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Oil Spills, Its Causes and Impact

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  • Oil Spills, Its Causes and Impact

    As we all know, oceans cover more than three quarters of the earth’s surface. It is considered the largest habitat on earth. Oceans provide a large proportion of oxygen we breathe. It also provides 15% of the animal protein we consume. Hence, even small oil spills can result in large-scale effects. One example will be the case on San Cristobal Island. More than 60% of the marine iguanas on Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos were killed within months of a relatively small oil spill in 2001 when a leaking tanker encircled San Cristobal Island.

    The biggest spill occurred during the 1991 Persian Gulf War when about 240 million gallons spilled from oil terminals and tankers off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The second biggest occurred over a ten-month period (June 1979 – February 1980) when 140 million gallons spilled at the Ixtoc I well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico near Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico.

    As character analysis essay example says, the effects of oil on marine life are caused by either the physical nature of the oil (physical contamination and smothering) or by its chemical components (toxic effects and accumulation leading to tainting). Marine life may also be affected by clean-up operations or indirectly through physical damage to the habitats in which plants and animals live.

    Similarly, oil, tar balls, dead fish and birds all get washed up on the shores and the oil slick interferes in activities such as fishing, sailing, swimming, etc The local tourist industry suffers as well because tourists are not interested in visiting a coastal area where they cannot do the activities listed above. Furthermore, industries that rely on clean seawater for routine operations can also suffer because operations have to be stopped while the water is cleaned.

    One may say it would be possible to reduce the severity of oil spills if humans are less dependent on oil. Indeed, the occurrence of oil spills will be greatly reduced if less oil is being transported. However, oil still remains the most fundamental resource today. It will be costly to replace oil with other alternative resources such as nuclear power or hydro-electrical power. Therefore, as long as oil remains the main resource powering the world’s industries, we must find an effective long term solution to oil spills.