Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Of Oil and Water

One of the oldest maxims I can remember hearing as a child is that "oil and water don't mix". Never has that been proven more true than it has over the past six weeks off the coast of Plaquemines Parish at the southern tip of Louisiana.

As one would imagine, the news here in New Orleans is dominated by the terrible ongoing man made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico at the site of the now collapsed deep water Horizon drilling rig. Now in it's 44th day of spewing who knows how many thousands of gallons of crude oil into the fishing rich waters of the Gulf, there is no definite end in sight. Three major efforts to stop the leak have failed. Much of the problem is the fact that the well head is a mile below the surface of the Gulf. Only robotic contraptions can operate at such depth, and it is almost as if British Petroleum is playing a deadly video game as it's engineers try one band aid solution after another. Meanwhile the crude oil and accompanying natural gas continues to pour through the puncture in the crust of the earth and there is apparently nothing that can be humanly done to stop the bleeding, short of a "relief well" being drilled nearby. Unfortunately, that task cannot be completed until August.

Did you get that? AUGUST!

Meanwhile, the wound still bleeds, the fouled area of the sea grows larger and larger each day. The and marshes of the Mississippi River delta are becoming mired in the oily muck. Ecosystems are being fouled and destroyed. Tar balls are washing up on beaches. The massive Gulf shrimping and fishing industries that supply over 30% of the nation's seafood is shut down indefinitely. The economic ripple effect will be felt far from here and for a long time, and a way of life is heading toward extinction. All the while, federal bureaucracy grinds slowly along, keeping Louisiana's governor from taking quick action to build man made sand bars to try to protect the imperiled coastline. The President finally shows up from vacation for a two hour photo op with a host of BP "clean up workers" who had been bussed in for the President's visit, and then bussed out as soon as he departed on Marine One.

The fishermen and shrimpers who have been idled, are quickly going bankrupt. No seafood goes to market, so the law of supply and demand will create higher prices. Unemployed workers have little money to spend on food, rent, recreation, nor funds to give to their churches. Other oil drilling operations are eventually going to be affected and new drilling ceases under tightened federal regulations. Beaches, restaurants, hotels and other businesses in coastal communities from Venice to the Florida Panhandle are already feeling the economic blast as tourism has nearly come to a screeching halt.

Sadly many of the people most directly affected by this disaster are those who had weathered the great natural disaster of nearly five years ago, which was Hurricane Katrina. To add insult to injury, meteorologists predict that the 2010 Hurricane season, which officially began yesterday, may bring more than 20 named storms, five to eight of which are expected to be severe, major hurricanes.

It all serves as a reminder that there are some issues we face in life that are just bigger than we can handle. An ominous cloud hangs over this part of the United States as this summer begins. This area, indeed all of us, need a touch from the hand of the almighty. When you pray (as Joe McKeever said after Katrina) pray BIG for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Pray for the off shore oil rig workers. Pray for the clean up crews who face a seemingly unending and insurmountable task if de-fouling the affected earth and sea. Pray for the families of the fishermen and shrimpers who are facing financial ruin. Pray for the wildlife and the marshes. Pray for the businesses and the churches who will also feel the effect.

Only God knows the final outcome of all of this, and it is all in his hands. Since we cannot know what tomorrow holds, it is comforting to know the One who holds tomorrow.

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