That’s the number of gallons of oil that are pouring each day from a damaged well near Louisiana, after the drilling platform above it exploded and sank. Eleven workers remain missing in that tragedy. And officials are now saying that a sheen of oily water has spread over about 1,800 square miles of the Gulf Coat, according to news accounts.
Imagine that oily blanket on our local sands here in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Picture the blackness along the golden beaches in Virginia Beach and Ocean City, Maryland, where tourism-based economies would be sunk by a major oil spill. Think about a similar oily sheen spreading along the pristine beaches of the Assateague Island National Seashore, coating birds and even wild ponies that venture into the surf.
When the Obama Administration announced last month that it wants to press ahead with the idea of opening up parts of the East Coast to oil and gas exploration, drilling advocates declared, in essence: Don’t worry! Major spills no longer happen. The technology has improved. Our record is clean. Nothing to be concerned about.
Then, just before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the BP drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire and collapsed.
It was a reminder that offshore drilling is, in fact, something to be concerned about. Federal bans on drilling along the East Coast existed for years until the Bush Administration and Congress lifted the prohibitions in 2008. Now the Obama administration appears to be plowing ahead with the same rash approach of “drill baby drill.”
Meanwhile, the 42,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico is creating an oily plume in the shape of a “giant ice cream cone,” according to The New York Times.
This is not the kind of ice cream cone that tourists in Virginia Beach or Ocean City deserve.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photo of spill in Gulf of Mexico from U.S. Coast Guard)