Thursday, November 5, 2009

DING-DONG, THE SPILL IS DEAD…OR IS IT? Australia’s oil spill stops, but the clean-up effort’s only beginning

It only took 74 days and five attempts, but they managed to plug the “Montara/West Atlas” oil spill off Australia’s coast – only to watch the buggah catch fire. But this is just the first phase. The next step? Assessing damage. Environmentalists say 9 million gallons spilled. The Aussie government says 6 million. The oil company? One million. Somewhere between cleaning up seabirds and helping sick Indonesian fisherman, they’ll figure out how big of a mess they made. But here’s what we do know, according to

The cleanup of the pollution from the oil spill will take 7 years to complete.

PTTEP Australasia, the oil company responsible for the ten week long oil spill will begin drilling again in the same oil field in a matter of months.

A PTTEP spokesperson says that his company knows what caused the oil spill, but won’t tell anyone else what that cause was.

In the meantime, the Environment America just released a report called Oceans Under the Gun: Living Seas or Drilling Seas? that compares the financial value of ‘sustainable activities’ – think tourism, commercial and recreational fishing — along America’s coasts to “non-renewable oil and gas distraction.” No surprise that in every case, the sustainable wins, the biggest margin being the South Atlantic (SC, GA, FL) by a ratio of 20.8 to 1. (The smallest being the Gulf states.) The Mid-Atlantic? 3.7 — $10 billion dollar more every single year.

This region’s most compelling because the wind potential there so dwarfs the petroleum resources. Not just financially — NC alone stands to get 9100 jobs and $22.5 billion in 20 years compared to petroleum 6700 and $24 billion after 30 years – but in terms of clean, renewable energy:

“At recent prices and usage, the oil and natural gas economically available for recovery from the Mid-Atlantic could supply the nation with less than two months of oil use and three months of natural gas use at a value of $92 billion. [But] The Mid-Atlantic has the best marine offshore wind resource in shallow waters in the country. Wind farms off the Mid-Atlantic planning area could provide 15% of the current total national generating capacity or more than the entire electrical generating capacity of the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic states. There is so much wind energy available in the shallow waters offshore that this area could generate enough to run everything that uses electricity in the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic states, an area from Maine to North Carolina with approximately 60 million people in 2008.”

So, we can bolster our energy independence and our economy, or stick with petroleum – and quite possibly watch it all go up in flames. Literally.

Keep tabs on the spill crisis at