The BP Gulf Oil Spill is nothing compared to this…
Probably the only upside to the BP Horizon drilling platform sinking and subsequent oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is that light has been shed on some other significant problems in the energy sector.
The first area that has gotten recent attention is the situation in the Niger Delta in Africa. This area in Africa that many multi-national oil companies drill for oil in has had a significant amount of oil spill damage to its environment. Effectively the river system that the local people are completely dependent upon for everything is a toxic mess. The monetary fund established to compensate these same people seems to vanish after it reaches the government of the country. How much oil has been spilled in the Niger Delta, the equivalent of a spill the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster every year for the last forty years, a total of over 13 million barrels of oil. This has not only led to an environmental disaster but also political upheaval as well as locals have rebelled against the government by performing terrorist acts upon the oil pipelines and drilling rigs in Niger exacerbating the problem. However, I have to say, were I in their shoes I might do the same thing, you can learn more about the situation in the following links:
The second area that has gotten attention due to the BP disaster has been the issue of previously capped wells that may be leaking oil and methane into the gulf. According to the Associated Press, there are over 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico. These “abandoned wells” are not inspected and many have been capped since the 1940’s, there are laws on the books that require these wells , particularly recently abandoned wells, to be inspected but there are no teeth in the laws so companies do not comply. Essentially, neither the government nor the industry have any idea if or more likely how many of these wells are leaking. Given that wells can repressurize and caps in place for up to 70 years maybe rusted and faulty, how long will it be before we have another huge spill in the Gulf of Mexico, you can read more about this at:
Finally there is one issue in the energy sector that has not gotten the attention it deserves during this disaster and that is the environmental damage done by hydrologic cracking or more commonly called, fracking. I recently wrote a piece on this and you can read it at:
For me all of this brings up two significant issues, the first being that our insatiable desire for energy has caused us to pursue an extractive energy policy regardless of the environmental and I would argue long-term economic costs. This mentality has to change and has to come on several fronts including conservation which seems to currently being ignored by everyone; selective extraction with concern for the environmental and health impacts to the public; and finally an energy policy in this country that address and focuses on renewable energy. No matter what your political affiliation is you can’t deny that renewable energy helps us solve our energy issues in the United States which in the end helps our economy and improves our national security by leaving us less dependent on unstable nations. Currently in California people are actually trying to repeal a state law that has been helping us down this road, have we learned anything from the BP spill?
My fear is that the only thing that we will take away from this disaster are the rumors of things that haven’t actually happened including the cracking of the sea floor and extinction level methane bubble disasters, both have been debunked in previous posts and can be found at: