It was recently reported that Kinder Morgan, a Houston Oil Company, claimed that oil spills are good for the economy in a written submission to Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB). In the submission, Kinder Morgan stated that oil spills can have “both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies” and that “spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions , and clean-up service providers. In support of this claim, Kinder Morgan stated that there was a “severe labor shortage” after the Exxon Valdez oil spill because industry workers took high-paying jobs related to clean-up efforts. Conveniently, Kinder Morgan omitted discussions regarding the negative impact of the oil spill on local businesses.
These claims by Kinder Morgan are shocking given the devastating effects that were reported from the recent Deepwater Horizon spill. The spill not only destroyed wildlife and caused significant property damage to surrounding areas but also caused workers to experience side-effects of toxic dispersants. Kinder Morgan’s claims that the oil spill can help the economy are completely contradictory to what history has shown. The gulf’s economy was significantly impacted by Deepwater Horizon. It cost thousands of fishermen, restaurants, hotels and other local businesses, millions of dollars in economic damages.
Just a cursory review of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill revealed the following:
- 11 workers dead
- $397.7 million dollars worth of oil spilled
- 665 miles of coastline contaminated by oil
- 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon
- 16.5 million gallons of oil chemically dispersed
- 47,000 personnel deployed in response to the spill
What these figures reveal is that oil spills do not positively affect the economy and can have catastrophic effects, regardless of how Kinder Morgan and other oil companies try to spin it. In an attempt to backtrack its previous arguments, Michael Davis of Kinder Morgan stated “while we are required by the National Energy Board to explore positive and negative socio-economic effects of a spill, it in no way means we accept the inevitability of a spill, nor justify one.”
Most disturbing is the fact that recent studies have shown that there are significant long-term effects of oil spills on wildlife. For example, the Georgia Institute of Technology found that the chemical dispersant Corexit is extremely toxic to marine animals when mixed with crude oil. It is estimated that 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were dumped into the gulf. Additionally, the gulf coast’s wetlands have continued to suffer from the spill and the ecosystems have not been restored which greatly affects local fishermen and businesses.