Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vacation Detour, Veer East!

It is officially a larger oil spill than the 1979 disaster involving the Mexican rig, Ixtoc I. That accident poured about 3.3 million barrels of oil into the Bay of Campeche. When the Deepwater Horizon exploration rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th, about 62 000 barrels a day were gushing from the well into the water. Federal science and engineering teams estimate the flow slowed to around 53 000 barrels a day right before BP finally capped the leak July 15th. The teams believe their estimates are accurate to within 10 per cent. At 5 million barrels, the Gulf spill is, by far, the world's largest accidental release of oil into marine waters.

Several years ago, we vacationed in Destin, Florida, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, we try to return to the warm waters of the Emerald Coast on a regular basis. Naturally, our number-one priority is to explore as much of our own stunning country as we can and, on that front, we are making excellent, enthusiastic and rewarding progress. In September 2000, readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine voted Canada the world's best country to visit. No fools, those Condé Nasters! We've taken our son to every province but one. We've already visited the Maritimes and the Prairies; highlights, inevitably, have prompted plans to return.

This summer's trip to the Gulf of Mexico would have been our third. After hearing about tar balls in the waters and on the beaches in and around Destin, we cancelled our booking there and turned our attention eastward, to the state's Atlantic coast. It won't be the same and we can't help imagining our favorite spots plagued by effects of the spill.

In March 2005, there was a huge fire and explosion at the refinery in Texas City. The government found more than 300 safety violations and BP paid a record $21 million in fines. In 2006, 267 000 gallons of oil leaked from BP's pipelines in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. BP eventually paid more than $20 million in fines and restitution. BP's Thunder Horse production platform nearly sank in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Dennis. A check valve had been installed backward, causing water to flood into, rather than out of, the rig when it heated up during the hurricane. Luckily, the pipes were not active yet, otherwise, it would have resulted in a major oil spill.

In a July 13th article, the New York Times reported BP routinely plunges into risky endeavors and displays carelessness and disregard for safety in the name of bigger profits.

Profits aren't all that matters and as Ottawa conducts detailed geo-mapping of the Arctic in search of minerals, gas and oil deposits, it's important to keep environment at the peak of the priority pyramid. A 2008 poll showed Canadians were split over whether extracting resources from the Arctic was a good idea.

I can't help feeling the Gulf spill won't even register a blip on the questionable corporate conscience of British Petroleum. The wound it has caused to the planet, with damaged waters and wildlife and to our society, with lost jobs and a staggered economy, are unpardonable. Scientists agree the spill created a large plume of hydrocarbons about a kilometre below the Gulf's surface. Its fate and the fate of its host waters?

Mother Nature must be ticked! Human beings who care, must be ticked. For reference purposes, human beings who care, pick-up their garbage and, decently, believe their small actions help make a difference. You pigs who spit on the ground and use the planet as your ashtray don't qualify as decent.

Let's hope Canada keeps its environmental conscience clear and our vacation detours to a minimum. Susan, did you say get off at Exit 6, or get past Exit 6? What do you mean you're not gonna repeat yourself?

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