Sunday, May 30, 2010

Managing the Massive Gulf Oil Spill

Many are asking questions about what can be done to manage the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The "top kill" approach has failed and the growing oil slick now covers thousands of square miles.

In the coming days a new capping method will try to contain the massive leak. BP has also started drilling a relief well, but that could take two or three months to complete.

Hundred of boats have been trying to deal with the slick by laying down miles of boom lines along Gulf shores.

Efforts underway to keep the oil off the beaches also include burning it on the surface of the sea and the Coast Guard and BP have been skimming oil from the Gulf. Skimming involves removing oil and other hydrocarbons from water. Skimming can be a cost-effective means of seperating oil and water.

Dispersants designed to clean up the spilled oil may actually make things worse. After the 1978 oil spill from the tanker Amoco Cadiz it was discovered that untreated areas recovered more quickly than areas treated with dispersants.

Berms may be the only means of keeping the oil from profoundly impacting coastal areas of the Gulf, although they also come with a cost to marine ecosystems.

Other more innovative solutions may be called for. For example, non-toxic bacteria can be mixed into the sand that will eat the oil and polymers can reportedly make the oil non-sticky making it easier to collect.

Despite miles of booms, scores of skimming ships and armies of beach washers, only 14 percent of the oil was ever cleaned up after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

With no solution in sight and one Exxon Valdez sized oil spill happening every ten days, this is destined to be America`s worst ever environmental disaster.

Next: The Costs of Offshore Drilling / BP's Corporate Irresponsibility / Responsibility for the Costs of the Gulf Oil Spill / Obama Presidency and the Gulf Oil Spill

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