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OIL SPILLS – Myth & Reality


This paper provides a factual and objective view of the reality of the effects of some of the world’s greatest oil spills. It particularly deals with the geography of the region in which the spill occurred, the climatic effects on the spill, the probable volume oil spilled, the cleanup actions that followed and the long-term environmental effects.

As an introduction, Part 1 of the paper deals with some of the commonly held beliefs that the world is about to run out of fossil fuels, that oil spills and leaks are universally ‘environmental catastrophes’ and challenges the long term view that the effects are persistent and adverse to the environment. The seemingly endless alarmism that follows each spill is highlighted and the reader is asked to read the remainder of the paper with an open mind, comparing the predictions of doom with the evidence revealed by the reality of hindsight.

It is concluded that the effects of the relatively few spills that have occurred have been exceptionally exaggerated for political purposes by both politicians and environmental activists. Both these alarmist cliques loudly report claims in every case that go far beyond the actual effect of the spill itself. Some of the unfortunate claims by scientists are also exposed as political activism unrelated to scientific method.

Finally the paper provides a ‘prophesy’ (based on the history of previous spills) as to the long-term results and effects of the recent BP Macondo Well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that commenced on 20th April 2010 and was capped on 29th July 2010, 100 days later.

The author writes under a pseudonym to protect his privacy. However any comments or corrections will be passed onto him. He has experience and contacts in this field and is skilled at extracting and documenting facts.

The report is presented in six parts, with subsequent parts appearing over time:

Part 1: A Summary of Oil Chemistry and the Environmental Effects of Oil.
Available as PDF, 73KB: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-1.pdf

Part 2: The World’s Largest Oil Spill – The Gulf War, Kuwait, 1991. The spill, the prophets of doom and the reality that unfolded.
Available as PDF, 596KB: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-2.pdf

Part 3: The Exxon Valdez Spill, Alaska. A small spill with huge publicity and extensive cleanup activity, much of which probably made things worse.
Available as PDF, 561KB: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-3.pdf

Part 4: The Ixtoc I Well Blowout, Gulf of Mexico, 1979. Despite forecasts of disaster for the environment, within five years the effects of this huge spill were undetectable. In fact the fisheries recovered quickly because they were relieved of fishing pressure, and locals swapped low paying fishing jobs for high paying cleanup or oil industry jobs. As in all spills, the biggest loser was the well owner.
Available as PDF, 88KB: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-4.pdf

Part 5: The BP Macondo Well Blowout, Gulf of Mexico, 2010. This may be the second largest man made oil spill in history, and at times the slick covered 6,500 sq km. However about 74% of the oil lost evaporated, dissolved, bio-degraded, or was burned, skimmed or captured. Just 5 days after the leak was plugged, the US government agreed that the oil was no longer a problem. Once more the damage was forecast to be catastrophic, once more it was not. The Gulf of Mexico copes with natural leaks of this size every year. The real costs were political and losses by BP shareholders.

Available as PDF, 133KB: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-5.pdf

Part 6: Conclusions & Comments. In 2009, President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rohm Emanuel said: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste… it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.” The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a marvellous crisis used by the Obama administration and extreme environmentalists to weaken Big Oil, demonise carbon fuels, and drive the so-called “clean fuel” agenda. Foreign oil producers and the green energy promoters are the beneficiaries. Innocent local businesses and BP were the victims, both of the oil spill but more so of the government actions designed to benefit from the crisis.

Available as PDF, 1200KB: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-6.pdf

Note: This 6 part article can be printed from the 6 PDFs and then bound into one indexed report.

UPDATE 9 April 2013:

Those who wish to check the accuracy of the forecasts in these articles should check this reference:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22075182

Oil is a natural product and the oceans have been coping with it for millennia.

Author’s Profile

The author retired from the Australian Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1986. He served in various postings in Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He is a frequent contributor of book reviews, short stories and the occasional article to several journals. He works internationally as a self-employed project manager and project management trainer and consultant.

He has worked part-time for 9 years in the oil and gas industries in the Middle East (Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi) and in North and Central America, and has made it his business to question the experts. Everything he quotes is on the web (except where it is stated as an opinion.)

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