Home Resources Education To Learn or Not to Learn (revisited): Oil Spills

To Learn or Not to Learn (revisited): Oil Spills


One theme that we should all take to heart and drive home over and over again is whether or not we're learning from our mistakes and utilizing that learning to prevent future disasters. Here was the first take, which dealt with micro-events and personal concerns, such as: 'Do you know where your flashlight is?'

Original, revisited: To Learn or Not to Learn

This revisitation will talk to macro-events and societal preparation, specifically oil spills. We have a long history of creating oil spills and managing them badly. Here's a short list:

1910: The Lakeview Gusher spilled approximately 1.2 million tons of crude.

1976-1996: In the Niger Delta as much as 328,000 tons of oil may have been released.

1978: The Amoco Cadiz ran aground, sank off of France, and spilled 227,000 tons of oil.

1979: The Itoxic I Well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico and discharged 480,000 tons of oil into the gulf.

1989: The Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska and and spilled 104,000 tons of oil onto some of the most environmentally sensitive coastline in the world.

1991: The Gulf War Oil spill discharged as much as 820,000 tons of oil into the Persian Gulf for the purposes of wartime advantage.

2010: The Deepwater Horizon oil platform blew up, killing 11 workers and discharging 627,000 tons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, damaging the environment and economy alike. Cleanup continues to this day.

2010: A spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan discharged 3,250 tons of heavy tar sands crude into the water. Although this spill is comparatively small in volume, the significant thing to note here is that the cleanup, initially projected to cost $5 million, has now cost $765 million, and the cleanup is not yet complete.

That's a short list. A more complete list is here.

Now, in 2015 and 2016, we have, in short order, spills in the Yellowstone River in Wyoming, Refugeo Beach in California, a train derailment in Galena Illinois, and now we learn that the Brutus oil refinement platform off of Louisiana has been shut down due to yet another oil spill into the Gulf.

So it's fair at this juncture to ask this really simple question: Have we learned anything?

It's a recurring theme throughout our political discussion that:

  • One political perspective would prefer to dismantle the EPA and the various environmental laws and policies that require us to ask that question--to prevent us, in fact, from being able to ask that question at all at any effective level.
  • The other political perspective would seek to make our government institutions more effective so that the answer to the question better informs our ability to protect both our Earth and our economic institutions.

So here's your question for the day: Which is the better choice? I know my preference--what's yours?

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.