Do you know about the nation’s longest lasting oil spill? I’m willing to bet you don’t.
And did you know that it is still an issue?
I was unaware of the Taylor Energy Corporation until a close friend of mine brought up the oil spill. Somehow, amidst my past research into offshore drilling, I had never heard of it. I am now more frustrated than ever.
For the last 14 years, oil has been spilling into the Gulf Coast, an issue that many U.S. citizens were not aware of before the last two months.
In 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf of Mexico, destroying a platform owned by Taylor Energy that kept 28 oil and gas wells contained in the seafloor at the delta of the Mississippi River.
“Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast,” Darryl Fears said in a Washington Post article.
Oil was first seen and reported to the United States Coast Guard shortly after the storm, but despite the many attempts to clean up the deluge of oil, the problem was not resolved.
In fact, an estimate of more than 153 million gallons have flooded into the Gulf Coast since, CNN’s AJ Willingham reported.
Many of us are familiar with the BP oil spill in April 2010. By June, more than 11 million gallons had flooded into the Gulf of Mexico. When the Exxon Valdez was capped a month later, that number had hit 134 gallons, according to Andrew Nikiforik at Britannica.com
The federal judge who was overseeing the case considered it “gross negligence.”
However, Taylor Energy may be more comprehensive than the BP incident, which was once considered the largest oil spill in American history.
Jeff Amy and Michael Kunzelman at the Associated Press wrote an article Sept. 18, describing how expansive the Taylor Energy gulf oil leak really is.
They cited a report conducted by a government hired scientist – Oscar Pineda-Garcia, an adjunct professor at Florida State University – to study the ongoing impact. According to that report, the “oil is thick enough that people need to wear respirators because of fumes.”
Garcia also stated that the chemicals bubbling to the surface of the ocean are not only oil residues. Natural gas is also being released, which is seen as “brown oil emulsions” in many places.
These are the risks the country is taking if there are new areas established for offshore drilling or if we continue to drill in overused areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico.
Nonetheless, the impacts of drilling and eventual oil spills are often downplayed in the light of the opportunities for the country, as mentioned above. For instance, the United States could no longer become dependent on foreign imported oil and in turn could create thousands of new jobs for U.S. citizens.
New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman said in an article that “President Trump signed an executive order in April  requiring the Interior Department to reconsider Mr. Obama’s five-year offshore drilling plan”, which prohibited new sales of large areas of the Arctic and Atlantic for drilling rigs.
To me, this is horrifying. It led me to wonder if there are cases of other oil spills off coasts, where the impact can not be immediately recognized.
For instance, since 1969, we have had 44 oil spills, each with over 420,000 gallons that have affected direct U.S. waters, according to the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. Yet, these are the only ones exhibiting major consequences that are recordable.
Yet, President Trump said that Obama’s law “deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth.”
While drilling and fracking does promote job growth and income for the nation as a whole, there are discrepancies in the argument of economic expansion.
The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), is considered the largest wildlife refuge in the United States, spanning over 19 million acres, large reserves of oil were first discovered in the early 50’s.
After geological surveys were conducted, it was discovered that this area in Alaska proved to be an effective breeding ground for oil companies.
In subsequent years, there have been repeated attempts by government officials to legalize drilling in the wildlife reserve. After several unsuccessful efforts, Congress signed into law the bill “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” in November 2017, which officially legalizes drilling by private companies off the shores of the wildlife reserve.
This bill enacted the companies, that were officially leased rights to the land, to “draw down and sell from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve 7,000,000 barrels of crude oil” between the years 2026 and 2027. Furthermore, each lease sale could not be less than 400,000 acres, setting the grounds for drilling at a higher stake, and therefore creating higher chances for subversion.
These numbers may appear insignificant, seeing as it is only designed to occur during a two year period. However, these high data points signify how exponentially these companies will work to develop their drilling wells.
By expanding the programs that quickly, there are higher chances of wildlife and natural environments being affected too. In particular, the food chain is at high risk for major alterations.
One argument was that drilling into the refuge would depreciate the value of gas. Yet, based on how much oil is present in the ANWR, it would strain to keep the price where it sits currently.
“The U.S. currently uses about 21 million barrels of oil a day, about six million of which is produced domestically,”according to John W. Schoen, a senior producer at NBC News. Drilling into ANWR would only maintain this 6 million, not increase the data point.
Why is it that we overlook the destruction of our natural environments, if the benefits are minimal in the end? These are the same environments we depend on for food, clean water and essential life cycles.
If we – as a society – refuse to change our ways and alter the misconceptions of drilling, this issue is not going to change.
Instead, it will just expand the crisis until we can no longer reverse the effects.