Friday, February 01, 2008

In the land of oil

This morning, one of CNN's headliners was this story, regarding the ridiculous profiting of Exxon.  According to the report, Exxon is netting $1,300 per second.  In case you were wondering, that is the highest profit ever shown by any U.S. company.  

Nineteen years ago, due to gross negligence, one of Exxon's ships, the Valdez, was responsible for spilling eleven million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.  Not only was this the largest oil spill ever to occur in U.S. waters, it is considered one of the biggest ecological disasters in the world because of the amount of coastline affected, and the massive loss of aquatic and marine life.  
Being coated with oil, the birds and other wildlife lose their ability to not only retain heat, but also to remain buoyant on the surface of the water.  In an attempt to cleanse themselves, the animals then ingested the crude oil spilled, resulting in a slow death of dehydration and starvation.  Rendered flightless, birds washed out to sea with the currents, unable to save themselves
You may have been comforted by those groups that "clean" the birds after a spill.  Or maybe you even remember those Dawn dish detergent commercials, depicting friendly faced volunteers happily scrubbing an oily duck.  Do you know what that process entails?  First, they catch the bird and then bring it to their facility.  Step two is "purging the bird," which is about as pleasant as it sounds.  A hose is shoved down it's throat and the bird is pumped full of a solution until all of the ingested oil has been shot out the other end.  Many don't make it through this process.  The survivors are then scrubbed, dried, scrubbed, dried, scrubbed, dried, until all of the oil has been removed.  This process, however, also removes the birds natural oils which help it to float and maintain body temperature.  So the clean birds are placed together in a giant temperature regulated room until their body produces enough natural oils for them to be returned to the wild. . . .Which is still covered in oil because 11 million gallons doesn't just clean itself up.

In fact, trying to remove crude oil from the shoreline has been compared to "trying to sop butter up off of a toasted english muffin."  The crevices and the pores just can not be fully cleaned and returned to their original state.  It will never be the same.  No amount of Dawn detergent, no amount of friendly faced volunteers will return it to it's natural state.  Scientists have estimated that as little as 10% of the oil spilled was actually retrieved.  

But I digress, I am getting off of my original topic.  Exxon was ordered to pay billions of dollars in punitive damages.  Now, I am not a fan of fixing mistakes with a wad of cash.  However, loss of natural beauty and wildlife aside, the Alaskan shore communities thrive on fishing.  It's their livelihood.  And it was ripped from beneath them because of Exxon.  Families were suddenly without income.  Their businesses, their boats, their homes, were oil soaked and destroyed.  

Nineteen years have passed now.  Long enough for children to have been born, grown, and graduate from high school.  Long enough for boats to have been scrapped, or replaced.  Long enough for marriages, divorces, and career changes.  Long enough for a good number of those fishermen from that maritime community to die in one of the many ways life and their chosen occupation offer. 

If you're still as angry as I am, drop Exxon a line, and tell them that this has been going on for nineteen years too long
Exxon Mobile
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard 
Irving, Texas 75039-2298 
(972) 444-1000 

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