Oil rig leak and the week in fossil-fuel industry disasters
Photo: NASA’s Earth ObservatoryThe oil and coal industries have been making themselves look so bad lately, it’s almost as if they want to help out their clean-energy competitors. It’s time for another damage report:
- About 42,000 gallons of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion sunk the oil rig Deepwater Horizon and left 11 workers missing (the rescue search for them has been called off) and three others critically injured. Responders are trying three methods to stop the flow — one that would take hours, one that would take months, and one that would not plug the leak but would capture the oil. Officials are watching the 600-square-mile surface sheen to see if it will strike the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Florida (map).
- In the wake of the coal-mine explosion that killed 29 workers, West Virginia’s Massey Energy shows it cares about its workers by … hiring a top-dollar PR firm to protect its image. It’s using the Austin, Texas, firm Public Strategies, which is run by senior communications specialists from the Bush White House and campaigns. The West Virginia Gazette‘s Ken Ward Jr. details Massey’s PR game plan, which includes an argument that the Upper Big Branch mine had “about an average number of violations in 2009-2010,” though it also concedes it had “a very large number” of more serious enforcement violations.
- At another West Virginia coal mine, a 28-year-old worker died after being pinned against a mine wall last Thursday.
The full tally for recent fossil-fuel accidents also includes:
- The crash of a coal freighter into the fragile Great Barrier Reef as it tried to take a shortcut from Australian mines to Chinese furnaces.
- The Tesoro oil refinery explosion that killed five workers in Washington state.
- The spillage of 18,000 gallons of crude oil from a Chevron pipline into a canal in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
Of course, these are only the most dramatic costs of fossil-fuel burning. The health effects wrought by climate change and mercury and soot pollution have a much larger cumulative effect, reaching people who don’t have family members working in energy industries.
There’s an odd parallel here to the national struggle over immigration policy. Arizona’s depraved new immigration law has the effect of showing the country just how broken our immigration system has become. The string of fossil-fuel industry disasters should be making clear just how broken our energy system has become.