Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oil Spills in Trinidad: Fossil Fuels and Politics Don't Mix

If you need more evidence that oil is dangerous and destructive, even for a state owned oil company, you need look no further than the recent spills in Trinidad and Tabago. This island country off the northern edge of South America was a beautiful paradise until it's beaches were coated with oil in the middle of December.

Starting on December 17th, oil began leaking from an aging pipeline. Since then a total of eleven oil spills have destroyed beaches along the coasts of Trinidad and Tabago. This is one of the worst environmental disasters in the tiny nation's history.

Although the company that unleashed the spill was hit with a $3.1 million fine from the Trinidad's Environmental Management Authority, the situation is complicated. The company responsible for the spill is Petrotrin, they are a state-owned oil company. The initial leak of 7,000 barrels was from a pipeline which according to some reports has not been inspected in 17 years.

Petrotrin has accused saboteurs of causing at least 2 of the other 10 spills. While others have accused Petrotrin of a cover-up. Petrotrin has also been criticized for its use of the controversial dispersant Corexit 9500 which according to scientists when combined with oil makes for a toxic combination that is harmful to marine life.

Although the spills will wreak havoc on the environment, tourism and fishing, as a state owned operation, it is hard to imagine that Petrotrin can be impartially dealt with.

Ironically Trinidad's energy department approved a new national oil spill contingency plan in January 2013.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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