The Beacon

Blog Tags: Offshore Drilling

Oil Leak Threatens Great Barrier Reef

This weekend, a Chinese coal tanker ran aground on one of our planet’s most diverse and delicate ecosystems: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The tanker, badly damaged and in danger of breaking apart, has already spilled 2 metric tons of heavy oil into the shoals off Queensland's coast in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  In 2007, the same shipping company, COSCO, was linked to the major spill in the San Francisco Bay.   

This is Australia’s third recent major disaster, following the massive oil spill off Queensland and the Timor Sea oil platform blowout. Oil is extremely toxic to marine life and the damage to habitat can persist for years, even decades after a spill. 

In the wake of the Obama administration’s recent decision to open up a huge swath of U.S. waters to offshore drilling, this should serve as a warning against adding more oil to our oceans.    

Anna Gowan is a policy fellow at Oceana.


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Twittercast on Offshore Drilling Today at 12:30

Heads up to all you ocean lovers on Twitter: Today at 12:30 pm eastern time, Oceana senior campaign director Jackie Savitz will be on ABC News Nightline debating Obama’s offshore drilling decision with Ben Lieberman from the Heritage Foundation. 

Between 12:30 and 1 pm, you can tweet your drilling questions and concerns for Jackie to @nightline. Get your questions ready now, and then tune in here.

See you there!


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The Scanner

oil rig

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Happy spring Friday!

Offshore drilling was on everyone's lips this week. And while we were disappointed with Obama’s decision to open new areas to drilling, he also cancelled four lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that had been scheduled by President Bush and committed to conducting significant scientific research and monitoring before any new lease sales are held in those areas -- which is very good news for Arctic people and ecosystems.

Oceana board member Ted Danson talked about the drilling decision on CNN yesterday. If you’re incensed by Obama’s decision, go ahead and give him a piece of your mind.

In other ocean news,

…U.S. Department of State banned imports of wild-caught Mexican shrimp if they are collected in ways that threaten endangered sea turtles; in other words, turtle excluder devices are now required in Mexico’s shrimp trawl nets.

…NOAA administrator and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco talked to Smithsonian Magazine about our changing view of the oceans, dead zones and a cohesive national ocean policy.

…Anderson Cooper dove unprotected with great white sharks in South Africa with “shark man” Mike Rutzen. The video includes disturbing footage of a shark being finned and thrown back into the sea, still alive.


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4 Key Reasons to Oppose Offshore Drilling

This week, Oceana's corporate partner Nautica invited us to Key West Race Week to spread the word and gather support for our opposition to Congressional efforts to open up Florida’s coasts to offshore drilling.

In the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, there’s a proposal that would open up currently protected areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

Why is this proposal such a big deal? I’ll give you a few reasons…

1. Currents: the Florida and Loop currents in the Gulf spread vital nutrients to marine life off Florida’s west coast, so if the currents are exposed to oil, it could expose Florida’s beaches and marine habitats to oil contamination.

2. Habitats: Florida’s mangroves and corals provide habitat for over 40 bird species, over 500 fish species, sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, sharks and commercially-important shellfish like spiny lobsters, oysters, clams and shrimp. These habitats are particularly vulnerable to oil.


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Drilling Secretary Salazar

Oceana's Jackie Savitz asks Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar a question in Copenhagen.

This is the fourth in a series of posts from Copenhagen. Check out the rest here. - Emily

Secretary of Interior Salazar spoke here in Copenhagen about the great work that the Department of the Interior is doing to advance carbon reductions. He also promoted things like carbon sequestration and clean coal technology, which are basically really expensive, long-shot strategies for getting carbon out of coal emissions and getting carbon back underground where it belongs. He also noted that we could get 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030, and that the Danes, our hosts, were already doing so!

The Secretary's timing for being here was great -- he had just opened up one of the most productive areas of Alaska to exploratory drilling, a mistake that was not lost on some of the Alaska natives who were there and were very quick to ask him about the Chuckchi decision. (Read more about Oceana's reaction to the decision.)

I was lucky enough to ask the Secretary a question as well, which he deferred to his Deputy, David Hayes. I asked him the following: With all this interest in stopping carbon emissions and sequestering carbon below ground, was he considering as part of the solution just leaving some carbon in the ground by making expanded drilling into previously protected areas, like the west coast of Florida, off limits?  I pointed out that doing so would make resources that would otherwise be used for drilling available to help develop the offshore wind he referred to earlier.


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Picturing Oil Pollution

I appreciate a well-placed advertisement, and not just because I work on Oceana’s Marketing and Communications team. Many times I have hopped off the DC Metro at the Farragut West station to have one of the art museum displays catch my eye.

Last week I was stopped in my tracks by an advertisement for the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The creative was highlighting two current exhibits at the museum, Sargent and the Sea and Edward Burtynsky: Oil. A large thumbnail of the John Singer Sargent painting, En Route pour la pêche, is what caught my eye. The painting shows a family walking along a beautiful beach. Right next to it was a Burtynsky photograph of an oil refinery.  

The Corcoran’s website describes Burtynsky’s exhibition as revealing “the effects of oil on our lives, depicting landscapes altered by its extraction from the earth and by the cities and suburban sprawl generated around its use.” He also set out to comment on the approaching end of the oil supply.

The juxtaposition of the two images could be a coincidence, but I hope it gives others pause -- and makes them consider the impacts of offshore drilling and oil pollution on our oceans. And if they need a clearer picture, all they have to do is glance across to the other platform to see our new ad:

Oceana ran this ad, and several others like it, so that museums don't become the only place to see the beauty the oceans have to offer. The expansion of oil drilling on our coasts, especially in Florida, threatens the oceans and all the life within them.

I like museums, but I prefer the real thing.


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