Scientists from the U.S. government said this week that the blown BP well in the the Gulf of Mexico gushed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil, making it the largest accidental offshore oil spill in history.
The word "accidental" is an important qualifier; the largest offshore spill in history was an intentional release of 5-10 million barrels of oil by Iraqi troops during the Gulf War. In any case, the Gulf oil spill has blown the Exxon Valdez and the Ixtoc spills out of the water.
They say every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
From an environmental standpoint, the repercussions of 170 million gallons of oil mixed with plenty of toxic dispersants entering the Gulf of Mexico waters is still unknown. But it doesn't take a scientist to figure that the consequences will be widespread, pervasive, and have long term effects on the Gulf.
From an economic standpoint, the spill has devastated fisheries, tourism, and marine-related activities around the Gulf right now and for the foreseeable future.
From a political standpoint, the reaction to the spill seems to be...uh...what exactly? Taking BP to court and holding them responsible for the spill is necessary, but it is a temporary answer. Will the political machine pass oil spill legislation? What about an offshore drilling ban? Oil spills in the past have caused plenty of outrage, but clearly not enough to stop offshore oil drilling in its entirety or even safeguard the endeavor enough to prevent another one in the future. Politically speaking, if we can't make a massive shift towards renewable energy, start reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and combat the pollution that is causing climate change, then what are our politicians even doing? What are we learning?
It seems to me that these questions need to start being asked. Letting the debate subside along with the federal climate bill is ridiculous. If we don't respond with an equal and opposite reaction, if it doesn't cause any positive political outcomes, then we shouldnt be surprised when another oil company spills even more oil and further debilitates our environment in the future.
- Mitchell Flexo
Photo: Vessels assisting in the capping of the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Louisiana coast. (AP)