9.21.2008

Liquid Gold

Oil is not well. It hadn't even occured to me that there's been a problem. I've been a kind of recluse since I've gotten home from evacuating to Alexandria, LA for Hurricane Gustav. Even when Cappy was home we really didn't go anywhere. I'm still riding around with some of the gas I purchased before I left for home about three weeks ago!
Talking with Cappy over the phone tho', I've noticed that he's not been moving his barge from oil platforms as much he usually does; he's been doing a lot of sitting still, "waiting", and he mentioned a couple of times that half the fleet is doing the same. For some reason it didn't register, until I saw on the national news that even as far away from us as Atlanta, that there are people waiting in long gas lines. Whaaaa?? Hurricane Ike hit the area about two weeks ago, why aren't things starting to get back to normal by now?
This morning I asked Cappy what is going on with our country's oil supplies not being met. He told me that so much damage was done, with the two storms hitting in tandem, that electricity is still not on for much of the rural areas toward the coast. He said the oil platforms, many of them are located too far out for electricity hook up, so they have big solar panels collecting energy to be able to facilitate the prodution of oil. Unfortunately, the solar panels...big ol' floppy things during the hurricanes, took a lot of battering in the screaming winds, so you can imagine what happened to them. People are scrambling like madmen trying to repair them, not only for the country's use, but the production of crude oil puts food on their family's tables, as well.
Another problem is that the Gulf of Mexico consists of salt water, so that when the oil platforms were inundated by the storm surge waves, the salt water corroded the valves of the engines, computers and equipment of the oil platforms, and also corroded and ruined the motors of the bridges, which cross the waterways. In Terrebonne Parish alone, there are over thirty bridges which cross the waterways where oil barges, such as Cappy pushes, and other vessels have to travel.
(Watching these bridges operate has always fascinated me since I've been down here in South Louisiana. One night I was in traffic over in New Orleans, just going down the road, when all of a sudden, there was a redlight, and we all stopped, as usual, but then a strange thing happened. White and black lined wooden arms came down, like at a railroad crossing, and the road ahead of us...the bridge started going up. What the heck?? Then I saw this tugboat chugging along toward the bridge, and I knew it was going to take about five or ten minutes for it to make it's way to the other side, so the bridge could go back down. I thought to myself, "They can't be serious!" I'm from NY State, where things go fast-fast-fast. Ya gotta walk fast; ya gotta talk fast; ya gotta do everything fast. And here we sat, a bunch of cars waiting for this tugboat to slowly make his way, putt-putt-putting alongggggg, holding everybody up. This was just crazy. Well...New Orleans isn't called The Big Easy for nothing. One of the first things Cappy did was teach me how to walk slowly, ...get my mosie on..."Take it easyyyy; walk like ya listen' to some Bluessss...if ya don't the heat is gonna get ya". So, I learned to adapt to that attitude for the most part. Now, when I get stopped at a bridge, whether it be a lift bridge, a swing bridge, a pontoon bridge, I take it as a "mini vacation"; an opportunity to look around at the beautiful scenery; even with storm damage, South Louisiana is a beautiful place.)
Okay, back to the issues; with all these bridges now being nonfunctional due to the two hurricanes, nautical traffic has pretty much come to a standstill, especially in the areas to the south, where a lot of the oil platforms are located. In normal circumstances there are only half a dozen or so electricians who service and maintain this maze of bridges. Since the storm, these electricians are hard-pressed to get them back up and running . One bridge in particular in Dulac sustained over $400,00.00 worth of damage, and that's only one bridge. Some bridges are worse off; some are better; some are high priority because of higher traffic usage, but all need attention. With the bridge closures, oil fields can be isolated; cut off from boat traffic.The electricians are working feverishly on them, and more and more help is coming in, but the whole South East needs help...dang...the whole country seems like it's in one big mess just now. Cappy made it through one bridge today and got to load some crude; however another bridge, where he needed to go, was still not up and running, so he had to wait; and may have to wait, perhaps for a couple of days. He's not alone...many, many of the other company boats are 'trapped', too and those of other companies, as well.
Another fly in the ointment: You'd think crude oil was crude oil, was crude oil...it's not. The oil refineries require a certain thickness; a specific viscosity. The different places the guys pick up the oil, the density, etc. are all different, even from a few miles away from one another, perhaps. Now I guess it's getting rather complicated, eh? Well, because the folks in Cappy's office keep track of the 'recipe', they may send Cappy to load a certain amount of one kind of oil, then to another platform for another thickness or mineral content, then to another. It just depends. I wouldn't want that office job. Tugboats and barges all over the place, and the only way of contacting them is through the company radio, or cell phones. They are all doing the best they can. None of us likes paying higher gas bills, and even tho' Cappy brings the crude oil to the refineries, nobody cuts him a break at the gas pumps.
So, the news is not all that great. Cappy got through two bridges today, he told me tonight; but the going is slow. If it's anything Cappy hates...and I do know this for a fact; it's sitting and waiting out there on his boat. He'd rather be moving along, getting the oil flowing, as it were.
Until Obama and/or the 'Greenies' shut him down, he'll keep bringin' it in, then after that he'll most likely find something else that he loves to do out there in the bayous, swamps and back waterways.
Even tho the darned hurricanes are long gone, the political blustering is still raging, our national economy's future looks rather stormy, and we have no answers as to when our oil shortage problems will get any better. I guess I'll just have to say it again, "The answers my friend,are 'blowin' in the wind', the answers are...why can't life always just be a breeze?"
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