Saturday, July 17, 2010

The End of the Gulf Disaster Maybe

Yesterday BP announced they finally capped the well gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico on day 87. That is good news. The bad news is that the Gulf region is far from over the effects of this spill.

Here is SLC we had an oil delivery pipe burst last month and send 800 barrels into a stream that wound its way through the valley. The effect was devastating. The stream emptied into the pond at Liberty Park, a natural refuge for birds. The birds and fish in the pond were covered with oil. All along the stream wildlife and the natural habitat were disrupted or destroyed. It took a mammoth effort by the oil company, Chevron, nearly a month to clean up most of the oil. The effects will be long lasting and in some cases permanent.

There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil. The Gulf of Mexico BP spill was releasing 35,000 to 60,000 barrels, or 1,470,000 to 2,520,000 gallons per day for 87 days. That means there are potentially 220 million gallons of oil in the Gulf. In light of the damage done by the 800 barrels released in SLC the impact on the Gulf of Mexico by the BP spill are almost incomprehensible.

I believe it will take a generation of humans (20-50 years) for the Gulf of Mexico to return to the level of production of seafood and clean beaches of just a few months ago. The clean up effort can capture only so much of the oil and the natural process of digestion and dispersion will take care of some more. The rest will have to be absorbed by the landscape and wildlife. The oil will have to work its way through the food chain until it is dispersed around the world in small enough quantities to not be noticeable.

Unfortunately it will take a few disasters like this for us to see the devastation we are wreaking on this planet. We have to do a better job of taking care of our environment. We have to stop postulating about what is going on and see that no matter what it is, 6.6 billion people on a planet this size doing what they do each day will have a negative impact on the resources.

The sad reality is that when the resources are taxed to death and civilization is significantly diminished or obliterated (it has happened before) the earth will return to its natural state and all our efforts at empire building will amount to a mere 3 inch layer in the geologic record.

Have a great day.

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