By now everyone has heard about the massive oil spill taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, a result of an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig April 20. If you haven't, you'll also be shocked to know that bell bottoms have come and gone out of style again and that Abe Vigoda is still alive .
Estimates suggest that 210,000 gallons of crude a day have been released into the gulf for the last two weeks. This puts the disaster on par with the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.
Being that the three leaks are in deep water, about 5,000 feet below the surface, plugging them has proven difficult. The oil industry hasn't been faced with anything like this before.
So what did they do? They contacted a contractor and put some welders to work.
The result is a metal and concrete containment dome, weighing 100 tons, which will be dropped over the largest leak. It won't plug the gusher, but it will make it easier to contain the spill and hopefully funnel the spewing oil into a tanker instead of the surrounding water. The diagram in this news update provides an idea as to how the dome will work.
If this should work, the fabricators made it happen. If it doesn't work, the fabricators will be hard at work to create something else that possibly will. The guys in the ties may get all of the face time on television, but they are about as useful as a mood ring on a corpse.
It's not the first time that fabricators have been rushed into save mode. For instance, think of all the contributions that fabricators have made in recent years to keep soldiers safe in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have struggled to get their ideas put into action, and other companies have grown just keeping up with the requests for their products. No matter the scale of their contribution, fabricators have made a difference in strengthening the vehicles so that they survive enemy attacks and the explosions associated with improvised explosive devices.
Politicians should keep this in mind as they watch manufacturing shrink year after year. Sure, manufacturing productivity continues to climb, but that is most likely related to advances in machine technology and improvements in work processes. Is this country really doing the best it can to replace the manufacturing minds that eventually will get an RV and ride off into retirement, looking for a sunset instead of a welding spark?
Such disasters as this oil spill are terrible for those who directly depend on the Gulf of Mexico for their living. However, the tragedy does provide an opportunity to remind ourselves just how critical metal fabricating is to a successful economy.