Oil Spills Past & Present

by - June 04, 2010

Recently I've started getting invitations to join groups on facebook with titles like Boycott BP. I ignore them, of course, because I'm not naive enough to think that boycotting a company that doesn't own even half of the BP gas stations in the U.S. I mean, come on people. Boycotting BP isn't going to help the situation. It's just going to hurt individual business people.

Of course, the oil spill has been filling up my newscasts. It only makes sense seeing as how we're on the Gulf Coast and it's our beaches that are being threatened and our fishing that's being destroyed. And I know things are bad, but I'm a realistic person and know that it's not the end of the world. After all, this is not the first oil spill the United States has made it through. It's not even the first oil spill to happen in the Gulf of Mexico.

So I did a little digging, and at the risk of being long-winded and perhaps boring I'm going to share some of what I found with you. It's not happy news by any means, but I hope it will be eye-opening.

That's the Gulf of Mexico. And if you look closely you can see Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula. Right off of Campeche is the Bay of Campeche, which is where back on June 3, 1979 the Ixtoc I exploded.

The Ixtoc I was a drilling platform being used by Pemex, a Mexico-owned company. They were drilling for oil in the Bay of Campeche when the drill got caught in some soft strata. Then when they dislodged it a whole lot of mud and other stuff was displaced, which did some stuff that I don't understand and the drill exploded, eventually causing the platform to sink into the bay. Oil began gushing out of a hole at a depth of 11,800 feet. By the time they got things under control in 1980, 71,500 barrels of oil had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and 162 miles of U.S. beaches had been impacted.

Nine years later (March 24, 1989), the Exxon Valdez ran aground in the Prince William Sound in Alaska. Up until the Deep Water Horizon fiasco, this spill was regarded as the second largest in U.S. history. A total of 10.8 million gallons of crude leaked into the sound, and even today you can find traces of it.

The largest oil spill in U.S. history occurred back on March 14, 1910, in Kern County, California. The Lakeview Gusher #1. Drilling began on this well in 1909. Back then they didn't have all the precautions and safety mechanisms in place today to protect against the immense pressure of drilling deep into the ground, which is exactly what caused the pipe to bust and oil to begin gushing out. It took 18 months to get the "river of oil" under control. By that time, 378 million gallons of oil had spilled.

Which brings me to the largest oil spill in the history of the world: The Gulf War oil spill. On January 23, 1991, Iraqi soldiers opened the valves on all the oil tankers sitting in the Persia Gulf and let them dump the oil they were carrying into the water. This was just after Iraq invaded Kuwait and the move was said to have been in an effort to foil U.S. troops. Okayyy. 462 million gallons of crude spilled into the Persia Gulf. The slick was 4, 242 square miles and in some places was up to five inches thick.

Which brings me to the Deep Water Horizon. On April 20, 2010, it exploded in the Macondo Prospect oil field 40 miles southeast of Louisiana. Eleven people were killed, 17 were injured and nearly 100 were rescued with no major injuries. Right now it's estimated that there are 440,000 - 700,000 barrels a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. That's 18 million - 29 million gallons. However, those estimates are still uncertain because BP won't let real scientists measure the amount of crude coming out of the well. So far, almost every fix they've tried has failed and those failures have been blamed on the fact that the hole is located 5,000 feet below the water's surface.

Now, if Mexico can stop an oil spill that happened at a depth of more than 11,000 feet below the water's surface back in 1979... why can't we stop one that's less than half that distance below the water? Maybe BP should man up and admit they need help. And I don't necessarily mean the government or the EPA. In my opnion, humble though it may be, the EPA needs to back away and let BP deal with this without their interference. Yes, chemicals are bad for the environment but honestly, how much worse can it be than the oil?

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  1. Thanks for the round-up. The situation is pretty messy (pardon the pun), and if BP don't have a clue, which is seeming pretty likely, they got to step up and say so. The news is so heartbreaking when they show the wildlife suffering.

  2. The sad part is, Sarah, that this is only a fraction of the number of oil spills there have been in the world. I just didn't know much about it other than the stories I run in my shows so I decided to get a little more informed. This latest thing is kind of working though, which is good. But it's already so bad, the outlook just makes me sad. My home is being threatened!