One Year Later: How Can We Recover from the Gulf Oil Spill?
What is the state of the Gulf now?
As far as we know, roughly half of the oil that gushed into the Gulf is still there. It has been dispersed, dissolved and diluted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe for marine life. We are still seeing dead dolphins washing ashore, as well as fish and crabs with signs of oil-related stress.
The truth is there is no way to “see” the full effects of the spill or to determine when they end. For some species, the oil could affect many generations, and we may never know the full effects. Fishermen and tourism businesses are still trying to get back on their feet. Many of them have not been compensated by BP. The spill dealt a major blow to the Gulf and in spite of what some may suggest, it will not simply recover immediately.
What can people do about the Gulf? Is there any way they can help?
Right now, the best thing we can do is stop letting the oil industry run the show. We need to shift to clean energy, and not continue to rely on oil. The biggest roadblock to doing this is the power that the oil industry leverages over Congress and other elected officials. They also have power over public opinion. They are behind many of the myths you hear about drilling lowering the price of gas or making us energy independent. It’s just not true.
Tell your elected officials you don’t believe the oil industry’s false arguments. Tell them to stop subsidizing the energy of the past and to promote the energy of the future. Tell them not to support oil industry legislation that would force the government to allow more dirty and dangerous drilling. Don’t let them go home this year without taking action to end offshore drilling.
The best thing you can do right now, is to stand up and let decision makers know you are fed up with the oil industry running the show, that they are not credible and that you won’t stand for it.
What should the disaster in the Gulf tell us about how we should change the way we live our lives?
It reminds us that we need to break the habit. We knew this before. Look at the problem of ocean acidification, for example. Our use of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide that is being absorbed by the oceans, and it’s making them sick. It’s making them more acidic which is bad for marine life, especially those like corals and crabs that have shells and skeletons that need calcium carbonate. The only way to turn this around is to shift from fossil fuels to clean energy — we already knew that. But the disaster in the Gulf added another level of injury to the equation.
The injury to the Gulf and its ecosystem, not to mention coastal economies, adds yet another reason we need to wean ourselves off of oil. We can do this enough by 2020 to alleviate the need for drilling, and spilling, in the Gulf of Mexico without increasing imports. We can go further, and eliminate the need for imports without increasing our use of other fossil fuels.
In fact, if we started with the Persian Gulf, we could end our dependence on both Gulfs by 2023! So offshore drilling is unnecessary. These risks are unnecessary and hopefully, we learned that as a result of this disaster.
What is the most important thing to know about the Gulf oil spill?
That it was the result of a long list of mistakes, oversights, failures and mismanagement, any of which could happen again, or could be happening again, even as we speak. Many of these problems were the result of BP’s focus on saving time and money, and its insufficient worker training, and its corner cutting.
What is Oceana doing to help?
Oceana is building an army of opposition to offshore drilling. You can get involved by emailing us at email@example.com. We are also charting a course for how we break the oil habit. That, along with more on Oceana’s work, is available at http://www.stopthedrill.org.
This will be used in our advocacy, working with Congress and the Obama administration to try to stop the bad bills currently in Congress, and to promote the good ones.
Photo from l.schonk via flickr