Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dangers of Offshore Oil

Big in the news is the latest man-made disaster threatening the oceans: the explosion, and sinking, of the drill rig Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico.

The impending threat to marine life, shoreline, and local economies is real and very frightening. At a time when the economy is precarious, small communities along the coast that rely on tourism and tourist-related industries to survive, are poised to expect the worst.

Anyone who remembers the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 doesn't want to relive the horror of its aftermath. The vessel spilled 10.8 million U.S. gallons (about 250,000 barrels) of crude oil into the sea, and the oil eventually covered 1,300 square miles of ocean.

Thousands of animals died immediately; the best estimates include 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs. The effects of the spill continue to be felt today. Overall reductions in population have been seen in various ocean animals, including stunted growth in pink salmon populations. Sea otters and ducks also showed higher death rates in following years, partially because they ingested prey from contaminated soil and from ingestion of oil residues on hair due to grooming.

The proponents of offshore drilling continue to argue that increased demand for oil drives the decisions to drill offshore. My response to them is: find a way to lessen the demand. We have the technology to become less dependent on oil and its related by-products. Perhaps the president's bail out money would be better spent on research and development of clean, sustainable energy.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.