One year ago today 4.7 million barrels of oil began pouring into the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. One out of control oil well killed eleven workers and devastated the environment and economy of the Gulf and 4 states.
Had the Deepwater Horizon spill involved only gas, eleven workers would have tragically died but the impact on the environment and economy of the Gulf would have been much, much less. No oil covered wildlife. No impacts on shrimping and fishing. Natural gas is less damaging than oil when it gets where it is not supposed to be, though reducing gas migration cases is a top priority.
And of course oil spills, big and small, happen everyday all around the world. The Exxon Valdez spilled 257,000 barrels into Prince William Sound. That disaster killed 250,000 birds.
Closer to home in Pennsylvania, the Delaware River has been assaulted by oil spills for decades.
To focus on just some of the big ones, in November 2004, the Athos 1, a single hull tanker was punctured and the Coast Guard put the final spill estimate at 265,000 gallons. PSEG shut down a nuclear reactor for two days as a result. Birds were killed.
Then there was the 1976 tanker spill that released 130,000 gallons into the Delaware River. Of course don't forget the plumes of oil under the city of Philadelphia that have leaked into the ground from oil refining operations. And just in Pennsylvania there are thousands of oil tanks underground, abandoned, and leaking product into ground water.
Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research says in today's Philadelphia Inquirer that it alone has been part of bird rescues at 150 oil spills in 8 countries in two decades.
Tri-State also recounts since the BP oil spill that it has gone to an oil spill at the Potomac River; and oil spill at the Delaware Memorial Bridge; and saved two ducks that encounterd oil in Lower Moreland Township in Montgomery County. Interestingly, to my knowledge most of these "routine," daily oil spills trigger very little media or public attention.
With the intense focus on gas drilling comes the risk of forgetting how much dirtier oil and coal inherently are. Natural gas has impacts but they are less.
Using more natural gas and less oil and coal will lessen the environmental impact of our energy production and consumption on the environment.