Sunday, November 11, 2007

Breaking & Bumping Oil Tankers Spoil Nature

(Photos courtesy Chronicle/Kurt Rogers & Michael Macor)
Oil tankers this past week are causing unmitigated damage to our environment. When oil tankers have accidents, they are so large that accidents are most often catastrophic. One tanker, the 65,131 ton Cosco Busan, hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge causing no damage to the bridge, but ripping a hole in its side that unleashed an oil spill in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. In an amazing twist, the the notorious island of Alcatraz (now a tourist spot with beautiful flora and fauna) is now surrounded by oil. During a hellish storm, Russian oil tanker, Volgoneft-139, broke into two pieces in the Kerch Strait off the Black Sea spewing at least 1300 tons of oil. Three other smaller freighters with fuel or sulfur went to the bottom of the drink in the same storm. Even the Russians are owning up to the fact that it is an environmental disaster, but can't agree on how much oil spilled.

The 1978-built tanker, designed primarily for inland and coastal service, was carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil in total when it was hit by the storm, which has knocked out electricity supplies to much of Crimea.

"This problem may take a few years to solve. Fuel oil is a heavy substance and it is now sinking to the seabed," Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of Russia's environment agency Rosprirodnadzor told state-run Vesti-24 television channel.

"This is a very serious environmental disaster."

Environment agency Rosprirodnadzor said some 2,000 tonnes of fuel oil had spilt, but Emergencies Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov told Reuters not more than 1,200 tonnes had leaked.

Bird habitats - endangered and common alike, migration routes and sanctuaries are threatened in both cases upsetting local fragile ecosystems and their dependent economies. Fishing, restaurants and distributors will feel the effects immediately as the health risks come under evaluation. California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is flying around surveying the damage and seeking federal assistance right after the fires two weeks ago, ironically from he same president who's energy policies are antagonistic and threaten the economy and the ecology. History is repeating itself after a 1996 40,000 ton oil spill in a drydock of San Francisco Bay.

This past week, ExxonMobil was whining about its need to still pay reduced rate reparations for theValdez's spill in Alaska more than a decade after the fact. The state of Alaska is weighing in on the side of the plaintiffs, much to the chagrin of Exxon's, oops, Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens. There is already consensus from the Russians that this spill will take years to clean up. With an imperiled planet, these accidents demonstrate a need for stronger penalties and accelerated cleanup is needed globally. The oil companies are actively hostile for further regulations threatening increase in prices will endanger fragile economies the world over.

Books still cover the topic of the negligence and oil spill of the Exxon Valdez and the corporate malfeasance in the wake of that tragedy. Dr. Rikki Ott does a wonderful fact finding book in Sound Truth Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Spill which screams the implications for the disasters we face this week in the monstrous cleanup.

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