Once again we have watched in distress as an oil pipeline released highly toxic crude oil into the ocean, threatening marine life in the water and the birds that find their food in that ocean. How many times will this continue to happen and what can we do to stop it? Those are big questions and the answer is simple on the surface – simply stop drilling for oil in the ocean, but our society is still addicted and dependent on fossil fuels and it will take big societal changes to make the switch to renewable energy sources.
At the least we should not allow the government to issue more permits for more drilling in the ocean floor. Accidents will continue to happen – (drilling means spilling) whether from human error or natural forces like hurricanes and earthquakes. According to the federal government, there have been at least 44 oil spills that have each released more than 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) of oil into US waters since 1969.
In this most recent spill off the coast of Huntington Beach (known as “Surf City USA,”) in southern California,
initial reports estimated the leak released as much as 130,000 gallons of crude oil out of a pipe that had been displaced. It has since been shown that approximately 25,000 gallons (588 barrels) were released. It is presumed that one or more ships anchors caught on the pipe and dragged it, causing the break to occur. While the lesser amount is good news it still created a miles-long oil slick and threatened delicate coastal wetlands. Workers in protective gear searched some 70 miles of beaches between Orange and San Diego counties looking for tar balls that washed ashore..
We can never know the extent of wildlife that dies in a spill like this
one, but we do know that dead fish and birds washed ashore. Even though they aren’t the species that come to our bird feeders, we worry for the countless shorebirds, seabirds, and migratory birds along the Pacific Coast that will suffer the impacts. We don’t know how marine mammals have been affected.
In direct human costs the spill will have a significant economic impact on this part of California, closing of miles of beaches and fishing grounds. Orange County’s ocean recreation and tourism economy is valued at more than $2.6 billion annually, according to the National Ocean Economics Program.
There is no question that offshore drilling is a polluting activity that damages our environment and puts human communities at risk. And it’s not just the drilling that does damage to marine life; there is the exploratory seismic blasting and regular operations that release polluted “drilling muds” into the water. Ultimately it contributes to carbon emissions while we struggle with the effects of climate change. It is time to just say no to any more offshore/ocean drilling.
By Kate Crowley