Monday, April 26, 2010

Goodbye White Sand Beaches

Nice tourism economy you have there, Gulf Coast. Be a shame if anything happened to it:
NEW ORLEANS -- Oil leaking from a sunken drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico oozed slowly toward the coast Monday, endangering hundreds of miles of marshes, barrier islands and white sand beaches in four states from Louisiana to Florida.

The areas, home to dolphins, sea birds, prime fishing grounds and tourist playlands, could be fouled later this week if crews can't cut off an estimated 42,000 gallons a day escaping two leaks in a drilling pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface.


The spill, moving slowly north and spreading east and west, was about 30 miles from the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast Tuesday. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said it would likely be several days before any oil reaches the coast.

George Crozier, oceanographer and executive director at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, said he was studying wind and ocean currents driving the oil. He said Pensacola, Fla., is likely the edge of the threatened area.

Meanwhile, at least Gov. Jindal has seen fit to order the Coast Guard to protect the Pass A Loutre wildlife refuge. Haley Barbour of Mississippi is predictably dithering.

If you grew up in California then the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill has been seared into your consciousness. For those who don’t remember, a Union Oil platform exploded off the coast of Santa Barbara in January 1969, sending 200,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific over 11 days. It was a major environmental disaster by anyone’s estimation, tens of thousands of birds were killed, and oil washed up on the beaches literally for years afterward (trust me, I remember “beach tar.”) Many credit it with raising the nation’s environmental awareness and giving birth to the environmental movement.

Of course our memories are short, and “drill here, drill now” has become the new rallying cry of an energy-hungry nation.

Wonder what the shrimpers, oystermen and tourist businesses think about this?