Saturday, 5 March 2011

Oil Pollution and What It Is Doing to our World

By Sacha Tarkovsky

Needless to mention, this is a very complex and sensitive subject. However, anyone over 50 years old can remember a childhood where the environment was quite different.
The world's population insane dependence on fossil fuels (while there are acceptable and non-polluting alternatives) is basically killing our clean and environment, and us with it.
What is Oil Pollution?
Oil pollution is simply the spilling of crude or refined petroleum product into the environment. There are some staggering statistics that follow.
These are statistics from the 1995 Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition, and have not been updated. It is estimated that the overall totals have increased two or three fold.
oAccidental spills from ships : 140 Million tons
oRoutine maintenance of ships and equipment: 511 Millions tons
oAir pollution in the rains (entering the seas): 348 Million tons
oLand disposal of fuels entering the seas: 1,374 Million tons
oNatural seepage (from sea sources) 234 Million tons
The above does NOT include China or India statistics. A total of 2,607 Millions of tons of petroleum had ended up in the environment (estimated in 1995). Now 11 years later, the total is estimated to have trippled, and we are witnessing a gradual increase in Earth temperature due to global warming, other alarming changes in the weather, pollution traces found in both the environment and animals (and plants) in the wild.
Despite the MARPOL rules (marine pollution act by the United Nations), and other legislation, oil pollution continues. A recent survey by marine toxicologists have confirmed alarming amounts of damage to the livers in a wide spectrum of marine fish and mammals. Almost all fish sampled had high levels of heavy metals in the tissue (crude oil contains a great deal of heavy metal, vanadium among them, which is toxic to most animals).
The bottom feeders and marine crustaceans (also living on the bottom of the sea) had an equally high level of absorbed heavy metals and other pollutants (PCB and Dioxin for example).
The natural microbes and small aquatic life that can biodegrade the oil (into water and carbon dioxide) are overwhelmed and cannot cope. There is a lack of available nutrients in areas that surround oil spills, and pollution sites.
One sees large groups of whales or dolphins beaching themselves, and puzzled scientists to explain why. It doesn't take much to figure it out. Whole species of plants and animals are disappearing on a regular basis.
Oil pollution can not be solved by legislation, or by being more careful. So much oil pollution enters the atmosphere, and then the environment, the only measure that we can take is to immediately reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Places like California in the United States has already taken the first steps, but has not gone so far as outlawing the fossil fuel.
Knowing that there are fuel cells which can burn clean hydrogen, there are electric engines and solar cells to run the ubiquitous automobile. There is wind and wave power to create clean and non-polluting sources of electricity. Sadly the interests of big business are coming before the safety of the human race.
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