The Unholy Spawn of Oil Spills and Microplastics

On the East coast of Tenerife, the biggest of the Canary Islands, stretches Playa Grande, with its clear waters and fine sand. Clamber up one of its outcrops, though, and you may notice something amiss: Much of this rock is darker, squishier, and hotter than the rest, and dotted with colorful sprinkles. Sounds cheerful, yes, but it’s actually a diabolical new kind of pollution.

The scientists who just discovered the horror are calling it “plastitar.” It’s tar from oil spills mixed with the multicolored microplastics that are spewing totally unchecked into the world’s oceans. (Microplastics are bits of plastic waste less than 5 millimeters long.)…

It’s important to note that Hernández-Borges and his colleagues were looking for particles as small as 1 millimeter, which means many, many smaller bits evaded detection. As microplastics science has progressed, researchers have started to test for nanoplastics—particles smaller than a millionth of a meter. A load of laundry can release trillions of these nanoplastics into the sea.

A portrait of things to come…globally? Of course.

U.S. oil spills quadrupled since 2000

The number of spills from offshore oil rigs and pipelines in U.S. waters more than quadrupled this decade, a trend that could have served as a warning for the massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government data and safety experts.

The spills — and the amount of oil that leaked — grew markedly worse even when taking increases in production into account, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data shows. The leaks came as the oil industry repeatedly claimed that offshore drilling was never safer.

The same Louisiana officials who now whine about government response to the BP oil spill being inadequate – led the march of political lemmings backing the Gulf drilling industry. They all got their slice of the contribution pie.

From the early 1970s through the ’90s, offshore rigs and pipelines averaged about four spills per year of at least 50 barrels, according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS)…The average annual total surged to more than 17 from 2000 through 2009. From 2005 through 2009, spills averaged 22 a year.

The company with the most spills from 2000 through 2009 is BP, which leased the well spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf since April 20, according to the data. The oil giant and its affiliated companies reported 23 spills of 50 barrels or more, not including the latest blowout. Oil firm Shell was next with 21, according to MMS spill reports…

Richard Charter, a marine expert with the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, said the smaller spills should have foreshadowed bigger mistakes were on the way.

Carelessness is usually a sign of impending disaster,” he said.

Political kickbacks, corruption, cronyism are usually the source of the “carelessness”. Take it all the way from the Bush White House and Congress right back to local hacks who managed to praise and support offshore drilling – safe or otherwise.