The Beacon

Gulf Coast Dodges a Bullet... for Now

Battling the fire on Deepwater Horizon. Photo: US Coast Guard

A sad and ironic post for the day after Earth Day – the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil rig that caught fire on Tuesday and sank yesterday is still a serious concern for  the Coast Guard, NOAA and potentially for dozens of endangered species.

The Coast Guard continues to search for the missing 11 crew members while cleanup efforts have begun. An oily sheen covers the water where the rig used to stand, probably related to the fire and onboard activity as the rig sank. While it is contained for now, BP Vice President David Rainey said "it certainly has the potential to be a major spill." BP PLC operates the license on which the rig was drilling.

While the focus has obviously (and justly) been on saving human lives and stopping the blaze, what are the ecological impacts of the explosion and sinking? The Gulf of Mexico is home to dozens of endangered creatures. Kemp’s Ridleys, the world’s most endangered sea turtle, call the Gulf home – it is the site of their only known nesting beach. Four of the top seven US fishing ports are in the Gulf and a brisk tourism trade in recreational fishing stands to be severely hit by potential oil disasters.

This explosion is a stark reminder that offshore drilling is NOT safe or clean, no matter what the industry tell us. With this recent disaster and the spill in Australia last year, the question isn’t if an accident happens, but when. As of right now, the Gulf has dodged a bullet – we seem to be pretty lucky on the environmental side. But one near miss doesn’t erase previous disasters, like last year’s spill in the Timor Sea.

We certainly hope that the climate legislation set to be released this Monday will not include an expansion of offshore drilling into areas that were previously protected and instead will stimulate the shift to the clean energy economy that we so desperately need.

Do your part - contact your Senators today.

Oceana is dismayed to learn of yet another oil rig accident, potentially costing the lives of workers and leaving an environmental tragedy in its wake.  This incident shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that oil industry claims of rig safety are off the mark. It’s not a matter of ‘whether’ there will be another accident or spill but ‘when.’

 

This tragedy in the Gulf and the last rig blowout in Australia both occurred within the past year. The frequency of these accidents certainly does not justify the use of the words “safe” or “clean” by this industry.  Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous business, no matter how loudly the industry argues otherwise.

 

The loss of life and injury to workers is tragic.  And the irony that this disaster is happening as the nation celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, and as Congress is poised to unveil its climate solutions bill cannot be escaped.

 

This event is a bitter reminder that offshore drilling is not safe, and that we need to be moving away from the dirty and dangerous energy choices of the past.   Clean energy, like offshore wind, can take the place of much of our oil and gas demands – if we would only give it a chance.  This would help reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are driving climate change, and ultimately put an end to accidents like this one once and for all.

 

We certainly hope that the climate legislation set to be released this Monday will not include an expansion of offshore drilling into areas that were previously protected and instead will stimulate the shift to the clean energy economy that we so desperately need.


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