Our spill history should teach lesson

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Less than a week after we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, scientists are struggling to find a solution to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that could threaten beaches as far east as the panhandle of Florida.

The spill is being caused by a leaking pipeline at the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and sank last Thursday. Since then, the rig has been gushing an estimated 42,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill spans miles of the sea and experts say the true extent of its scope could be felt in as little as three days, as currents and winds shift and oil starts to head toward beaches along Louisiana, Mississippi and Flordia coastlines.

But containing the spill isn’t an easy solution. Experts are considering creating a giant dome over the leak to capture the oil and pump it out via additional lines – A move that could take several weaks to fabricate and construct. Another option would require the drilling of additional wells to divert oil from this well, a solution that could take two or more months.

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All the while, oil could gush out into the Gulf at the rate of 42,000 gallons a die.

Fish, birds and wildlife will be threatened. Beaches will suffer.

And we will be reminded as humans that the balance between economy and environment is a fragile one at best.

In the past 40 years, we have done much as a nation to protect, preserve and nurture our Earth. We have raised awareness, cleaned rivers and lakes and put in place much-needed regulations to protect the Environment from ourselves.

Yet, we don’t have all the answers. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, experts are still struggling to quickly find a solution to contain the oil spill and protect the Gulf of Mexico and its beaches, which provide both an environmental haven and an economic boost for three states.

The spill is likely to prompt many environmentalists to continue their call for a ban on offshore drilling, not likely to happen given on our economic needs and the president’s recent decision to open more of the nation’s eastern waters for offshore drilling.

Instead, we need to press our greatest scientific minds to better prepare contingency plans, and push for quicker and more effective responses if accidents do occur. History should have taught us this much.