Thursday, 10 February 2011

Gulf Oil Disaster Calls Attention to Environmental Issues

The environmental and economic consequences of the monumental oil "spill" in the Gulf of Mexico have just barely begun to register in the public's consciousness. The spill vividly demonstrates how ecology and economics are and always will be fatefully inter-dependent, and it tells a spine-tingling cautionary tale about the consequences of environmental negligence and recklessness.
When the full magnitude of this catastrophe finally sinks-in, just about every sentient being on the planet will have to reconsider how he or she feels about the balance between saving the planet and sustaining prosperity. People will have to ponder, take a stand, and take action on everything from the industrialized world's apparently unbreakable dependence on fossil fuels to the world-wide appetite for shellfish.
A brief chronology of the disaster
On April 20, 2010, The Deepwater Horizon went up in a fiery ball of thick black smoke; fire raged out of control for several days afterward. When the off-shore drilling rig blew off its moorings, of course, it broke the pipe that drew "light sweet crude" and methane gas to the Gulf's surface. Because British Petroleum and its subcontractors had flagrantly ignored the safety requirements of a large off-shore operation, the pipe inevitably began spewing hundreds of barrels of oil each day. The so-called "blow-off" preventers, designed and installed specifically for stopping the flow of oil, were incorrectly installed and had no batteries, so that oil flowed completely unimpeded into the Gulf of Mexico's exceptionally sensitive eco-system.
The first hard look at the consequences
In the days after the explosion, the oil spill set in motion a chain of awful events, which will wreak havoc on the Gulf coast of the United States for generations to come. Because BP executives skilfully have controlled the message by limiting press access to essential information, they effectively have drowned out the majority of criticism from environmentalists and Gulf coast entrepreneurs. A few, however, have managed to make their voices heard.
The critics have focused, first, on the lack of tools and technology for controlling the oil's flow. Environmentalists have pointed out that the inflatable booms used to contain the spill cannot keep the oil from surging over the barriers in the wind-whipped swells on the gulf. They also have raised hue and cry against the chemical dispersants used to break-up the oil and help in sink to the sea floor. Environmentalists point out that the dispersants are nearly as toxic as the oil itself, and they stress that letting small balls of tar sink to the sea floor will choke out the tender growth on which the ocean ecosystem depends.
Advanced ecologists also have emphasized that BP's old-fashioned "skimmer" technology cannot begin to rival more environmentally friendly alternatives, which suck-up more oil and clean-up more completely. Canadian scientists, for example, have used peat moss to clean up large oil and gasoline spills, capitalizing on its unmatched absorbency and the ease with which technicians can remove toxin-soaked moss from the water. An even more advanced university scientist has demonstrated the effectiveness of oil-eating algae which quickly and completely digest oil and render it non-toxic. Both British Petroleum and United States government officials have turned deaf ears to offers of sophisticated environmentally-friendly assistance.
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Rob W. Colbourn - EzineArticles Expert Author