Month 6, Day 18: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Newsweek has an article on the “Environmental Legacy of the Oil Spill,” discussing the aftereffects of a 400,000 gallon spill off the coast of Chile, thirty-six years ago. I used it as the hook for a pretty standard screed.

It’s good to know that decades after a huge oil spill off the Chilean coast, the affected areas are showing “signs of life.” And perhaps, decades from now, the shattered ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico will show some signs of life, too. Right now, however, with oil spewing from the ocean floor before mixing with toxic dispersant, we are finally learning some crude facts about the poisonous stuff that’s powered our nation’s addiction. Oil is dirty. It’s dirty when you take it out of the ground, it’s dirty when you move it from place to place, it’s dirty when you process it, and it’s dirty when you burn it. The slimy legacy of Reagan-era corporate deregulation is now washing ashore on Louisiana’s beaches, and it’s forcing us to face the simple truth: whether or not we know how, we must change our relationship with oil — because it’s killing us.

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 30: How Much Worse Can Things Get?

The Deepwater Horizon is an overwhelming tragedy, made worse by corporate attempts at a coverup, and with compounded irony from President Obama’s remarks a few days before it happened.

Dear President Obama,

It was surely unfortunate timing when you remarked (at a town hall meeting in South Carolina) on April 2nd that “…oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” Well, maybe, but in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster we can see that the result of all that “technical advancement” is a catastrophe that is now likely to eclipse the Exxon Valdez spill in every respect.

You also said that, “Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs; they came from the refineries onshore.” Oh, how I wish this were true. But, alas, the facts are different: hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused 124 offshore spills, totaling almost a million gallons of oil released into the ocean. 554,400 gallons were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 189,000 gallons were refined products from platforms and rigs. The largest of these was 152,250 gallons, well over the 100,000 gallon threshold considered a “major spill.”

But corrections aside, the Deepwater Horizon qualifies as an environmental crisis of terrifying proportions. Kerry St. Pe, the former head of Louisiana’s oil spill response team, says, “This isn’t a storage tank or a ship with a finite amount of oil that has boundaries. This is much, much worse.” Much worse, indeed. It’s not a “spill,” it’s a river of oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day. Some officials say it could be running for months. If that prediction holds, the coastline of Louisiana will become a disaster area that hasn’t been seen in the United States since the Exxon Valdez.

If this doesn’t convince you that offshore drilling is a succession of disasters waiting to happen, what will? The Deepwater Horizon offers further proof that the only way to avoid oil spills is to leave it in the earth. We do need renewable energy, and we don’t need to dump millions of gallons of crude oil over some of the most delicate and valuable ecosystems in the country.

Please reconsider your support for this aspect of your energy program.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders