Can ‘Mind Boggling’ Oil Spill Kill Expanded Offshore Drilling Once and for All?

A piece of machinery costing .004% of BP’s 2009 profits might have prevented the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that is currently threatening the U.S. gulf coast. An acoustic valve designed as a final failsafe to prevent oil spills costs $500,000; the Wall Street Journal writes that the valve, while not proven effective, is required on oil rigs in Norway and Brazil, but not in the U.S.. BP is spending $6 million a day to corral and contain the spill; the company’s profits for 2009 amounted to $14 billion. The Journal also reports that British oil giant BP was one of several companies that wrote to a US government agency arguing against stricter safety rules for offshore drilling, arguing that further regulation was not necessary since current voluntary restrictions were adequate. Adequate?

In late-breaking developments on the spill, the Associated Press quotes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency chief David Kennedy: “I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling.”

An emergency shrimp season was declared in Louisiana to allow shrimp fishermen to scoop up a last haul of the seafood before the oil slick hits.

The official cause of the explosion on the rig last week in which 11 workers died is still under investigation. Earlier estimates of the amount of oil dispersing from the downed rig have been raised to as much as 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day as a third leak was spotted in the pipeline that connected the rig to the well head. The slick, estimated to cover some 4,700 square miles, is bearing down on the fragile ecosystem of the Louisiana coastline.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday acknowledged that the recent spill “will be considered” in a planned expansion of oil drilling and will become a part of the climate change debate. This is something of a reversal from last week, when Gibbs said that the explosion on the rig is no reason to give up plans to expand offshore drilling.

The economic effects pale next to the dreadful toll this is bound to take on living creatures around the Gulf: water birds, star fish, plant life, manatees–the list goes on. Dolphins and  whales have been sighted near the spill, which is heading for the fragile wetlands of the Louisiana coast that have yet to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Wildlife experts are on standby, preparing to capture and care for the oiled birds and mammals that are bound to suffer as the oil hits shore. UC Davis professor of clinical wildlife health Michael Ziccardi reports that while the spill is still at sea, the creatures most at risk are sea turtles. Once the shoreline is impacted, marine birds will feel the effects immediately. Professor Ziccardi noted that “the Mississippi Flyway is a critical thoroughfare for migratory birds, and is now experiencing its peak migratory period.”

What good could come from this event? Can we realize that the true price of fossil fuel consumption includes mind-boggling costs in lives (human and non-human), environment and economy? Can we, as a nation, finally admit that offshore drilling, which will only become more treacherous and challenging as companies drill for oil in harder to reach places and more perilous conditions, must not be expanded to yet more parts of the U.S. coastline?

Take action
Sign the Care2 petition Prevent Another Oil Spill: Rethink Offshore Drilling today.

Photo: NASA image of oil slick visible from space courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team


Charles Webb
Charles Webb6 years ago

We need to drill. There is more oil than we ever thought and it needs to come up and be used. In time there will be alternatives, but there's several hundreds of years worth of oil. It actually oozes out of its own accord and always has. This is why there are organisms that have adapted to eating it.

Jeramie D.
Jeramie D7 years ago

Why are they trying to downplay this thing? Clearly this is the worst eco disaster of my life time. Other than global warming, this is so disastrous and will be for years to come.


Now, I know that the prognosis for oil companies stopping drilling is pretty grim, but.. well, let's try and put some positive vibes out there! SOMETIMES it is only when there is a catastrophic disaster that some good changes are made.. Maybe this will be one of those times! The only positive thing for this disaster happening would be if, by some miracle, the time has come NOW when governments will get busy on focusing on alternate sources of power. perhaps there will now be more focus on solar power..Think of all that energy going to waste! Surely, the preparation and making of the necessary equipment for solar power would employ thousands of people? I realize that some major body of people would then somehow get the monopoly on it and privatize it. Somehow some huge company would make an enormous amount of money out of all that sun power!. Never mind, at least the environment would be positively impacted!! That is the main thing... Lets just hope and pray that good WILL come out of this. We can't just sit back and despair... that will never change the world... Great positive thinking and innovative ideas and continuing to fight in any way possible... MIGHT!!!

Kimberly Pharris
Kimberly Pharris7 years ago

It is all about the mighty dollar huh, what about green energy

Edward T.
Edward T.7 years ago

Linda Hagood said:
"Tragically the money that it will take to clean up this mess could have been used on creating affordable clean energy cars."

Can you or any one of you brilliant discussers tell me what is to be used to fuel thr clean energy cars and if you say electricity then what is to fuel the electricity generators other than sun which may in the year 2500 provide 1% of the present electricity demands. I would love to have a clean fuel car.

Cal Jennings
Calvin Jennings7 years ago

As a former employee of AMOCO BP, I can say that I'm ashamed of their continued disregard for the environment. They reject plans that would help the environment even if it saves them money.