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Deepwater Horizon disaster: Wake up call for ending oil consumption

Half a century ago, Wilma Dykeman concluded that “washing our waters” had become a deplorable necessity–waterways had become unable to re-purify themselves of the waste loads dumped into them.
The only “respectable” course, for cities and towns, for every industry and all citizens, Dykeman wrote, was to “shoulder their responsibility [for the] killing” of the rivers, and clean up the pollution.
Terry Tempest Williams wrote recently about an underground pipeline’s oil leak into a creek in Salt Lake City, which affected hundreds of homes.
The city mayor’s conclusion, as quoted: “It will take weeks of hand-washing the stream”; recovery work and effective collection, “stone by stone” of 40,000 gallons of the crude coating the creek and its banks would take many months more.
The spill into the Utah creek was tiny compared with over 180 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico through the BP, Deepwater-Horizon drilling accident.
An additional, nearly two million gallons of toxic chemicals dispersed a large part of the oil in the subsurface water column or let it sink out of sight to the ocean depths.
The daily bleeding into the ocean continued throughout the time when many wild animals are breeding or spawning, nesting or hatching, further imperiling a number of species already in serious decline.
The disaster’s devastation, for wildlife and the livelihoods of thousands that depend on fisheries and other ocean related industries is unprecedented in the US.
The Times Picayune estimated at least 400 species to be affected by the disaster, in ways and to a degree that won’t be fully known for a long time.
As wildlife scientists stated to a Senate committee, for the thousands of birds that have been found dead there are thousands more that were never found. The same holds for sea turtles, marine mammals, fish and invertebrates and uncounted numbers of small sea organisms which, mistaking as food the small oil droplets suspended in the water may starve, or suffer other damage through chronic exposure to the toxic effects of the oil and chemical-dispersant mixtures.
Behind this tragedy lies a long history of safety shortcuts and corner cutting by oil-industry companies.
Nearly 400 offshore safety and environmental “incidents” occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, alone, over the last five years. Of these violations BP scored the highest number (co-incidentally earning $14 billion in first-quarter profits last year).
Lax government oversight also contributed: As reported by the Center for Biological Diversity, several hundred oil projects were “illegally approved” for operation in the Gulf under Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
We must finally put an end to our economy’s dependency on oil and fast-track, instead, investment in the clean-energy and efficiency technologies that can make offshore drilling unnecessary.
Reviving and making permanent the (earlier) moratorium on offshore drilling would spur this transition, as a first step.
Secondly, companies engaged in oil-drilling pursuits should “shoulder their responsibility” for full cleanup costs when accidents occur and the now existing liability cap on these be removed forthwith.