Saturday, 12 March 2011

US Witnesses Major Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico

By Robert Eckard

Unless you have made a conscious effort to cut yourself off from any and all media outlets, you are no doubt familiar with a major oil leak from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico off the southern coast of the United States. An oil well located in the gulf has blown out and oil is spewing from it to the tune of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day. Skimmers have been sent to the site of the Gulf oil spill and are capturing around 10,000 barrels per day. Even those who have chosen professions outside the world of mathematics can do the simple math and see that the cleanup is currently a losing battle.
Possibly the most infuriating aspect of the Gulf oil spill is that it is almost identical in nature to the spill caused by an oil rig explosion back in 1979, and the exact same efforts that didn't work over 30 years ago to stop the flow of oil are being employed now! Every method from dropping chemicals on the spill from the air to attempting a rather low-tech plug with a large metal cap are even being performed in the same exact order with the same exact failed results. How does it make any sense that no strides have been made in preemptive or corrective technology in the past 30 years? An even bigger question is why have we as a planet continued to cling to petroleum-based fuel sources instead of developing renewable energy sources that would prevent such disasters as the Gulf oil spill from happening?
When proposing the Deepwater Horizon well, BP stated confidently that even if an unlikely spill occurred, the microbes found in the water would quickly degrade the oil and currents would disperse the remaining oil constituents to ineffective levels. The mechanisms behind these claims are true. But what happens when microbes begin to break down the oil, or any type of material they use for food? They use up oxygen. The enormous amount of oxygen consumed by the microbes while processing the large amount of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico would adversely affect the fish and sea life living in its waters. If these animals die off as a result, the food chain would suffer a major blow. Additionally, the natural gas released alongside the oil reduces oxygen levels and carries toxic materials such as Benzene, creating a double hit to the waters and animals found in the Gulf of Mexico.
The engineers at BP were indeed correct in their assessment that currents in the Gulf of Mexico would carry the oil after a spill. Unfortunately, the prevailing current in these waters is the Gulf Stream. As the Gulf Stream flows out of the gulf, it travels up the Unites States' eastern seaboard. Even if the oil spill does not reach shore, unforeseen amounts of sea plants and animals would be affected. Once the Gulf Stream has continued past the US's east coast, it then issues out into the Atlantic Ocean toward Europe. I'm not ready to call this disaster a planet killer yet, but it is not hard to imagine the global effects both economically and environmentally if the Gulf oil spill reaches beyond its already sizeable boundaries.
Fishing industries have already felt the heavy blow brought on by the Gulf oil spill. 86, 985 square miles of available waters have been closed off, which is approximately 36% of federal waters. Although around 60 to 70 percent of oyster and crab harvesting areas as well as 70 to 80 percent of fin-fisheries have continued operation, early estimates have predicted cost estimates of $2.5 billion dollars to the fish industry. Tourism, a large portion of the area's economy has slowed greatly, potentially costing the industry $3 billion.
Lest we forget, BP themselves are losing money hand over fist because of the Gulf oil spill. As of a few days before this writing, BP had already incurred expenditures of $2.35 billion. When all is said and done, costs caused by everything from re-drilling to containment to cleanup to claims may reach over $30 billion dollars. Since April, BP has already lost $105 billion. Who inevitably foots the bill whenever large corporations lose stock value and profits? Why, the customer of course. Customers worldwide are already cringing at the thought of gallons of gasoline that are triple or quadruple the current price.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Health concerns and litigious matters have yet to play out, so the impact felt in these areas is yet to be seen. Renewable energies rely on sources that are readily available, not those that need to be mined from 5,000 feet below the ocean's surface. The research, development, and installation costs of all renewable energies combined have not exceeded the costs inflicted by the Gulf oil spill. And neither the quiet hum of a fuel cell nor the softly spinning blades of a wind turbine have ever roared louder than the effects currently being heard in the Gulf of Mexico.
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