Teaming Up Against Arctic Drilling
John, the operator of DC's other excellent birding blog A DC Birding Blog
, has just now put up a post about BP's shutdown of operations in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
This is a very important issue to me, and I want to expand on John's already excellent post. Here's what he had to say:British Petroleum has shut down oil production at its fields at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, because of leaks in its pipeline.
'BP, in a press release, said its engineers discovered a small leak and wall-thinning in a 22-mile long transit pipeline while conducting maintenance on August 4. It said analysis of data revealed 16 anomalies in 12 locations in the pipeline. BP is already facing a criminal investigation over a large spill in March at the same oil field.
BP said the spill, estimated at 4 to 5 barrels, had been contained and that a clean-up effort was underway. The pipeline was shut down at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning.'
This oil field accounts for eight percent of the petroleum production in the United States.
It has to be embarrassing for BP, which has been running ad campaigns to make their products look environmentally-friendly for several years now.
This event and the spill in March should be a reminder of what can go wrong at an oil field. One of the claims proffered in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is that the work would only affect a small portion of the refuge. What we see in these cases is that spills and accidents can end up having a wider impact than the one specified in the proposals. Petroleum production creates a heavy footprint. It is fortunate that this spill was small; it could have been worse.
Just a couple things.
- The spill in March that John referred to was the spill of over 270,000 gallons of oil onto the frozen ground a couple hundred miles above the Arctic Circle. 270,000 gallons! It's in response to this event that the Department of Transportation demanded BP test their pipelines, the first time the company did so since 1992. Here's what that looks like:
- Aside from the recent '4 to 5 barrel' spill and the massive March spill, there have been thousands of other spills in Alaska. In fact, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reports 4,532 spills in Alaska from 1996 to 2004 totaling more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substances poured onto the ground.
- When the drilling companies say that their activities will only take up a small portion of an area, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, they are being misleading. They'll use terms like "postage stamp" to make it seem like the wells will occupy just a small, square corner of the total land. In reality, the drill pads take up a small area but the pipelines and roads stretch all over like a spider web. Think of it this way, although each strand of a spider web is very thin, the whole web takes up a much larger area. That's what happens to an area when oil companies move in. It looks like this:
Go here for a slightly better look.
Drilling is not the answer anymore. America has long led the way in the innovation of new technologies, and it's time for us to put our heads together and open a can of elbow grease and find a solution that doesn't involve non-renewable resources and environmental destruction. Come on, USA, we can do better than this.