Unprecedented Oil Spill in the East China Sea

Another dangerous risk of the continued usage of fossil fuels.

Over the last two weeks, the maritime world has watched with horror as a tragedy has unfolded in the East China Sea. A massive Iranian tanker, the Sanchi, collided with a Chinese freighter carrying grain. Damaged and adrift, the tanker caught on fire, burned for more than a week, and sank. All 32 crew members are presumed dead.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities and environmental groups have been trying to understand the environmental threat posed by the million barrels of hydrocarbons that the tanker was carrying. Because the Sanchi was not carrying crude oil, but rather condensate, a liquid by-product of natural gas and some kinds of oil production. According to Alex Hunt, a technical manager at the London-based International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, which assists with oil spills across the world, there has never been a condensate spill like this.

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While studies of condensate’s environmental effects are limited, one lab study found that its toxicity to corals, for example, was greater than expected based on its molecular components.

In the best-case scenario, the fuel will come to the surface in a slick that is massive but thousandths-of-millimeters thin. From there, it would evaporate into the atmosphere. However, as Richard Steiner, an Alaska-based environmental consultant, told BuzzFeed News, “there’s a lot we don’t know about a major condensate spill since we’ve never seen one.” He described a scenario where there was an “invisible, subsurface toxic plume that is spreading outward from the site.”

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200,000 Gallons of Oil Spilled in South Dakota

It’s a somber note that this has occurred days ahead of the final vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, which should be stopped, as these fossil fuels pipelines endanger communities and are environmentally foolish to use over clean energy.

Some of the worst fears and dire predictions of opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline came true on Thursday when pipeline owner TransCanada announced that more than 200,000 gallons of oil had spilled from the existing portion of the Keystone system in Marshall County, South Dakota.

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Rachel Rye Butler, an anti-tarsands campaigner with Greenpeace, noted that Thursday’s spill comes just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commission is set to decide on state approval for Keystone XL, which was ultimately rejected under President Obama but given a greenlight earlier this year by the Trump administration. “The writing on the wall to reject this pipeline could not be more clear,” Butler said in a statement. “These pipelines are bound to spill, and they put communities, precious drinking water, and our climate at risk.”

She added, “The existing Keystone pipeline just saw an enormous spill of oil yet there is an attempt by the same company to build a brand new pipeline, Keystone XL, that would pump over 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day if built.”

New Gulf Coast Oil Spill May be the Largest Since 2010’s BP Spill

These environmental disasters would never happen if solar and wind power were used instead of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the Trump regime is providing support for fossil fuels corporations and the U.S. government still gives at least $200 billion in yearly subsidies to them. The annual global subsidies for fossil fuels have been reported as being a staggering $5 trillion.

LLOG Exploration Co. reported 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil were released Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 from subsea infrastructure about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, according to the company and the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, BSEE data show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident.