Seemingly timed to coincide both with Earth Day and President Obama's proposed expansion of corporate access to U.S. waters for offshore oil drilling, the April 20 explosion of the Transocean oil rig Deepwater Horizon has exposed how risky offshore oil drilling can be, particularly in deep water in the absence of effective regulation. The sinking of the oil rig April 22 (Earth Day) led to the deaths of 11 oil rig workers not the first BP safety violations and could lead to the contamination of wide swaths of the Gulf Coast, or even, because of the loop current (map), large swaths of Florida, the Florida Keys and the entire East Coast.
Originally, authorities said the broken well was spilling 1,000 barrels a day. Then the Gulf oil spill was upgraded to 5,000 barrels a day. But independent scientists have said there could be 5-10 times as much oil spilling from the well, and BP's only successful attempt at mitigation is capturing just 1,000 barrels a day. The oil slick on the surface is bigger than Connecticut, but the spill at other depths is likely far larger, and threatens marine life throughout the ocean food chain. If independent estimates are correct, the spill is already larger than the Exxon Valdez.
NASA satellites captured these photos of the Gulf of Mexico oil on May 17, nearly a month after the BP Gulf oil spill. For other shocking ways to visualize the spill, see these Gulf oil spill photos, graphics and videos.
The photos below, also from NASA, show the Gulf oil spill April 29, shortly after the April 20 explosion.
Photos: NASA Earth Observatory
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