When reports first surfaced of a Taiwanese vessel named "A Whale" that could purportedly "process 21 million gallons of oily water a day," right-wing media hyped the vessel's capabilities and attacked the Obama administration for not immediately dispatching the vessel to the Gulf. It's a good thing the administration didn't listen to them.
For example [transcripts via Nexis]:
- Tucker Carlson said of the A Whale: "It could be down in the Gulf coast; its not. What's the hold up? That's another, it seems to me, indication that this administration is not as serious or is letting other considerations get in the way of the task at hand, which is cleanup." [Fox News' Hannity, June 28]
- Stuart Varney stated: "Now, is this storm all the more reason for President Obama to rethink the Jones Act? The world's largest skimmer ship -- it's literally called a whale -- could collect up to a half-a-million barrels a oily water a day, but the skimmer will not be allowed to join the cleanup unless the White House waives the 1920 law." [Fox News' Your World, June 28]
- And Glenn Beck said that "[i]n 71 days, we have cleaned up 600,000 barrels of oil. That ship -- wow, look at that ship! That can -- that can clean up 500,000 barrels per day. Oh, by the way, it's still in dock. Yes, that's in Virginia, sitting there, right now." [Fox News' Glenn Beck, June 30]
Instead, the Coast Guard and the administration proceeded with cautious optimism regarding A Whale, saying that testing would be needed to learn whether the skimmer could perform as advertised. Indeed, during a July 1 press conference, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said that "[w]e're anxious to find out how effective it will be. But it is a very large ship that's been converted to be able to recover oil, and we'll see how it goes."
As it turns out, those tests were probably a good idea. The Christian Science Monitor reported on July 17:
The Coast Guard said "thanks, but no thanks" to the superskimmer "A Whale" Friday, as the 1,100 foot-long converted iron ore freighter failed to make a sizeable dent in the Gulf oil spill during a 24-hour testing period.
Brought to the Gulf by Taiwanese shipping magnate Nobu Su to help sop up the vast blanket of oil covering parts of the Gulf, the massive A Whale held a tantalizing promise for Americans frustrated by the slow pace of the spill clean-up. Under ideal conditions, the ship's owners said, the A Whale could gather more oil in a day than all the other skimmers on the Gulf combined.
In reality, the A Whale gathered a "negligible" amount of oil over a 24-hour period while nearly 600 smaller skimmers sucked up 25,551 barrels of oily water and recovered 12,800 barrels near the source of the spill.
"While its stature is impressive, 'A Whale' is not ideally suited to the needs of this response," Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft told the Wall Street Journal.
The A Whale's failed cruise reaffirmed the Coast Guard strategy of using a fleet of smaller vessels to corral the vast spill.
From now on, the right-wing media should just leave the oil skimming to the experts.