Deepwater Disaster: Day 73

Nags Head HANDS Event. Photo:Julie Dreelin/Eric Dreelin, Pilot

Nags Head HANDS Event. Photo:Julie Dreelin/Eric Dreelin, Pilot

A bi-weekly stream of news regarding the Gulf Coast oil catastrophe

By Matt Walker

It's official: as of Thursday, the Deepwater Horizon Disaster is the Gulf's largest oil spill surpassing the 140-million gallon record set by Mexico's Ixtoc I -- at least using the maximum gallon-per-day estimate. (The low-ball figures put it at 71.2 million.) But even if the truth's somewhere in between, we can certainly declare it's ten times bigger than the Exxon Valdez, ending that supertanker's career as America's eco-catastrophe superstar. Add the impending tropical season -- Hurricane Alex already disrupted efforts on its way into Mexico, sending more than 500 skimmers back to shore -- and we're heading for an enviro-fuck-up of Chris Farley proportions. Huge. Crazy. Self-destructive. Only not nearly as funny.

Nevertheless, some developments of the past week are worthy of a small smirk. Start with A Whale. That's what they're calling the freshly retro-fitted tanker currently heading for the Gulf to help clean up. It's ten stories high and the length of 3.5 football fields. And it's supposed to filter 21 million gallons of water a day before spitting it back in to the ocean. So perhaps the baleen metaphor works. But seeing as this crisis has likely killed a few whales already -- it's definitely choking dolphins and burning turtles -- the cutesy name's questionable. A more honest suggestion would be the S.S. So Sorry. (Shouldn't we all be sending the Gulf a giant apology?) At least while BP's S.S. Big Check is still in the mail.

Better yet. How about some big action? No doubt, the protest process is finally brewing. Last Saturday's Hands Across the Sand event saw 800 gatherings world wide -- 20,000+ people took part in Florida alone -- and on Wednesday enviro-groups delivered 400,000+ letters to the White House asking not to expand offshore drilling. Meanwhile, big-wave legend Laird Hamilton and wife Gabby Reece paid a personal visit to voice their larger than life opinions.

But even though recent polls show that 52% of the US population now opposes offshore drilling -- compared to a full 63% favoring expansion in 2009 -- elected officials in most states remain surprisingly quiet, even with the lifted moratorium opening waters from Delaware to Florida. Only the Sunshine State has put forth measures to eliminate future drilling for good as they grapple with billions of tarballs -- and billions in lost revenue. In the meantime, Panhandle township's way of encouraging tourism is to tell folks to keep swimming. As a result, 400 have been were treated in Escambia County for upper or lower respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, and eye irritation after trips to Escambia County beaches. And if that's not all, right now the Alex swell is making for head-high surf -- with body-coating oil sheen.

But it's not all bad news. The DOI just pushed the public comment deadline on offshore lease plans for 2012-2017. (The deadline was Wednesday.) But don't' pop the champagne yet. The Fed still wants to put more holes in the seafloor. They just won't say where, or when. So, if your 10-year-plan doesn't include a rewarding career skimming oil and scrubbing wildlife, you'd better comment now.

And don't stop there. After you e-freak on the feds, call your state officials. It's unbelievably easy:

1.Type your zip code into for senators and congressmen; then Google your governor's contact page.
2. Dial the phone, say "I oppose offshore drilling" tell 'em your zip code, then let them hang up on you.
3. Then call the POTUS himself on the White House line -- 202-456-1111 -- and say, "What happened to the aloha, brah!?" (Not really, dumbass. Ask him to, "Please withdraw plans to expand drilling on the Offshore Continental Shelf." And be very, very polite; you don't want your next trip to be to a secret Egyptian torture facility.)

With those text-trained thumbs, it will take you barely five minutes. (We timed it ourselves.) But be quick: in that five minutes, another 600 gallons streamed into the Gulf.

Check the live feed below for the horrifying visual, and the bottom clip of Laird and Gabby making their visit.