Florida had an unwelcome visitor today as tar balls washed on shore at Fort Zachary State Park in Key West, reports Reuters. Local officials fear the tar balls—small blobs of oil—originated from the Gulf oil spill caused after the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig run by BP exploded, killing eleven. If tests determine that tar balls originated from the spill it would confirm that leaking oil is being carried by an ocean current, known as the Loop Current, from the spill site to Florida’s coast.
Besides Florida’s delicate coastal ecosystem and its tourism industry, biologists are deeply worried that the oil could reach coral reefs, already stressed by ocean acidification and other forms of pollutions.
The Coast Guard will use a helicopter to search the area for any additional signs of pollution. Indeed, if the oil spill reaches Florida, experts say the Loop Current could carry it all the way to America’s East Coast.
In the meantime, BP has had some success in siphoning off oil from the leak using a narrow tube. While the company says it is currently siphoning some 2,000 barrels a day from the spill, the solution is only temporary.
Previously, officials have estimated that the spill is releasing approximately 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. However, scientists looking at video of the gushing oil over a mile deep in the gulf, say that the spill could be far larger than what BP and others have admitted publicly (BP initially estimated the spill at 1,000 barrels a day).
Richard Harris from NPR estimated 70,000 barrels a day—over ten times BP’s estimate. If this estimate turns out to be accurate, the oil spill in the Gulf would make Exxon Valdez appear tiny: every four days as much oil would be entering the ecosystem as did during the whole Exxon Valdez disaster. To date, oil has been spilling for 29 days or, according to Harris’s estimate, 7 Exxon Valdezes.
However, the video released by BP is short and at this point no one knows for certain just how much oil is spewing into the gulf even with BP’s efforts to stem the spill.
The US consumes more oil than any other country in the world. In 2007 the US consumed over 20 million barrels of oil every day: nearly three times as much as the number two consumer in the world, China. For decades the US has focused on producing more oil over increased efficiency, lowering consumption, or focusing on other energy sources.
(05/13/2010) The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is taking its toll on the region’s wildlife: brown pelicans, sea turtles, several species of fish, and now dolphins have been found dead. The National Marine Fisheries Service reported today finding six dead dolphins in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama since May 2nd. Officials are saying the deaths could be related to the oil spill or may be due to natural deaths from calving. They are currently testing tissue samples to determine if oil pollution was a cause of death. Dolphins have been observed swimming in oil-stained waters off of Louisiana.
(05/06/2010) Who is responsible for the great environmental disaster arising from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? As the country reels from the sheer magnitude of the accident, the media has rightly pointed the finger at BP. Yet, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the role of Ken Salazar and his derelict Department of Interior, a government entity which, in theory, regulates offshore oil drilling.
(05/04/2010) America, we deserve the oil spill now threatening the beautiful coast of Louisiana. This disaster is not natural, like the earthquake that devastated Haiti or tsunami that swept Southeast Asia in 2006; this disaster is man-made, American-made in fact, pure and simple. So, while in the upcoming weeks and months—if things go poorly—we may decry the oil-drenched wildlife, the economic loss for the region, the spoiled beeches, the wrecked ecosystems, the massive disaster that could take decades if not longer to recover from, we, as Americans, cannot think smugly that we are somehow innocent of what has happened. You play with fire: you will get burned. You drill for oil 1,500 meters below the surface of the ocean, you open up oil holes across the surface of your supposedly-beloved landscape, sooner or later there will be a spill, and sometimes that spill will be catastrophic.
(05/04/2010) Judging from the oily history of the last ten years, reining in BP could prove politically daunting. A company with incredible economic might, BP has enjoyed privileged access to the inner rungs of Washington power. Only by ridding the political system of insider money can we hope to avert future oil disasters like the devastating spill which hit the Gulf of Mexico last week.
(05/03/2010) Even though they don’t stop over in the Gulf of Mexico, many migrating songbirds could be impacted by the catastrophic oil spill, warns the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The threats to marine and coastal birds have been well-outlined during the past few days, however birds flying high above the spill could also be vulnerable.
(05/02/2010) An environmental group is organizing collection of human hair from salons and barber shops across the country as part of an effort to clean up the massive oil spill triggered by last month’s deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
(04/29/2010) With the news that the amount of oil leaking from below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico could be as much as five times the original estimate put forward by British oil-giant BP, the situation moved from worrisome to desperate.
(04/26/2010) A newly released NASA satellite image reveals oil leaking from the BP oil rig that sank after it exploded April 20, 2010. The explosion killed 11 workers.
(04/26/2010) Just weeks after a Chinese coal barge rammed the Great Barrier Reef, cutting a nearly two-mile swath through the reef and spilling three tons of engine fuel, fragile marine ecosystems are again threatened. Last Tuesday a BP oil rig platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, likely killing eleven workers. The blast also left oil leaking from the drill hole estimated at 42,000 gallons (or 1,000 barrels) of oil per day.
(04/22/2010) Despite a warming planet linked to the burning of fossil fuels, governments around the world still spend 500 billion US dollars a year subsidizing fossil fuel industries. A new study from the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development looks at the difficult political situation behind ending fossil fuel subsidies.