Monday, May 24, 2010

Sylvia Earle, Wes Tunnell on BP Oil Spill

"The exploratory oil well two miles below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico exploded in a ball of fire, spurting millions of gallons of crude into the sea. As weeks turned to months, oil executives grappled with capping the well. The growing slick turned into an immediate ecological nightmare."--Miami Herald, May 23, 2010, on the 1979 Ixtoc oil spill in the Bay of Campeche

John "Wes" Tunnell Jr., associate director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

That year, John W. "Wes" Tunnell Jr., now associate director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies and co-editor of the multivolumed work Gulf of Mexico: Origin, Waters, and Biota (Texas A&M University Press, 2009) and the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Texas Seashells: Identification, Ecology, Distribution, and History, worked with other researchers to predict how long it would take the current to carry the oil 600 miles to south Texas.

"The south Texas restaurant and hotel organizations, at the time, claimed they lost $50 million in revenue. Back then that was a lot," Tunnell told the Herald.

However, with the lead time on the Ixtoc spill, Tunnell told reporters that workers were able to lay boms across entrances to the area's lagoons, keeping much of the oil out of some of the most fragile ecosystems.

The recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill, touching marshes along the Louisiana coast, is far different, Tunnell told the Herald. Read the article in its entirety here, and see this article in the Seattle Times for further analysis of the Ixtoc and BP disasters by McClatchy Newspapers.

Tunnell is one of several Texas A&M University Press authors and prominent Gulf of Mexico experts who have been in the news recently, in connection to the catastrophic BP oil spill.

Sylvia Earle, the National Geographic Society's explorer-in-residence and foreword contributor to Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico (co-edited by Tunnell, 2007) and Texas Coral Reefs (2008), recently told a House panel she came "to speak for the ocean."

"We are pointing anywhere we can for blame," she told the panel. "But actually, the blame of this and other catastrophes were costs related to our demand for cheap energy. (It) is something that all of us need to bear. We all must share the cost of those who demand cheap oil at any price."

See Earle's recent appearance on the Charlie Rose Show (below) and a recent CNN story about her testimony.

Visit Texas A&M University Press for more reading on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, the Louisiana coast, and business history, as it pertains to offshore oil exploration, written by some of the world's leading experts.