Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oil Spills You Don't Hear About

Millions of gallons of oil each source
puts into the oceans worldwide each year
The devastating effects of oil spills and the failures to clean them up have been the lead stories on nightly news for more than a month. One thing we've learned is that oil and water -- especially water that harbors life -- don’t mix.

What the news hasn't told us is that we damage the oceans with oil in disastrous ways with unpublicized regularity -- hundreds of millions of gallons of oil make their way quietly into seawater every year, mostly from non-accidental sources.  

Where does all of that oil come from? Big spills and offshore drilling we already know about. The silent flood of oil is the one that does the most damage.

About 363 million gallons each year go DOWN THE DRAIN and eventually wind up in waterways. Where does the stuff come from? Your car. My car. Every vehicle around us. The average oil change uses five quarts; one change can contaminate a million gallons of fresh water. In a city of five million, ROAD RUNOFF of oily substances each year could equal the spillage from one large tanker mishap. ROUTINE SHIP MAINTENANCE -- cleaning bilges and thousands of discharges from other areas of ships -- flush 137 million gallons of oil into seaways every year. AUTOMOTIVE AND INDUSTRIAL AIR POLLUTION sink 92 million tons of hydrocarbons into the oceans each year. NATURAL SEEPAGE from ocean bottoms and sedimentary rocks releases 62 million gallons into the sea.

By comparison, large spills are a relatively minor source of ocean oil pollution, but they can cause irreversible damage.

Cleanups, as we know from media coverage, take a long time and never return the environment to its original condition. An entire community of cleanup experts, such as those at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, has grown up in the wake of so many disasters like the one that British Petroleum seems unable to get under control. More significantly, these experts receive few calls unless disaster strikes, as it did when BP's Deepwater Horizon
rig sank and started leaking oil on April 22.

Read more about oil spills and their effects on the ocean ecosystem. If you agree that tighter controls are needed, contact your congressional representative and make your opinion known.

Oil Spill's Devastating Effects on the Environment