Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill Could Devastate U.S. Eastern Seaboard

AP photographer Charles Riedel filed some of the most disturbing
images yet of the effect the oil spill is having on Gulf Coast birds.
Pictures now coming out of the gulf coast show the fate waiting estuaries, fisheries, wildlife, and the economy of the entire eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Scientists predict that the Gulf Loop Current will carry the slick around the tip of Florida, through the keys, up the Florida east coast, into the Gulf Stream and then up the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

The oil will first devastate the breaches, estuaries, fisheries, wildlife, harbors, coastal waterways and economies of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Next to be devastated are south Florida's beaches, coastal sea grass, mangroves of the everglades, estuaries, harbors and coastal waterways and coral reef habitats.

Then, the oil slick will be carried by the Gulf Stream up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to devastate beaches, fisheries, harbors and coastal waterways all the way to Cape Hatteras, NC and beyond.

Note: In little noticed comments to McClatchy Newspapers, Ira Leifer, University of California researcher and member of the Obama Administration's Flow Rate Technical Group, said on Monday June 7, 2010 that even BP itself estimated the worst-case flow of an oil leak in the Gulf could reach 100,000 barrels of oil a day. "In the data I've seen, there's nothing inconsistent with BP's worst case scenario," Leifer was quoted as saying.

Miami Herald — May 04, 2010

Computer model of oil spill
moving up the east coast

May 17, 2010 NASA satellite
image of oil slick

wwfus — The Exxon Valdez Disaster
20 Years Later
Huffington Post:
21 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster it is estimated that 21,000 gallons of oil still remain just below the surface of Alaska's Prince William Sound, and the long term environmental effects on the area have far exceeded scientists' original predictions. It can be hard to gauge the extent of the current disaster in the Gulf, as the oil continues to flow relentlessly into the water, and the sandy beaches and coastal marshes will certainly react differently to the pollution than Alaska's rocky terrain.

Regardless, it is clear that the damage will be dire. Many species are currently nesting and reproducing in the area, and an entire generation of hundreds of species could be lost as a result. Countless marine birds could also be affected, as the area is a primary flyway for many species, currently in its peak migratory period. Though the cause is still unknown, the numerous dead sea turtles and other creatures that have washed ashore is perhaps an early ominous sign of the marine crisis the oil is causing in the deeper waters offshore. New information also reveals that BP is using 100,000 gallons of dispersant (1/3 of the world's supply) on the oil, further contaminating the ocean with harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, the true environmental ramifications of this catastrophe won't be known for years to come.

The health of countless people are at risk as oil spreads further along the coast, affecting more communities. Oil can turn into a heavy vapor that can then be inhaled by humans in the surrounding areas. The volatile chemicals in oil can cause minor immediate health problems, but have been linked to cancer over longer periods of time. In addition, these chemicals have been associated with miscarriage and can damage airways, so pregnant women and people with respiratory diseases are especially at risk. Oil is also damaging to skin, and the chemicals can be absorbed from this contact, meaning that the numerous local fisherman BP has hired to aid in clean-up efforts are at risk on many levels. In addition, as tragically seen from the Exxon Valdez disaster, local people can suffer long term personal damage from the devastation of their communities, with the escalated stress on families leading to increases in alcoholism, suicide, violence, and divorce.

Federal officials have shut down all fishing between the Mississippi River and Florida Panhandle until early-mid next week at the soonest. Fisheries in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are threatened from the effects of this disaster. Louisiana's $2.4 billion sea food industry accounts for approximately 1/3 of the shrimp, oysters, crab and craw fish in America. While the temporary fishing ban only halts 1/4 of Louisiana's seafood production, this could easily change if the oil begins to spread west. But the real impact on the seafood industry will be the long term consequences. The unknown extent of this catastrophe could have an adverse impact on the reproduction of seafood species as well the microscopic creatures that they feed on, potentially devastating the seafood operations in the area for years to come. The spill may even affect bluefin tuna stocks off Atlantic Canada—a species already intensely in decline—as they travel to the Gulf to spawn.

The Gulf Coast has long been home to pristine beaches, admired for their purity and cleanliness. Countless resorts and thriving tourist economies flourish from this natural beauty, with tourism pulling in $100 billion a year in the region. Unfortunately, the oil spill perilously threatens this vital industry with the potential to paint stretches of unspoiled beach black.

Legislation attempting to address the effects of climate change has been a long time coming. The bill, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17% lower than 2005 by 2020, also includes provisions to expand domestic production of oil, natural gas, and nuclear power. Obama’s recent announcement to expand offshore drilling was primarily seen by many as a move to gain more support for the bill from those who had opposed it. A lot of environmentalists conceded the compromise as necessary, understanding the greater good it would have getting the legislation through. In the wake of this offshore oil disaster, hope for the bill is looking bleaker than ever, with numerous lawmakers refusing to lend any support if offshore drilling measures are incorporated. The environmental crisis currently on our hands only further emphasizes the need for legislation that will truly protect our environment and lead to a clean energy America.

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