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Extra Extra: The Gulf Oil Spill, One Year Later

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 20, 2011 10:46PM

Today marks the dubious anniversary of the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. By the time the well was capped nearly three months later, around 4,900,000 barrels of crude oil were released into the Gulf. Relatives of the 11 oil workers who lost their lives on the Deepwater Horizon flew over the site of the disaster today in commemoration. Vigils were held throughout the Gulf and President Obama renewed his vow to hold BP and others companies involved in the building of the oil rig responsible for "the painful losses that they caused." The words "never forget" are often bandied about to remind me of other tragedies, the most obvious example being the September 11 terrorist attacks (and we'll be reaching the tenth anniversary of that tragedy in a few short months). The Gulf oil spill is, in my opinion, a "never forget" moment.

The long term impact to the region's ecosystem has yet to be determined. Tar balls resulting from the spill still wash ashore and experts still don't know what may yet come back to bite the Gulf coast in its ass. The true impact of the spill goes beyond paying a few extra pennies at the pump. It extends to the tourism industry that is just now recovering, and a commercial fishing industry that was majorly damaged by the spill. Long term public health concerns, ranging from breathing in crude oil vapors to exposure to the dispersal agents used to contain the spill and seafood safety, could cost us a fortune in health care costs down the line. We haven't even mentioned the damage the spill brought upon 1,059 miles of shoreline and the threat it poses even today to a fragile Gulf ecosystem still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

I wrote a few months back of the trouble wrought by oil released into the Persian Gulf 20 years ago:

"Much of the Kuwaiti oil released into the Gulf by Saddam's Republican Guard had been contained by the time we arrived. What wasn't contained eventually morphed into tar balls which sank to the floor of the Gulf, where they covered the plant life and worked their way up the food chain, spoiling the seafood catches of commercial fishermen. The cycle continued for years. If BP, despite its claims, hasn't contained nearly as much oil as was released, this is what Gulf coast residents could face for years to come, only on a magnified scale."

Indeed. One-third of the seafood we consume in the United States comes from the Gulf coast. With some of those plumes running for thousands of miles, hundreds of feet beneath the surface, we may be reaping long-range effects from the spill for generations. While Nature eventually does recover from some of the fucked-up things Mankind does to her, the recovery isn't instantaneous. 4.9 million barrels of crude is one of an 8-ball to put Nature behind.

Never forget.