BP's new containment cap is still keeping oil from flowing from the company's blown-out Macondo well, but the oil giant and U.S. government are offering mixed messages on whether this fix is sustainable. BP officials said Sunday that they plan on leaving the cap in place until they can seal the well at its base, probably in August. But U.S. officials, warning of a possible methane "seep" from the sea floor and "undetermined anomalies at the well head," suggest that the valves might have to be reopened to avoid making the leak worse. Why aren't they on the same page? (Watch an AP report about the disagreement)
BP doesn't want to lose the magic: The government's "worrying" warning of a possible seep is a good reminder that BP doesn't always have our best interests in mind, says Bryan Walsh in Time. After all, its stock jumped 4 percent Friday on the news that it had stopped the oil gusher, and "it's not hard to see why they might want to push the limit on containment and keep that well shut."
"Oil spill: Is the well damaged?"
The U.S. might be overreacting: It's true that methane could be seeping out from a damaged well, says Louisiana State University petroleum engineer Darryl Bourgoyne, to Bloomberg. Or "it could be biogenic gas, gas created by bacteria," which bubbles up naturally from the seabed. Opening the cap would mean they're being "very, very cautious."
"U.S. demands more test data... after seep found in seabed"
There are financial interests on both sides: BP has another financial motivation, too, says Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), via CNN. If it siphons all the oil to the surface, like this new cap allows and the U.S. wants, we'll know how much oil has been gushing out. But "if the well remains fully shut in until the relief well is completed, we may never have a fully accurate determination," and BP "might evade billions of dollars of fines."
"Government says leak detected 'a distance from' oil well"
We need a neutral ref: So this disagreement "seems to cry out, yet again, for an independent set of eyes on the scene," says Andrew Revkin in The New York Times. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen is nominally in charge of whether to open the valves, but he relies on BP's undersea robots for most of his information. With so much as stake, we have "urgent reason to have more capacity to scour the seabed."
"BP pressed to assess 'seep' near its well"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- Don't change a thing: 8 inventions that never needed updating
- 10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2014
Subscribe to the Week