Tag Archives: oil

Oil Spills and Nature’s Resilience

Faced with an oil spill of the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon’s mag­nitude, nature is resi­li­ent and well-adap­ted to cope with the consequences–that is, provided we don’t try to clean it using meth­ods that will do more dam­age.

Matt Rid­ley, author of The Ration­al Optim­ist (and many of my favour­ite pop­u­lar sci­ence books), dis­cusses what we should remem­ber from pre­vi­ous oil spills, and what this means for the Gulf of Mex­ico in the face of yet anoth­er oil spill:

First, be care­ful not to do more harm than good. When the Tor­rey Canyon was wrecked off Corn­wall in 1967, spill­ing 120,000 tonnes of oil, the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment not only bombed the wreck (and missed with one bomb in four), but sprayed 10,000 tons of deter­gents, which were much more dam­aging to mar­ine life than the oil itself, then bull­dozed the oil and deter­gents into the sand on some beaches where it per­sisted for longer than if it had been exposed to the ele­ments.

The mis­take was repeated in 1989, when the Exxon Valdez spilled about 40,000 tonnes in Prince Wil­li­am Sound. Thou­sands of volun­teers were sent out to wash rocks with hot water, which helped kill lots of microbes that would oth­er­wise have eaten the oil.

Speak­ing of microbes, do not under­es­tim­ate nature’s powers of recov­ery. After most big oil spills, sci­ent­ists are pleas­antly sur­prised by how quickly the oil dis­ap­pears and the mar­ine life reappears. […] The Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmo­spher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion says on its web­site: ‘What sci­ent­ists have found is that, des­pite the gloomy out­look in 1989, the inter­tid­al hab­it­ats of Prince Wil­li­am Sound have proved to be sur­pris­ingly resi­li­ent.’ A sci­ent­ist who led some of the research into the Exxon Valdez says that ‘Thoughts that this is going to kill the Gulf of Mex­ico are just wild over­re­ac­tions’. […]

This rap­id recov­ery was also a sig­na­ture of the last big Gulf rig spill, the Ixtoc 1 dis­aster off Mex­ico in 1979. Although the num­ber of turtles took dec­ades to recov­er, much of the rest of the wild­life bounced back fairly rap­idly. […] The warm waters and strong sun­shine of the Gulf of Mex­ico are highly con­du­cive to the chem­ic­al decom­pos­i­tion of oil by ‘photo-oxid­a­tion’, and are stuffed full of organ­isms that actu­ally like to eat the stuff – in mod­er­a­tion.

Rid­ley also notes how wind farms kill “far more rare birds per joule of energy pro­duced than oil does” and that the wind farm at Alta­mont Pass in Cali­for­nia kills more birds each year that the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon spill did (≈ 1,300).

via The Browser

Sir Arthur C Clarke’s Final Message – Peace and Climate Change

By now every­one knows that Sir Arthur C Clarke recently passed away – a truly sad event. How­ever, you may not have watched his ‘final mes­sage to earth’.

Com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­no­lo­gies are neces­sary, but not suf­fi­cient, for us humans to get along with each oth­er. This is why we still have many dis­putes and con­flicts in the world. Tech­no­logy tools help us to gath­er and dis­sem­in­ate inform­a­tion, but we also need qual­it­ies like tol­er­ance and com­pas­sion to achieve great­er under­stand­ing between peoples and nations.

I have great faith in optim­ism as a guid­ing prin­ciple, if only because it offers us the oppor­tun­ity of cre­at­ing a self-ful­filling proph­ecy. So I hope we’ve learnt some­thing from the most bar­bar­ic cen­tury in his­tory – the 20th. I would like to see us over­come our tri­bal divi­sions and begin to think and act as if we were one fam­ily. That would be real glob­al­isa­tion…

He con­tin­ued his com­mu­niqué with three final wishes, the second of which was:

I would like to see us kick our cur­rent addic­tion to oil, and adopt clean energy sources. For over a dec­ade, I’ve been mon­it­or­ing vari­ous new energy exper­i­ments, but they have yet to pro­duce com­mer­cial scale res­ults. Cli­mate change has now added a new sense of urgency. Our civil­isa­tion depends on energy, but we can­’t allow oil and coal to slowly bake our plan­et…

via Wired Sci­ence

London Underground – Brought to You in Conjunction with Hugo Chavez

…Lon­don­ers on Income Sup­port can get a card to allow travel on Lon­don buses and trams for half price. At the bot­tom of the [advert­ise­ment] are the proud logos of May­or of Lon­don, Trans­port for Lon­don, and, incon­gru­ously, the Bolivari­an Gov­ern­ment of Venezuela.
I pre­sume that this is the fruit of Hugo Chavez’ vis­it to Lon­don, when he cosied up to May­or Ken, and offered cheap oil to the people of Lon­don.

From The Magis­trate’s Blog