[Coral-List] Help Ban Oil Exploration

Greg Challenger gchallenger at msn.com
Mon May 2 16:06:32 EDT 2011

Ill let Gene defend himself but here is my take.  Offshore drilling "may" lead to environmental disaster.   My reading of the post by Gene is that he felt the risks should be weighed against the potential upside before stating absolutes.  To me it was the comments "will lead to disaster" and "never recover" that deserve some discussion.   In my opinion, these sorts of statements dont do the environmental cause much good and only give ammunition to the opposition in that they can find evidence to easily refute the statements without getting to the heart of the matter...real risks to Belize corals and peoples.  Many areas with drilling have never experienced an environmental disaster.  The volumes of oil dumped and spilled in the sea in WWII outweigh all combined other anthropogenic point sources in the past century by quite a bit (see 2003 paper by Jacqui Michel from International Oil Spill Conference), and yet I dont believe it is possible to find a place that will "never recover", unless an area continues to receive ongoing impacts that dont allow it to recover. I have seen some oil exploration areas that could conceivably fit this bill.   I didnt see any real embellished distortions other than getting the tanker thing wrong, which really isnt an embellished distortion at all relative to the issue at hand. While you are 100% correct that seeps are the biggest sources followed by land runoff, tankers are the largest anthropogenic point source  (i.e., disaster).   Since we are talking about risk of disaster from man's activities, then tankers and cargo vessels are indeed the number one cause since runoff and seeps arent typically considered part of a disaster scenario.  Oil spilled in the marine environment is a tragedy...it kills things....but a statement to the effect that drilling "will result in disaster" from which we can "never recover" deserves refutation.  As you can see, saying things like this takes people off track (as it did here) from the important issues like proper evaluation and careful consideration of the potential impacts, both environmental and economic.  That said, I understand that these comments can serve a purpose...we have to know where the left and right side of the road are located so we can safely drive down the middle.
I know people think Im a fan of fossil fuel because I have a financial interest in my clients' oil spills, but frankly I hope I never work on another oil spill the rest of my life (I do other stuff as well).
Best regards,  
Greg E. Challenger
Marine Scientist/Principal
Polaris Applied Sciences, Incorporated
12525 131st Ct NE Kirkland, WA 98034 
425-823-3805 fx 
206-369-5686 cell 
visit us at: www.polarisappliedsciences.com

> Date: Mon, 2 May 2011 15:05:50 -0400
> From: sealab at earthlink.net
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] Help Ban Oil Exploration on the Belize Barrier Reef..
> Although it may be hyperbolic to state categorically that offshore
> drilling in Belize will lead to environmental disaster, this does not
> justify refutation by applying similarly embellished distortions.
> The economic impact of drilling operations as it would affect the local
> community is hardly predictable and would have to be carefully weighed 
> against at least the potential for environmental degradation of Belize’s
> valuable coral reef system. Somehow I doubt the assumption that an obvious
> benefit would be reduced local fuel costs as world markets exert a more 
> pronounced effect. And, according to the Oil in the Sea study by the National
> Academy of Sciences, oil tankers are not the largest source of oil pollution 
> in the world’s oceans. The study listed the following sources in order:
> 1. Natural seeps. 2. Consumption (runoff from cars is a major source.)
> 3. Transportation, which includes spills from tankers and pipelines as well as
> intentional discharge from ships at sea. 4. Extraction, which includes spills
> from offshore platforms and blowouts during efforts to explore for and produce 
> oil and gas. Not to mention that oil spills have an immediate effect on marine
> life, which is often for the longer-term. 
> But then again, we can continue to ridicule those concerned with environmental
> impact and simply continue to drill baby drill. No worries, everyone knows that 
> corals and other marine ecosystems have always been able to adapt. 
> Steve
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