Short-term fix fails in Gulf

SHORT-TERM FIX FAILS IN GULF…. There were modest hopes that yesterday’s efforts to contain the gushing oil disaster in the Gulf would prove at least somewhat successful. After a two-week construction effort, a massive steel containment dome — a multi-ton box with a pyramid on top — would be lowered onto the leaks, and funnel oil to a drill ship on the surface.

Even under ideal circumstances, the plan was a short-term fix. Regrettably, the results, at least thus far, were anything but ideal.

Efforts to cap a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major setback Saturday, after ice-like crystals clogged the inside of a massive dome meant to contain an 18-day-long spill.

The crystals forced officials to move the steel-and-concrete dome, which is still on the sea bed, some 650 feet away from the well — and to scramble to find ways to stop the water-and-gas crystals from forming.

“I wouldn’t say it failed yet,” said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP, the London-based company that owns the leaking well. “What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work.”

That’s not bad corporate spin, I suppose, but there’s little reason to think subsequent attempts will prove more effective. A second effort is likely days away, and expectations are low.

In the meantime, the AP noted that “thick blobs of tar washed up on Alabama’s white sand beaches, yet another sign the spill was worsening.”

There was a renewed sense of urgency as dime- to golfball-sized balls of tar began washing up on Dauphin Island, three miles off the Alabama mainland at the mouth of Mobile Bay and much farther east than the thin, rainbow sheens that have arrived sporadically in the Louisiana marshes. […]

About a half dozen tar balls had been collected by Saturday afternoon at Dauphin Island, Coast Guard chief warrant officer Adam Wine said in Mobile, and crews in protective clothing patrolled the beach for debris. Authorities planned to test the substance but strongly suspected it came from the oil spill.

Brad Johnson has more.