map courtesy of infogram
Last year marked a record breaking year for the amount of oil extracted globally, between 98,000 and 100,000 barrels of oil are taken from the Earth per day. All the manufactured wars on terrorism provide the rich with as much cheap oil as they can control across the globe. As oil makes oil barons and their political stakeholders millions in profit per year, there is very little consideration given to environmental consequences or health risks when there are grand scale oil spills.
Forty miles off the Louisiana coastline, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank on the 22nd of April 2010 and caused one of the largest scale oil spills in the US, stretching over 1,100 square miles, while BP oil made several unsuccessful attempts to cap and plug the blown hole. Over 2.5 million gallons a day were pouring out into the Gulf ocean causing ecocide until the well was capped on July 15, 2010. No one ever investigated why it had to take almost three months to plug and the devastation of sea life still hasn’t quite recovered 6 years on let alone the fishing economy, thousands of people lost work and property value. When there are large scale oil spills like this where toxic dispersants are also used afterwards, the toxicity in the water can cause outbreaks of flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus which causes dangerous infections, it does not reflect well on the oil companies and government departments responsible for ensuring public safety and addressing serious public health concerns and this has been a regular problem with outbreaks in the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill. Records kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of cases of Vibriosis nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012 – rising from 588 to 1,111.
Then on January the 19th, 1991, the worlds largest oil spill occurred, over 380-520 million gallons of oil were released into the Arabian Gulf/Kuwait, Persian Gulf by Iraqi military who opened the valves of the oil pipes to try and prevent the US marines from landing to start war and claim control of the pipeline, this resulted in the largest oil spill in the last few decades and complete ecocide of the Persian Gulf ocean with over 4 inches of oil slick resting just on the surface spread out over a distance of 4000 square miles.
Then there was the Exxon Valdez supertanker which collided with a reef just off the Alaskan coast on march the 4th, in 1989 causing over 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound and killing thousands of seabirds, marine mammals and ocean life.
These are just a few, in total there have been ten major oil spills globally since 1989, not including hundreds of smaller ones. Before 1989 the last major spills there were ten more large scale spills stretching back to 1979, which would mean writing a very long list according to the first map, there have been 4,500,000 over just 50 years, that doesn’t include statistics of smaller scale spills especially in developing countries in South America where much of these spills happen in the Amazon rain forest which stretches over Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, these countries are areas where such spills are not even noticed by the media, yet this is where thousands of oil spills have occurred over the last few decades decimating one of the most bio- diverse areas of forest in the world. Texaco-Chevron started drilling in 1963. Chevron saved money by intentionally by-passing environmental risk protocols which would have been normal legal procedure in the USA. In the process they destroyed the area of the Ecuadorian rain forest affecting five indigenous tribes and polluting their ancestral land and rivers with billions of gallons of oil and waste water over a number of years, waste that went into the Amazon Rivers and land surface, instead of pumping it back underground. These methods are deemed sub-standard and toxic to human and environmental health around the world.
As a result during 1993, indigenous Ecuadorians took Texaco-Chevron to court over environmental and health damages after they had become victims of an on-going long-endured oil disaster, the likes of which had never been seen before: Compensation and environmental restoration still has not been received despite 18 years of legal battles with the people of Ecuador – some 30,000 indigenous people and mestizo (mixed ancestry) settlers.
The Ecuadorian plaintiffs accused Texaco-Chevron, of dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste water and spilling about 17 million gallons of crude oil into the rain forest during its operations in Ecuador from 1964 to 1990. These illegal actions contaminated the soil, groundwater, rivers and streams in the area and this is still causing cancer, horrible congenital defects and abortions among the indigenous population, it was called the rain forest Chernobyl. Another reason why oil spills are so commonplace in Ecuador is that they are carried out on purpose because there are insurance claims available and money for “cleaning up the spill”. Also official statistics of world oil spills do not truly account for the sheer scale of true spills unaccounted for in developing countries where some governments have hidden them if they were not too noticeable by outsiders.
Most people are unaware that Petroleum contains traces of Uranium according to the Geological Survey Professional Paper 356 B, Uranium and Other Trace Elements in Petroleum and Rock Asphalts by Kenneth G. Bell published in 1960, investigations were done in testing the crude oil uranium content at Table Mountain in Utah, USA and at Temple Mountain, Utah, scientists reported uranium contents of 32,000; 30,000; 50,000; and 67,000 ppb (parts per billion) for samples of crude oil extracted from sand stones in the region. This is one example, uranium content in this area was higher than in most crude oils, the concentration of which depends on the geology of where the drilling and extraction is. However, the point is, when there is an oil rig drilling daily or when you have a gas station even where you are filling up your car, oil still leaks into the ground and over time uranium deposits accumulate contaminating the soil and water table, this in turn builds up to radiation levels that can potentially cause environmental and health risks. So with this in mind and taking another look at the USA map below showing over 3000 oil spills, it’s a serious human health and environmental health problem and cancer in those areas but it is never ever talked about in the media or by politicians.
The alternative to cars running on oil are the current new market of water based hydrogen fuel cell cars, there are several to choose from, one made by Genepax in 2011 could run on seawater and green tea even before Fukushima happened. Another two Japanese cars have been launched by Honda and Toyota, and the Honda car can travel 400 miles before needing 3 minute charging at stations and can provide power from the fuel cell for a domestic house also, possibly based on Stanley Meyers original designs before he died. General Motors and Mercedes-Benz are expected to enter the market in 2017. Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen also are developing electric-drive cars fueled by hydrogen gas. South Korean automaker Hyundai has also produced a hydrogen fuel cell car. In 2014, members of the Pakistani parliament, scientists, and students alike watched in awe as Waqar Ahmad, a Pakistani engineer, successfully demonstrated a hydrogen fuel cell powered car in Islamabad. With just one liter of water, Ahmad claims that a 1000 cc car could cover a distance of 40 km, or a motorbike could travel 150 km.
Solar powered vehicle on display, (courtesy of Flickr, image for reuse by J.Ross 2008)
If you live in a country where there is lots of sun, you might consider instead a solar powered car, some of which can run for thousands of miles. Even more innovative is a solar powered road. Five years ago Scott Brusaw from California, USA, gave a talk with Ted Talks, presenting the ‘Solar Roadway Project’, which is a project where ‘green’ Engineers have been working to produce solar-powered roads and cars that could even provide power for homes and businesses and eventually villages and towns. The Australian world Solar Challenge is a competition that takes place yearly and recently was won by a Dutch Solar company named Eindhoven, which has built a solar-powered vehicle called ‘Stella’ and which is designed for families and traveled over 3000 miles across Australia without any problems.
The alternatives are already here, that is not the issue, the problem is the need for people to campaign to politicians (the most influential of which are stakeholders in oil and gas reserves), for the infrastructure to be built in order to support clean vehicle alternatives. This is even more reason for people to campaign and push for alternative infrastructures to be put in place for cleaner energy cars that have been made available to the public; the only reason they are not being used by everyone is because there is pressure by politicians and oil companies to repress recharging stations being built in every single town or city globally. There is a global systematic pressure from oil stakeholders in politics to prevent these alternatives but if local communities start campaigning and pressuring for stronger infrastructures this will help empower people to choose for themselves and make the transition from oil to cleaner alternatives easier.
by Carlita Shaw
Author, Deep Ecologist