April 30, 2010 – Vol.15 No.6
OFFSHORE WIND NOT OFFSHORE OIL.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News.
The Atlantic hurricane season begins in a month. Given current accounts of the disastrous accident in the Gulf of Mexico, it may take a month or more just to stop the river of oil flowing from the wrecked riser pipe once connected to the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon, now on the bottom a mile below the waves.
And waves they may come. Hurricanes don’t watch the calendar and early season storms are rare, but what if? It could be a busy season for tropical cyclones. The Colorado State University Hurricane Forecast Team, which has been predicting hurricanes for 27 years, says 15 named storms could form in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and November 30, with eight expected to be hurricanes and four developing into major hurricanes.
Even a mild cyclone could push oil anywhere in the Gulf. Barriers won’t be able to contain drifting oil in heavy seas.
Already a thin sheen of oil is reaching the Gulf coast as this story is written. The disaster, if it continues for three months, could eclipse the 11 million gallon Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 in Alaska, which coated at least 1300 square miles of ocean.
The oil calamity will likely mean no drilling in areas newly opened off the East Coast and eastern Gulf of Mexico. State governments where drilling is proposed will see to that, no matter what the Feds and the oil companies say. Already Governor Charlie Crist of Florida has said no drilling anywhere near his state’s pristine beaches. Obama is putting new drilling on hold for the time being.
So much for Sarah Palin's "Drill Baby Drill."
Experts are beginning to chime in. "This will make people rethink whether drilling off the East Coast is a good thing to do, despite the industry's excellent past safety record,” says Lincoln Pratson, a professor of energy and environment at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
“There were a lot of questions about opening the region’s waters even before this spill in the Gulf, because preliminary estimates were that the amount of oil and gas available off the East Coast didn't appear to be very large, unlike in the Gulf of Mexico. This reopens the issue: Is the risk worth the reward?"
Pratson says offshore oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, in general, has a very good safety record. But, he notes, events like this current oil spill in the Gulf can have a big impact not only on the immediate environment but on future oil and gas exploration -- especially in areas where it has not been done in the past.
It seems ironic – almost on cue – that the Cape Wind offshore wind farm was approved by US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar as the Deepwater Horizon disaster unfolded. It’s possible that the 420 MW project on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Massachusetts, will begin construction later this year. There are still legal battles to fight, but even opposition groups – which have been fighting the project for a decade – will have to admit: safe, clean wind energy would be better than more oil offshore anywhere in the country.
The approval of Cape Wind will lead the way for the go-ahead for other offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.
Roughly 90 percent of oil is used as transportation fuel. With improvements in energy efficiency in conventional vehicles, a greater use of biofuels, and of course fueling our vehicles with electricity, new oil isn’t necessary: A greater effort to commercialize alternatives is.
The nation’s offshore wind energy resources are available to be tapped. An offshore wind turbine crashing into the sea by accident or storm would amount to little more than a salvageable wreck without the loss of life and the environmental mess. The wreck of the Deepwater Horizon may effect wildlife and economies for years. The story is only beginning to be told.
US Environmental Protection Agency : Federal Response to BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
U.S. Coast Guard and other responding agencies : Gulf of Mexico - Transocean Drilling Incident
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