out of work and the size of the spill reaching up to 76 miles from its source. “You can’t see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region. Now BP is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability…This disaster is a wakeup call. We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately. We need to eliminate subsidies and giveaways to companies like BP, which had more than $5.5 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2010 alone. We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get us off of oil by promoting clean energy solutions that already exist, we just need the political will to implement them.”

May 7: Matter of Trust collected hair clippings from thousands of salons, barber shops, even pet groomers across the country, along with pantyhose and stockings — all to be used to help mop up the oil threatened wildlife and livelihoods in the oil’s path. Read More >>

May 8: The Sierra Club, fishing industry, shrimpers, and local leaders rally in Lafayette Square, New Orleans, Louisiana and call for BP disaster response and clean energy solutions. Read More >>

May 11: The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee held hearings on the environmental and economic impacts of the BP offshore oil drilling disaster. Witnesses from BP America and Transocean Ltd. testified, along with fishing and tourism industry representatives and environmental scientists. Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced reforms to the Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling operations. Read More >>

May 12: The White House unveiled a legislative package to respond to the BP Oil Spill Disaster. The
 Sierra Club called for an oil drilling moratorium and a clean energy policy. Read More >>

May 13: The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson and Frank Lautenberg. It would raise the liability caps for oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion to help ensure that they pay the full costs of economic and environmental disasters caused by their negligence. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) blocked the act by objecting to a voice vote on the measure. Read More and see the video >>

May 17: Rush Limbaugh blamed the Sierra Club for the BP Gulf Oil Spill. He asked his listeners, “When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?” and blamed “the greeniacs” for driving oil drilling offshore. Sierra Club supporters responded with outrage and donations to the Sierra Club. The response has been enough for the Sierra Club to launch a new fund-raising campaign in Rush Limbaugh’s name. The goal is to make Rush Limbaugh the Sierra Club’s top fund raiser.

The League of Conservation Voters sent out a press release called, “Dirty Politics Spilling Into The Gulf.” The press release said, “In 2009 alone, oil companies spent $154 million to lobby to perpetuate the oil addiction that led to the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.”

May 20: The Nature Conservancy issued a press release announcing a video made just before the oil came ashore. The video gave insight into the role marshes have in protecting valuable wetlands in the region. The press release also directs readers to the Nature Conservancy’s blog that will feature regular Oil Spill updates from an ecological standpoint.

May 24: National Public Radio reported that independent scientists estimated the amount of oil spilling daily could be as much as 10-20 times BP’s estimates of 5,000 barrels.

May 25: The Los Angeles Times reported that Sarah Palin accused President Barack Obama of a slow response to the BP Oil Spill because he had campaign support from oil companies. She questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded that the oil companies do not consider Obama an ally, “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.” The oil and gas industry donated $2.4 million to Sarah Palin’s running mate, John McCain, in the 2008 election, and $900,000 to Barack Obama, said the Center for Responsive Politics.

The U. S. Inspector General’s investigation of the Minerals Management Service that was overseeing offshore oil drilling said that MMS staff members “accepted tickets to sporting events, lunches and other gifts from oil and gas companies and used government computers to view pornography…. An inspector for the Minerals Management Service admitted using crystal methamphetamine…at work. The report cites a variety of violations of federal regulations and ethics rules at the agency’s Louisiana office.” Read More >>

The Wall Street Journal reported, “BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster.” While the well was in progress it threw up many challenges to BP, “swallowing expensive drilling fluid and burping out dangerous gas. Those woes put the Gulf of Mexico project over budget and behind schedule by April 20… BP made choices over the course of the project that rendered this well more vulnerable to the blowout…. BP for instance, cut short a procedure involving drilling fluid that is designed to detect gas in the well and remove it before it becomes a problem, according to documents belonging to BP and to the drilling rig’s owner and operator, Transocean Ltd. BP also skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe—another buffer against gas—despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from cement contractor Halliburton Co. Once gas was rising, the design and procedures BP had chosen for the well likely gave this perilous gas an easier path up and out, say well-control experts. There was little keeping the gas from rushing up to the surface after workers, pushing to finish the job, removed a critical safeguard, the heavy drilling fluid known as “mud.” BP has admitted a possible “fundamental mistake” in concluding that it was safe to proceed with mud removal, according to a memo from two Congressmen released Tuesday night.

May 28: President Barack Obama’s 30-day moratorium on new oil drilling will expire. Arctic drilling is set to proceed. Read More >>

BP Accountability, By the Numbers

[From a Sierra Club press release. Courtesy of Progressive Media.]

$450 MILLION…The estimated total BP has spent so far to clean up its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

$93 MILLION…BP’s daily profit during the first quarter of this year.

5…The approximate number of days of BP’s profits that would cover its total cleanup costs thus far.

11 percent…The percentage of Americans who hold a positive view of BP, according to a new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

2 percent…The size of the current leak relative to what BP promised federal regulators it could handle in its drilling permit application.

260…The number of failure modes the supposedly “fail-safe” blowout preventer used on BP’s leaking Mississippi Canyon 252 well head.   
 

6…The number of dead dolphins that have washed up along the Gulf Coast.

87…The number of dead sea turtles that have washed up along the Gulf coast.

6,414…The number of claims filed against BP so far, mostly from fishermen and others for lost wages.

400,000 pounds…The amount of hair collected and being sent to the Gulf to be used to soak up oil.  In response to the spontaneous, nationwide outpouring of hair, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issued a fact sheet stating: “Recent reports of a need for hair are exaggerated and not helpful to the response effort.” Meanwhile BP may still attempt a widely-ridiculed “junk shot” using golf balls, old rope, and shredded tires to slow or stop the leaking oil.