Thursday, 13 May 2010

Oil Spill Disasters - another tick in favour of renewable energy?

I'm not going to debate the case for renewable energy over fossil fuels, using the ongoing drama unfolding on the Louisiana and Florida coastlines, following the BP leased oil drilling rig sinking 50 miles offshore last week.

Basically, as the rig sank, a pipe broke causing an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day to gush out into the sea. That's over 200,000 gallons a day entering the sea approximately a mile below the surface.

The disaster is just that - local wildlife both onshore and offshore is threatened or being destroyed and the cost and effort of the clean up operation is going to be very high indeed. Not to mention the implications for businesses along the affected coast line.

I remember holidaying in France in the nineties - a month before we were due to go, there was an oil spill that came ashore right near where we would be camping.

By the time we got there, it had all been cleared up but children on the beach digging into the sand were sporting some very oily tar like stains on their beach clothes - oil from the spill lurking beneath the surface. As one mum pointed out, crude oil is a carcinogenic and promptly swept her children off the beach and back to the safety of the pool area.

I'm sure supporters of fossil fuels would step in and remind us that the production of solar panels and wind turbines uses fossil fuels and oil derivatives like most modern production processes. I don't know myself.

But wouldn't it be nice to think that one day - perhaps - drilling for oil and transporting it through some of the worlds richest areas of marine and land habitats became something confined to history lessons?

The NY Times carried an excellent interactive timeline of major oil spills starting with the Santa Barbara oil well leak of 1969. You may find some of the images distressing but the whole timeline feature is a stark reminder of the havoc and suffering oil spills cause. Click here to view their feature now.

photo credit: kevincole

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