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Beyond Oil Homage to Cousteau and Gandhi

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First some markers. Yesterday was the autumnal equinox and we say goodbye to a very hot - ozone air pollution alert filled - summer. My kids' lungs thank you American Petroleum Institute (not)...

This week marks my 10th anniversary at Greenpeace. Yesterday was the five month anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout. I am aboard Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise 140 miles south of Louisiana in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. This is my first extended voyage on a Greenpeace ship. It is humbling indeed to see the round the clock work that goes into keeping our ships going. Hats off to all the Greenpeace ships’ crew!

For Jacques and Rachel, Ghandi and King

The team on Arctic Sunrise pays homage to my heros Jacques Cousteau and Rachel Carson with our three-month science mission (and the Sunrise does her best to honor the Calypso)...btw, it was Cousteau's 100th brithday this June! Don't know about you, but my family would gather 'round the TV with mouths hanging open as Cousteau would lead us to places unknown.

Meanwhile, our colleagues on the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza off the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic are working in a Ghandi / King civil disobedience mode - protesting dangerous offshore drilling by four activists are hanging from the anchor chains of a Chevron oil rig.

Down here in the Gulf, we are presently running round-the-clock water chemistry tests for the team of independent scientists we are hosting on board. The objective is to determine the environmental fate of the BP oil that never reached the surface. The team of independent scientists -biogeochemists and benthic ecologists brought with them a six-foot tall probe with multiple instruments. This array is lowered over the side and dropped deep, I mean really deep. The 4 a.m. test on my shift last night was lowered down to 1,350 meters or 5,400 feet. The scientists monitor data from several probes as it glides into the deep and then take water samples at any anomolies on the way back up to the surface.

Deep Water Monsters

It is not until you see one of these deepwater oil rigs up close that the scale of "deepwater drilling" sinks in. Even on the horizon these rigs are immense. They seem like alien mosquito-like spaceships, which have landed on our blue marble planet in some cheesy sci-fi film to suck valuable minerals up and fly away back to the parasitic mothership. But alas, its not aliens, it is us. Along the way to our next science station, we passed some of the Deepwater Horizon’s kin, the monster deepwater drilling rigs that few people in the US were even remotely aware of five months ago. We passed by the Chevron Tahiti platform, all lit up like a Christmas tree. This rig is about 190 miles south of Louisiana and producing 125,000 barrels of oil a day.

Just to the south our current position is the BP rig Atlantis in some 7,000 ft of water. In June, CNN reported a series ofsafety problems aboard the Atlantis based on information from a former inspector. The Atlantis is said to have a capacity to produce 200,000 barrels of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas a day. That oil alone would be worth some $14.7 million dollars a day at the current price of around $74 per barrel. The money involved in these operations is equally staggering: Chevron has apparently plowed $4.7 billion (with a B) dollars into the Tahiti platform, and it would be a safe bet they have plans to make their money back…hmm at 125,000 barrels a day they would be pulling oil worth over $9 Million per day… that adds up pretty quick.

The US government does draw relative peanuts in royalties from Big Oil in exchange for allowing them access to what is essentially public land, but let's get this straight, they wouldn’t be drilling for "extreme oil" as my friend Micheal Klare calls it, if they didnt have billions to spend and there weren’t billions in profit to be made. Nor would they be gunning for the Arctic, drilling in the rainforest and everywhere in between

Add in the millions these companies spend in DC on lobbyists, lawyers and PR and election contributions and you get a picture of the wall we have to knock down to get the Energy Revolution in gear. A long battle to be sure.

Remember citizens, don't believe what that famous energy expert Sarah Palin says, it wasn’t us pesky environmentalists who forced poor BP to go to deepwater in the Gulf; sheer profit and greed were all the incentive they needed.

Even more importantly, the vast scale of investment and profit is why Big Oil will fight to the death to keep drilling away out here. And it’s why Shell and others have angled their way in as presenters to the Presidential Oil Spill Commission hearings, including the one next week in Washington DC (more on that in coming days). Let’s see if the Obama administration has the nerve to keep the moratorium in place faced with monsterous corporate pressure.

Right now its back to the science marathon, running tests for 30 hours straight and then on to the next set of testing stations. We then move to sediment grab samples near the BP blowout site to assess the impact to bottom creatures like starfish, clams and worms that also call this place home.

And looking forward to Friday when we are going to attempt a live skype video broadcast from the Sunrise to a massive blogger briefing at the United Nations Millenium Development Goals Summit. That should be fun!

Beyond Oil: Blueprint for an Energy Revolution Press / Blogger Briefing and Q&A Friday September 24 1-2 pm EDT / 10-11 am PDT / 5-6 pm GMT

Oh, on a lighter note, one more number…our SCAMWOW oil spill satire video is approaching 100,000 views on YouTube.