[Coral-List] Help Ban Oil Exploration
eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Wed May 4 11:33:17 EDT 2011
Thanks to all of you who replied to my rant about petrophobia in
Belize. With a few exceptions the replies make it clear that among
coral reefers there really are two kinds of people, those that
instinctively hate oil companies and those that simply despise them.
In spite of this I will respond to a few of their comments. Many of
you will remember I have often responded to claims of oil damage to
coral reefs in the past. So I feel I have to be consistent. First I
would like to say that yes, there would be changes in society should
Belize strike it rich and if there should be a spill the main danger
would be to the mangroves and birds but not the coral reefs assuming
dispersants are not used. Oil floats over the live coral because
unlike the Great Barrier reef, corals in Belize are not exposed at
low tide.. Simple experiments conducted many years ago show it is
virtually impossible to make crude oil stick to coral. Coral mucus
prevents the oil from adhering. Even total immersion in Louisiana
crude for more than a hour did not kill Staghorn or Star coral.
That's not to say they like it and possibly oil under Belize could be
chemically different and more harmful than Louisiana crude.
Steve is correct when he states that the greatest source of oil in
the worlds oceans (according to the National Academy of Sciences
report) is natural seeps followed by run off from land. Up until the
Deep Horizon blowout oil drilling was dead last. A publication in
press by a well-known researcher at LSU documents 16,000 seeps in the
Gulf of Mexico. Total estimated seepage in the Gulf ranges from 1 to
4 thousand barrels per day. Fortunately it is not mixed with
dispersants. Many such seep areas provide habitat for the deep water
coral Lophylia! In fact drilling is banned from such areas because it
might upset the delicate balance between seepage and coral growth as
well as tubeworms, crabs, etc. Runoff from land is something we can
I have watched what floats down the Belize River in Belize city. It
is not a pretty sight.
Greg posted a most thoughtful letter pointing out that tanker
spills still remain the largest "point source" in terms of volume
released over a short period of time. Nevertheless, many would rather
continue importing fuel in these potential oil bombs rather than
responsibly produce their own.
K. C. states, "Anyone who thinks an oil spill will not
irreparably damage Belize does
not know this country." I worked on the reefs of Belize on two
separate 30-day expeditions in the 1970s (before corals began dying
throughout the Caribbean). I know the area reasonably well based on
our coring, diving, and sampling from the Barrier reef to the
mangrove shores. Further, K.C. says in relation to oil leases, "They
have been granted to companies with no experience in oil exploration"
Just who are these companies that bid millions on oil leases and have
"no experience in oil exploration"? That is clearly an unfounded
statement. Who owns multimillion-dollar rigs but has never used one?
Ed quotes "Confessions of an economic hit man" and how the "US/
uses various forms of economic aid to "enslave" developing countries"
It is a sobering book. I read it. The writer worked with firms that
provided justification for the World Bank to make loans to poor
countries that could never pay them back. I question whether the
World Bank is involved in oil drilling in Belize. Very few banks
invest in oil drilling because it is such an expensive and risky
business. Finding economical oil or gas is still one of the greatest
gambles on earth. Since this discussion takes us into political water
then I must wonder why our administration is loaning billions to
Brazil to help them develop their huge new ultra deep water oil
discovery in the Atlantic yet through regulations retards drilling in
our own waters? It's hard to get away from politics. Nevertheless, I
would think that it behooves us all to develop our own fossil fuels
and get away from sending our dollars to unfriendly countries.
Alternative energy would be great but it is years away and we still
need to fill the energy-gap until alternatives are developed.
Emotional screaming about the "dirty oil companies" and how they will
destroy coral reefs forever does not help us get off expensive
foreign oil and balance our budget.
And thanks Michael for your research on dispersants. I agree. In
the early 1970s I wrote the chapter on coral reefs in the API oil
spill response manual. It specifically said, "do not use dispersants
in the vicinity of coral reefs." I wish you could obtain funding to
further your research on crude oil effects. I have tried for the past
40 years with no luck. What I did I did without funding. Gene
No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------
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