The Beacon

Blog Tags: Oil Pollution

Ocean Roundup: Giant Cuttlefish Decline Remains a Mystery, President Obama Creates World's Largest MPA, and More

Giant cuttlefish decline in Australia is a mystery to scientists

An Australian giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama). Giant cuttlefish are declining in South Australian waters. (Photo: Richard Ling / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Federal officials say the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population may be making a slow comeback. Pup numbers have slowly increased from previous years, from 103 individuals in 2013 to 121 this year. The Dodo


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Oceana Unveils New Oil Spill Map

Have you ever wondered just how common oil spills are? Prepare to have your socks knocked off.

Oceana and SkyTruth have partnered to launch a new online oil spill tracking tool, which maps oil spill reports from the National Response Center. Considering there are a couple dozen reports from just the past week, you may find this new map disheartening – but that isn’t the worst of it. Many of the reports come from the oil industry itself, as well as the public and the government, so the map may actually underestimate the number and size of spills.

Clicking on any incident offers details about the spill. Although many reports are of unknown sheens in the water, the effects of incidents like these add up quickly as the oceans deal with this sort of pollution. By drawing attention to even minor spills, this map highlights the repetitive damage done to our environment by offshore drilling and other oil pollution.

Moreover, some of the incidents marked on this map may be still more serious. For example, a spill near a rig operated by Transocean off the coast of Brazil, reported on Thursday, is currently being attributed by Chevron to “oil seeps.” This spill may contain as much as 628,000 gallons of oil.

“This new Web tool will help people visualize the magnitude of the oil industry’s damage to our natural environment and our economy,” said Oceana senior campaign director Jacqueline Savitz.


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Offshore Drilling Plan Offers Mixed Tidings

oil rig in gulf of mexico

An oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

This afternoon, the Department of the Interior released its plan for oil drilling for the next five years, and it’s a mixed bag.

Bad news first: Today’s decision opens the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico to drilling, despite the facts that the Gulf is still experiencing the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and that safety regulations have improved little since this disaster.

The decision also leaves the Arctic open to drilling. Fortunately, there’s a small bright spot here: The administration has announced that lease sales in the Arctic will be continued only after more research and monitoring has been conducted. Today’s decision also promises to respect special areas within the Arctic and acknowledges the recent report that found gaps in Arctic ecosystem science.

The best news, however, is that the administration will not permit offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, or the parts of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico currently under a drilling moratorium.

“The administration’s new five-year plan is good news for Atlantic coastal states, especially Virginia and Florida.  However, the Arctic and the Gulf are still in harm’s way,” said Jackie Savitz, Oceana senior campaign director.

“As we watch the BP oil continue to foul the Gulf of Mexico, it’s crystal clear that fundamental, industry-wide safety and response failures must be addressed before moving forward with such an aggressive program in the Gulf.  The economy and health of the Gulf may not survive the next disaster,” Savitz added.


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Friday Infographic: Offshore Drilling

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:

Click to enlarge. [Infographic by Don Foley]

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.


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New Google Tool Reveals Oil Spill Amnesia

deepwater horizon explosion

Just one year ago in early June 2010, tar balls began washing up on the beaches of Pensacola, Florida, and oily waves lapped the shores of the federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore. Graphic images of oil- covered cormorants and pelicans emerged in the news.

Over one-third of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico were closed to fishing and BP released the first video clips of a hole the size of a dinner plate gushing crude oil into the deep dark waters of the Gulf. But one year later a different disaster of great magnitude has occurred -- the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has largely been forgotten. 

A phenomenon deemed “oil spill amnesia” has been uncovered after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to greatly expand offshore oil drilling in federal waters with less safety provisions than before the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This made it obvious that many of our politicians had forgotten about the risks of offshore drilling, but how much the general public and media has forgotten about the Gulf oil spill was speculative, until now.

