Let this sink in

Tuesday morning, before completing the final draft of an article about Donald Trump’s plan to open the entire U.S. continental shelf to oil drilling (see page 8), I read a New York Times report about the worst petroleum spill in decades, which is taking place right now.

As you may already know, the spill began on January 6 in remote seas 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai, where a tanker collided with a cargo ship. The tanker, with 32 crew members on board, exploded and burned for more than a week, and then sank. It has reportedly released more than 100,000 metric tons of something called condensate, described as “a nearly invisible toxic liquid byproduct of natural gas production.” The ship now lies 300 feet below the ocean’s surface, still leaking.

Because of the remoteness of the incident, today’s Times article was the first I’d heard of this nightmarish catastrophe. I don’t know whether the story will be on the front page of every newspaper in the world tomorrow, as it should. One reason it might get coverage is tragic: It has likely impacted “an ecosystem that includes some of the world’s most bountiful fisheries.” Fish tested 5 miles from the spill are showing traces of petroleum hydrocarbons. The Chinese fishing industry employs 14 million people.

This tragically illustrates a fact pointed out by several of the folks I spoke with at last week’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hearing: Never mind the profound ecological costs of the petroleum economy, never mind the effects on human health; we have arrived at a moment when this stuff doesn’t even make economic sense. The only ones profiting from oil drilling today are the oil companies. This shit has got to stop.