Another Reason to Keep It in the Ground: Shell Spills 90,000 Gallons of Oil Into the Gulf of Mexico

by Ryan Schleeter

May 13, 2016

In case you needed another reason to join the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground, Shell Oil is here to give you one. Yesterday, the company spilled nearly 90,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

Oil from Oil Rig Disaster

Crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Yesterday, Shell Oil became the latest company to spill oil into the Gulf, releasing nearly 90,000 gallons from a platform of the coast of Louisiana.

© Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Just weeks after commemorating the six-year anniversary of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon blowout, the Gulf of Mexico is once again the site of a devastating oil spill.

Yesterday evening, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) reported a 36-square-mile oil sheen visible about 97 miles off the Louisiana coast near Shell’s Brutus platform. As of this morning, no injuries had been reported. The Coast Guard says the source of the spill has been secured and that a cleanup crew has been dispatched to the site.

But it will likely be days before we understand the full extent of the damage done.

When We Drill, We Spill

In a statement issued yesterday, Shell executives said that “no release [of oil] is acceptable, and safety remains our priority as we respond to this incident.”

If safety was truly the company’s priority, it wouldn’t be drilling for oil in the first place. History has proven that the more fossil fuel infrastructure we have, the more spills and leaks we’ll see — whether it’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf, the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, or the Santa Barbara oil spill almost exactly one year ago at Refugio State Beach in California.

The only way to prevent an oil spill is to keep oil in the ground. That’s what communities in the Gulf and other coastal regions, which were quick to condemn the spill and call for an end to fossil fuel exploitation, want and deserve.

On top of the impacts for coastal communities, continuing our reliance on drilling and burning oil comes at a high cost for the climate. In fact, a 2015 study in the journal Nature revealed that we need to leave at least 80 percent of the world’s known remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground to prevent runaway climate change.

More drilling in the Gulf, the Arctic, or anywhere else isn’t going to get us there.

While it’s likely we won’t know the full extent of the damage from this spill for weeks, one thing is clear. From the Gulf to Alaska and everywhere in between, the path to a sustainable future does not include fossil fuels.

President Obama can put these leaks, spills, and climate disasters behind us by stopping new offshore drilling in the Gulf and Arctic. Our oceans are not a sacrifice zone for oil profit — take action!

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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