Friday, July 30, 2010

More on the oil spill

I began to get suspicious when the BBC kept showing me the same heavily oiled pelican struggling in the waters off Louisiana. Is the oil spill in the gulf being exaggerated? Here is the sum of fatalities so far: 11 oil workers killed in the explosion; 1,296 birds, 17 sea turtles and three dolphins. The environmental damage seems to be far less than that caused by the Exxon Valdiz in Alaska, and the human casualties, awful though they are, are far fewer than caused by the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea where an American company was drilling in British waters.

One of the problems is that we are not very good at estimating scale. The size of the spillage compared to the size of the Gulf is the same as one drop of oil in an Olympic size swimming pool. Moreover, oil, being a natural product, is eliminated in natural ways. What people don't realise is that there are always small natural oil leaks in the Gulf and that consequently there are oil degrading bacteria in the sea. Given the ambient temperature, about 50% of the oil spill has already evaporated. There is talk of oil below the surface, but energy engineers are sceptical, since oil is less dense than water.

Journalists sent to the area are complaining that they can't find oil to photograph. Predictions are that the beaches will be normal before Christmas, fishing will be back in two months and the shellfish industry in two years.

So why the over-reaction? Opinion seems to be that the lawyers are driving it. With over a million families to feed in the US, lawyers must scramble for every morsel they can find.


Anonymous said...

An over-reaction? Millions of barrels of oil wasted? 1300 sea birds dead? This is trivial?

Instead let us thank God that the damage wasn't worse. This is like being grateful the kitchen was spared when the rest of the house burned to the ground.

British Petroleum executives should be jailed for the loss of life in the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf area. Much of the damage won't be known for years.

For example, most of the sea life cleaned and released die almost immediately after being photographed by a oil-guzzling nation. 'Oh look!' we say. The nice, clean birds are saved by British Petroleum!

It's a photo op. The oil does significant damage to the internal organs of these poor birds.

I continue to be amazed by conservatives who don't care about the world we live in. They think we can foul our own nest, and just go on our merry way.

The damage that even you admit is significant. Don't try to claim it isn't.

BP execs have to go to jail for this.

Terry Hamblin said...

What an uninformed comment! Of course the oil spill was a terrible thing, but its effect has been exaggerated. Anybody who benefits from the relatively cheap fuel in America compared to say Western Europe carries some of the blame for the Gulf oil spill. Industry will react to incentives and disincentives to drill for oil in areas of greater or lesser difficulties. The American government set less onerous conditions for drilling than did other nations. But, even so, the 'fragile ecosystem' that you talk about is proving more robust than you thought.

Rabid claims like you make remind me of the lynch mob in To Kill a Mocking Bird. If a fair trial finds BP executives guilty, they should certainly be punished, but to call for this before even an indictment puts you in a camp of the lawless.