Gulf oil spill a widespread tragedy

I wanted to let some time pass – out of respect for those who lost their lives – before offering my thoughts on the explosion on the Gulf of Mexico oil rig and the resulting and on-going spill.

A terrible tragedy is unfolding for the region’s wildlife, environment and many of its citizens. And it has already placed the burden of loss on the families of those who died in the accident.

Wildlife below the water’s surface and above it are being affected and more will be impacted in the coming days, weeks and even months. Oil spills on this magnitude directly and figuratively cover everything like a plague of slime. Far too many animals will be unable to avoid it.

There will be a ripple effect on the area’s economy, as everyone from fishermen to people who depend on tourism could face their own personal, oil-soaked recessions.

Yet, over the last few years to even the last few weeks , we heard elected officials from both major political parties tell us offshore drilling can be done safely and the rigs have been described with phrases such as “state of the art.”

In the years following Hurricane Katrina, I’ve read comments from politicians claiming there were no oil spills in the Gulf as a result of the storm and drilling is safe and clean. I guess they don’t realize people and reporters have access to this thing called the Internet and we can look stuff up.

The Associated Press reported last week that dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries have occurred over the last several years on oil rigs. The US Minerals Management Service reports more than 1,400 offshore drilling accidents occurred between 2001 and 2007.

I found a report from CBSnews.com, posted back in July 0f 2008, noting a number of individuals who claimed not a drop of oil was spilled during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But the Minerals Management Service puts the numbers a little higher than “not a drop.”

From the CBS News piece – “”As a result of both storms, a total volume of 17,652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons) of total petroleum products, of which 13,137 barrels were crude oil and condensate, was spilled from platforms, rigs and pipelines. 4,514 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs.””

The Washington Post has a new update on the Gulf spill posted now on its website.

In my view, the major oil companies have been putting the brakes on the development of alternative forms of energy for some time now. Why? – because the oil in the ground represents billions of dollars trapped in a big un-safety deposit box. They don’t want to leave that money trapped forever in the underground vault. And looking at it from their side, we know why.

If a great, clean, alternative means to power our cars hit the market in mass production next year and a ton of folks started buying it, drilling could start a steady, long-term decline. So much of that Texas Tea could be capped off forever.

The industry hasn’t shown it can drill safely over the long haul. And it only takes one or two or a few of these major spills to cause major damage.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Diane on May 2, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Great article! I agree wholeheartedly that the major oil companies are preventing us from exploring and developing alternative energy sources. It is us up to us, the citizens, to tell Washington that we do NOT want any more off shore drilling! Please contact your congressmen and senators.

    Long Island’s “Volunteers for Wildlife Rescue” urge people to report any oiled or injured bird as a result of the Deepwater Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, to http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/doc/2931/534719/

    Also, the NY Times did great article on the birds at risk – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/28/us/20100428-spill-map.html?ref=us This is a tragedy that could be avoided — a tragedy that will take years and years to clean up. It’s time to make certain that it never happens again.

    Thanks for covering it on the blog.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tom Grady on May 2, 2010 at 9:33 am

      Diane,
      Thank you for posting these links.
      I cringe each time I read an update on the expanding size of the disaster.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Diane on May 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Here is a good video update http://video.nytimes.com/?src=vidm

    Reply

  3. Posted by D Gary Grady on May 2, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Two quick things:

    o When I was in the Navy in the 1970s I read an article about a Navy diver who had his hair and beard saturated with crude oil while diving to investigate a spill he and his colleagues tried all kinds of things to remove the oil and nothing worked until someone thought to try Edge shaving gel, which solved the problem. I don’t know whether this has been tried by wildlife rescuers but it might be worth knowing about.

    o The U.S. started moving toward alternative energy production in the late 1970s, but shifted direction in the 1970s. (The Reagan administration even went to the expense of removing already-installed and working solar panels from the While House roof.) In contrast, Denmark stayed on course and now produces about 1/5 of its energy needs from wind power. In addition it uses geothermal power, burns waste products in electric power plants that also heat nearby buildings. generates electricity from sunlight, etc. Danes are also more efficient in their energy use, living a modern, high-tech life with only about half the energy consumption of the U.S. There are downsides to this, but Danes on the whole seem pretty happy with the results, even according to this piece from a few years back on Fox News (not exactly a tree-hugging source): http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,203293,00.html

    Even in the U.S., a very large fraction of all new electrical generation capacity is in the form of wind and other renewable power. No one alternative is perfect. Even wind power interrupts natural skylines and may harm birds (though some say this problem is minor in practice). Deep-rock geothermal, which has tremendous promise, presents risk of inducing earthquakes. Some forms of biomass, especially ethanol, turn out to be extremely inefficient in practice, with little net savings in fossil fuel. Solar photoelectric works only when and where the sun is shining. Hydroelectric dams, especially big ones, interfere with fish migration and natural stream flow. But a combination of approaches can work, and in the meantime create jobs, contribute to energy independence, and offset the coming combination of exploding oil demand and rapidly slowing growth of production, inevitably leading to higher prices.

    Right now the biggest, cheapest source of “new” power is reducing consumption. That doesn’t necessarily mean doing without. Many products today use only a fraction of the energy they did only a few years ago.

    Reply

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