A tragic, but all too common event occurred last week that heightens our cause for concern. The Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig positioned off of the coast of Louisiana, went down in flames after several explosions led to the outbreak of a fire that could not be contained. The events started on Tuesday with a minor explosion, followed by a panic call and then a major blast which set the rig ablaze. The fire raged on for more than a day before the rig sank into the sea. 126 workers were on-board the rig; 11 are reported missing with another 17 injured. The remaining crew managed to escape to safety.

The initial responders stated that the environmental damage of the engulfed rig was minor, but that statement came before the rig sunk to the bottom of the sea. According to the latest reports, 42,000 gallons of oil are leaking from the sunken rig each day and could continue to do so for months until the problem is fixed. The remains of the rig sit nearly a mile below the water's surface which will make clean-up efforts extremely difficult.

The greatest cause for concern is the rig's proximity to the Louisiana coastline. The Deepwater Horizon is just 40 miles out to sea and any oil would have a significant environmental impact if it reaches the shore or the mouth of the Mississippi River. Prevailing winds and ocean currents are pushing the water towards the Louisiana coast.

The Deepwater Horizon is owned by Transocean and leased to British Petroleum (BP). It was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries back in 2001 and holds the world record for drilling the deepest oil well in history at 35,055 feet. The sinking of this rig and environmental disaster that is sure to ensue is yet another reason why we need to wean our way off of the oil supply that controls so much of what we do.

[Source: Associated Press | Image: Uscglantareapa - C.C. License 2.0]

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