Yet another oil spill 230 miles off the coast Rio de Janeiro, Brazil highlights once again how unstable the offshore oil drilling industry is, and how increasingly likely events like these seem to be coming. Not only was this particular spill reported in the same region as last years Chevron incident, it was seen to be due to what are known as exudations, or deep-sea fissures venting the oil.
These usually form under the high pressures of the drilling process, and are the respective company’s responsibility to keep plugged, although clearly that was not the case here. Chevron was appropriately fined for the accident on their watch, but in all likelihood, a meagre fine will do nothing but scratch the multi-national conglomerate’s finances. This is just one of many issues with the offshore oil industry.
Given how common these incidents seem to be coming, with the devastating BP Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 and subsequent 3 months spent attempting to fix the situation, alongside literally 10s of similar, if not lower magnitude accidents happening each year across the globe, there is no shortage of case studies to throw at the fossil fuel industry.
What I find even more distressing, is that many of the largest ever recorded spills, causing untold ecosystem damage and millions to billions of dollars to clean up, have happened in the early stages of the industry, during the 70s-90s period, including the famous Exxon-Valdez spill of 1989. Clearly, the industry has been a verifiably unstable and dangerous venture since its inception, and yet even today, companies are spending further billions to scout out new deep-sea reserves for drilling.
Now I understand that a transition away from this highly damaging and expensive fuel will not happen over night, or even over months years, but decades maybe, and that’s the unfortunate truth. Surely however, seeing how often these spills ruin ecosystems and marine environments is enough to make even us shortsighted humans think twice?
What gets to me the most, is that we protest and riot and spit angry phrases at the nuclear industry when a 40 year old plant, weakened by a completely freak and unpredictable natural disaster, blows up, releasing harmless amounts of radiation to the local region and killing nobody, even a year down the line. Throughout nuclear’s lifetime, three major incidents have occurred, admittedly terrible in their own ways, but compare this to the disasters, fatal incidents and human death associated with the fossil fuel industry? Yes we acknowledge them, but thats a far as we go. I don’t see offshore shutting down or coal extraction diminishing because of human strife or anger, it’s because of profit losses or market forces.
Again, the wind and solar industry. Wind has been accused of killing birds and disrupting the health of those around them (which I personally think is mad), but nothing worse, and yet uptake is slow and laborious. Solar gets ignored because of its looks…looks? Okay I’m exaggerating slightly on the last point, but until solar can be incorporated into roof-tiles or windows, people just turn their nose up at it.
So really my point is this; oil spill after oil spill plagues our oceans, but we protest renewables and nuclear instead, on grounds that could cripple the fossil fuel industry if we put our collective minds to it. We’re just not too good at that just yet. To quote a great pro-solar billboard that’s been circulating the net…
“When there’s a huge solar energy spill, it’s just called a nice day”