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BP oil spill: a shocking reminder to use new energy sources

I have felt so overwhelmed by the short- and long-term ramifications of the recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast that I can barely hear about it. As anyone who watches the news knows, more than 200,000 gallons (757,000 litres) of crude oil are leaking every day into the Gulf since the rig sank April 22.


My husband thinks that British Petroleum (BP) will go bankrupt over this mess, but I’m not so sure. BP certainly hasn’t been pouring substantial money and effort into the clean-up. Countless lawsuits will definitely result from this spill, which resulted after a BP oil rig exploded on April 20, killing 11.


Relatives of the dead have sued rig operator BP-PLC, while Louisiana shrimpers have filed a class-action lawsuit against both BP and Halliburton, which they state was working to cement the rig’s well and well-cap. The shrimper suit claims that both companies and others were negligent in allowing the explosion that led to the spill. The shrimpers are asking for damages of at least $5 million, charging that the spill threatens their livelihoods.


When I think of the lost lives of the 11 men, the death and suffering of thousands of fish and fowl and millions of shell fish, the destruction of habitat, and ruining of wetlands and surrounding ecosystems for multi-years, not to mention the end of livelihoods for many, I feel too distressed to let these impacts fully sink in. As only one example, this spill threatens the future of an eco-tour boat company in Florida, of which my husband is a partner.


Here in B.C., some indirect good might come from this devastating event. It will make it much harder for the provincial government to push for oil exploration off the north-central coast, for one. It will also strengthen the case for those trying to prevent construction of the oil pipeline from Alberta’s Tar Sands to Kitimat, which would result in hundreds of oil tankers navigating the interior of north-central B.C., through prime ecosystems and challenging waterways.


Yet, I certainly don’t want to sound as if I’m looking for benefits as a result of others’ suffering. My heart goes out to the relatives of the men who died in this tragedy. These deaths seem forgotten amidst the media focus on the clean-up, lawsuits, and economic impact of the oil spill. If we ever wanted more proof that humans need to move beyond oil dependence and exploration and seek eco-friendly alternatives, to save both themselves and the planet, this event is a startling reminder. Let’s not forget the Exxon Valdez disaster either.


Meanwhile, on Canada’s Atlantic coast, Chevron plans to start drilling its second deepwater oil well May 9 in Newfoundland, 430 kilometres northeast of St. John’s. That rig is twice as deep (2.6 kilometres down) as BP’s Deepwater Horizon one that ruptured its well in the Gulf of Mexico. Considering Chevron’s horrendous environmental record in Ecuador and the Amazon, I hope that the corporation realizes that the whole world is watching this latest drilling venture.

May 6, 2010 at 6:21 am
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