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Spill Considers Settling In For Summer

May 14, 2010

After spending three weeks lazing around the Gulf of Mexico, the oil spill may have decided to spend a few more months/years. Here’s some footage of the vacation:

More news on the oil spill, none of it good:

  • Estimates of the spill rate may be revised upwards again as an analysis by a Purdue University scientist estimated the spill rate at 70,000 barrels a day, or the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every three and a half days.
  • A House investigation found that the well’s blowout preventer – supposedly the last line of defense – had “had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a ‘useless’ test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil.”
  • Scientists interview by National Geographic said the leak could flow for years and potentially spill millions of barrels because of the unprecedented difficulties of capping a leak 5,000 feet below sea level.

There is a certain tension from an environmental perspective in the different narratives concerning the causes and effects of the oil spill. On the one hand, evidence of negligence or human error on the part of oil companies shows they can’t be trusted with something as potentially damaging as offshore drilling, which strengthens the case against offshore drilling. On the other hand, evidence that the spill was unavoidable demonstrates the inherent and, well, unavoidable dangers of offshore drilling, which strengthens the case against offshore drilling. But, if human error or negligence caused it, greater regulation or oversight could have perhaps prevented it. If it was truly unforeseeable, we can’t blame the oil companies and, while the spill is causing great damage, we do need oil from somewhere. The broader lesson of the spill, though, doesn’t really on either of those narratives: the most successful defense against oil spills is reducing and eventually eliminating our dependence on oil.

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