Environment Forum

from The Great Debate UK:

How much damage will the BP oil spill cause?

-Kees Willemse is professor of offshore engineering at Delft University. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Last month’s explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig continues to result in the leakage of an estimated 200,000 gallons (910,000 litres) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

According to U.S. President Barack Obama, “we are dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster”.

While the leak is extremely serious, and Obama’s words may ultimately ring true, the leak is (as yet) not one of the top 50 biggest oil spillages from either oil rigs or tankers in historical perspective:

•    Some 7-10,000 tonnes of oil are so far estimated to have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from Deepwater Horizon.
•    The Exxon Valdez leaked some 36,000 tonnes of crude oil on the shores of Alaska.
•    The largest ever off-shore leakage of oil occurred in 1979 in the Ixtoc-1 spillage when an estimated 476,000 tonnes of oil polluted the Gulf of Mexico (Bay of Campeche).
•    The biggest ever on-shore spillage occurred in the aftermath of the 1991 Iraq War when an estimated 1.4 to 1.5 million tonnes was released in Kuwait by Iraqi military forces.

How would you clean up the Gulf coast?


In supermarket aisles, when a bottle of oil smashes on the floor, a bag of sawdust or kitty litter is hauled out to soak up the mess.

To rescue a favorite silk tie from a dribble of gravy, douse it with corn starch and hope for the best.

How to clean up oil is a reoccurring theme in elevators and Internet chatrooms across the country this week, thanks to the unprecedented, growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico costing BP $350 million in cleanup costs so far, and threatening environmental disaster.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill prompts worries about Arctic drilling

RUSSIAWith the spotlight shining on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the executives sizzling in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, environmental advocates are looking north.

They’re worried that Shell Oil will start drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska before the U.S. government reports on BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig disaster. And the environmental groups are not comforted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s reassurances that no new drilling will take place until the government report is completed by May 28.

“The May 28 report deadline still leaves ample time should the Department of the Interior choose to allow this ill-advised drilling to move forward in extreme Arctic conditions, where spill response faces additional challenges of sea ice, seas of up to 20 feet, darkness and a virtual lack of infrastructure from which to stage a response,” the environmental groups — Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society — said in a statement.

What offshore miners know


Dr. Beverly A. Sauer is a professor of management communication at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. Any views expressed here are her own.

Despite massive attention to environmental impact of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the death of 11 rig workers has not had the same impact as the tragic deaths of 29 coal miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

One article in The Washington Post described events at the moment of disaster, but there has been little tribute to the knowledge and experience these workers bring to the job of managing risk and preventing future disasters.

Live video: Day 2 for BP, Transocean in Congress

Appearing for a second day, the presidents of BP America and Transocean are scheduled to recount for a Senate subcommittee what caused the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers. Watch live video here starting at 10 a.m.

Could seaweed stop offshore drilling accidents?


–Dr. Gunter Pauli, PhD, MBA, is an entrepreneur and founder of the ZERI Foundation (Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives). He is the author of 17 books and 36 children’s fables. His latest book The Blue Economy contains one innovation outlined in this article. —

One wonders if the oil industry will ever learn.

When in the summer of 2006 holes in pipelines forced British Petroleum to shut down a major part of its network in Alaska, oil prices shot up to record levels.

The analysis of the problem unveiled that microbial induced corrosion (MIC) contributed to a dramatic domino effect.

Environmental cancers still a wild card


Dr. Karl Kelsey, MD, MOH, is Professor of Community Health and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown University. He is Director of the Center for Environmental Health and Technology, home to the Brown University Superfund Basic Research Program. Any views expressed here are his own.–

What are we to make of the 250-page report from the President’s Cancer Panel on environmental cancer risk?

Is it a wakeup call for regulators, demanding that they protect us from massive numbers of untested chemicals? Is it an unbalanced, provocative account that ignores the well-known, preventable causes of cancer?

Video: Jean-Michel Cousteau weighs in

Jean-Michel Cousteau, environmentalist, documentary producer and the son of ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, urges a moratorium on offshore oil drilling as a result of the catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

In this video blog on the Ocean Futures Society website, he points to the spill and ongoing leak as fuel for the argument to embrace renewable energy and end dependence on fossil fuels as our primary energy source.

Cousteau has produced over 70 films, including the documentary series Ocean Adventures in 2006.

Video: Dolphins swimming through crude

In this video blog posted by Regan Nelson, a senior oceans advocate with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), dolphins are shown swimming in the murky waters containing chemically-dispersed oil off the Gulf of Mexico.

BP engineers were using undersea robots on Friday to try to stem the continued leak of 5000 barrels of oil a day from the ruptured oil well about a mile underwater.

Wildlife rescue teams were on standby as potential calamity faces the region’s birds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

Time to get un-addicted to oil


– Rona Fried, Ph.D., is CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news and networking site for green businesses: including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter.  Any views expressed here are her own. —

Over the past 30 years, four U.S. presidents chose to continue down the fossil fuel path of least resistance instead of investing heavily in energy efficiency and renewable energy – the only long-term solutions that can avoid catastrophic oil spills like the one we are witnessing today.

We have all the technology to transition to a clean economy that gives us the energy we need without destroying biodiversity, ecosystems, human life and the economy.