The BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig April 21, 2010

Photo: USCG

Noted oceanographer and Honorary New England Aquarium Trustee Sylvia A. Earle was recently asked what the worst-case scenario is for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She replied: "That we don't learn from it." This disaster is a wake-up call to the many dangers of our continued dependence on fossil fuels, the risks of resource extraction in environmentally sensitive areas and the importance of a healthy ocean for wildlife, ecosystems and people.

Offshore drilling

The Aquarium believes a continued moratorium on offshore drilling in New England is warranted, given the ecological and economic importance of coastal wetlands, wildlife, fisheries and tourism.

 

Oil spills and the oceans

A member of the New England Aquarium team

samples the oil slick off the coast of Louisiana.

(Photo: Donna Hazard)

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is only one of many oil spills to occur this year. Between April and June of 2010, ship accidents and pipeline ruptures have released more than 800,000 gallons of oil in Alaska, the Great Barrier Reef, Singapore and Kenya. Each year, approximately 210 million gallons of oil enters the ocean from the extraction, transportation and consumption of crude oil and the products refined from it. Additional oil contamination comes from leaky vessels and oily water dumped from ballast tanks. Almost 89 million gallons of oil gets into the ocean each year from leaking automobiles, improper disposal of used motor oil and land based machinery.

 

Oil use in the United States

Heavy traffic on a California freeway
©UCAR

We consume about 19 to 20 million barrels of oil per day in the United States. Personal driving plays a major role in our consumption of oil drilled in the Gulf and other offshore areas. About two thirds of the oil is used for transportation, and more than 60 percent of that is used for automobiles and light trucks. More than half of the oil we use is imported from other countries.