There’s no doubt offshore drilling for oil is dangerous. The implications for the environment, the people employed by the industry and those inhabiting surrounding areas are all equally disastrous and harmful.
So what do 5 million barrels of oil gushing from the explosion site of one of BP’s oil rigs mean for the Gulf of Mexico?
From a physical aspect, when crude oil is spilled into the ocean, it initially spreads out like a thick coat on the surface of the water. This blanket prevents seawater from absorbing sunlight and oxygen from the atmosphere; any and all aquatic life will then starve from lack of photosynthetic processes, disrupting the food chain, or suffocate because of the lack of oxygen in the water.
The parts of the oil that contain volatile organic compounds — chemicals commonly found in pesticides and cleaning products — will partially evaporate into
If the oil drift remains offshore, the impact would potentially cause the extinction of an important red snapper fish stock, large populations of underwater corals and with it the hundreds of species of fish that make their home in the coral reef. Unfortunately, there have already been reports of oil reaching Louisiana’s coastal marshes and wetlands.
Calculating the consequences for humans, the numbers start to add up. If the oil spill reaches the shores of Mississippi and Florida, the oil will immediately smear the once beautiful tourist beaches and contaminate everything that was once used for recreational activities. The 2 million jobs that function because of the gulf will cease to exist. And forget about eating any seafood delicacies. The billion dollar fishing industry, which provides most of the United States with fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs and is the economic foundation for the people employed by it, will just have to take a backseat to the worst accidental oil spill in U.S. history.
Politically, this has fueled new ammunition for the environmental movement. But the battle over alternative and green energy sources
versus fossil fuel consumption is a slow and ongoing process in government. The Obama administration recently issued a six-month ban on any new offshore drilling projects, which is due to end in early November, with the mindset that improved technology and safety mechanisms will prevent future oil spill catastrophes. But it was only last week when another oil platform, owned by Mariner Energy Inc., erupted in flames. And let’s not forget that the Gulf is still reeling from the amount of oil spilt from wreckage during Hurricane Katrina.
President Obama has vowed to make BP pay for the multi-billion dollar damage done to the Gulf. Since the oil spill, BP has deposited more than 20 million dollars in funding for clean-up projects. Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring public health concerns while studying air quality and water samples along the Louisiana coastlines and wetlands in the area. But this is a mere slap on the wrist when looking at the irreparable damage to the Gulf’s ecosystem. The foreseeable future is grim indeed if further legislation is not put into place.
There’s no room for debate in the argument against offshore drilling for oil. It is time to make changes in the domestic consumption of fossil fuels before all of our options are gone.
Christina Konnaris is a senior environmental studies major. E-mail her at email@example.com.