Stolen: Great minds of science and oil? |

Stolen: Great minds of science and oil?

We have made some amazing advances in technology. Look at our hand-held computers and iPhones. We literally have all kinds of information at our fingertips! We are gaining knowledge about how the genetic code works and what genes can cause disease. We even have gene libraries. We can now use semiconductors to sequence genes. The method is faster, more efficient, uses no wasteful reagents, and is more accurate. We have sent people into space, and landed on the moon. The satellites we have put into space transmit TV signals and telephone calls, and we have satellite navigation systems in cars and airplanes. Satellites also study oceans, the atmosphere, clouds, weather, rain forests, deserts, cities, farmlands, ice sheets and just about everything else on and even in the earth. We use satellites to predict the weather. Frequent satellite images of a rainforest can show how fast this precious habitat is shrinking. Views from space of the North and South Poles allow us to monitor the shrinking of ice sheets. Two other satellites, TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, have been studying the oceans. Those satellites are now looking at the brown goop that is emanating from an oil well gone out of control, and many people like me are frustrated with the inability of the oil company to plug this while we stand horrified at the destruction to the Gulf Coastal areas.

The oil industry claims oil drilling is safe, that their technology has advanced – and yet there was no indication anything was wrong before the big explosion. No indication! Now we are spilling 5,000 barrels of crude oil into our already fragile ocean, and the oil industry never anticipated that so much oil could spill out! It is leaking five times faster than the original estimate. The latest capping attempt was a bust because they did not understand the chemistry and the result of a crystal formation. They claim they have to regroup, and meanwhile 5,000 barrels a day are spilling out.

The oil companies claimed they have the technology in place to contain the oil, repeatedly claiming this. Fox News reported on June 27, 2008: “We know that the technology to drill offshore is extraordinarily safe and environmentally friendly. And it’s not something that we have to be as worried about as we do a refinery on shore or some other type of issue.” On MSNBC after Katrina, there was a claim regarding the oil drilling site: “It can take a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf that really came twice, and the technology made sure that there wasn’t a drop that was spilled in the Gulf.” Actually there was oil spilled. According to a 2007 report prepared for the U.S. Minerals Management Service by an international consulting firm, due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, “124 oil spills were reported with a total volume of roughly 17,700 barrels of total petroleum products,” including more than 10,000 barrels from platforms and rigs alone. This never made the headline news.

Now this event may be the biggest spill ever, affecting the wildlife, seafood production and tourism industry – plus all this oil that we need and wage wars over is being wasted. Now they are saying it many take months to cap this, and goodness knows how many years to clean it up – if ever. Where are the great minds when it comes to energy technology; like those that have advanced our computers so rapidly over the past decade? They are out there. There just hasn’t been the funding for this research because of the need to keep guzzling oil because it makes huge profits for some of the powerful.

Breckenridge resident Dr. Joanne Stolen is a former professor of microbiology from Rutgers now teaching classes at CMC. Her scientific interests are in emerging infectious diseases and environmental pollution.

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