The world uses nearly 3 billion gallons each day.
You may not be aware of all the ways we use oil. We use it:
- to fuel our cars, trucks, and buses, and to heat our houses.
- to lubricate machinery large and small, such as bicycles or printing presses.
- to make the asphalt we use to pave our roads.
- to make plastics, such as the toys we play with and the portable radios or CD players we listen to.
- to make medicines, ink, fertilizers, pesticides, paints, varnishes, and electricity.
Unfortunately, scientists know from experience about how oil spills affect wildlife. Hopefully this blog will give you some insight into that, too.
There are lots of kinds of oil, categorized by the 'light' kinds or the 'heavy' kinds. The lightest, like auto and jet fuels, evaporate quickly after a spill and usually damage the wildlife only in the upper layers of water. The heavier oils stay on the water, in the water, and move with the currents that carry them even further out to sea or to the land, where they contaminate even more species of plants and wildlife.
The oil can affect algae, plankton, fish, mammals, birds, and plants. This destroys entire food chains. Even birds that are nowhere near the spill can migrate, eat oil-contaminated plants or animals while foraging, and then become harmed themselves. The contaminants can affect shell formation of invertebrates. Even if wildlife survives the initial contamination, contamination can last decades, affecting reproduction and future wildlife.
Source for all above is http://alaska.fws.gov/media/unalaska/Oil%20Spill%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
According to http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/facts/qanda.cfm
The Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska released approximately 11 million gallons (257,000 barrels) of oil. The amount of spilled oil is roughly equivalent to 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline was impacted. It took more than four summers of cleanup efforts before the effort was called off. Not all beaches were cleaned and some beaches remain oiled today. At its peak the cleanup effort included 10,000 workers, about 1,000 boats and roughly 100 airplanes and helicopters. Exxon says it spent about $2.1 billion on the cleanup effort. The carcasses of more than 35,000 birds and 1,000 sea otters were found after the spill, but since most carcasses sink, this is considered to be a small fraction of the actual death toll. The best estimates are: 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs. As of 2001 (12 years after the spill), survey results indicate a total area of approximately 20 acres of shoreline in Prince William Sound are still contaminated with oil. Oil was found at 58 percent of the 91 sites assessed.
After reading all of that, know that the Exxon Valdez spill is not even in the top 50 worst spills worldwide.
Here is a history of oil spills up until 2004. There are dozens more since then. Every spill causes environmental damage. http://www.marinergroup.com/oil-spill-history.htm
The noaa.gov website sums it up best:
Because oil and oil products in the environment can cause harm, we need to prevent problems when we can. For example, by avoiding dumping oil or oily waste into the sewer or garbage, we avoid polluting the environment we live in. Sometimes, we can find ways to avoid using oil in the first place: for example, we can bicycle, walk, or take the bus rather than taking a car to some places we need to go. When we use less oil, less needs to be transported, and there's a lower risk of future oil spills. We should understand that it is because we rely on oil that we run the risk of oil spills. That means that all of us share both the responsibility for creating the problem of oil spills and the responsibility for finding ways to solve the problem.