Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Disaster Worsens
Oil spills have become the poster child for why alternative energy sources are an urgent necessity, not a luxury. Nothing underscores this more than the developing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as the massive oil spill caused by a leaking drilled well head sunk by BP snakes its way with primordial menace towards the U.S. Gulf Coast states.
The exponentially growing problem began on April 20 with the explosion and eventual sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. Initial reports placed the oil spill discharge at 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) a day and coming from two leaks in the 5,000 foot pipe that tethered the rig to the well head.
By Wednesday, April 28, a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) upped that oil spill estimate to 5,000 barrels a day – 210,000 gallons. Doug Suttles, exploration and production CEO for BP, admitted a new oil leak had been found as well.
As horrible as the effect of oil slithering through water is, oil slicks reaching shore is many times worse. Part of the oil slick was only 16 miles offshore and wind patterns are pushing the spill into the Louisiana coast and into the Mississippi River Delta, one of the most fertile marshland areas in the U.S. It is expected to reach parts of Louisiana by Friday afternoon.
Coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are threatened by the oil spill as well. Florida Governor Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency in six counties along the Florida panhandle as the oil slick is pushed north into Florida waters.
As the oil slick reaches its deadly noxious tendrils towards shore, BP with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard is scrambling to try to contain the leaks. Attempts to cap the well head have failed. There is no time for long term containment plans leaving very few options. 100,000 feet of protective booms have been positioned to try to protect parts of the Louisiana shoreline. Crews are also instigating on-site burns with limited success. 97% of the Gulf spill is an oil/water mixture that doesn’t burn well.
Although people continue to hope that the worst will be avoided, the sad pictures of oil-covered seabirds are already being seen.