Oil Pollution: Overview

oiled birdMarine life, ocean ecosystems and coastal economies are threatened by the renewed push to expand offshore oil drilling off of our coasts. 

Offshore drilling increases the risk of toxic exposure from oil contamination to wildlife and coastal communities, and contributes to economic losses and climate change. The risks of oil pollution are especially grave in the Arctic, a unique and fragile ecosystem where oil development is already underway and where even a small oil spill could be impossible to clean up.

Offshore drilling operations are a source of insidious leaks, and catastrophic spills and blowouts. Oil that is obtained from drilling operations then needs to be transported via pumps or tanker vessels to refineries and then on to points of distribution and use.

Each of these stages are vulnerable to accidents that can result in various forms of pollution entering the ocean, and the effects of oil on marine life are considerable.

The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico served as a reminder that offshore drilling can have disastrous consequences. Beginning in April 2010, oil poured into the Gulf for 87 straight days, releasing 200 million gallons of dangerous and damaging oil into the marine environment. The consequences of this disaster will continue to accumulate for many years to come, and this serves an example of the dangers of offshore drilling.

The consumption of oil is a major contributor to the carbon emissions that cause climate change and ocean acidification, two serious threats to the ocean. In 2006, oil consumption accounted for nearly 45 percent of United States’ carbon dioxide emissions. The planet’s climate crisis will continue to worsen unless we quickly shift to a clean energy economy.

Oceana is working to prevent oil pollution by stopping the expansion of offshore oil drilling off of our coasts.