Thursday, June 3, 2010

How bad is the oil spill?

We know that the spill is destroying the livelihood of millions who make their living from fishing, shrimping and tourism.  We know this man-made disaster is an economic disaster.  It is also a disaster for all of us, wherever we live.

In a recent article, Carl Safina, president of Blue Ocean Institute, notes that while the Gulf is a large region; its importance for living things far from the Gulf is much greater than its size. 

The world’s most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley turtle, can be found throughout the west Atlantic and as far north as New England but breeds only in the Gulf.  Oil kills these turtles and their hatchlings.

The West Atlantic bluefin tuna, the most prized of ocean fish in the world, ranges throughout the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada but breeds only in the Gulf.  The population of Atlantic blue fin tuna has declined 90% since the 1960s.  This is breeding season and the eggs and larvae of the blue fin tuna are most likely struggling in a toxic mixture of oil and dispersant.

Other wildlife that breeds in or passes through the Gulf during migration are threatened:  pelicans, gulls, terns, loons, gannets, herons, black skimmers, sandpipers, plovers, and migrating peregrine falcons are all endangered by the oil spill.

That’s the price we are paying beyond the loss of human lives and the economic loss.  And, what does the Gulf oil production gain us?  How bad would it be to go without Gulf oil?  Not that bad as it turns out.

The entire gulf wells produce 1.75 million barrels of oil per day.  We use 6.2 times as much gasoline per day than the Europeans do.  The Nature Conservancy estimates that we could eliminate our reliance on Gulf oil by simple using only 5 times as much gasoline as the Europeans.  If we just go from 6.2 to 5, we don’t need Gulf oil.  It’s something to think about.


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