June 21, 2010

It's a face palm moment. Republican (naturally!) Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, also the chair of the Republican Governors Association and a name floated as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, wants us to know that worse that the oil spill currently gushing tens of thousands of oil every day into the fragile eco-system of the Gulf of Mexico and wetlands of the Gulf Coast is the mean ol' Obama administration's moratorium on further gulf oil drilling

How do you reason with someone who thinks it's his God-given right to have cheap gas? I honestly don't know if Barbour is just being a partisan hack or if he is really just so naively stupid as to the impact that he doesn't get that cheap gas is really the least of his worries now. How does he think the whole country be impacted by this?

Why would an undersea spill be worse? One outcome could be the expansion in size and extension in time of a seasonal "dead zone" that already plagues the Gulf of Mexico as a result of industrial pollutants and agricultural run-off from the Mississippi River. While huge Gulf of Mexico algae blooms help to naturally clean up the Midwest's factory emissions and wasted fertilizer, such a process doesn't come without a cost to the ecosystem. Every spring, in a condition known as hypoxia, this fast growing algae depletes large sections of the Gulf's water column of the oxygen crucial for other life forms to survive there. The BP oil spill is likely to exacerbate this problem, as natural oil-eating microbes swarming over undersea oil plumes could cause or add to hypoxic conditions in otherwise teeming swaths of the Gulf.

According to NOAA researcher Samantha Joye, the undersea oil poses a direct threat to large marine wildlife, such as fish, sharks and cetaceans, and also to the tiny stuff, including zooplankton, shrimp, corals, crabs and worms. By endangering these latter populations, the foundation of the marine food chain, the oil could have chronic long-term effects on the wider Gulf ecosystem, including the industries -- more shrimp and oysters come from the Gulf than anywhere else in the world -- that rely on them.

Another worry is how the chemical dispersants being used to break up the undersea oil will impact the Gulf's ecosystems and inhabitants. The dispersant's ingredients are a trade secret closely held by the company that makes it, and therefore have not been vetted by marine biologists to determine their safety for use in such a large application. It also remains to be seen what impact the tiny oil droplets left in the dispersant's wake will have. It could actually be worse for the undersea environment to break the oil up into tiny droplets (which is done to try to make it easier for microbes to digest them).

Beyond all these undersea environmental effects, the oil is also starting to wash up into coastal wetlands already besieged by overdevelopment, pollution and the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Simply put, we have no idea the long term effects on the wetlands. I've read some reports that even if the oil only penetrates 15% of the wetlands, that number equates to the coastline and while it's a relatively small percentage overall of the ecosystem, it could mean as much as 80% of the wildlife that makes the wetlands their home.

When we've killed off the bottom of the food chain, it endangers those higher up on the food chain. How important is that $3.00/gallon gas gonna be when all that destruction works up the food chain to us?

Transcripts below the fold

MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, to the--to that point, Governor, what's worse, the moratorium or the effects of this spill on the region? And I talk about the moratorium on offshore drilling.

GOV. BARBOUR: Well, the moratorium. The skill--the spill's a terrible thing, but the moratorium is a, is a terrible thing that's not only bad for the region, it's bad for America. Thirty percent of the oil produced in the United States comes out of the Gulf of Mexico, and 80 percent of that is from deepwater drilling. So that's a fourth of all of our oil. As, as John may have said or somebody said, this is going to drive the price of energy up. Now, there are people like Congressman Markey whose bill in Congress, the--that mostly effects electricity, would drive up, up energy costs. As President Obama said, under--he told a San Francisco paper, and I quote, "Under my cap and trade plan, electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket." One of the things President Obama and I agree on. This moratorium is going to have the same sort of effect.

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