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.
The Gulf oil spill in context: US oil consumption
(05/31/2010) The US government has now confirmed that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the United States’ largest oil spill and perhaps the nation’s worst environmental disaster. While poor government oversight and negligence by oil giant BP certainly contributed to the disaster, the fact that the US is drilling over a mile below the surface in one of its most important marine ecosystems is directly related to US consumption of oil: the highest in the world.
Who’s to blame for the oil spill?
(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.