Sunday, June 6, 2010

Oil spill - hope

Recovering birds are kept
warm and isolated in a
special trailer in the
"Ft. Jackson Oiled Wildlife
Facility in Louisiana. A gull
taken through the cleaning
process. Photo: BP.

For more than three months, more than 80 million litres of oil have gushed from a broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company responsible, BP (British Petroleum), has tried many different things to stop the flow of oil, which is spewing into the gulf and threatening wildlife.

They tried capping the well, but the flow was too strong and the rig was too deep under the water. They even tried stuffing the well with golf balls, mud, fabric and human hair! That didn’t work.

Recently they tried using underwater “robot submarines” to cut into the broken pipe and cap it with a funnel. That may actually be working.

It’s a positive development, but it’s almost too late. First, 11 people died in the explosion on April 20 that originally damaged the oil well. And the massive amount of oil that leaked into the Gulf has already done immense damage to our ecosystem. The chemicals that BP used to help clean up the oil are themselves toxic – not only to the workers who have to do the cleaning up, but to the environment as the mixture of chemicals and oil washes up onto the shore.

U.S. President Barack Obama is furious. After all, even though the company that owns the oil well, BP, is British, the oil is washing up onto American soil. Now, beaches in Florida are starting to become covered in the oily, chemically gunk. Recently, President Obama sent a bill for $69-million to BP to cover the initial costs of responding to the spill.

Last week there were reports that BP may have known that the oil well had the potential to break. And BP’s reputation is forever tarnished; it’s likely that no one will ever forget that BP was the company that caused such a massive world-wide disaster.

Canada is sending aid to help in the clean-up efforts.

And at least two well-known celebrities have come forward to help fix the oil well. Celebrities can sometimes be helpful because not only do they tend to have a lot of money to donate, but they know a lot of people and can influence people to help out. Actor Kevin Costner has offered aid to help get the oil spill under control. And James Cameron, the Canadian director (who recently directed the movie Avatar), has volunteered to bring the scientists who helped him on the movie The Titanic to work on the oil spill. They have a lot of expertise in working underwater in very creative ways, and that’s the kind of thinking that’s needed on this project.

Related links
It’s good to get many different points of view on a news story.
Here’s what some of the online newspapers are reporting about the oil spill:
The Globe and Mail on Canada's response.
The Toronto Star.
The New York Times.
BP's corporate website.
Educators: Here you'll find an illustration of the underwater robots used by BP.

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