1800 Oil Spills Per Day


Some thoughts for the Memorial Day Holiday weekend as an estimated 32 million people will travel over this holiday weekend.

Maybe the ‘top kill’ effort to slow the Deepwater Horizon well will work, maybe not, but a month and a week of at least 200,000 gallons per day spewing into the Gulf of Mexico has had an unmistakenly devestating impact on regional fisheries, wildlife refuges, and recreational areas.

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Images of dead and dying wildlife and shuttered fisheries have inspired several people to create “Boycott BP Facebook pages. Lydia Johnson of Omaha, Nebraska tells me she’s going specifically for BP and the harm their business practices are doing to the environment. She wants people to “not buy gas from BP for a while” until they become better stewards. “Use your power as a consumer for change,” she tells me.

The message she has for BP: “You are responsible. You will help rebuild livelihoods. Clean up this mess. Re-establish the habitats you’ve destroyed.”

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She acknowledges those who believe a boycott against a specific company is ineffective. “I ride a bicycle and I’d like to get away from oil dependence, but I’m in the Midwest. The anticar message does not resonate here for most of the people. These are baby steps that will bring attention to the problem of oil dependence, that we should get out of oil and develop alternatives.”

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The Solution to Pollution is Dilution.

Consider: During the 5 weeks the Deepwater Horizon well has been spewing an estimated 200,000 gallons of crude daily, we (including myself) have burned 378 million gallons of gasoline each day. We dump the equivalent of 1800 Gulf oil spoils into our atmosphere,, using the air we breath as a vast sewer. Below is a visualization of what these atmospheric emissions look like (starting at 1:20 in this video).

To be sure, automotive tailpipe emissions are “cleaner” than they were 40 years ago, but you still don’t want to direct the exhaust straight into the passenger cabin. There are still significantly toxic pollutants coming out of the exhaust. We tolerate it all in the name of easy motoring because the barely visible flume dissipating into our atmosphere is not nearly as dramatic as the video images of heavy black crude spewing forth into the sea.

As Adrienne of San Francisco reminds us, “The conversation needs to be about how we make it possible to no longer need BP, or any of the oil companies. We are ALL responsible for the Gulf spill. All of us feed into the demand that makes oil companies too big and powerful to control.”

In San Francisco, several activists plan to protest at the BP/Arco gas station on Fell Street. This station has been called out on Streetsblog SF because of the long lines of autos that line up in bike lane as motorists wait for their turn at the pump. They’re using the the outrage directed toward BP to “send a message to the government, the corporations and well-meaning people who don’t even realize they are addicted to oil” that “enough is enough.”

“We want to make it clear that this is not a boycott of BP or Arco so much as a boycott of ALL oil companies,” says Josh Hart of San Francisco. “We believe there is an anger bubbling under the surface just as surely as the oil that is being released into the Gulf. The 11th of June will be an opportunity to demonstrate that anger, but also allow people to come together to design a better, humane world. ”


  1. There is no way we totally eliminate (nor do we want to) our need for oil company products. Refined oil is a precious resource and the growth of civilzation has been largely been dependent on it for large economies of scale.

    The issue is about how we use this precious resource and how we drill (and where) to keep supplies flowing. No doubt we have become extremely addicted to this miracle resource and that is what has to change. And of course the first step is to integrate the bike into our daily travails. Raise gas taxes asap, start VMT, raise mileage standards, electronically toll all major highways, etc.

    Another warning about our extreme demands for cheap energy documented:

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