Last May, a mystery plumber sent BP 3 sketches of a containment cap but was "told by BP that they were not working on stopping the leak, but simply capturing the oil." Distressed by the worsening situation with the BP oil gusher, and feeling BP gave him the "brush-off," this plumber started emailing his design to everyone he could think of, including engineering professor Robert Bea, who forwarded the designs. BP has not given the plumber credit, but professor Bea recognized his design when BP televised the containment cap being lowered onto the well. And now the plumber has stepped forward to tell his story.
Tonight's Climate Change News Roundup also includes news that BP is working to control scientific research of its oil disaster as well as climate change news.
The "mystery plumber" telephoned Professor Bea 6 weeks ago to tell him about a sketch of his design for a "containment cap that would fit snugly over the top of the failed blowout preventer at the heart of the Gulf oil spill." The professor, a former Shell executive and respected researcher, liked the design and sent the sketches to the U.S. Coast Guard and a " clearinghouse set up to glean ideas from outside sources for how to cap the stubborn Macondo well."
When Bea saw the design of the containment cap lowered onto the well last week, he marveled at its similarity to the sketches from the late-night caller, whose humble refusal to give his name at the time nearly brought Bea to tears.
"The idea was using the top flange on the blowout preventer as an attachment point and then employing an internal seal against that flange surface," says Bea. "You can kind of see how a plumber thinks this way. That's how they have to plumb homes for sewage."
BP did not credit our mystery plumber for his design. Instead, BP executive Doug Suttles claimed that the "new containment cap design came from weeks of trial and error." BP spokesman Mark Salt stated there was no way to know whether the mystery plumber's "suggestion" actually "made it into the design," adding that "[t]here's also a good chance that this was already being designed by the time this [tip] came in."
Two days after The Christian Science Monitor reported this story, the plumber came forward to identify himself as "Joe Caldart, a married, 40-something blue-collar guy with five kids and three hound dogs living in St. Francis, Kan." Joe's wife thought it was "kind of scary" for her husband to go public, but Joe wanted people to know that "an average guy submitted something that maybe helped."
Helped indeed: Joe's sketches are a "near identical match to the design" of the new containment cap used by BP. So much for the people who said:
You're a plumber, plumbers don't know anything about science. If scientists with PhDs and all that can't fix it, then how can you?
So, when does BP give Joe credit and pay him for his expertise?
- BP launches effort to control scientific research of oil disaster and keep the data secret for at least 3 years.
Foreign oil giant BP is on a spending spree, buying Gulf Coast scientists for its private contractor army.
Scientists from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Texas A&M have "signed contracts with BP to work on their behalf in the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process" that determines how much ecological damage the Gulf of Mexico region is suffering from BP’s toxic black tide. The contract, the Mobile Press-Register has learned, "prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years."
- Gulf oil spill: Fouling air as well as water – EPA says some communities face "moderate health risk" due to hydrocarbon fumes from the spill.
- Gulf's pain may last years, with tar balls and patties washing ashore for decades.
- After Oil Spills, Hidden Damage Can Last for Years: After a dozen years, scientists still finding oil from Exxon Valdez spill, a spill off the coast of France is still causing "disturbances in the food chain" for more than a decade and "lingering damage" remains from spill 30 years ago on the Southern gulf coast in Mexico.
- Gulf spill altering food web: "Scientists are reporting early signs that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is altering the marine food web by killing or tainting some creatures and spurring the growth of others more suited to a fouled environment."
- Oil spill probe now includes 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf.
A lead congressional committee investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has broadened its inquiry, now checking if tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells are leaking or even being monitored for leaks.
- Drilling company executives hope meeting with DOI will help end delays in approval of new permits for shallow-water drilling.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY
- Rich countries to pay energy giants to build 20 new coal-fired power plants in India and China: The rationale is new plants will "emit less carbon dioxide than older ones."
Others companies are now examining if they qualify. Eskom, the giant South African coal mining company controversially loaned £3.75bn by the World Bank in April to build what one of the largest coal-fired power stations in the world, has said it will apply for emission reduction credits. If built, the Medupi plant will emit nearly 25m tonnes of CO2 a year, more than the national output of 115 individual countries.
- Scientists warn that decisions today about climate change emissions will drive planet's weather for generations.
- Federal plan to use coal ash waste to shore up levees as "cheapest, longest-lasting fix": Environmentalists worry "toxins in the ash might seep into the river and public water systems it serves."
- Energy Efficiency Helps Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure: "Energy-efficient homes have significantly lower default and delinquency rates than typical homes, according to an internal analysis conducted for a major financial institution last year."
- Study quantifies potential impacts of climate change -- linking reduced water, crop yields, and more wildfire damage to specific temperature increases: "For example, for every 1.8 degrees of warming, Colorado can expect 5 percent to 10 percent less water in the Arkansas River and Rio Grande, the government-funded study found."
CLIMATE CHANGE POLITICS
- US climate bill falls short of Obama's Copenhagen promise.
A scaled-back climate change bill being considered by Senate Democrats would achieve far less than President Barack Obama promised at the UN global warming summit in Copenhagen last year – but even this may be too much for Congress.
- New W.Va. Senator Signals Opposition to Cap and Trade as "simply ... not right for West Virgina." Carte Goodwin's position "potentially creates an even steeper climb for a climate bill" because Byrd's "recent criticism on the coal industry gave hope to advocates that he could be convinced to support the bill."
WATER & NATURAL RESOURCES
- Giant Greenland Glacier Cracks Open Overnight, Breaks Off and Flows Away 2 Days Later.
The lost portion has been described as about an eighth the size of Manhattan Island and set a new record for the retreat of that glacier.
But that's not all. On July 12 there was a new large crack discovered in the glacier's southern limb as well. Whether that means another gigantic release of ice or not remains to be seen.
- Melting glacier in Italy gets a giant thermal blanket.
In the hopes of slowing the rate at which ice is melting in the mountains of northern Italy, officials have begun covering one their most threatened glaciers with insulating fabric, creating what is essentially a giant security blanket to help keep the ice from melting in the summer heat. It may sound a bit unusual, but tests have shown that the thermal blanket may be just the thing to save the region's glaciers from disappearing completely, for the time being, at least.
...Two years back, a smaller-scale test was made and the results showed it to be quite effective. Ice covered by the insulating material melted 60 percent less than exposed portions which lost an average of 5 feet in thickness during the test.
- 1/2 billion trees lost from 2005 Amazon storm raises question about how many trees will be lost due to climate change impact of more frequent severe storms.