Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Storms Name In Vain

An Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post yesterday spoke in favor of off-shore drilling.

While I try hard not to write from a truly editorial perspective, today I feel entirely motivated to do so.

"Gas is $4 a gallon. Oil is $135 a barrel and rising. We import two-thirds of our oil, sending hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. And yet we voluntarily prohibit ourselves from even exploring huge domestic reserves of petroleum and natural gas," Charles Krauthammer begins. Four paragraphs later he goes on to say,

"Technological conditions have changed as well. We now are able to drill with far more precision and environmental care than a quarter-century ago. We have thousands of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, yet not even hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in spills of any significance."

This may well be true.
But to use the name of Katrina to justify anything in the oil industry is disrespectful to the damage and the tragedy of our actions in New Orleans.

A lot of oil was spilled in New Orleans during Katrina.

Coast Guard Photo of  Dynegy Venice Flooding and Spill

Aerial photos: Bass Enterprises

Overhead oil spill photo
link to photos

According to the ITOPF (The International Tank Owners Pollution Federation Limited), a group that tracks tonnes of oil spilled, there were 10 spills in 2007 that released between 7 and 700 tonnes of oil. There were 21 in 2005 -- and while I can't find the paragraph again this morning, the reason given for the doubling was the hurricanes.

The following was issued by the EPA in regards to an oil spill in New Orleans during Katrina:

In the short-term, residents returning to the area should avoid direct contact with the crude oil contaminated sediments. These compounds can pose a skin irritation problem if they get onto bare or broken skin. Skin contact with crude oils for short periods may cause itchy, red, sore, or peeling skin.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHHs) has developed a fact sheet, titled “Extra Precautions for Entering Oil Contaminated Properties in St. Bernard Parish,” that recommends the following safety precautions for persons entering and/or cleaning properties in St. Bernard Parish impacted by the Murphy Oil Spill:

  • Protect your skin from contacting oil
    • Use oil resistant gloves
    • Keep arms and legs covered
    • Wear coveralls or clothing that can be discarded
    • If you get oil on skin, wash well with soap & water

  • Open doors and windows to ventilate the oil-contaminated property

  • Be careful not to bring oil-contamination to other places
    • Wear boot covers or leave work boots at the oil-contaminated property.
    • Do not track oil or oily sediments into your car or truck
    • Do not take items with oil to other locations that might contaminate others

  • Do not wash clothes worn in the oil spill area with family laundry

  • Children and pets should not enter the oil contaminated area

These recommendations are consistent with previous recommendations from US EPA.

Not only was there a lot of oil spilled, but global warming is thought to be the cause of much of the extreme weather we have been experiencing record numbers.

No only was global warming considered a contributing factor in the storm, but Louisiana's own natural integrity has been so decimated by the oil industry that the land was not able to guard itself through the storm.

"At least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. The storm is estimated to have been responsible for $81.2 billion (2005 U.S. dollars) in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history." Wikipedia (not condoned -- but so handy)

Perhaps we need oil -- perhaps we will expand drilling --

but we as citizens should make no mistake that what happened in New Orleans is happening all over the world and that that is the cost of not changing our societies. We ravage the earth -- we put into jeopardy the people of this world with no regard for their safety or health to maintain our oil-based societies.

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