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If the gulf doesn't matter, what does?

Sun Advocate publisher

For those that have never been to the Gulf of Mexico shorelines, the oil that is leaking under the sea may not seem like such a big deal. Certainly living here, so far away, it can seem something detached, distant.

But this disaster, no matter whose fault it was, is a mess, and having been there a few times I can see what is at risk. And I also know there is a lot more in peril than I know about.

The Gulf Coast is a beautiful place; great beaches, wildlife beyond imagination and, without the oil on the water, some of the prettiest sea images one can see. This oil, even if the leaking were stopped right now, could damage all of it, including places very far away from the leak.

While it is true we need oil for our economy and to be self sufficient, off shore oil rigs pose this kind of danger. Unlike tankers, which can carry millions of gallons of crude, a broken well is not finite in the sense that once the spill let into the ocean it can be trapped in one spot. I have not seen estimates on how long this well could go if not capped, but I am sure it is a long term thing.

And if you think this will not affect you, you are mistaken.

Beyond a trip to beautiful places that may be destroyed, each of us are going to reap the negatives of this accident and of this spill. To begin with, some seafood prices will rise quickly because the supply from that ever growing mess is nonexistent right now. Then comes what will happen to people that are in industries that rely on an ocean that has an oily sheen on it; particularly the fishing and tourism industry. I heard an interview with a resort owner in Alabama that said the beaches there are fine, but that everyone from other places have canceled their trips for the summer because the perception is that the entire region is being affected. Well it may well be, but right now there are great beaches with no one on them. The costs of this will be unimaginable.

British Petroleum says it will pay for all legitimate costs that are incurred. People have been trying to pin them down on this, but what is legitimate? Do they compensate shrimpers who may lose their livelihood? Will they pay for lost seabirds that will die as a result of the oil? What price is that?

Whole species of animals could be in danger, which effects that ecosystem around the world.

It is not unimaginable that BP could go bankrupt over this. They may be one of the largest oil companies in the world, but even their money is finite when it comes to a disaster of this magnitude. Because of currents and technology to cap wells a mile below the surface of the ocean that really does not exist, the whole east coast of the United States could be threatened. Who knows what global consequences this could have in many ways?

I was once told that it only takes one quart of oil in a million gallons of water for it to create problems with wildlife. Whether that is true or not, a well spewing oil at thousands of barrels a day into an ocean could cause damage we won't know about for years.

In terms of worldwide impact disaster makes the Exxon Valdez spill look like a leak from the rear main bearing of my old Mustang on my driveway. It is that serious.

Finally, because of this, all off-shore drilling for oil and gas may be curtailed in the Uninted States. Powerful forces are at work here and environmentalists, using this disaster as an example, could get Congress to stop development of that resource.

And judging by what is happening right now, and the unpreparedness drilling operations have exhibited to deal with such a circumstance, they may be not be far wrong in their action. It seems the oil industry has not even really thought about such a disaster happening.

This is going to cost us all dearly; in treasure and in environmental damage. Obviously we need to do some rethinking about this kind of oil exploration.

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