Looking at the big picture, it seems nearly unbelievable to me that, in 2016, we’re talking about yet another massive, devastating oil spill. In the Great Lakes, of all places; a tremendous source of fresh water for myriad uses, including drinking.
Sadly, it’s the oil transport company’s $177-million settlement that made news Wednesday. The actual spill happened in 2010 and received little national attention, perhaps because that was also the year of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
On July 26, 2010, a 30-inch diameter pipe owned and operated by Enbridge, Inc. burst at Marshall, Michigan, near Battle Creek. The pipeline was carrying tar sands diluted bitumen (dilbit), which is a type of crude oil that presents special problems during transportation. Enbridge was using standard crude oil pipe for moving the dilbit – a practice that has since been outlawed.
The oil, an estimates 800,000 gallons of it, leaked into Talmadge Creek. The creek, devastated, then carried the oil into the Kalamazoo River which, in turn, opens into Lake Michigan. It took Enbridge personnel 18 hours to respond to the leak, despite alarms going off immediately at their headquarters in Canada.
The greedy elements in the oil industry are glad that we grow accustomed to every kind of environmental,economic, and health disaster cause by mishandling their product. If one really looks at what happens after a line burst, derrick explosion, train derailment, or shipping accident, oil spills should be treated with zero tolerance.
The term “clean-up” in response to a spill of crude oil is a euphemism and it’s insulting to the intelligence of the affected people. Spills can be contained and the damage mitigated. There is no “clean” after crude oil enters an ecosystem; not for many years, anyway.
The truth is that we don’t have the knowledge or ability to handle petroleum. We don’t know how to drill for it, we don’t know how to transport it, and we don’t know how to use it without destroying our own human habitats! Not to mention those of millions of plants and animals. At every stage, petroleum fuels hurt us more than they help us. We do, however, have the knowledge and ability to create, develop, and use efficient and cleaner alternatives.
The time is long overdue for us to acknowledge that petroleum – cherish it for transportation though we may – no longer serves us well. Not in the least. Not at all. We may have believed, long ago, that humans were so clever and intelligent that we would somehow reap without consequence the rewards of burning dead organisms buried for millions of years in anoxic conditions. Now we know better. Dead fossils which form petroleum in sedimentary rock deep below the Earth’s surface do not mix well with life on the Earth’s surface. We know that now.
My upcoming novel, ULTIMATE ERROR, is about how our own hubris is a key contributing factor in nearly every manmade disaster. Healthy confidence is one thing, but negligence through avarice is quite another.