Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gulf Oil spill WORSE than Exxon-Valdez? The real cost of OIL?

This Satellite image, taken on April 26, 2010 by the European Space Agency, shows the oil spill as it is spreading out across the gulf and heading toward the New Orleans shore. Conservative calculations show that in the first week of this spill at least 6 million gallons have entered the Gulf. That's a spill rate of at least 850,000 gallons (20,000 barrels) per day, 20 times larger than the official Coast Guard estimate of 42,000 gallons per day. The Exxon Valdez tanker spill totaled 11 million gallons. "We could exceed that in just a few days, if we haven't already", says John Amos, the president and founder of the nonprofit firm SkyWatch, which specializes in gathering and analyzing satellite and aerial data to promote environmental conservation. Amos
previously worked as a consulting geologist, "using satellite imagery as a global geologic tool," in his words, to locate natural resources for
major oil and mining corporations. Now he assists advocacy organizations, government agencies, and academic researchers with data collection and analysis.

Based on a map released from a flyover on Wednesday and compared to "the last good satellite image that we got, from the afternoon of April 27," Amos believes that the slick covers about 4,400 square miles. Official estimates to date have put the slick at about 2,200 square miles.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, about 130 miles southeast of New Orleans, exploded and caught fire on April 20 and sank a week ago today. There were 126 people on board; 11 are missing and likely dead. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency today because of the spreading oil slick -- which is expected to reach the state's coast late tonight -- and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called it a spill of "national significance."

The spill was bigger than imagined - five times more than first estimated - and closer. Fingers of oily sheen were reaching the Mississippi River delta, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines.

"It is of grave concern," David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."

The oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life. Oil was thickening in waters south and east of the Mississippi delta about five miles offshore.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday so officials could begin preparing for the oil's impact. He said at least 10 wildlife management areas and refuges in his state and neighboring Mississippi are in the oil plume's path.

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