Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stop all oil exploration in the Bahamas and never issue permits for drilling in the Islands - says reEarth

Bahamians sign 'no drill, no spill' petition
Tribune Staff Reporter

THE local environmental advocacy agency reEarth launched an online petition yesterday calling on the government to stop all oil exploration in the Bahamas, and to never issue permits for drilling.

Almost 50 Bahamians had signed the petition shortly after its release, including Lynn Sweeting and Jackson Burnside. Advocates as far as Germany, Sweden and Belarus signed on.

"Bahamians need to wake up. It is very close to home this time and it should be an eye-opener for us to make the changes that we need to make and start moving the country in the right direction for our energy needs. This is an obvious opportunity to drive forward the clean energy revolution in the Bahamas," said Sam Duncombe, reEarth director.

Since the April 20 explosion and fire on the BP drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, oil has been pouring into the gulf coast. Ms Duncombe said recent estimates indicate the spill now covers 25,000 square miles, equivalent to a quarter of the Bahamas' total land and sea area.

International media reported yesterday that the US Coast Guard discovered twenty tar balls on a beach off Key West, Florida. Some fear this may be an indication the spill has reached the strong loop currents that are projected to bring oil to the Bahamas.

The environmental disaster has threatened the livelihood of fishermen in the United States' second largest fishery industry, which formerly provided 40 per cent of the seafood to the US market.

"How do you come back from that when everything in the area has been tainted? There is no coming back from it unfortunately. Fishermen in this country should be outraged that the governing is still singing the song (of local oil exploration) and that we have not canned the idea," said Ms Duncombe.

She also said local fishermen should not count on the US market opening up for them, because an increase in poaching is the more likely result of the spill. She said some fishermen from the Gulf may resort to coming to the Bahamas to earn a living.


Marine Biologist and University of Alaska fisheries agent Rick Steiner, who has worked on oil spills all around the world, said in an interview on Democracy Now: "There's no way to restore a spill-injured ecosystem. There's really no way to rehabilitate oiled wildlife successfully, and there's very little way to adequately compensate human communities whose lives have been turned upside down by these kinds of things. So it's all bad. There's no good. The one potential silver lining to this disaster may be if we finally get the lesson learned that we need sustainable energy policies in this country."

The theme of the petition launched by reEarth is "No oil, no spill." Andrew Burrows, a signatory to the petition said: "The impact of the destruction of our marine ecosystems cannot compare to the reward of finding and extracting oil. Our way of life would definitely change for the worse if the Deepwater Horizon incident happened in the Bahamas."

The Bahamas has been praised internationally for its efforts in establishing protected marine habitats. However, Ms Duncombe said the government's willingness to consider oil exploration runs counter to the spirit of these efforts.

"What is the use of creating all of these protected areas if you plan to go down the oil route?

"If we have a spill we are going to be in big trouble. We have to decide if we are going to be a tourist destination or a oil destination," said Ms Duncombe.

"You can fix a lot of the problems that tourism creates, but you cannot fix the problems oil creates.

"In every country that there is oil, the top few benefit from it - the oil companies benefit from it - and the vast majority pays for the sins to have oil.

"It is not as though we are living in an era where we have no alternatives," she said.

May 19, 2010