Another oil rig has caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico. Thirteen people were forced to jump off the rig and into the ocean to avoid harm; all of those people have been rescued, and one is being treated for injuries. Meanwhile, an oil sheen about 100 feet wide and a mile long has been spotted spreading out from the damaged oil platform.
It does not immediately appear as if this explosion is as serious as the one that rocked the Deepwater Horizon rig, owned by BP, earlier this year. That event (pictured at left) not only killed eleven people; it has also turned into the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. During the three months it took to cap that well, millions of gallons of oil gushed into Gulf waters, killing thousands of birds, polluting some of America's most valuable wetlands, and shutting down a fishery worth billions of dollars to the local economy.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Obama administration has been trying to impose a 6-month moratorium on new rig construction to force drillers to ramp up safety and environmental protection measures. Thus far, the Administration has been outmaneuvered by the oil industry, which has successfully challenged the moratorium in court.
For the most part, it seems that people living in the Gulf support continued drilling, despite the toll taken on human life and the fisheries that support their local way of life. But the Gulf of Mexico – those waters, all the fish and shellfish that live there, the birds that breed in the bordering wetlands – none of that belongs to the Gulf residents. They don't really belong to the rest of us Americans, either. They belong to the world.
Maybe it's time for citizens of the world to make their voices heard – and to clamor for the oil industry not just along the Louisiana shoreline but around the planet – to shut down once and for all.
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