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Spill, Baby, Spill

April 30th, 2010

What a mess.

Less than a month after President Obama announced plans to open up areas off the east coast of the U.S. for oil exploration (in an effort to make nice with those who would otherwise attempt to derail upcoming climate change legislation), an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has gone and exploded.  And sunk. And the well at which it was formerly suckling is now leaking an estimated 5,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  Each day.  For the past 9 days.

By my count, that’s 45,000 barrels of oil floating (and sinking, in the case of the heaviest crude) in the Gulf.  That’s approaching 2 MILLION gallons of crude.  After refining, that would make nearly 900,000 gallons of gasoline, enough to fuel about 22-million miles of driving in your average car.  (Or put another way, the gas used by about 1,500 average cars in a year.)

…So far.  It’s still leaking.

The oil companies tell us that oil exploration and extraction is perfectly safe, environmentally benign, and that the off-shore oil-rigs actually serve as artificial reefs, attracting and supporting a large number of ocean species. (That is, until the oil-rig blows up.)

And it’s not like this is an isolated event.  A quick search demonstrates that hardly a year goes by without at least one spill of some significance.  (The Exxon Valdez spill, 21 years ago, is still fresh in my mind.  By comparison, it resulted in 262,000 barrels of crude being dumped into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.)

This is a disaster – ecologically, economically, and for the families of the 11 oil-rig workers who will likely never be found. There’s no telling what sort of damage might occur to the environmentally sensitive coastal areas and wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Mississippi.  (Of course, you could argue that the Gulf of Mexico is already a vast ecological dead-zone, thanks to all the shit we flush down the Mississippi River.)  Thanks to the Valdez incident, we now have a law that requires BP (in this case) to clean up after themselves.  How much might that cost?  $500-million?  $2-billion?  Who knows – it might even put a dent into the $5.6-billion of profits that BP “earned” in the last three months.

Unfortunately, a year from now, I suspect we will have moved on, and we’ll all be doing the same thing we do now – filling up our gas tanks with little attention paid to the consequences of our addiction.  And complaining that gas is too expensive.

And we’ll be right.  Gas IS too expensive – more than we care to admit.

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