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As I type these words, thousands of gallons of crude oil are being jettisoned from what was British Petroleum’s Deep Water Horizon oilrig (the rig is actually outsourced). On Tuesday night, April 20th, two days before Earth Day, there was a massive explosion that resulted in 11 workers presumed dead, 17 injured. The remaining 98 workers were fortunately evacuated. The cause of the explosion is unknown (BP is not saying, my guess is some of the surviving oilrig workers have a good idea).

Here are some headlines over the last 8 days:

  • BP oil leak costing millions of dollars a day (Costing BP 6 million per day)

  • BP Says 1000 Barrels of Oil Leaking Daily From Gulf Rig (now estimated to be 42,000 gallons per day, as of 4-29 it is now 200,000 gal/day)

  • BP pledges to clean up Gulf of Mexico spill (I believe this is what Exxon said after the Valdez disaster)

  • Obama Stands Behind Offshore-Drilling Plan (Wall Street Journal)

  • Officials make progress in oil cleanup after blast

Beyond the 700,000 gallons that were lost in the initial explosion, the site is spewing 42,000 200,000 gallons per day. This disaster could approach the impact of a Valdez (11,000,000 gallons). The coastal area near the spill contains some 40 percent of the nation’s wetlands and is the spawning ground for countless fish and birds. 

BP is attempting to use remote control submarines to engage the shutoff valve that failed to deploy during the explosion.  The issue here is the valve is on the sea floor under 5,000 feet of water.  BP has also claimed to have started the process of drilling a relief valve that could help in the effort to cap the Deep Water Horizon leak. The relief valve will take 3 months to put in place. 

In the meantime, the US Coast Guard is going to set the slick on fire, Lets hope the air pollution this generates is not worst than the slick. The impact on fishing, tourism will be felt immediately. The long-term effect on the environment will be felt for many, many years. We have learned much in the last 40 years (since the first Earth Day) about the importance of our earth, yet actions have been just baby steps. This disaster and how our government, industry and citizens respond will be a chance to take a big step towards embracing our commitment to the planet. The next few years of action or inaction will speak to what kind of world our children’s children will live in.