Triple Bottom Line: Time to Start Crying About Spilled Oil
Chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of the apocalyptic-looking oil spill in the Yucatán Peninsula over the summer, caused by the bursting of an undersea pipeline and the formation of natural gas bubbles in it. the surface. As a result, electric shocks from a storm set the ocean surface ablaze.
If this hellish event wasn’t on your radar, you may have caught last year’s disaster in Mauritius, where a Japanese ship collided with a fragile coral reef and infiltrated nearly 1,000 tons. of heavy oil in the Indian Ocean. You may have heard of the oil pipeline off the coast of Louisiana ruptured by Hurricane Ida, or the largest marine oil spill to date on the Deepwater Horizon platform. in 2010, which infiltrated more than 300 Olympic swimming pools worth gross. of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Suffice to say that oil spills happen all the time. Thousands of spills occur every year around the world, some of which spill as little as a single barrel of oil but nonetheless cause environmental degradation and economic loss.
In my environmental studies class, I often hear the words “precautionary principle” in all senses. Basically, this concept argues that measures should be taken to avoid irreversible damage to the environment. While this certainly sounds like wishful thinking, we have received enough evidence of what happens when we are faced with a marine oil accident. It’s time to stop retroactive regrets and start prioritizing safety and environmental well-being over the potential profit of a declining resource.
Stopping things before they happen is a pretty logical argument, but let me take it a step further. We need to completely reduce our dependence on fossil fuels – the less oil drilling we commit on the high seas, the lower the risk of a huge environmental disaster.
For a bit of background, oil companies have set up huge offshore platforms and are drilling deep into the seabed to extract pockets of crude oil and natural gas. The collected fossil fuels are ultimately refined into a state that can be used to meet global energy needs.
Oil spills can occur at any point in the oil extraction and refining process. Oil slicks are vulnerable to the elements and currents, and they can break apart or spread far from their source. As the shard breaks, some of the oil breaks down and settles on the seabed while microbes break down the rest.
As a result, the spilled oil pollutes the water with toxins and metals, lowers oxygen levels, blocks sunlight, and dramatically degrades the quality of the water as a whole. While damage can vary, oil spills contribute to toxic marine and air pollution – marine life can become suffocated, coral reefs can be stressed, and commercially important species can become too contaminated to eat.
Oil can contaminate drinking water supplies and threaten the livelihoods of local fishermen when the water is too oily for income-generating activities. This could potentially decimate the economies of tropical getaways such as Mauritius, when their top tourist attractions are awash with a burst of iridescent oil. Additionally, human health risks associated with oil spills can include respiratory damage, decreased immunity, and increased cancer risks.
11 years after Deepwater Horizon and $ 10 billion later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal and Gulf state partners are still actively working to restore the area by supporting local species and strengthening marshes, beaches and other critical habitats. While chemical dispersants siphon off much of the visible oil, clean-up efforts can also take its toll. Chemicals can enter food chains, and methods such as booms, microbes, and inorganic absorbents simply don’t guarantee the eradication of every drop of oil.
Burning the oil layer above the water is a more controversial method of oil removal, as it causes more air pollution and does not fix the oil sinking. Cleaning strategies can also be exacerbated by local environmental conditions such as temperature, currents and weather conditions.
The domestic and international economic impacts on maritime markets and the long-term health consequences are not going away anytime soon – we must stop while we are ahead and stop learning retroactively about the many repercussions of oil spills.
Marinas and bays have rules in place for boaters to prevent spills and oil leaks, including routine inspections of oil storage tanks and the proper disposal and recycling of oil. oil and worn filters. Post-Deepwater Horizon, a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has been created to oversee and enforce the safety of offshore drilling and establish better protocols to be better prepared to deal with future spills.
However, installing safer drilling technology or calculating a shipping route away from sensitive marine areas are just effective dressings on a much bigger problem. The ocean is an interconnected ecosystem, and no matter where energy companies navigate or what type of machine they use, marine organisms will always be at risk. Going back to my original point, the heart of the problem lies with the large oil drilling companies, not the individual users of fossil fuels.
But how can our society move away from the oil industry? The truth is, it doesn’t seem realistic or economically viable, at least for the foreseeable future. The transition of all of society to a whole new source of fuel – and essentially the economy – requires levels of change over time. Although we have already moved from coal to “cleaner burning” fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, we still have a long way to go.
Many are touting natural gas as the perfect ‘transition fuel’ – a relatively clean burning fossil fuel that will support us as we continue to refine technology and move towards greater reliance on energies. renewable.
However, the more we depend on the extraction of any type of fossil fuel, the deeper the grave we dig. It is difficult to strike a balance between moving away from fossil fuels while developing and perfecting renewable technologies, but the more energy and money we devote to improving renewable technologies, the more we can meet energy needs. .
While implementation of any sort is difficult due to a lack of effective international environmental monitoring, any country would do well to prioritize investments in improving renewable energy technologies. By actively moving away from fossil fuels – and recognizing that bridge fuels are nothing but capitalist propaganda to continue to depend on non-renewable energies – we are ensuring better energy security and accessibility, prioritizing our own health and improving the health of marine ecosystems.
With the growing pressures of climate change – most notably, the increasing strength of hurricanes in the Gulf – we must recognize the insignificance of the oil drilling industry and start making changes now.
Montana Denton is a senior writer on environmental issues, sustainability and society. His column, “Triple Bottom Line”, is published every other Wednesday.