Tuesday, 18 May 2010 20:30

Gulf of Mexico oil spill: what's going on and what can we do?

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Is it just me, or is this oil spill situation kinda confusing? Maybe I just don't pay enough attention to the media/news, but I barely understand what's going on and how bad it is. Therefore, I figured it would benefit myself and perhaps some readers if I did some research and broke it all down.

Deepwater Horizon - Gulf of Mexico oil spill won't stop Shell's Alaska drilling plan

What Happened?

  • An explosion and and subsequent fire sank the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon (which BP was leasing from its owner, Transocean) and triggered the mile-deep oil gusher that has defied efforts to stem it, taking 11 workers with it. (CNN 1; 2; 3)

When Did it Happen?

  • April 20, 2010

Where Did It Happen?

  • 50 miles off the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana (CNN 2)

How Bad Is It?

  • This is still being determined and officials don't really know how bad it is, how large of an area the oil has reached, and what the long term effects will be. (CNN 2)
  • As of May 14th, "an oily sheen has reached the shores of some of Louisiana's barrier islands, but there has been no repeat of the disastrous scenes of widespread oil-soaked wildlife and beaches, as in the wreck of the supertanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989." (CNN 5)
  • On May 18th "BP said that the amount of oil flowing from the ruptured pipe into a collection tube has doubled to 2,000 barrels (84,000 gallons) a day" (CNN 2). "That would fill up about 1/3 of an Olympic-size swimming pool" "and is enough to fill over 6,000 fuel tanks for passenger cars." (CNN 5)
  • Astronauts can see it from space and say that it looks scary. (MSNBC)
Captured: The Gulf Oil Spill
How Is It Effecting the Environment?
  • "The ongoing spill now threatens to be picked up by the Loop Current, which could spread some oil around the tip of Florida and up the U.S. East Coast." (CNN 1)
  • Scientists fear that "more potentially hazardous oil could be lurking below the surface in large oil plumes" (CNN 3)
  • "The plumes pose a threat to undersea life because bacteria inside them decomposes the oil and uses up the oxygen. That lowers oxygen levels in the water, which could harm the sea life that depends on it." (CNN 3)
  • Some predict there will be a "multi-generational effect" on many ocean creatures, with shrimp and bluefin tuna the two species with the most to lose. (CNN 1)
  • "Whales and other marine mammals in the Gulf can suffer hearing loss from the loud noise generated by seismic exploration surveys used to search for oil...[and] can also disturb feeding and breeding behavior and mask communication between individual whales and dolphins" (XE)
  • "At least 150 sea turtles have washed up dead or dying along the U.S. Gulf Coast" (Scientific American)
  • At least 16 different species of birds are threatened - check out this post from Daily Green. "In addition to oiled feathers, which destroys the birds' natural waterproofing; birds ingest oil directly or as part of a contaminated diet; or may experience oiled nesting, wintering or migratory habitat."
Captured: The Gulf Oil Spill

Are There Any Health Risks As a Result?

  • If you eat fish, then there might be. A plan is being implemented to sample seafood from the area. Prices have gone up and there is limited availability. "Depending on the season, about 40 percent of the nation's commercial seafood harvests come from the Gulf Coast" (CNN 6)
  • The oil isn't the only dangerous element - chemical dispersants are also being used to break up the spill. "They are special fluid chemicals that bond to the oil molecules and separate them from water molecules, thus breaking up the oil. The result is tiny oil droplets that can biodegrade more quickly than a mass of oil. Though they are chemicals, they are generally less harmful than the highly toxic oil...[It] comes with a warning that it can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract with prolonged contact. Toxicologists and environmental scientists say, however, that dispersants are unlikely to cause immediate harm to people." (CNN 4)
Captured: The Gulf Oil Spill

What's the Government Doing About It?
  • "Obama has decided to establish a presidential commission to investigate the disaster, an administration official said. The panel will explore 'a range of issues,' including federal oversight of offshore oil drilling, safety aboard rigs and environmental protection" (CNN 2)
  • "The House Natural Resources Committee said that, beginning May 26, it will hold a seven-part hearing to investigate the incident and 'examine the future of America's offshore oil and gas policy.' " (CNN 2)
  • "Eight U.S. senators called for an independent federal investigation of whether oil giant BP violated civil or criminal laws in connection with the oil spill." (CNN 3)
  • "The federal government's effort is hindered by its failure to update its maps...Many of the nation's environmental sensitivity index maps, which summarize what coastal resources are at risk if an oil spill occurs nearby, are outdated" (CNN 2)
  • There are numerous fishing bans, which have closed off 19% of the Gulf (CNN 1)
  • "Royal Dutch Shell intends to push on with its plans for deepwater drilling off the coast of Alaska this summer" (Telegraph)
Captured: The Gulf Oil Spill

What Can We Do to Help?

Many of the pictures are from a great collection by the Denver Post.

Have you done anything to help the spill?
If you have further questions or answers please leave them below in the comments and I'll add them in.

This 15 year old girl in Florida shaved her head to read "No Oil"

Check out this great song inspired by the spill:

Read 7110 times Last modified on Sunday, 15 July 2012 05:59