Posted by: Steven M. Taber | September 17, 2010

Biggest Lessons Learned from the Gulf Spill

By Guest Blogger Ron Delfs of Environmental Science Degrees

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the world’s largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf from April 20th to July 15th, killing thousands of marine animals and severely damaging the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. BP is looking at an estimated fine of $5.4 billion or more if negligence led to the spill, but there is still a great deal of explaining and learning to do. While the event is fresh on our minds and deep in our hearts, we should take this horrible catastrophe and learn something positive from it now and forever. Here are the biggest lessons learned from the Gulf oil spill:

  1. A move to alternative forms of energy is inevitable
    Alternative forms of energy are no longer a chic business venture or a catchy political slogan. Alternative forms of energy are an essential part of preventing the environmental devastation caused by the oil spill, and an inevitable consequence of the United States’ dependence on foreign countries to extract a limited resource. The question is not if we will move away from oil, but when, and the sooner the better.
  2. The economy of the Gulf is fragile
    While Hurricane Katrina now seems a distant memory, the Gulf region is still feeling the effects of the devastation caused by the storm. The economy, while substantially rebuilt, is still inherently vulnerable to natural disasters and man-made catastrophes such as the Gulf oil spill. The area is also economically dependent on the oil industry. It’s important for the region to expand its interests, in order to shield itself from further disasters.
  3. Corporations are convenient scapegoats
    It’s hard to remember a corporation that has been hated or vilified more than BP. Much of this anger and distrust is the product of reprehensible conduct and negligent management in normal operation and disaster response; however it can be argued that much of the criticism is undeserved. BP would not be attempting incredible feats of engineering or enjoying enormous profits, without the high demand and consumption of oil by the same Americans who are protesting BP. While BP may be a convenient scapegoat, we should spend less time blaming and more time learning as a whole, so that we can prevent another disaster like this.
  4. The Government is still poorly prepared to deal with major catastrophes
    As with Katrina, the government has been criticized for its delayed response, poor management and lack of preparation concerning the Gulf oil disaster. While it is unreasonable to expect the Government to solve every problem, it’s clear that Americans turn to the Government during catastrophes and the government is often unprepared to deal with such disasters.
  5. The average American takes a great deal for granted
    There was a clear disconnect during the Gulf oil spill. Many Americans expect their lives to be a certain way and have lost the knowledge of how such a lifestyle is attained. During the Gulf oil spill, Americans and, perhaps, the government seemed surprised that BP was attempting to drill in more than a mile of water. Many people fill up their gas tanks and expect gasoline to be there without question. Only when the system is disrupted do Americans actually care where something comes from or how it is created. As a whole, we need to take on more responsibility for our behavior, our consumption and our actions in order to prevent disasters such as the Gulf oil spill. Only when we are aware of the consequences of our way of life will we be able to properly address prevention.

Originally posted on the Environmental Science Degrees blog at

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