News Stories

The Oil Spill: What We Lost

More than we realize - Here's another reason we need alternative energy sources like solar energy: If all the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico had been used for fuel, it could have powered 38,000 cars, 3,400 trucks and 1,800 ships for a full year, based on the estimated spill rate of 19,000 barrels of oil per day.

Environmentalist James J. Corbett discovered that by May 5 (15 days after the spill), the oil lost could have fueled 470 container ships serving New York and New Jersey ports for a year. By May 25 (35 days after the spill), energy from the spilled oil could have provided a year's gasoline for all registered automobiles (about 26,000 cars) in Newark, Delaware, where Corbett teaches. By May 31 (41 days after the spill), the lost energy could have fueled one freight truck on 17 trips across all 4 million miles of US highway.

Transportation activities consume about two-thirds of all petroleum in the United States, more than 20 billion barrels per day. Gasoline for automobiles accounts for about two-thirds of US total transportation energy, diesel fuels power most of our goods movement, and most international containerized cargoes are delivered by ships, which are the largest gas-guzzling vehicles ever built.

If we improve automobile fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg), as proposed by the current administration, we would offset demand equivalent to the gasoline energy lost by 199 years of Deepwater Horizon daily releases. If we add only 2 mpg to the fuel economy for trucks, as proposed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, we would offset diesel-driven energy demand equivalent to 12 years of Deepwater Horizon daily releases. A shift from truck to rail for specific commodities and routes would require about 20% of the energy per ton-mile compared to trucking, but achieving this will require an investment in infrastructure from a government that is now deep in debt.

Corbett says, "Energy resources offshore are being explored because each of us petroleum consumers is demanding more." This means that until we develop efficient biofuels, we'll have to continue to pump oil and offshore rigs are one of the main ways to do it, meaning that spills like the BP disaster will be a continuing problem. While we mourn the injured wildlife and the income lost due to dirty beaches, this is a factor to consider as well.

"Mankind is trapped. I want to help you spring the trap.""The veil between the worlds can fall. The undiscovered country can become your backyard.""Your destiny, each of you, is to become all of God."Find out who said these provocative words and first alerted Whitley to the facts about global warming, which he then wrote about in his book which became the hit film The Day After Tomorrow!

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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