Forty years ago in 1971 when I lived in the Bay area I volunteered and spent a month helping to clean up an oil spill along Point Reyes National Seashore between Drakes Bay and Bolinas Bay when two oil tankers collided in the fog off the Golden Gate, spewing nearly 900,000 gallons of toxic slug. It was devastating to the wildlife. Over 10,000 birds and millions of sea creatures were killed.
According to The Mariner Group, since then there have been over 100 major oil spill disasters world wide. Though many of them have involved tankers, many others have not.
The worst oil spill in human history was not the result of an accident, but was intentionally discharged. During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraqi forces, attempting to prevent the landing of American troops, opened the valves at an offshore oil terminal in the Persian Gulf and released an oil slick that eventually covered 4000 square miles at an averaged depth of 4 inches.
Ironically, the second worst oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico between June 3, 1979 and March 23, 1980 and was caused by the blowout of an offshore oil well much like the unfolding disaster we are witnessing today. Pemex, a state-owned Mexican petroleum company was drilling an oil well when the blowout occurred. The oil ignited causing the drilling rig to collapse. Sound familiar? Oil began gushing out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. Workers were not able to cap the well and stop the leak for almost an entire year.
As BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf begins to wash ashore along the Louisiana coast threatening the incredible diversity of life there, the catastrophe has the potential to eclipse even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska which has been characterized as the most devastating human-caused environmental disaster in American history.
David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press, "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."
My question is: Why have we not heard from Sarah Palin and her followers and all those supporters of "drill, baby, drill!"?
Click here to see a list of the top 10 worst oil spills ever.
Update: A top adviser to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod, told ABC's "Good Morning America" today that no new oil drilling would be allowed until authorities learn what caused the explosion and collapse of the oil rig, Deepwater Horizon.