Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From "drill, baby, drill" to "burn, baby, burn"

Looking at the coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I'm puzzled by something. Several of the commenters I've looked at have expressed horror at the idea of burning the oil at sea. Two things: first, we were planning on burning most of that oil any way; second, while bad, burning it at sea is orders of magnitude less horrible than letting it hit the beaches. The wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig has already pumped out about half as much oil as the Exxon Valdez lost in 1989. It will keep leaking for days, if not weeks, more. The oil from the Exxon Valdez spill traveled 460 miles and covered 1300 miles of shoreline with varying amounts of oil. In the Gulf, that would be equal to covering the beaches from the mouth of the Mississippi, across eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and another 200 miles or so of the Florida panhandle. It would coat the Breton National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, penetrate into the lagoons behind the barrier islands, and foul Mobile Bay. It would cost billions to clean up, as far as that is even possible. The environmental damage would linger for decades. The economic damage would possible surpass Hurricane Katrina. With this alternative, I say "burn, baby, burn."

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