30 Apr 2010 12:04:06
Will the oil spill make the US rethink the true cost of fossil fuels?
As one of the largest consumers of oil in the world, there is a terrible irony in the events which are currently taking place off the coast of the US.
Up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day are currently flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, according to estimates from the US coastguard. And as of this morning Louisiana has been placed under a state of emergency as this oil started washing up on shore.
The leak is coming from BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf, which was damaged in an explosion last week that killed 11 people and critically injured two more.
Efforts which are being made to control the spill include undertaking a controlled burn of some of the oil on the surface, the deployment of booms to stop the pollution spreading and the use of chemicals to disperse the oil.
To stop the leak all together BP may have to place a cap on the well, which could take weeks to complete. If this does not succeed they may be forced to drill a relief well, which will take three months.
And while the immediate concern has been to try and contain the spill, attentions are now turning towards the long-term impact that the situation could have on the US and not just in terms of the huge level of environmental damage.
Since coming into office, President Obama has been working on his energy and climate change bill, which has received much opposition.
Most recently, a joint effort between the Democrats and Republicans to pass the bill in the Senate failed after a key figure removed his support.
The bill pledges to cut the US's emissions by 17 per cent on 2005 levels by the year 2020. To do this it proposes a series of changes to both levels of consumption and the US's energy mix, including less of a reliance on foreign oil.
However, as a huge consumer of power, the US must find a major source of domestic energy production. Prior to this week's events, it was thought that this plan could include drilling for oil within US waters.
Reuters reports that the country has not ruled out the possibility of suspending any further deep water drilling until companies prove they are able to handle spills.
But in the long term, will the oil spill prompt the US to rethink its plans for its energy policy? Or once the clean-up is complete will the country simply continue to consume fossil fuels and ignoring the costs, which as this most recent incident has proven, are human, environmental and economical.