Friday, February 6, 2015

BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: It's the Water and So Muck More

By Bob Ferris

I shuddered some when I read the news about the study that found the 10 million gallons of missing oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that seems to be spread across 3243 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico's sea floor community or benthos.  It was a little like ripping a band-aid off an abrasion you thought had healed only to find it re-opened.

It is hard to wrap one’s arms around figures like these, but I always find that it helps to do some calculations and convert these numbers into something known and tangible.  In terms of the area covered what does 3243 square miles mean.  Oil company apologists will point out that this represents only a little over half a percent of the total area of the Gulf.   Well that does not sound so bad until you stop to think and convert it to acres.  In that process you will find that area to be a little north of 2 million acres.  What do we know that is about that size?  The answer for me comes quickly: Yellowstone National Park.  Ouch, this does not seem like a trivial area at all and it is of particular relevance at this point because of the recent oil spill along the Yellowstone River.

How would you feel if you suddenly found that Yellowstone National Park was covered in oil?  And how would you feel if someone tried to tell you it did not matter. Please hold on to that thought.

Now not all of this area is impacted uniformly so we need to look too at this volume of oil.  And if you do the conversion to cubic inches and then to area you find that this represents about a half square mile sealed off by a one inch thick blanket of oil.  Pretty much another half square mile of dead zone in the Gulf, but that was not a completely satisfying image that properly portrayed the impact so I thought that what we should really talk about is coating rather than blanketing, because coating is just as dead as covering.  The US EPA has a fine photograph (at left) which shows coating and then they define it as basically being 0.1 centimeters thick (i.e., a millimeter).  OK, so what does that give us?  Turns out that is a little over 14.5 square miles.

What things in our universe are roughly 14.5 square miles?.  A Google search finds a lot of things but the items that come up most often are cities like Ingleside, Texas; Sun City, Arizona; Levelock, Alaska; and Tumwater, Washington.  They are all about 14.5 square miles.



Tumwater, Washington?  Wait a minute isn’t that where Olympia Beer  was once brewed before it was eventually sold to the Russians?  And didn't they have a slogan: It’s the Water and a Lot More?  Now we are on to something!  This was a beer that was featured in several movies, drunk by an orangutan named Clyde, and Credence Clearwater Revival even drew the second part of their name from one of the brewery’s advertising campaigns.

So how upset should the American public remain about this happenstance in the Gulf of Mexico?  My sense is that we all should be as mad as if BP coated the entire city of Tumwater with oil and then go on from there.  It makes sense too to use this analogy because of the water connection as well as the connection to a community because this sunk-deep oil is impacting a benthic community which has supported many in the Gulf for generations.

Now let that seething steep in this Texas tea nightmare for a little and then think about the current proposals for offshore oil drilling being forwarded by those who think that America seems to have forgotten about this whole Gulf tragedy.  Think about the spill and these proposals too in terms of the current Congress in Washington DC and the trends in oil and gas industry political investments as well as what they are planning for the future.  Maybe it is about time for you to pop the top off that bad boy you call political activism and get active?  What do you think?

The Gulf of Mexico: It's the Water and So Muck More

Here are a few places to get involved:




Note to readers: If you find other sites or petitions worthy of post please mention them in the comments section to share with the community.

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