Yesterday a student asked me if the devastation from 2010’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is “over.” The answer of course is no. Not by a long shot. When the spill happened, we could only observe the immediate effects: Birds drenched in oil, spoiled fisheries, and the hardships faced by many people living and working in the region. Longer term impacts will be more difficult to evaluate and we don’t know how resilient the system will be. Studies will likely continue for decades and despite all of the news coverage over the summer, I hope we do not grow complacent about what’s occurred–as we so often do when it comes to the marine realm. Please folks, remember the Gulf, and let’s do our best to make sure it never happens again.
This is a guest post from Melissa Lott, a dual-degree graduate student in Mechanical Engineering and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work includes a unique pairing of engineering and public policy in the field of energy systems research. Melissa has worked for YarCom Inc. as an engineer and consultant in energy systems and systems design. She has previously worked for the Department of Energy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality for the Obama Administration. She is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, receiving a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering. Melissa is also the author of the blog Global Energy Matters: Energy and Environment in Our Lives.
It has been almost two months since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank to the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, a continuous stream of oil has contaminated our ocean and coastline, resulting in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Efforts have been made to stop the flow of oil, but the solutions with the highest likelihood of success are still months from possible execution. This has left us with the troubling question of what we can do to minimize the negative environmental impacts of this oil. In particular, how do we clean up the massive quantities of oil already in the water? As it turns out, the answer to this might be found in Hollywood. Read More
I’ve long been a big fan of Threadless shirts. The creative images and phrases always spark interesting conversations, especially when meeting strangers while traveling. Now they have a new “Gulf Coast relief tee” called “peliCAN” and are:
donating all proceeds from the sale of this tee to the Gulf Restoration Network, a 15 year old environmental non-profit organization committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf Region for future generations. They’re the only environmental organization working Gulf-wide, and since the first days of BP’s oil drilling disaster, they’ve provided independent monitoring and advocacy focused on holding BP accountable and ensuring an effective and transparent response to the crisis. Take action, stay informed, and donate to these efforts here.
It’s great to see a company get involved in local efforts to restore the Gulf. I’m not sure how I feel about the graphic, but it definitely succeeds in capturing the symbol of the oil spill. What do you think?
The Oil Drum has posted and linked (pdf) to the letter sent by the Energy and Commerce Committee to BP CEO Tony Hayward in preparation for his upcoming testimony regarding concerns over risky practices related to the oil spill. It begins:
Dear Mr. Hayward:
We are looking forward to your testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Thursday, June 17, 2010, about the causes of the blowout ofthe Macondo well and the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As you prepare for this testimony, we want to share with you some of the results of the Committee’s investigation and advise you of issues you should be prepared to address.
The Committee’s investigation is raising serious questions about the decisions made by BP in the days and hours before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. On April 15, five days before the explosion, BP’s drilling engineer called Macondo a “nightmare well.” In spite of the well’s difficulties, BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure. In several instances, these decisions appear to violate industry guidelines and were made despite warnings from BP’s own personnel and its contractors. In effect, it appears that BP repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk.
The full letter is here.
Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says
The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well?
Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here?
Of course this won’t happen, but the idea isn’t actually all that far fetched. Furthermore, does anyone have a better suggestion? Now go read the article and let’s get an interesting discussion going in comments…
Well, I’m back. Over the past month, the devastating BP spill that began April 20th has become catastrophic in scale. And that’s an understatement.
When I checked on my inbox early May, it was overflowing with questions from our readers about oil’s impact on the marine realm, its potential to spread, and the long-term possibilities across sectors. Foremost, I want to thank Wallace J. Nichols and Philip Hoffman for posting in my absence when I asked them to provide details. Chris has also done a good job covering the reasons we should all be concerned about the 2010 hurricane forecast.
In short, the BP oil spill is as bad as it gets. It’s an unprecedented social, environmental, and economic disaster in the US. And it’s not over. The public seems to have expected that scientists and engineers would have a quick fix immediately–not surprising given that on television, problems take less than an hour to solve (with commercials). Now any fix will do, but no one’s sure what we’re dealing with 5000 feet below sea level. I haven’t kept up with all of the coverage while overseas, though I’m sure much of what I’d say about the tragedy itself would be repetitious. Instead, I will add this…
No matter what took place and why it happened, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico belongs to all of us. Now it is our collective responsibility to make sure we establish the policies that will prevent it from happening ever again It’s related to oceans, economics, security, and climate change. But most of all, this is all about energy. And the truth is, regardless of the renewable options that are coming down the pipeline, we’re not there yet. Earth will continue to be a primarily fossil-fuel based planet for decades to come. So if we want better related institutions, it’s our choice to enact them.
Over the next three days, I’ll be on the road driving from NY to Austin, Texas. Once I arrive, I’ll share the details of my new job working on energy solutions for the 21st century.
Today President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar will announce plans to end the moratorium on oil exploration. An expanse for lease would become available from Delaware to central Florida and also include parts of the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. From the NYTimes:
But while Mr. Obama has staked out middle ground on other environmental matters — supporting nuclear power, for example — the sheer breadth of the offshore drilling decision will take some of his supporters aback. And it is no sure thing that it will win support for a climate bill from undecided senators close to the oil industry, like Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, or Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana.
The Senate is expected to take up a climate bill in the next few weeks — the last chance to enact such legislation before midterm election concerns take over. Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate have already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to try to win votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats. The new plan now grants one of the biggest items on the oil industry’s wish list — access to vast areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling.
My take? An end to the moratorium could be devastating–not just to fisheries and marine mammals–but also to coastal states that depend on beach tourists to boost their economies. Thankfully, no wells would be permitted within 125 miles of the Florida and Alabama coasts. And there’s this as well:
Mr. Obama is also expected to announce two other initiatives to reduce oil imports, an agreement between the Pentagon and the Agriculture Department to use more biofuels in military vehicles and the purchase of thousands of hybrid vehicles for the federal motor pool.