Will the oil spills stop before we kill all the wild (and marine) life?

BP's latest oil spill hits Lake Michigan

BP’s latest oil spill hits Lake Michigan

It seems we hear about a new oil spill every week – sometimes more. And the pictures have become hauntingly familiar.

One of the newest spills featured in the news was caused by our environmental nemesis BP, of Deepwater Horizon fame. From one frying pan into the next.

After less than a year in its Whiting, Indiana facility to process Canadian tar sands, a “malfunction” leaked a slug of crude oil on Monday into Lake Michigan a few miles away from the Chicago city limits. This is the company’s largest crude distillation unit, the centerpiece of a nearly $4 billion overhaul that allowed BP to process more heavy Canadian oil from the tar sands region of Alberta, Canada. And, according to federal records, the Whiting plant is one of the largest sources of industrial pollution discharged into Lake Michigan.

There’s also this week’s disastrous oil spill off Galveston, Texas, where so far 168,000 gallons of thick, sludgy fuel oil that escaped a barge—whose hull was breached after a collision with another ship—is proving extremely difficult to contain. As of yesterday morning, oil was reported as far as 12 miles from the site of the collision.

This area, which encompasses a Globally Important Bird Area called the Bolivar Flats, hosts huge numbers of migrating birds from a wide variety of species. The collision occurred in the Houston Shipping Channel, which has bird nesting and roosting sites on both of its banks. Not only is the location a serious issue, the time of year for this spill is proving monumentally disastrous.  Tens of thousands of wintering birds are currently collecting in Galveston Bay, especially Bolivar Flats.

Then there was the oil spill one week ago in Ohio. The Mid-Valley Pipeline, which extends 1,000 miles from Michigan to Texas and is  owned by Sunoco Logistics, ruptured. spewing an estimated 20,000 gallons of oil into the Oak Glen Nature Preserve near Cincinnati. A system-wide inspection of the 1,119-mile-long pipeline five years ago resulted in a $48,700 fine for Sunoco, which did not address corrosion problems in the pipeline.

There are, of course, other serious oil spills that have occurred within the past few months that have made the news. This continuing pattern of devastation flies in the face of what the oil companies and their PR try to tell us about the safety of drilling in the Arctic and their playing down any danger to marine life there.

Calling the Arctic home, rare beluga whales could be endangered by an oil spill

Calling the Arctic home, rare beluga whales could be endangered by an oil spill

How safe can their operations possibly be – be it BP, Royal Dutch Shell or any of the other oil giants – when they continue to wreck such environmental calamity around the world? And how long will our government – any government – allow them to slip through any real accountability for their actions? The real underlying questions we must ask are there:

  1. When will the oil companies come up with measures that will guarantee, no kidding, that their processes are safe?
  2. What will it take for them to invest in the research and continue doing so until they come up with real world, workable, count-on-able solutions?
  3. Most important, when will our governments realize that investing in renewable energy poses significantly LESS threat to our environment, our wildlife and our planet and spend our tax dollars in those directions, where it will do the most good?

When will we consumers wake up and realize that we’ve had enough of our politicians pandering to lobbyists and the oil companies? Let’s hope it’s soon enough to safe our wildlife, our waterways and our oceans. The clock is ticking.

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