Oil Spills and Oil Dependence

As you no doubt know, unless you have been living under a rock for the past several months, an oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. The explosion destroyed the rig, causing oil to spill from the wellhead into the Gulf. At this point oil has been spilling out for more than 2 months, defying all efforts at containment. The current plan is to drill two relief wells and then permanently close the existing well. The relief wells are expected to be completed in August.

Meanwhile, the largest offshore oil spill in US history continues. Websites, like this one from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, try to keep everyone up-to-date on how the oil is affecting their local area. The full extent of the environmental damage is not yet known, but it is already being felt and is growing. Images from NASA show oil moving into Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Plumes of oil have formed beneath the ocean’s surface. It’s all very bleak.

However, the Deep Horizon disaster is not the worst spill in history, nor is it the worst spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1979 the Mexican oil rig Ixtoc experienced a blowout that spilled oil into the Gulf for 9 months. Eventually, the spill was contained in the same way they’re attempting to contain the current spill – by drilling relief wells and permanently closing the damaged well. It shows us that as long as we’re drilling for oil in our oceans, there is a risk of a disaster such as this occurring.

This is all very depressing, so what is my point? My point is that if we truly want to avoid oil spills and their ensuing environmental damage, we need to reconsider our dependence on oil in the first place. We fuel our lives with petroleum, and it has to come from somewhere. And the more of it we use, the farther we’ll have to go and the deeper we’ll have to dig to find it.

We can start reducing our oil dependence by making our own small changes. Driving less, reducing our energy consumption, eating local, buying second-hand and using less disposable plastic all cut down on our petroleum consumption. When we opt for green, low-carbon choices, we are voting with our dollars. We are telling companies what matters to us and they will listen, because they want our business.

But we can’t stop there. We need to make our voices heard with our governments, especially now while the consequences of our oil use are so apparent. Talking to our elected officials and letting them know what matters to us, and what we’re willing to do to achieve it, is so important. Our representatives want to be re-elected, so our opinions are important to them. The more of us who write letters and send emails and place phone calls, the louder that voice will be.

As depressing as this oil spill is, I do not think it has to be the end of the story. I choose to believe that we can use this as a wake-up call. Real change can happen, and it starts with us. The sooner that we rise to the challenge, the sooner we can put disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill behind us.

What do you think is the best way to reduce our dependence on oil? And have you made any changes in your lifestyle because of the spill in the Gulf? Please tell me!

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You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures on her blog at Strocel.com.

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