Tuesday, January 09, 2007

oh, captain mercaptan

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg learned a new word Monday: mercaptan.

Faced with a foul odor blanketing a sizeable chunk of his city, the Mayor came out for a press statement just before 10AM and made several assertions, among them, that the smell was not caused by natural gas, because methane is odorless, but (and I’m filling in the blanks here a bit) because what we think we’re all smelling is gas, what we are smelling is mercaptan, the sulfurous-smelling compound added to natural gas so that if there were a leak, we’d smell it.

Get that? Bloomberg didn’t say one possibility is that what we smell is plain mercaptan, based on the similarity of smell and the absence of electronic sniffers pinging on methane. Instead, Mayor Mike just asserted it was mercaptan, even though he knew no such thing.

How do I know that he didn’t know? Because hours after the Mayor spoke, the Department of Environmental Protection made it very clear that they had no idea what caused the odor. “Nothing has been confirmed. We’re left with a mystery,” said a spokesman.

Mayor Bloomberg was probably conferring with ConEd guys who offered up the possibility of mercaptan, and Mike thought, “that sounds smart and informed, I think I’ll drop that word”—and by the time he was standing in front of the cameras, his fun word became the official word. . . over and over again.

Which is why when the Mayor followed with something akin to “we have no idea what is going on, but we know there is no danger,” I was reassured not at all. . . and incensed very much.

I mean, what with Michael Bloomberg’s obviously uninformed assertions, all I need is Christine Todd Whitman to declare the air safe to know that I’m totally fucked.

(PS Props to the New York Times for finally acknowledging the government’s previous bio-dispersal experiment, code name: project maple syrup.)


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