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Opinion: 'Drill, baby, drill' is dead in the water

Published 1:04 am, Friday, May 28, 2010
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I am writing you regarding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and what the oil companies have been doing to our planet. The oil companies must be stopped from continuing to destroy our environment and ecosystems that are our life support system. I am asking for our government to kick BP out of this country, bring a criminal as well as civil class action law suit against them. They have lied and engaged in criminal activity which has led to potentially the largest environmental disaster is the history of this country. Oil companies should not be allowed to drill off our shores. They should be stopped from doing so as soon as possible to avoid the next environmental and economic catastrophe.

First it was the Santa Barbara oil spill, which occurred in 1969 in the Santa Barbara Channel. The source was a Jan. 28, 1969 blow-out on Union Oil's Platform A, 6 miles offshore, in the Dos Cuadras Offshore Oil Field. Over a 10-day period, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the channel and onto the beaches of Santa Barbara County in Southern California, fouling the coastline from Goleta to the Rincon, and all four of the protected Northern Channel Islands. Upward of 10,000 birds, a large number of fish and marine life were killed in the ecological disaster.

Then came Valdez Alaska, which occurred on Good Friday, March 24, 1989. The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince Williams Sound Alaska when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif., hit Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef and spilled an estimated minimum of 10.8 million U.S. gallons (40.9 million liters, or 250,000 barrels) of crude oil. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur in history.

Both the long- and short-term effects of the oil spill have been studied comprehensively. Thousands of animals died immediately; the best estimates include 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs.

The effects of the spill continued to be felt for many years afterwards. Overall reductions in population have been seen in various ocean animals, including stunted growth in pink salmon populations. Sea otters and ducks also showed higher death rates in following years, partially because they ingested prey from contaminated soil and from ingestion of oil residues on hair due to grooming.

Almost 20 years after the spill, a team of scientists at the University of North Carolina found that the effects are lasting far longer than expected. The team estimates some shoreline arctic habitats may take up to 30 years to recover.

This brings us to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon occurred on April 20, and left 11 workers missing and presumed dead. The rig sank two days later about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

The catastrophic explosion that caused an oil spill from a BP offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico reached the shoreline on Friday, May 14. The leak is currently releasing more than 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil per day and the oil spill thus far is the size of Taiwan. Some estimates that the 5,000 barrels a day may actually be as high as 70,000, and no less that 15,000.

This oil spill is on track to become the worst oil spill in history, surpassing the damage done by the Exxon Valdez tanker. Unlike the Exxon Valdez tragedy, in which a tanker held a finite capacity of oil, BP's oil rig is tapped into an underwater oil well and could pump more oil into the ocean indefinitely until the leak is plugged. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been drifting toward the Keys of Florida and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) said on Wednesday, May 19, that it has closed 19 percent of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing and a portion of the slick has entered the "loop current," a stream of fast moving water that circulates around the Gulf before bending around Florida and heading up the Atlantic coast as the Gulf Stream.

This does not take into consideration the numerous other countries that surround the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and hundreds of islands that may be affected.

For the fiscally conservative, I know that the environmental impact is of this is of little concern to you. Therefore, please consider the social and economic impact to the local, national and international economy. Locally, this will devastate the fishing industry throughout the Gulf region, crippling the fishermen, seafood restaurants and the tourist industry for many years to come.

Oil and gas companies spent $154 million on lobbying in 2009, potentially defeating a field of rivals battling to shape climate and energy policies and setting a new record for the industry.

Influence efforts by the oil and gas sector grew sixteen percent in 2009 from $132 million spent in 2008, according to an early analysis of new lobbying disclosures by the nonpartisan Center for Responsible Politics. The total reflects the spending for the first nine months of 2009 plus eighty percent of reports filed for the past three months.

In 2009 BP spent $16 million to influence lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

We must have a full-blown investigation into the allegations of bribery of public officials and the MMS (Mineral Management Service) by oil and gas companies. As well as the practices of the lobbying groups, PAC money, and the `revolving door' between oil and gas companies and the US Government. We need immediate reforms and the corruption has to stop now.

It is beyond belief that Pres. Barack Obama and our government have yet to take control, let alone closely monitor the repair and cleanup of this ongoing disaster with BP. There should be hundreds of federal employees from the appropriate agencies monitoring every e-mail, phone call and action taken by BP regarding this containment and cleanup procedure.

This is a shocking and unbelievable failure for the Obama administration that will not escape how the history of his presidency is remembered in the future. Given the public outrage he could take almost any steps and rewrite our dependency on oil and relationships with the multinational corporations and change the course of history.

Few world leaders are given such an opportunity to redirect history and Obama and his staff seem oblivious to the opportunity wrapped in this disaster.

Perhaps the United States should follow in the footsteps of the small country of Costa Rica that maintains a hard policy of no off shore drilling in spite of huge offers from many multinationals and other governments.

"Drill, baby, drill" is dead in the water. Stop the oil companies before it is too late and they destroy our environment.

Neill Engler is a Westport resident.