New sub sea oil plumes found near the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. (Picture inside)

While BP continues to assure Gulf Coast residents that the MacondoWell/ Deepwater Horizon oil spill that devastated our coastline less than a year and a half ago has been capped since September 2010 is no longer leaking any oil, recent reports and flyover pictures of approximately subsea oil plumes, 300 feet wide and separated from the next one by about that same distance, running roughly south to north near the Macondo Well (image left,  Credit: Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia) are showing otherwise.

There are several theories behind the fresh oil and, forewarning, none of them are pretty.

The 1st first theory is that the cap that was placed on the well is leaking.  Although BP ignores this concern, it is still a very real possibility. Especially after Japan’s multiple severe earthquakes. It is logical to assume that considering the massive damage and the crippling of Japan’s nuclear plants- that the vibration of the earthquake could have reached the Gulf of Mexico and knocked loose the already fragile plug.

A 2nd theory, is that all of the oil BP that sunk to the seafloor due to nearly 2 million gallons of toxic Corexit 9500 & 9527A dispersant is beginning to break free and rise to the surface and blacken the coastline with fresh oil.  However, according to civil engineer and petroleum expert, Marco Kaltofen, oil that has been lying on the seafloor for several months would be much significantly more weathered than the fresh oil that is currently spotted.

Along the same theory, it is also possible  that the broken riser pipe and oil rig platform has trapped oil inside of it and it is slowly making its way to the surface.

A 3rd theory is that this 6 miles long and rainbow-colored oil sheen is coming from  Green Canyon Block 463, which is near the Macondo well site, officials state that its “probably”  silt from a subsurface shallow water pool. Records for that well indicate that it was drilled through a shallow lens of groundwater. The company is awaiting the results of tests on samples of the material and something tells me that we are going to waiting on those test results for a loooong time.

A 4th theory is that the oil sheen is contributed by BP’s Thunder Horse oil platform in the Mississippi Canyon  on August 16, 2011 where a  0.000108 gallons of oil was released but, let’s be real, that is less than half a CC and would not be enough to create a 6 mile long oil sheen. BP has admitted that “a silvery oil sheen measuring 2 feet by 30 feet has been reported on the surface” there, and they have supposedly sent vessels to monitor the situation.

A 5th theory, and this is by far the most concerning, is that oil may be coming from cracks and fissures in the seafloor caused by months of high-impact work  of BP failed capping attempts of the Maconda Well.  If this is the case,  there is a possibility of hundreds of little cracks and fissure (picture the seafloor cracks like a broken windshield) and  to the extent of my knowledge, there is no known way to cap the cracks and fissures which means the oil would continually leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

Either way, there is new oil in the Gulf of Mexico and it is, coincidentally, near the Deepwater/Macondo oil platform.

Unfortunately and dishearteningly, while  everyone is pointing fingers in attempt to escape responsibility for the leaked oil and no reports show that there are any intentions of cleaning it up; the Gulf of Mexico and her inhabitants are – once again- at the mercy of big oil.

Copyright (c) August 20, 2011. All rights reserved.


What is happening in Iran? Update 3/5/2011

As the world’s attention remains focused on the uprisings in the Arab world, Iran’s regime is now looking more vulnerable than in the past.

Tens of thousands of Iranians protested March 1, partially in response to the kidnapping and incarceration of the two leaders of the so-called Green movement and their wives.

The regime knows it has a problem; much like in the Arab world, the continuous and sporadic protests, which began Feb. 14 after more than a year, showed Iranians have overcome their fears.

Faced with the terrifying prospect of another Tahrir Square, the Iranian regime is choosing from a list of bad options.

Outraged at the failure to prevent protests on February 14, 20 and March 1, a staggering number of hardliners within the government have frenetically issued calls for the execution of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who certainly is the only authority able to command the arrest of the two opposition figures, must have felt the need to silence these outspoken loyalists calling for action, particularly because more protests erupted on March 1.

According to a number of observers, the government chose this time of the year, two weeks before the Iranian New Year, to arrest Moussavi and Karroubi hoping it would achieve two goals: first, the government continues to claim that large crowds on the streets are just holiday shoppers “going to buy supplies for the New Year.” Second, the government hopes that by March 20, demonstrators will go back to their homes to celebrate the Iranian New Year, or Norouz.

Until the kidnapping and incarceration this past weekend of Moussavi and Karroubi and their wives, the government had kept the two opposition leaders under house arrest. However, the protests in February apparently led the regime to believe the two were somehow continuing to coordinate demonstrations, despite the fact that their internet and telephone lines had been cut.

The timing of the abductions appears to be counterproductive.

The Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope — a group of prominent dissidents who assumed leadership of the Green Movement following the house arrests of Karroubi and Moussavi — called for protests on March 1, and succeeded in mobilizing thousands of people in several major cities. The demonstrations, intentionally falling on Moussavi’s birthday, are intended to express condemnation of the treatment of the opposition leaders.

According to eyewitnesses in Tehran, a large number of people appeared on the streets of the capital but faced a massive deployment of armed police and plainclothes security forces with weapons drawn.

Moussavi’s website, Kaleme, has asserted that the government fired into a crowd at one point, and that the level of violence seen on March 1 is “unprecedented.”

Kaleme is also reporting that Karroubi and Moussavi have been moved to Heshmatiyeh Prison in Tehran, a military prison previously investigated and partially closed due to its poor conditions.

As a military prison, it remains out of the jurisdiction of government oversight, and answers only to the Supreme Leader.

Both Kaleme and Saham News, echoing the outrage of many Green supporters over the abductions, named Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in their headlines as responsible for directly ordering the secret detentions of the opposition leaders.

Until now, the websites avoided directly blaming Khamenei. But after the abductions of the men and their wives, the Green movement’s leadership has apparently now crossed a new red line and dared to name Khamenei as being responsible for Moussavi and Karroubi’s detention.

Prominent clerics are also speaking out against the regime’s action. Notable dissident Grand Ayatollahs Yousef Saanei, Assad Bayat-Zanjani, and Ali-Mohammad Dastgheyb, who have been the primary clerical targets of the government since their support for protests following the disputed 2009 presidential elections, have issued statements against the detentions.

Grand Ayatollah Saanei’s statement condemned the abduction of Moussavi and Karroubi in no uncertain terms: “These are actions and behavior that demonstrate the failure and political weakness of the perpetrators [of the detentions] and agents [of the government] to sway public opinion.”

The Grand Ayatollah’s statement is accurate in that the detentions represent multiple failures on the part of the Islamic Republic’s leadership to sway public opinion or head-off the renewed momentum of the Green Movement.

Unlike some Arab countries seeking to appease protesters, Iran’s government is reacting with increased force.

Iran’s Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi went on state television last week to talk about “new evidence” against the “leaders of sedition.” He even accused senior advisors to Moussavi and Karroubi aides, Ardeshir Amir-Arjmand and Mojtaba Vahedi, of being operatives of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO).

In Iran, any affiliation with the MKO could carry the death penalty.

Moslehi also upped the ante by labeling Moussavi and Karroubi “counterrevolutionaries.” The long-held title of “leaders of sedition” was no longer deemed to be severe enough. In Iran, counterrevolutionaries are usually executed, or at the very least, thrown into prison for a very long time. Moslehi’s remarks were chosen carefully to scare Green Movement supporters abroad, specifically those involved with the Coordination Council.

Fearing the government would arrest Moussavi and Karroubi, leading opposition figures outside Iran remained silent and refused to give interviews to many broadcast television networks such as BBC Persian and Voice of America.

With nothing to lose following the abduction of Moussavi and Karroubi, leaders of the movement abroad have broken their silence and are asking for international pressure on the Iranian government.

The next few weeks will be extremely important.

There is a demonstration scheduled for every Tuesday, and the response amongst Green supporters is that they need to continued to raise their voice in order to be heard.

Copyright (c) March 5, 2011. All rights reserved.

Geothermal debate “heats” up

Geothermal energy is derived from heat within the earth. People can use the steam and hot water created inside the earth to heat buildings or produce electricity. Wondering what makes the water so hot? Geothermal energy is produced in the earth’s core.

People utilize geothermal energy to heat their homes and to produce electricity. This is achieved by digging deep wells and pumping the heated underground water or steam to the surface. We can also use the stable temperatures near the surface of the earth to heat and cool buildings.

Geothermal energy is making its presence felt worldwide and Iceland is the best example of the utilization of geothermal power. In fact Iceland leads the world in the development of geothermal utilization. They have doubled their annual power supply capping it up around 500 MW as far as electricity supply is concerned.

Germany is also emerging as a major user of geothermal energy. Germany is deriving its 100 MW of heat from geothermal energy.

Italy is not far behind. A team of European scientists, in the region of Travale (Italy), is planning to tap the potential of localized geothermal reservoirs. If this project is completed it will produce energy akin to a potential of around 1,000 wind power plants.

The European Union is also feeling the “heat” of geothermal energy. The newly developed techniques have been tried at four European geothermal locations. They are combining different geological and thermo¬dynamic conditions. High-temperature reservoirs have been examined in Travale/Italien having metamorphic rocks and in Hengill/Island (volcanic rocks). They are also examining two deposits with medium-temperature in deep sediment rocks in Germany and Poland.

Looks like our foreign neighbors are on to something, perhaps we should give considerable thought to this alternative energy source.

Copyright (c) January 10, 2011. All rights reserved.

Offshore wind farms- a dream turned reality

When wind energy is mentioned, the first thought is not that of ocean winds. However, global satellite maps from NASA promise a new hope. Nearly a decade of data from NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite gives us hope that we can harness ocean’s wind for energy generation. These maps can help in locating and planning the offshore wind farms for producing electric energy.

QuikSCAT is detecting the speed, direction and power of winds near the ocean surface. A specialized microwave radar instrument named SeaWinds is gathering data continuously for QuikSCAT. This data will also help in predicting storms and reducing the inaccuracy in weather forecasts. A two for one, if you will.

It is estimated that wind energy has the potential to provide 10 to 15 percent of future world energy requirements. Yet, if we can make use of ocean areas with high winds for wind energy, they could potentially generate 500 to 800 watts of energy per square meter. Though it is slightly less than solar energy (which generates about one kilowatt of energy per square meter), wind power can be converted to electricity more efficiently than solar energy and at a lower cost per watt of electricity produced.

It seems that floating wind farms in the open ocean will soon be a reality. A number of wind farms are already operating worldwide. Ocean wind farms have less environmental impact than onshore wind farms and is the preferred method of  Heart of America.

Another advantage of onshore wind farm is they have generally stronger currents over the ocean than on land because there is less friction over water to slow the winds down. One more positive aspect is – there are no hills or mountains to block the wind’s path.

Ideally, offshore wind farms should be situated in locales where winds blow continuously at high speeds. The new research discovers such areas and presents clarifications for the physical mechanisms that produce the high winds.

Additionally, the new QuikSCAT maps, will be helpful to the shipping industry by highlighting areas of the ocean where high winds could be dangerous to ships, allowing them to steer clear of these areas.

In addition to solar and bio thermal, wind farms are definitely a forerunner in the alternative energy revolution realm and should be taken into consideration when determining our long term energy needs.

Copyright (c) January 10, 2011.