April 29, 2010

The news from the Gulf of Mexico this morning is not good. British Petroleum (BP), the owner of the ruptured oil line, is finally confirming what NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)  and the Coast Guard have been saying for several days now. This spill is MUCH larger than previously reported - 5 times as large - and is currently spilling 5,000 barrels per day into the Gulf.


There is great urgency around attempts to contain the spill and/or disperse the oil before it reaches land, where it would have a major impact on wildlife, marine life, sensitive habitats and shorelines in four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida).

I’ve been reading everything I can about whether or not the proposed burning of oil is an environmentally sound strategy. From what I’ve found, it sounds like it is our best option.


Source: NASA Earth Observatory



Here is what biologist Andrew C. Revkin, who teaches environmental science at Pace University and writes the DOT EARTH environmental blog for the New York Times, is reporting today:

One of the biggest such tests was undertaken off Newfoundland in 1993. Called the Newfoundland Offshore Burn Experiment, the joint Canadian and American project concluded that combustion consumed most of the more problematic compounds and the levels of harmful compounds in smoke were below danger thresholds outside 150 yards of so of the fire zone. The water beneath the burn area showed no detectable levels of harmful compounds.

I photographed an offshore oil rig when I took a boat trip in the Santa Barbara (California) channel last month.


 These are massive structures, and there is as much below the water as there is above - the water here was nearly 200 feet deep, and the rig is anchored to the ocean floor. As the captain of our boat noted, from ocean floor to the top of the rig is as tall as a skyscraper.

Do we really need to construct more of these oil rigs along our coasts? What is the risk-reward ratio of offshore drilling? As an environmentalist, I’m terribly afraid that the possible damage to wildlife and our coastlines are not worth the risk of building more oil rigs that produce only a tiny fraction of the oil our nation uses. If most of us changed the incandescent light bulbs in our homes to more energy-efficient light bulb source, we would not only be making up for the oil that off-shore rigs produce but saving our own money in the bargain.




Posted by: Seymour Simon

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