One Year After the BP Oil Spill, Do We Have Alternative Energy?

One year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history began, key questions about its environmental impact remain unanswered. The 4.9 million barrels of BP oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico continue to threaten marine wildlife and other vile surprises have surfaced along the way.

Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard lists 10 reasons why we should not let the BP spill fade into the background. Perhaps the most important is the spill’s effect on locals’ health, about which Sheppard reports:

Of the 954 residents in seven coastal communities, almost half said they had experienced health problems like coughing, skin and eye irritation, or headaches that are consistent with common symptoms of chemical exposure. While the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting health monitoring for spill cleanup workers, residents in the areas closest to the spill are concerned that their own health problems have gone unattended.

Unfortunately, protests from these communities are unheard. Low-income and minority communities are typically targeted for oil production due to inadequate political power, but indigenous women in the United States and Canada are ready to change that.

Acting Against Big Oil

Organizations like Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL),  Indigenous Environmental Network, and Women’s Earth Alliance are working together to apply continuous pressure on oil companies in order to stop some of their more environmentally disastrous projects. Ms. Magazine’s Catherine Traywick shares insight from activist Faith Gemmill:

“We are trying to build the capacity of community leaders who are on the frontlines of these issues so that they can address these issues themselves,” Gemmill says. Her organization trains community members who are confronted with massive industrial projects and provides them with legal assistance and political support. Women’s Earth Alliance similarly links indigenous women leaders with legal and policy advocates who can, pro-bono, help them fight extractive industry, waste dumping and fossil-fuel production on sacred sites.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to neglect the National Oil Spill Commission’s advice to endorse safety regulations, while demands for domestic offshore drilling become more vocal under presumptions of lower gas prices and increased employment. But are these reasons worth the economic and environmental risks associated with drilling offshore?

According to  Jill Conners and Matthew McDermott, the answer is no. They break down the facts, noting:

Political posturing notwithstanding, offshore drilling will not eliminate US demand for foreign oil or really even make significant strides into reducing that dependency. At current consumption, the US uses about 8 billion barrels of oil per year; conventionally recoverable oil from offshore drilling is thought to be 18 billion barrels total, not per year.  What’s more, offshore oil drilling will not guarantee lower fuel prices — oil is a global  commodity, and US production is not big enough to influence global prices.

What about Wind Power?

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the Cape Wind Project, a plan to build an offshore wind farm five miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod. First proposed 10 years ago, the farm will consist of 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet tall and capable of producing 3.6-megawatts of energy.

The controversial project has been opposed by some environmentalists, who expressed fears that the installation of the turbines could have destructive impacts related to aviation traffic, fishing use, migratory birds, and oil within the turbine generators, among other issues.

Moral issues are raised too, as local tribes have fought against the Cape Wind project. Earth Island Institute’s Sacred Film Land Project has reported on the Wampanoag Indian tribes’ petitions, which ask for protection of sacred rituals and a tribal burial grounds located directly in Cape Wind’s path of installation.


A somewhat worrisome study published Monday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication sheds light on Americans’ climate change knowledge. Results show teenagers understand climate change better than adults, regardless of having less education overall, with a larger percentage believing climate change is caused by humans.

Some of the study’s questions were summarized by Grist’s Christopher Mims, who recounts that only “54 percent of teens and 63 percent of adults say that global warming is happening,” while only “46 percent of teens and 49 percent of adults understand that emissions from cars and trucks substantially contribute to global warming.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.


Related Stories:

One Year After Tragic Oil Spill, Gulf Coast Still In Turmoil

Why Did the Fed Write Criminals A $42 Million Check?

Lolland: A Hydrogen-Powered Community


Photo from l.schonk via flickr

By Megan Hagist, Media Consortium blogger


Chris A.
Chris A.6 years ago

We need to find alternatives. There are some big "buts".

1. The production of green house gases is not solely due to carbon dioxide, nor just to the burning of fossil fuels. All animal activity produces CO2, and a lot of methane. The effects from the latter probably may have started the "big melt", and has been steadily increasing since the Ice Age.

