The BP oil spill became even more of a local story today.
Dr. Samantha Joye, Professor of Marine Science at the University of Georgia, told Columbus Rotarians that fallout from the catastrophic oil spill is causing potentially toxic materials to fall on South Georgia. She has been working in the Gulf of Mexico doing research and personally witnessed the huge fires that have sent massive amounts of smoke into the air and air currents bring that smoke over South Georgia. The fires are set to burn off oil and dispersants.
What is amazing is that these arguably toxic dispersants, she says, are as harmful as oil and are not getting rid of oil that is under the surface of the ocean, and most of it is under the surface. She says BP is using the dispersant to get the oil off the surface of the gulf because being visible keeps the disaster on the publics mind. That, of course is her opinion. An AP story today said that BP wanted to use dispersants to prevent oil from reaching Gulf coast beaches. It said EPA put a freeze on using the dispersant until its effects could be tested, and that after the tests results were satisfactory allowed continued use of the dispersant. However, it has stopped being used since the well has been contained. Mairne sceintists and biologists are not convinced the chemicals are safe.
The reason the spill happened was, she said, a controversial decision to stop using a mud compound to control pressure while drilling, and use seawater instead, in order to save about $16 million, caused the eruption of natural gas that set the drilling platform on fire, causing it to sink, which caused the rupture of the well which released the oil. She said there were those on the drilling platform that argued against the switch to seawater, but they were overruled. “What would have cost them $20 million had they used the mud will now cost them $20 billion and more.” She explained that using mud would have cost $20 million and using seawater would cost $4 million.
Commenting on the freeze on drilling other deep-sea wells in the Gulf, she said the freeze is in effect until safety contingency plans are formulated. She said those plans would greatly increase the cost of drilling, perhaps so much that drilling would not be cost-effective, and that the energy companies should use the money to develope alternative energy sources, which would be a way of providing a lot of jobs.