Blog Tags: Deepwater Horizon
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Less than a year after the Deepwater Horizon gusher was finally sealed, oil companies are claiming they can drill safely in the Arctic Ocean, an even more fragile and forbidding environment than the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, our government seems to be suffering from amnesia, too.
This month, Shell Oil received a conditional approval from the federal government to drill four exploratory wells next summer in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. The company claims that it can end a gushing spill like the Deepwater Horizon in just 43 days and clean up 90 percent of oil lost.
These claims aren’t based in historic experience and have little scientific evidence to back them up. Crews were only able to recover 10 percent of the oil escaping the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, and only 8 percent of oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.
The most recent oil spill drill in the Beaufort Sea was in 2000 and was described as a “failure.” Mechanical systems like skimmers and booms in calm but icy conditions simply didn’t work. The technology has not improved since then. Just watch this video of a failed cleanup test:
This is the third in a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”
Last year’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was not an isolated event. The exploding rig was especially tragic, but the truth is that the oil industry produces pollution every day, as today’s infographic illustrates:
The small spills associated with oil extraction, transportation, and consumption add up to about 195 million gallons every year. That’s as much as one Deepwater Horizon gusher.
As we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, extracting oil from the seafloor is dangerous business. Everyday drilling and extracting result in chronic leaks that add up to 11 million gallons of oil pollution annually.
Transporting oil is also a major source of pollution. Sometimes ships intentionally discharge what’s known as oily ballast water—the thousands of gallons of dirty water used to keep a giant transport ship stable. Otherwise, despite their best attempts, moving oil around inevitably results in spills to the tune of 44 million gallons a year.
One year ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and triggering the largest accidental oil spill in history.
When all was said and done in July, it had spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, threatening sea turtles, whale sharks, spawning bluefin tuna and countless other species of fish and marine life.
I am a Californian now, but I was born a child of the desert. My parents raised me in Arizona, where my father worked as an archaeologist, and my mother took me to wander the scrubby ravines near our home. She saw beauty everywhere. As a small boy I just saw great opportunities for hide and seek.
Once a year, for our summer vacation, we would drive to the beach. I still remember the great anticipation I felt as our station wagon crested the last mild incline that would give us a view of the Pacific Ocean. It filled me with an awe I still feel today, and as an adult I’ve always lived a window away from its expanses.
But my appreciation for the ocean is complicated by the knowledge that we risk it every day for oil. Last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was a bellwether tragedy for the oceans. We know less about the deep sea than we do about the surface of Mars – just as we still don’t know the true cost of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history a year later.
A week from today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and the effects of the spill on the gulf’s ecosystems and wildlife are beginning to come into view, though the full effects won’t be understood for years.
This week the New York Times published an overview of the latest findings. The good news is that although miles of marsh are still oiled and tar balls continue to wash up on beaches, the Gulf of Mexico can thank its oil-eating bacteria for digesting some of the crude oil and the methane gas.
Not all the news is so good, however. Here are some of the latest findings about Gulf wildlife:
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana. You can follow him on Twitter @Oceana_Andy.
Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began a three-month-long oil spill. In the later months of last year, after the gushing oil well had finally been capped, some people – politicians and TV talking heads, really – tried to convince Americans that the Gulf had recovered.
It’s true that we still don’t know the extent of the damage wrought by last summer’s oil disaster. The subsurface gusher created a whole new scientific challenge when it came to understanding exactly what was going on. And we’ve said that it would be years before we understand the true cost of the disaster.
Just recently we got a sign that not is all well in the Gulf. Since January, more than 80 bottlenose dolphins have turned up dead – and half of those are newborn or stillborn calves. The government is calling it “an unusual mortality event.”
Some sad news today -- the bodies of 20 infant and stillborn dolphins have been discovered since Jan. 20, most of them during the past week, on islands and beaches from Gulfport, Mississippi to Gulf Shores, Alabama, in what may be fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
That’s about 10 times the number normally found in the two states during this time of the year, which is calving season in the region. None of the carcasses showed any obvious signs of oil contamination; necropsies are being performed and tissue samples taken to determine if toxic chemicals from the oil spill may have been a factor in the deaths.
We’ll let you know if we hear any more details. In the meantime, you can take action to prevent another oil disaster by asking Congress to stop subsidizing the oil industry and transition to clean energy.
Jackie Savitz is Oceana's Senior Campaign Director for Pollution Programs. This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.
In the 7,000-word State of the Union, President Obama seemed to leave out two letters that loomed large in 2010. "B" and "P" -- the initials of the company that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of Gulf of Mexico residents and did immeasurable destruction to Gulf ecosystems.
But BP was there in spirit. Its campaign contributions helped get many members of Congress and Senators elected, it was implicated in the oil industry effort to paper Washington, D.C. metro stations with ads, and just the day before, the halls of Congress were filled with lobbyists and others clamoring for seats at the Oil Spill Commission hearings.
And while the President didn't say those two letters, BP was implicated in his statement that we need to get 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035. Because who would be better than BP, a company tarred and feathered and now in need of a clean break, to help us build our clean energy portfolio so it can provide 80% of our electricity by 2035?
In a huge triumph for the U.S. Arctic today, Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Peter Voser announced that Shell's 2011 plans to drill exploratory wells offshore in Alaska are canceled due to continued uncertainty over whether it would receive federal permits.
Shell had hoped to drill exploratory wells in 2010 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but its plans were put on hold by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Susan Murray, Oceana’s Pacific Director, said of the announcement, “We hope this decision by Shell will also bring a commitment from them and others in the oil industry to fully review the mistakes that led to the Deepwater Horizon blowout with local communities, the public and the government. We need a truly open discussion about how to determine if we should move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, and if so, when, where and how.”
Oceana has been instrumental in monitoring the permitting process and holding policymakers accountable for upholding the law. The slew of faulty environmental analyses and permit applications make it clear that we are not ready to move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, especially in light of last summer’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. More than 6,000 birds, more than 600 sea turtles, and almost 100 marine mammals have died, and news surfaced this week that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the vicinity of the spill. And the long-term effects remain to be seen.
It was the nation’s largest environmental disaster in history, and yet, there’s a pervading sense that the disaster is behind us, that the majority of the country has taken a deep breath and moved on. Congress hasn’t passed climate legislation, and the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned.
What’s wrong with this picture?
We’re frustrated. If you are too, here are some ways to channel that frustration into action:
1. Tell your Senators to support the development of offshore wind power. We have a new report out that shows how offshore wind would be cost-effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore drilling.
- Creature Feature: Atlantic Puffin Posted Fri, December 6, 2013
- Creature Feature: Polar Bear Posted Mon, December 9, 2013
- Support Renewable Energy - Opinion in Florida's Sun Sentinel Posted Tue, December 3, 2013
- Creature Feature: Clownfish Posted Wed, December 4, 2013
- CEO Note: Conservation Needs Strong International Trade Laws Posted Thu, December 5, 2013