2 I simply do not accept that wind mills and the solar energy possible in temperate latitudes is capable of providing for all lighting, transport, heating and industrial requirements to sustain civilisation.

How these issues are addressed is the greatest problem for the 21st century.

Wayne Tills
Wayne Tills6 years ago

Yeah, we will relying on oil for some time I expect!

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

The utilities in New Jersey have solar panels mounted on the tops of most of their poles. It is a way to get at least some sustainable energy generated in a way that keeps control in the hands of the utility company.

G A Rieck
G A R6 years ago

1 year ofter the BP oil spill
22 years ofter the Exxon Valdez spill
30 plus years since the gas shortages of the 70's
nothing will change.

Dennis B.
Dennis Baker6 years ago

( human excrement nuclear waste = hydrogen ) The USA discharges Trillions of tons of sewage annually, sufficient quantity to sustain electrical generation requirements of the USA.

Redirecting existing sewage systems to containment facilities would be a considerable infrastructure modification project.
It is the intense radiation that causes the conversion of organic material into hydrogen, therefore what some would consider the most dangerous waste because of its radiation would be the best for this utilization.

I believe the combination of clean water and clean air, will increase the life expectancy of humans.
The four main areas of concern globally are energy, food,water and air!
he radiolytic decomposion of organic materials generates Hydrogen By using our sewage as a source of energy we also get clean air , clean water, and no ethanol use of food stocks. Eat food first, create energy after.

Simply replacing the fossil fuel powered electrical generating facilities with these plants, would reduce CO2 emissions, and CH4 emissions, to acceptable levels, globally.
This would require a completely new reactor facility capable of converting human waste into hydrogen and then burning the hydrogen to generate electricity on site.

Anything not converting into hydrogen will potentially be disposed of using Transmutation.
The water emitted from hydrogen burning will have uses in leaching heavy metals from other contaminated site clean ups

Maggie S.
Maggie S6 years ago

This administration could care less about the marine life - Obama hates wildlife - look at what he did to the wolves! If you are poor like many people in the gulf, you certainly are not going to get much consideration from big oil and the administration will do very little about that!

We are paying premium prices again for gas and oil, not because we have a shortage, but because speculators are driving up the price of crude (according the CNN), and because of fear - Libyan oil? No way, most of what the produce goes to China. But the point is, as long as there is money in oil and gas and as long as we have an administration that talks a good fight but that is about as far as it goes, alternative energy will be slow in coming.

Remember Obama's campaign promise re alternative energy? Yet, he keeps pushing more drilling in fragile areas like off shore, and in the Arctic, wants to run a pipeline across the US, and is doing under the table deals with nuclear companies. So, what happened to the push for solar, wind and thermal? We save those things for elections - and they are promises that will only be kept if elected officials can use them to promote their political career and line their pockets.

The wealthy are that way because they are the industry whores (along with the Administration and Congress), and, until they can no longer bleed fossil fuels from the ground, there is too much money to be made for them, and a big screwing for us - the public!

Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie6 years ago


Mike P.
Mike P6 years ago

Unfortunately all the worlds problems can be traced back to money making at anything and anyones elses expense. We are always being told how things are done for our own good and to make our lives more secure. The opposite, of course, is true.
The problem with a wide spread investment in alternative energies has always been that their use is impossible to centralise into the control of the elite who are already getting most of the benefit from energy production and generation. This is why the only, supposedly, alternative that is being offered up to the public is large scale wind farms. Because of the high capital cost and land needed to install these systems they will again will keep control of energy generation and distribution within the grasp of those already in control. Therefore the price will be kept high and everyone will have to keep on working as slaves for their wages to pay their energy bills. It has been shown in numerous studies that the sensible way to generate energy is at a local level using renewables that are independent from the Grid system but are plugged into it only to dump excess power that the local community are not using. Unfortunately this is a decentralised system and scares those in charge because how are they to control supply of energy and, therefore, keep charging the highest price possible? Home generation also represents a different mind set of independence, something those who control the world don't want to encourage.

CR C6 years ago

They should be ashamed of themselves the world marine life is suffering so they can make their fortune.

Celestial E.
Celestial E.6 years ago

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