Off shore drilling, is it worth the risk?

Published 9:04 am Thursday, May 27, 2010

Simply put, what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico is dire.

What was left of the fragile eco-system in the Gulf is slowly being drowned in oil thanks to the lack of action by BP and the United States government.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is estimating 210,000 gallons a day is gushing into the Gulf since the explosion that destroyed the oil rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 people on April 22. With that bit of information, this means as of Tuesday (when I wrote this column) there are more than 6.9 million gallons of oil of already in the world’s ninth largest body of water.

However, a recent report by the New York Times has a BP senior executive telling Congress the leak could be spewing more than 2.5 million gallons a day, meaning as of Tuesday more than 82 million gallons is in the Gulf.

And if BP’s next attempt (scheduled for Wednesday) to get the leak under control fails you can add a few more thousands or millions of gallons to those numbers when you read this on Thursday.

All numbers aside, those who live in the communities on the Gulf Coast are experiencing an economic and environmental catastrophe and an all out assault on their way of life.

According to the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, five states that border the Gulf of Mexico have a gross domestic product of over $2 trillion with much of the economic activity dependent on or related to the Gulf of Mexico and the health of its coastal natural resources. Tourism and recreation provide over 620,000 jobs and the major commercial fishing ports of the Gulf region bring in over 1.2 billion pounds of fresh seafood every year.

Bays, estuaries, tidal flats, barrier islands, hard and soft wood forests and mangrove swamps are just a handful of the natural assets that will ultimately and are already being affected by the spill, not to mention the millions of wild animals.

The true effects of the oil spill on the Gulf’s human inhabitants will not be known for years. Louisiana is already home to the country’s most notoriously known “cancer alley” where rates are well above the national average.

It’s not just those living on the Gulf that will be affected. For weeks the threat of the oil spill drifting into the loop current and bringing it up the East coast has been looming.

The real tragedy about all of it is that something could have been done sooner. But, of course, BP officials sat there twiddling their thumbs about what to do and pointing fingers as to who was to blame for the accident in the first place.

Instead of having a plan in place to take care of an incident such as this, the chaotic route of uncertainty was chosen.

While I agree it should be BP’s responsibility to clean up the mess at their own expense, the federal government’s role should be larger than what it is right now. President Barack Obama’s administration’s response has been inadequate and lackadaisical. When BP failed to patch the leak, government officials should have been there demanding action.

As soon as this disaster began everyone knew time was of the essence and now the clock is ticking on the Gulf as oil invades its shores.

After years of already being polluted, abused and exploited, one must ponder how this body of water, its economy and its people will return.

And as Virginia’s governor eyes his state’s coast for off shore drilling you have to wonder if it’s all worth the risk.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.