Harms Inflicted By Offshore Oil Drilling In The U.s. To The Environment
Why does our country choose to participate in something so harmful to the environment? Offshore oil drilling is a controversial topic because there are several sides to take. Offshore oil drilling creates oil pollution, killing thousands of sea animals each year which effects their ecosystem, the food chain and their population.
Not only is offshore drilling bad for the environment, oil spills and oil exploration also negatively impact the environment. But the environment is not the only thing being affected, so is the air we breathe and it impacts our health as well. Although there are many benefits to the economy that come from offshore drilling, overall, the negative factors outweigh the benefits. There are many ways offshore oil drilling affects our oceans and marine life, oil spills are only one risk factor to consider. Healthy oceans are extremely important to marine life and marine ecosystems.
Oil spills leave lasting ecological impacts on our sea animals ecosystems. “Scientists investigating the long-term impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill estimate that nearly 20,000 gallons of oil from that spill remain in Prince William Sound, continuing to harm threatened and endangered species and undermine their recovery.” (Natural Resources) The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 was the largest spill in US history until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Spill. According to the EPA report, 10.8 million gallons of oil were released into the Prince William Sound.
Meaning clean up methods used after oils spills are only able to remove a portion of the oil, which leaves the remaining to continue affecting the ocean. Sea life is extremely vulnerable to oil pollution and can impair reproductive success, meaning eventually the species affected will become endangered. The deep water horizon spill took a toll on the population of out sea creatures. “harmed or killed approximately 82,000 birds of 102 species, approximately 6,165 sea turtles, and up to 25,900 marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, melon-headed whales and sperm whales.” (ocean).
These numbers are from only one oil spill out of many more to come. As these species are becoming endangered the food chain is being negatively affected as well. According to Dan Zukowski, the animals living on the bottom of the ocean are very important for the food chain, specifically phytoplankton. Fish consume phytoplankton that are poisoned by oil, then fish eat fish and carry on the absorption of toxins, continually affecting the entire food chain. There are many people who believe the positive factors to offshore drilling outweigh the positives. For instance, offshore oil drilling takes the pressure of oil from underground reservoirs which reduces the amount of hydrocarbon and methane gas in the atmosphere (Flournoy).
Although oil drilling relieves pressure on underground reservoirs, the negative effects the negative impacts occurring on the food chain and the amount of oil pollution being created outweigh this positive factor. Oil spills are not the only thing affecting the environment, so does oil exploration. According to Beachapedia, in order to estimate the size of an oil and gas reserve they have to use a seismic survey, which ships tow airgun arrays emitting thousands of high decibel explosive impulses to to map the seafloor. Doing these seismic surveys creates several disturbances. They disrupt migratory patterns, which pushes marine life away from their habitats. It affects their mating, spawning, and migratory corridors. “The auditory assault from seismic surveys has been found to damage or kill fish eggs and larvae and to impair the hearing and health of fish” (beachapedia) As previously mentioned, this affects the food chain because it reduces the birth rate.
The Trump Administration proposed the DPP program which would open 90% of US Federal waters to offshore oil and gas. This requires seismic surveys to be done. Seismic surveys involve a deafening underwater noise harming whales, dolphins, fish, and turtles (Trump Administration). Hearing is critically important to fish and other sea life. As humans, we respond to footsteps, horns from other cars, whistles. Although it is possible to live without hearing, it is difficult, as is for sea life. This is especially a concern for whales, communication is critical for whales and scientists believe that seismic surveys may end communication between whales. This affects their communication but it also effects the seismic survey. When a seismic survey is being done, surveyors are required to stop the blasts if they hear any noises or see any on the radar, but if the whales are not making any noises, they will not know when to stop (Joyce).
Although seismic surveys are necessary to decide the best place for an oil rig, however, doing them causes disturbances to sea life and their ecosystems resulting in a lower birth rate. The environment is not the only thing being affected here, so are the workers and families who live around these disastrous oil spills. The people who live close to oil rigs/spills are constantly breathing air that is filled with oil pollution, when they walk on the beach, they could be walking in crude oil with causes skin rashes. They may eat contaminates food, or bathe in contaminated water.The Deep Water Horizon oil spill is the largest spill in US history.
A study was done in southern Louisiana on women and children to record their physical health before and after the oil spill. In conclusion of the study, many of the women who has high-physical exposure had symptoms such as, burning in nose throat or lungs, sore throat, dizziness or wheezing. Women who had been exposed to high economic exposure were experiencing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, wheezing and stuffy, itchy or runny nose (Research). Additionally, families have reported there being a disruption of the family and work environment. Families are suffering from the injuries or losses of their loved ones, as well as losing pay. This results in mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depression.
As previously mentioned, the Deep Water Horizon oil spill is the largest in the US’ history. 11 of the platform workers died, and 17 others were injured. These numbers are from one single oil spill, not to mention there have been a total of 44 oil spills since 1969. There are approximately 10 million jobs provided in the US from offshore drilling, which is making great impacts on families and the economy. However, there are approximately 1,000 oil rigs in the US alone, with those numbers rising quickly, the number of oil spills are only going to increase. The number of lives lost will increase, the number of families suffering from anxiety and depression will increase. How many more oil spills will we allow to happen before we say enough is enough?
Overall, there are too many negative side effects that our country should not be supporting. There are too many human beings and animals being affected because oil spills and explosions. There are many alternatives to offshore oil drilling, one being Hybrid-electric vehicles. If half of the cars in the US were HEV’s the US could reduce the amount of petroleum consumption by 1.2 billion barrels per year, which also saves the US billions of dollars (Leonard). This is only one of many ways to prevent America from losing the lives and animals we have lost in the past years. How many more sea creatures do we need to lose before the US puts an end to offshore oil drilling? There is no amount of good that can outweigh the lives and sea creatures we have lost.
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