[Taxacom] Biodiversity and oil drilling on U.S. coasts

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Wed May 19 22:30:59 CDT 2010

Dear All,
     Sorry for the accidental "no subject" posting a little earlier (I
pushed the wrong button prematurely).
       I am increasingly pessimistic about efforts to contain the Gulf
oil spill, especially as it is beginning to wash into the barrier
islands in earnest.  Such barrier islands are probably going to
eventually disappear totally as a result.   Another major hurricane or
two, and most of New Orleans will have to be abandoned (permanently!!).              
       Estimates that the oil spill may be as high as 80,000 barrels a
day seem excessive, while 5,000 barrels a day seems to be wishful
thinking.  Perhaps about 15,000 to 25,000 barrels a day is more
realistic, which means the spill has already well exceed that of the
Exxon-Valdez, and with no realistic expectation that there is any end in
sight.  Siphoning off 3.000 barrels a day (their only significant
success in stemming the flow so far) probably means over 10,000 barrels
a day still escaping.          As for biodiversity, I have come to the
conclusion that the most vulnerable vertebrate species in this crisis is
Lepidochelys kempii, which is critically endangered.  There are some
psammophilous insect species that could be imperiled, but they are not
currently listed as endangered or even threatened (which could very well
change).    There are probably marine invertebrate species also in
jeopardy, but they tend be understudied (some even not yet discovered),
so that might be the greatest threat to biodiversity that simply cannot
be evaluated. I don't know if any plant species are imperiled (either in
or along the Gulf).  News reports have already been covering threats to
birds and human livelihoods (and economics in general), so will not
delve into that.  It's a depressing mess no matter how you look at it.
         ---------Ken Kinman
On May 7th, I wrote:
Dear All, 
  I was just reading that the Department of the Interior has
(thankfully) abandoned plans to allow leases and oil exploration off the
Virginia coast.  And I assume that pressures from Florida in particular
will also result in abandoning plans off either the eastern or western
coasts of Florida.   
      The only major question is whether such plans will now proceed in
some areas off northern Alaska.  I predict that the momentum for
exploration (and eventual drilling) will continue there, although recent
events will likely slow that momentum somewhat (which is a good thing).
That will likely result in some new exploration and drilling, but less
than the oil industry would have wanted.  Hopefully the federal
government will come to a middle ground solution which is best for all
concerned, and largely ignores the extremes of oil drilling run amuck as
well as the most extremist "tree-hugging" environmentalists who don't
know the meaning of compromise and acceptable risk.  Overall, this would
minimize risks to biodiversity and would also likely benefit the vast
majority of Alaskan residents.        
          -------Ken Kinman    
P.S.  If the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is not soon contained, I
predict that certain psammophilous organisms (certain species of insects
in particular) will be impacted to a such an extent that their continued
existence is in jeopardy, and that they will need to be added to the
lists of Endangered and Vulnerable Species.  I have not yet learned if
any plant species are in similar jeopardy as the result of this oil
spill.  Admittedly, oil-covered birds are likely to get the most press
coverage, but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of
biodiversity threats. 
I wrote: 
Dear All, 
  Recent events are complicating issues of politics, "national
security", and conservation of biodiversity.  It is perhaps fortuitous
for some (but not for the oil industry) that the Gulf of Mexico Oil
Spill occurred so soon after proposals that areas in the eastern Gulf
(off Florida) and along the southern Atlantic coast be opened for oil
drilling.  This now seems ill-advised on two fronts: (1) biodiversity
impacts; and coupled with (2) human impacts (given the density of human 
populations along those southern coasts).             
        Of any of the recent possibilities for new drilling along the
U.S. coast, the only one that has any potential merit (in my opinion) is
along the northern Alaska coast.  I base this on two considerations: (1)
biodiversity in that region is relatively low compared to the overall
biodiversity along the Gulf of Mexico and southern U.S. Atlantic coastal
regions; and (2) the miniscule human impact along the northern Alaska
coast compared to millions being affected along the coast of the U.S.
from Texas to Virginia (and even coastal areas north of Virginia).  A
majority of Alaskans actually approve of oil drilling on their northern
coast, although no doubt mostly for economic reasons, but this seems to
be the least harmful alternatives for new drilling if it must occur at
all.  Perhaps it can be done on a limited basis that balances oil
production (and "national security" issues), but still minimizes
environmental harm.  This now seems preferable to pushing an even more
undesirable expansion of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or off the
Atlantic coast.  If a compromise is inevitable, this seems to be the
least harmful to both biodiversity, as well as to a vast majority of
humans that would be impacted. 
      -----Ken Kinman 

More information about the Taxacom mailing list