The growing impacts of China's oil spill

Jeremy Hance
July 22, 2010

Two oil pipelines exploded Friday in the Chinese province of Liaoning beginning China's worst oil spill; nearly a week later 400,000 gallons of oil have spread over 166 square miles, according to China’s state media. The pipeline has since been fixed and is operating again. While the spill is small compared to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico—which currently covers nearly 3,000 square miles with approximately 100 to 200 million gallons of oil—its impact regionally will likely be very large.

Fishing, important to the region, has been banned for the rest of the summer; local aquaculture farms have been polluted; nearby beaches have been emptied leaving tourism businesses dry; and China is still struggling to contain the oil before it enters international waters.

Already one life has been lost in attempting to clean up the spill: 25 year old firefighter Zhang Liang, drowned after being coated in oil. Greenpeace-China, which is on-site monitoring the spill, captured dramatic photos of another rescued firefighter from the oil.

Media outlets have reported that clean-up workers have been forced to use only gloved-hands, rakes, plastic bags, straw mats, and chopsticks to attempt to remove oil from the water.

While some Chinese officials have promised the spill will be cleaned up within days, others have stated it will take much longer. The effects of the oil spill on the environment, according to Greenpeace-China, won’t be known for a long time.

"The damage done by every oil spill is irreversible and long-lasting," reads one blog entry by Greenpeace-China.

China is the world’s second largest consumer of oil after the US. In 2007 China consumed over 7,578,000 barrels of oil daily: almost one-third (36 percent) of the US's oil consumption.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 22, 2010).

The growing impacts of China's oil spill .