The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound released 10.8 million gallons of oil -- or almost 250,000 barrels of oil. But natural oil seeps off California release up to 80 times that amount. And natural seeps in the Gulf of Mexico release twice the amount as the Exxon Valdez every year.
The Transocean oil spill may eventually match that of the Exxon Valdez -- if it continues leaking at the current rate for the next month or two or more. Politicians and environmentalists are already declaring states of emergency, but better technology may yet break up the oil spill and allow natural forces to dissipate it.
Curious claims are being made from various sources regarding the origin of the oil platform fire, explosion, and sinking. But even if the oil platform was deliberately destroyed, as some are claiming, the well itself should have had some type of inbuilt mechanism -- a blowout preventer -- to stop oil flow in case of a catastrophic disruption in continuity of the piping. [Update 1 May 2010: Apparently the blowout preventer at the site failed to operate. At this time no one knows why the blowout preventer failed. Certain automatic safety switches that were not included in the operation may have been able to trigger the blowout preventer.]
Other offshore wells incorporate such safety features, which would likely have stopped the oil spill very early in its course.
So the problem is not offshore drilling so much as it is making sure the best technology is utilised when drilling offshore. And, yes, try to maintain a sense of perspective.
By Al Fin