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Archive for May, 2010

BY JACQUI GODDARD

Jean-Michel Cousteau, one of the world’s leading ocean explorers, has spoken of his “frustration at the human species” over the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and called for it to become a catalyst for political, industrial and environmental change.

Describing the slick as “the worst oil accident anywhere on the planet”, the 72-year-old son of Jacques Cousteau, the pioneering underwater ecologist, said that the consequences for Man and nature would be monumental. “The sad side of the human species is that we talk a lot and take very little action until we have a catastrophe on our hands,” he told The Times.

“I don’t want to call this doomsday. I want to believe we can sit down with decision-makers and industry and government and convince them that there’s a better way to manage our life support system. We can do the good thing or we can keep destroying it.”

He added: “I hope that this is the kick in the butt that’s going to make our decision-makers change the way they operate.

“It’s also a kick in the butt for those industries that are making a huge amount of money to invest that money, not just talk about it as they all do, in renewable energy.”

Mr Cousteau’s father, who died in 1997, was a marine conservation trailblazer who raised awareness of the fragility of the planet and its oceans and the devastating effects of pollution, via 120 documentaries and more than 40 books. Jean-Michel Cousteau continues his father’s work through his California-based Ocean Futures Society, whose mission is to explore the seas and fight for their protection.

After witnessing the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster 21 years ago, in which 11 million gallons of oil leaked into the sea off Alaska, he had hoped for change. But a lack of regulation and oversight of the oil and chemical industry meant that a new disaster had been waiting to happen, he said.

Remnants of the slick could ultimately reach Europe by travelling in the Gulf Stream, he believes. “So BP, your oil is coming home,” said Mr Cousteau, who visited Louisiana last week. Read more…

Source: Common Dreams & Times Newspapers

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With millions of gallons crude oil being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the focus now is on shutting down the leak. However, in the cleanup efforts to come, “extreme caution” must be exercised so as not to make a bad situation even worse, says a leading bioremediation expert with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

“The concentration of detergents and other chemicals used to clean up sites contaminated by oil spills can cause environmental nightmares of their own,” says Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division who has studied such notorious oil-spill sites as the Exxon Valdez spill into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

“It is important to remember that oil is a biological product and can be degraded by microbes, both on and beneath the surface of the water,” Hazen says. “Some of the detergents that are typically used to clean-up spill sites are more toxic than the oil itself, in which case it would be better to leave the site alone and allow microbes to do what they do best.”

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by energy giant BP that exploded on April 20, is now estimated to be disgorging some 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. To contain the spreading oil slick and keep it from polluting the fragile ecosystems of the Gulf coast and the Mississippi delta, clean-up crews have deployed an array of chemical dispersants, oil skimmers and booms. They have also attempted to burn off some of the surface oil. Such aggressive clean-up efforts are fraught with unintended consequences, Hazen warns. He cites as prime examples the Amoco Cadiz and the Exxon Valdez disasters.

In 1978, an oil tanker, the Amoco Cadiz, split in two about three miles off the coast of Normandy, releasing about 227,000 tons heavy crude oil that ultimately stained nearly 200 miles of coastline. The spill-site was so large that only the areas of greatest economic impact were treated with detergents. Large areas in the more remote parts of the coast went untreated.

“The untreated coastal areas were fully recovered within five years of the Amoco Cadiz spill,” says Hazen. “As for the treated areas, ecological studies show that 30 years later, those areas still have not recovered.” Read more…

Source: Science Daily

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