As many others have said, it’s impossible at this stage to know what the full impact of the Gulf oil spill will be. Some estimates say there may be as much as 200,000 gallons of oil bubbling up through the ocean per day. These waters are populated with endangered bluefin tuna and sperm whales, not to mention many other creatures.
Environment Maryland reports that in the immediate path of the oil slick is the Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge — established by Teddy Roosevelt 100 years ago — home to thousands of brown pelicans. And as the oil makes its way to the shore, Louisiana’s seafood industry — as well as its coastal culture — will be devastated.
The Houston Chronicle explained the magnitude of the problem:
The Deepwater Horizon was drilling in water 5,000 feet deep on a well that extended another 20,000 feet under the ocean’s floor. Containing and stopping spills at that depth is incredibly difficult. Containing a full-blown explosion like the one we saw last week is near-impossible. It could be one or two months, at least, before we see this thing brought under full control. For the fish, the birds, and the Louisiana coast, it will be far too late.
The Dallas Morning News detailed some of the effects this disaster may have on jobs and the economy in multiple states:
The spill also threatened oyster beds in Breton Sound on the eastern side of the Mississippi River.
“That’s our main oyster-producing area,” said John Tesvich, a fourth-generation oyster farmer with Port Sulphur Fisheries Co. His company has about 4,000 acres of oyster grounds that could be affected if the spill worsens.
If the oyster grounds are affected, thousands of fishermen, packers and processors might have to curtail operations.
Worse, Tesvich said, it’s spawning season, and contamination could affect young oysters. But even if the spill is mostly contained, he said, oil residue could get sucked in by the oysters.
If the oil continues oozing north, the white-sand beaches in Mississippi, Alabama and west Florida could be fouled, too.
A few weeks ago, the Obama administration announced plans to open 165 million acres off the Atlantic coast and another 40 million acres off Florida’s west coast, to more oil drilling. That may now be in doubt, Given the gravity of the disaster and our helplessness in the face of it, I can’t say I’d be disappointed.