Google has come out with a new tool that is perfect for data nerds called Google Correlate. It can relate two different search terms or phrases and show their correlation in terms of internet search activity. Based on search activity Google has been able to accurately predict rates of flu, and these tools may serve great importance in our society.

It has also revealed that people have indeed largely forgotten about the impacts of the BP oil spill.


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Subsidize the Solutions, Not the Problem

Editor's note: This post originally appeared at The National Journal. If you agree with Jackie, go to the article and click “agree”!

For decades, the oil and gas industry has benefited from a long list of financial boons totaling billions of dollars each year. In an economy where we have to make tough choices about continuing important programs – whether its paying down the debt, protecting social security or providing for a national defense – we simply can’t keep letting Big Oil, possibly the biggest player in our economy, off the hook. They should have to pay taxes just like we do.

The industry is quibbling over semantic arguments about whether a tax break is a subsidy, or whether they are being singled out. In fact, the President has not singled the oil industry out. Many of the President’s proposed changes are economy-wide, and those that aren’t pertain to oil and gas industry activities that simply don’t apply to other industries. In fact, it’s the petroleum industry that has singled itself out by building a network of tax loopholes, and then gaming them in a way that allows benefits that few, if any, other industries could even imagine. And whether the funds come in a check after taxes, or as a break on taxes, the result is the same. More money in the oil industry’s pockets and less funds in the Treasury.


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A Year Since the Spill, the Push to Drill Continues

Oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

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.

 


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Deep-sea Corals Caught in Plume’s Way

Deep-sea coral community of West Flower Garden Bank in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA image.)

The most familiar victims of the oil spill are the ones with faces: birds, sea turtles, dolphins, whales.

But as the New York Times reports today, there are at least three extensive deep-sea coral reefs lying directly beneath the oil slick in the gulf. And coral reefs can’t swim or fly away from the plumes of partly dispersed oil spreading in the deep sea.

Both oil and dispersants are toxic to corals and have been found to impede the ability of corals to grow and reproduce, and the effects are amplified when they are mixed, which may be the case with these plumes.

It’s unknown exactly how sensitive deep-sea corals are to oil and dispersants, though as Oceana’s Pacific science director Jeffrey Short told the Times, “It might be locally catastrophic, particularly if there’s an oxygen-depleted mass that develops.”


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The Spill: What You Can Do, Part 2

© AP

As evidenced by all the comments and e-mails we’ve been getting the last few weeks, it’s clear that you all want to know how to help respond to the Gulf oil spill. And a big thanks to everyone who has already taken action with us!

Here’s an update on what you can do, whether you are in the Gulf region or not:

What you can do on the ground in the Gulf:

  • Register through OilSpillVolunteers.com to volunteer or join a cleanup organization.
  • The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is accepting volunteers. Register on their website.
  • The Mobile Baykeeper is asking for volunteers. Call 251-433-4229.
  • The Audubon Society is looking for help. You can report oiled wildlife at 1-866-557-1401. To report areas with oil ashore or to leave contact information to volunteer in the affected areas, call 1-866-448-5816.
  • The BP Volunteer Hotline has set up numbers if you need to report injured wildlife or damage related to the spill. You can also request volunteer information at 866-448-5816.

What you can do from anywhere:

Spills Happen!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

...And more often than people think. Just days after the President offered up more of our coasts to the oil industry, an oil pipeline operated by Chevron Pipe Line Co leaked at least 18,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
 
This is another example of how dangerous exposure to an oil spill can potentially be to coastal wildlife and habitat, in a national wildlife refuge no less. Spills happen at every stage of oil production. Whether it is from drilling, pipelines, tankers, or refineries; a spill can occur at every stage of the oil production process. Then when we burn the oil, it contributes to climate change.

Big Oil would have us believe that spills are a thing of the past thanks to modern technology. Unfortunately, the facts play out otherwise. Oil spills are not rare occurrence. Almost one million gallons of oil enter the oceans of North America every year through extraction activities alone.


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