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Facts on The Oil Spillage into the Gulf of Mexico

As many people around the world are now aware, on April 20, 2010 there was an explosion of an offshore oil exploration platform in the Gulf of Mexico owned by BP (British Petroleum).

This explosion opened a hole in a well head in the Gulf of Mexico five thousand feet below. This sent oil jetting completely unrestrained into the Gulf until June 3rd, when a BP managed effort successfully lowered a collection cap over the well head. This collection cap was designed to enable some substantial amounts of both collection and bringing to the surface portions of the oil and gas. However, even with the collection cap, oil and gas continue to course into the open ocean from the damaged well head.

The rate of spillage into the gulf was initially estimated by BP and federal officials to be in the range of 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) each day. This estimate has been recently revised on June 10th, by Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey and chair of the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group. She has offered her group’s best estimate of the well’s spillage rate to be 20,000 to more than 40,000 barrels per day. This is significantly higher than original estimates.

After the collection cap was lowered onto the well head, officials reported that BP was collecting 15,800 barrels of oil each day with the new collection cap system.

With the new estimates of the spill rate, an estimated 860,000 to 1,720,000 (up to 72,240,000 gallons) barrels have spewed into the Gulf from the time of the explosion on April 20th to the time of the lowering of the collection cap onto the damaged well head on June 3rd. It now appears that the oil continues to leak from around the collection cap in amounts still much higher than the initial estimates of 5,000 barrels a day. The entire international community is watching with great concern as the ocean does not recognize international boundaries, and offshore oil rigs exist in many other places.

Faced with this catastrophic environmental crisis, what can we do individually do about it? We can lobby our Congressional Representatives and Senators to apply every possible penalty and fine against BP, so that they put all of their resources into dealing with fixing this problem right now and helping the many people whose livelihoods have been adversely affected. Can BP be forced to shut down their gas pumps, until they at least stop the leak, much less clean up the aftermath of the mess? We need to ask. We need to ask our elected officials to do everything possible to inspire BP to fix this now as well as take a deeper look at our addiction to oil. In the USA, “Clean energy” must take root in our national agenda as something we put our collective will behind just as we once did for going to to the Moon or developing a vaccine for polio.

If there is a silver lining in the oil spill in the Gulf, it could be that there is no way that we can ignore this. We have to take action. If we are moved out of our comfort zones and forced to consider new approaches to energy, the oceans, oil drilling and the like, we can accomplish anything. We should not be disheartened. Rather, we can be soberly resolved that we will do whatever it takes to fix the environmental, political and social problems of our times.

This may involve “thinking outside the box.” In the Gulf, many communities joined together in prayer. Other innovative ideas have been sought from famous names like actor Kevin Costner whose technical company Ocean Therapy Solutions has signed a contract with BP to use some innovative equipment, or director James Cameron, whose deep ocean experience is helping spearhead brainstorming sessions.

Breakthroughs in science for environment and energy are urgently needed now, and we can all help contribute to a determined focus that we don’t want to wait, we want this now.

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June 25th, 2010

Staff Writer

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