[Guest post by DRJ]
The Gulf Coast could be facing the greatest ecological disaster in its history — the BP Oil Spill:
“What makes an oil spill really bad? Most of the ingredients for it are now blending in the Gulf of Mexico.
Experts tick off the essentials: A relentless flow of oil from under the sea; a type of crude that mixes easily with water; a resultant gooey mixture that is hard to burn and even harder to clean; water that’s home to vulnerable spawning grounds for new life; and a coastline with difficult-to-scrub marshlands.
Gulf Coast experts have always talked about “the potential for a bad one,” said Wes Tunnell, coastal ecology and oil spill expert at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
“And this is the bad one. This is just a biggie that finally happened.”
Experts and almost experts are already weighing in. The Wall Street Journal reports the well had a blowout preventer and a Deadman’s switch but didn’t have an acoustic shut-off valve like North Sea offshore wells. Other reports are already suggesting that BP is to blame:
“British Petroleum once downplayed the possibility of a catastrophic accident at an offshore rig that exploded, causing the worst U.S. oil spill in decades along the Gulf Coast and endangering shoreline habitat.
In its 2009 exploration plan and environmental impact analysis for the well, BP suggested it was unlikely, or virtually impossible, for an accident to occur that would lead to a giant crude oil spill and serious damage to beaches, fish and mammals.”
BP is an easy target on the Gulf Coast, especially after the March 2005 explosion at BP North America’s Texas City refinery. However, it’s not clear whether BP, Transocean — the owner of the rig — or perhaps another company was in charge of the rig at the time of the explosion. Other problems, such as a defective blowout preventer, are also possible.
The resulting investigations will undoubtedly tell us more. In the meantime, offshore drilling may be put on hold and the economic impact on the Gulf Coast will be severe. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.