Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oil and Water

As I watch the trail of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, I'm shocked by the extent of offshore drilling. This NOAA graphic maps 3,858 active platforms and each platform supports multiple wells. Everyone's focused right now on the disastrous spill from the explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon well, but as catastrophic as that is, the very act of offshore drilling is harming the ocean environment every day.

Lubricants and other waste drilling "muds" contain mercury, lead and cadmium that accumulate in marine life that makes its way to your dinner table. The water that comes up with the oil and gas contains tuolene, benzene, lead, arsenic and radioactive pollutants. This discharge ends up in local waters, marshes and inlets.

Even the surveys they conduct to estimate the size of an oil reserve cause environmental damage. These surveys are done by ships towing airguns that emit high db impulses to map the ocean floor. The sounds damage fish eggs and larvae, disrupt migration and mating patterns and impair the hearing of fish and other marine life, making them vulnerable to predators. Onshore areas used as staging grounds for offshore rigs require infrastructure like roads, pipelines and processing plants, often built on pristine natural areas.

On top of that day-to-day assault on the water, wetlands and wildlife, add the decades long disaster of an oil spill. Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez an estimated 20,000 gallons of oil is still wreaking havoc in Prince William Sound. We just don't know how to clean it up completely.

Other sources of energy carry similar risks of environmental damage. Coal ash waste contains arsenic and lead that ends up in water supplies and wetlands. And radioactive waste from nuclear plants is forever, and can poison hundreds of square miles.

When did it become acceptable to trash our planet?  How can any self-respecting public servant support reducing environmental regulations in exchange for campaign contributions? How is it possible that our government considers limiting liability when one of these companies causes an environmental disaster?

I'm as addicted to electricity as anyone, but it's clear we have to change. We need to legislate and enforce environmental protections and fuel economy standards. We need to invest in alternative clean energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. And we need to change our attitudes about what it means to be an earthling. In particular we need to relinquish the old biblical concept of dominion, and instead become stewards of our planet.

Finally, I suggest that those people in Massachusetts who are against the wind farm off Cape Cod take a little journey down to the sugar-white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico before they're destroyed for generations by our greed and inertia. Wind farms are beautiful. Dead wildlife is not.

Gulf Coast Beans and Rice
This is my vegetarian take on Cajun rice and beans

1 cup of red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 package Trader Joe's soy chorizo
3 cups vegetable broth
2-3 green onions, sliced

Saute the onions, garlic, celery and pepper in a little olive oil until the onions are transparent. Add the soy chorizo and cook a few more minutes. Add the drained beans, bay leaf, parsley and broth. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer gently until the beans are just tender. Correct seasoning.

Serve with rice.

1 comment:

  1. Now that's the red beans & rice I wanted at the wedding! I'll have to try making this soon :)