An Ocean of Oil, a Toxic Brew

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An older oil rig in the North Sea.

Another oil spill — the worst in the North Sea in a decade according to several media sources. I didn’t bother to call Donald Trump when news of Shell’s North Sea oil spill broke on this side of the pond. He’s not taking my calls.

If I did though, I would have asked him if he found it ironic that a week after publicly berating Scotland for wanting to site a wind farm off the coast of his golf development near Aberdeen, Shell dumped more than 55,000 gallons of oil into the North Sea out beyond where the wind farm would stand.

Big oil seems to work night and day adding layers of tarnish to their negative image.

I don’t know how expensive or difficult it is to properly maintain oil fields and pipelines in a safe and responsible fashion — I’m not in the oil business. The difficulties must be extreme and the costs prohibitive though, because some of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful corporations on earth are unable to keep this poisonous beast it its cage.

Every few weeks brings news of another escape, another ugly load of toxic crude oil in some greater or lesser quantity is added to the already overtaxed, overfished and slowly overheating ocean on which all of the life on earth ultimately depends.

The oil barons keep assuring us that their technological capabilities are state of the art, that drilling and extracting oil from the earth is under control and that should something go amiss they have plans to rectify any situation that arises.

They care, they tell us. They share our concerns for the environment. They have grandchildren too, goes the post-spill PR mantra, recited sonorously for the press each time we’re presented with graphic evidence of their lack of concern.

Films and pictures show the oily black scud crowning the wave crests as they wash the tar globs to shore to cover the bodies of dead and dying seabirds, fish, and mammals. Films that can’t show the wreckage of human lives, health and livelihoods, but its there too.

They say the well has been shut down and the leak is down to a few barrels a day and they are proceeding with repair and cleanup operations. Calming words to some I suppose, but I’m paranoid.

I think that their “cleanup” consists largely of the application of toxic dispersants (which did rain down on the US after the BP oil spill “cleanup”) to hasten the disappearance of the oil beneath the surface, where its public relations threat is diminished even as its toxicity becomes more problematic.

Until we break our addiction to their products, these reckless crimes will continue, week after week, spill after spill, until the ocean will no longer support the life that sustains us, until the last dollar and penny and pound is extracted from beneath the ground and sea, until we die choking in the poisonous porridge that once was our atmosphere.

Yet another reminder why we need to plow ahead into a clean energy future as quickly as possible.

Photograph: Wiki Commons by Isaac Newton Source

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