The oil mess

Written By: - Date published: 8:53 am, May 7th, 2010 - 12 comments
Categories: Environment, International - Tags: , ,

We’re in the middle of another slowly unfolding oil disaster. On April 20 the “Deepwater Horizon”, a British Petroleum oil rig, exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and starting what is fast becoming the the largest oil spill in history.

This oil spill ‘the bad one’ — recipe for disaster

WASHINGTON What makes an oil spill really bad? Most of the ingredients for it are now blending in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts tick off the essentials: A relentless flow of oil from under the sea; a type of crude that mixes easily with water; a resultant gooey mixture that is hard to burn and even harder to clean; water that’s home to vulnerable spawning grounds for new life; and a coastline with difficult-to-scrub marshlands. Gulf Coast experts have always talked about “the potential for a bad one,” said Wes Tunnell, coastal ecology and oil spill expert at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “And this is the bad one. This is just a biggie that finally happened.”

Sierra Club: “Oil spill is America’s Chernobyl”

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Louie Miller with the Sierra Club said, “Unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle with this oil spill, and I don’t think I’m overstating the case by saying this is America’s Chernobyl.”

Drill, Baby…Oops!

“The news from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is not good. If the NOAA estimates are right about the size of the spill it could dwarf Exxon Valdez”

I was going to try and summarise the sequence of events since the explosion, but the Wikipedia page is great, so go read that instead. Containment and early attempts at cutting off the leak (a massively difficult task) have failed, and last ditch measures are about to be tried. (Oh – and check out the NZ connection.)

This is an environmental catastrophe of course. It will also be considered by most to be an economic disaster both caused by and exacerbating peak oil.

It is because of oil depletion the limits of technology were stretched to drill in deep water in the first place – Deepwater Horizon well was the deepest in history. This disaster is going to inhibit new exploration and development (“Gulf spill spells uncertainty for new drilling“, “Deepwater Horizon oil spill sparks calls for $10bn levy on BP and drilling ban“). This will impact on the peak oil timeline. Significant supply shortfalls were already due by 2015 according to American military estimates, the crunch just got a bit closer.

But there could be a longer term upside. If only the world could use this event to trigger a serious consideration of a post-oil future. Why wait until we have wrung the last drop of oil from the screaming planet? Why wait until we run out of time completely? Why leave ourselves open to even more disasters as ever more aggressive extraction techniques have to be deployed? Start the change now! Start the move to renewable energy, reduced CO2 emissions and sustainable living now. Let some good come of this disaster.

12 comments on “The oil mess”

  1. Living the Dream!! 1

    Yes the people should be sreaming at this lack lustre government here to reinstate the Labour-Progressive policies which were moving us toward greater sustainability. Exampled with the percentage of biofuel which was going into petrol at the pump. This move was developing our internal biofuel industry moving away from fossil fuel dependency, but those small minded short term, limited capacity Tories axed it.

  2. ghostwhowalksnz 2

    One of the interesting bits is that there have now been two explosions in these very deep water drilling operations, this one in the Gulf of Mexico and a few years ago the Montara well in the Timor sea north of Australia.
    As these things are contracted out to various companies , but there was one common factor , both times the explosions occurred during operations by Halliburton on the leased rig.

    • ianmac 2.1

      Ah. I knew Halliburtons were involved. You would wonder that they were re-employed. Hope Halliburtons are not involved around NZ?

  3. Agreed Rob and the link between peak oil, the desperation to get oil from more and more difficult places and the increasing potential for disaster is clearly made out.

    As individuals we should work out what would happen if we could halve our CO2 output by, for instance, driving half as much as we do now and reducing heating of our home.

    It is actually not that difficult but strong leadership is required.

    I am not holding my breath.

  4. Bored 4

    An American Chernobyl ..I put this on Open Mike earlier as the article title seemed to sum up the severity of the event.

    As fuel sources run out in easy to get places we can expect more desparation to get at what is left. Given that NACT want to despoil our National Parks what hope do we have that this administration could regualte and police our local offshore resources to prevent a disaster of this nature?

    • Bored 6.1

      Read this earlier, its bloody interesting what can be done. Cautious optimism here, the trends for the rest of the world especially China and India would be instructive.

    • Bright Red 6.2

      Oil use declines due to two factors 1) reduced economic output 2) increased efficiency

      So, the fact that emissions have fallen faster than the GDP isn’t surprising, it’s to be expected. Just as one will expect them to rise, but slower than GDP, during a period of economic growth.

      US and EU usage trends aren’t really important now, they’re dwarfed by the growth that’s happening in Asia.

  5. Living the Dream!! 7

    Responding to Killinginthenameof.
    We were manufacturing biofuels in NZ out of a speific species of willow as well as biomass and were the world leader in biofuel from algae.
    It is egrecious and uninformed to say the left does not support bio fuel as it starves the third world of food.
    The left in NZ was in support of other ways of making biofuel thus avoiding food crops.

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