Saturday 1 May 2010

Oil spills

A week ago (April 24), I blogged on the 11 people who lost their lives when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank off Louisiana. Now this is also turning into an environmental disaster, with up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day gushing into the sea.

The slick is 130 miles long, and efforts to contain it are being hampered by choppy seas. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida have all declared states of emergency, and the US government has launched a fierce attack on the British oil company. It is only a month since President Obama eased restrictions on offshore drilling.

The worst oil spill in history came in 1991 when the Iraqis opened valves at the Sea Island terminal and dumped oil from several tankers into the Persian Gulf to try to foil any landing by US marines during the first Gulf War.

Estimates of the volume spilled range as high as 1.5 million tons (that compares with about 35,000 from the Exxon Valdez in 1989 – up to now America’s worst oil spill). Though wildlife was harmed in the Gulf, a study sponsored by UNESCO, the USA and countries in the region suggested that it did little long-term damage.

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