Hats Off to Exxon – They’ve Done it Again!

 

cleaning each other
Photo by Mike Baird. offshore-technology.com

30 years ago, the worst oil spill in U.S. history took place in the pristine Prince William Sound in Alaska. For those too young to remember, this tragedy that killed literally hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals, and an entire pod of orca whales was entirely avoidable.

For a quick review: recall that the drunken captain, Joseph Hazelwood, gave control of the vessel, Exxon Valdez, to a relatively inexperienced, unlicensed third mate who ran the tanker aground on Bligh Reef, a well-known, clearly marked reef.

oiled bird
Photo by Audubon.org

While the Coast Guard, Fisheries and others twiddled their thumbs trying to figure out what to do about the calamity, the oil spread and covered 1300 miles of unspoiled, immaculate coastline. When the clean-up finally began, the damage was already done. But it wasn’t entirely done…much of the clean-up actually made matters worse, such as spraying oil dispersal chemicals in the water (which causes oil to sink as tiny droplets – it does not dissolve the oil into nothingness).

evostc.state.ak.us
Photo by Evostc.state.ak.us

The next tragedy was washing the shoreline with high-pressure, hot water hoses, which simply drove the oil into the ground, causing more ecological damage by killing any remaining plants and animals in the process.

It gets worse, however. The offending captain was acquitted of felony charges and fined a mere $50,000 (for doing billions of dollars worth of damage). He was also assigned 1000 hours of community service – hopefully it was in retrieving dead sea life, but that would be too logical a punishment.

So much for that catastrophe.

The new issue: Exxon predicted decades ago that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere would rise to precipitous levels, but they chose to do nothing when action could have been taken. Exxon predicted that by 2020 CO2 would reach the levels we now have. The last time CO2 levels were this high was about 2.5 million years ago during the Pliocene age. At that time, scientists say the oceans were 82 feet higher than now, and trees grew near the South Pole.

The fact that Exxon made this dire prediction of a CO2 level between 400 and 420 ppi, knew how bad it could prove to be and kept the matter classified, did nothing to avert this, and instead poured millions of dollars into a disinformation campaign is treasonous. But, the executives have big salaries and money in the bank. Wonder where they think they’re going to live to escape the consequences of their decisions?

So, you may be wondering, what’s the problem?

For starters, there’s reason to think that high CO2 levels can have catastrophic effects on people’s health. For example, heat waves kill thousands of people. More people die from heat exposure than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods (Business Insider, “Earth has crossed a scary threshold for the first time in more than 800,000 years, and it could lead to tens of thousands of deaths.”) CO2 drives temperatures higher, and as temperatures climb, non-ozone warmer weather will increase rates of lung cancer, asthma, and emphysema.  (Ibid)

ticks
Photo by labs.russell.wisc.edu

My personal favorite: ticks and mosquitoes! There’s never yet been a mosquito that has passed me by! These annoying creatures thrive in warmer climates. Some of them, besides being blood-suckers, carry diseases like Lyme Disease, Zika, and Dengue Fever.

Hurricanes and fires will be an increasing problem. Due to warming seas and rising oceans, hurricanes will become more fearsome. And unprecedented rainfall will occur. This was seen recently in Texas, and today’s weather forecast is for two rain rivers to drench California again. Wildfires, despite the rain, will increase due to higher temperatures. Wildfire season is now much longer than it used to be, particularly in the West.

So, 415 ppm CO2 levels may appear to be a rather boring headline. But it’s not. It’s an imminent warning – one that we likely have received too late.

(Read more about our ocean and its inhabitants in Saving Our Oceans, by R.L. Coffield) Pending on Amazon.

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Are Oil Producers Feeling Some Heat?

According to “Investors Pressure Oil Giants on Ocean Plastics Pollution,” by David Hasemyer (Inside Climate News)  oil magnets are beginning to feel some heat for the plastic waste they continue to create – and that “heat” also refers to climate change heat the oil industry is primarily responsible for.

Savvy “environmentally friendly” oil investors are beginning to focus on the plastic disaster created by oil producers. The disaster not only includes the mountains of plastic covering landfills, but also the plastic pollution that now kills over 1,000,000 sea birds a year, untold turtles, and countless other sea inhabitants including whales. But the damage goes further: it’s now recognized that microscopic plastic pieces are blown through the air, infecting the food we eat and the air we breathe. This should come as no surprise, though.

“Conrad Mackerron, senior vice president of As You Sow…said he was prepared for a stiff fight when his organization filed plastics-related shareholder resolutions this year with Exxon, Chevron, Phillips 66 and chemical giant DowDuPont,” according to Hasemyer’s article.

Ah! Typical move, though, when the oil producers “agreed to address the plastics issue in exchange for the investors withdrawing their formal resolutions.” Is this just another delay tactic? It’s a tactic other plastic producers are accused of using: Coca Cola, PepsiCo, etc.  Everybody is always “working on it.” Nothing seems to get done, however, but a lot of lip service. We are talking about both “gas” and “oil” producers.

One of the major issues is the ubiquitous spread of “nurdles.” Captain Charles Moore, in Plastic Ocean studied not just the large, visible plastic in the Pacific gyre, but also documented the presence of billions upon billions of nurdles in the water – the very tiny plastic items that  are used to make plastic products. These nurdles are consumed by fish, fowl, and mammals…and that indirectly includes people.

It’s a fact that plastic production is responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Fracking, the act of destroying the earth and copious amounts of fresh water to extract gas from the earth, releases methane into the atmosphere. (So it’s not just cow farts that create methane gas, folks.)

Then any leaks along the trip to the destination account for more methane leakage. Finally, the manufacture of plastic feedstock creates even more methane leakage.

“The whole refining process is very greenhouse gas intensive…from the gas fields to the production end there is a huge carbon footprint to plastics,” explained Lisa Holzman, energy program manager for As You Sow. The methane release is just one of the problems with fracking – toxic fresh water pollution is as bad as the methane release. Gas, like oil, is a fossil fuel.

Water Pollution from Fracking
Photo compliments of Fractracker.org

Boycotting and banning plastic bags, bottles and straws are excellent, effective first-steps that consumers can easily take to send the message that they are fed up with the wanton trashing of the world by big oil and big chemical producing companies.