Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Macondo oil spill highlights gulf coast vunerabilities

Hurricanes and oil spills along the Gulf of Mexico typically bring renewed attention to the region’s disappearing wetlands and its fragile barrier islands. Countless people saw many pictures of oily brown pelicans and their stained nesting grounds in the aftermath of the Macondo well blowout and subsequent oil spill.

An inaugural World Delta Dialogues conference in New Orleans during October focused on the Mississippi River Delta where an estimated 25 sq miles/year erodes into open water. Some 350 people, including representatives from oil companies, attended the conference organized by America’s Wetlands Foundation.

Entergy Corp., a nuclear power provider, used the conference as a forum to release a study entitled “Building a Resilient Energy Gulf Coast.” America’s Energy Coast and America’s Wetlands Foundation supported the study. Entergy helped commission the study done by McKinsey & Co. and Swiss Re.

Global warming, rising sea levels, subsidence, and stronger, more frequent hurricanes all make the gulf coast vulnerable, said Wayne Leonard, Entergy chairman and chief executive officer. He called the study a “call to arms” for governors, lawmakers, and oil and gas companies.

The study examined potential benefits of various options, including changes in levees and coastal building codes along with changes in offshore drilling practices and production platform standards.

The study examined coastal counties and parishes along Texas, Coastal Mississippi, and Alabama where energy is key to the economy. A study executive report said that the gulf region averages losses of $14 billion/year, and that those losses are expected to climb in coming years.

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