Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Real Scandals Behind the Oil Spill

Spilled out from Ecopetrol's Lizama 158 well poisons a nearby stream. (Photo: Vanguardia Liberal)
An abandoned oil well pouring out petroleum since the beginning of this month has generated angry headlines about animals killed, fishermen out of work and residents sickened. But the real scandal may be state oil company EcoPetrol's alleged irresponsible handling of its exhausted wells.

The Lizama 158 oil well in Santander Department has been pouring out oil, much of it into a nearby river, since the start of March. At least 550 barrels of oil - according to the company - and perhaps as many as 23,000 barrels - according to the National Environmental Licensing Agency (ANLA) - have spilled out.

Ecopetrol has speculated that a nearby tectonic shift could have triggered the leak. But whatever the immediate cause of this spill, the press scrutiny has exposed a much larger scandal. According to multiple Controlaria reports, Ecopetrol frequently failed to seal exhausted oil wells, leaving the wells a threat to pour petroleum onto their surroundings.

How many times will this disaster be repeated? How many Ecopetrol wells are leaking away into the jungle?

The accompanying scandal here is the, despite the repeated Controlaria reports, apparently no government enforcement entity bothered to force Ecopetrol to obey the law.

How many other environmental regulations are being ignored, setting the scene for future disasters?

It's worth pointing out, too, that even when it's not spilled into the jungle, oil is an environmental disaster all along its life cycle: Even the cleanest oil wells often require road and pipeline construction, opening the wilderness to farmers and deforestation.

And the oil that is processed 'correctly' will ultimately be burned, polluting the air and contributing to global warming.

The best solution for the environment is not to finally seal well Lizama 158, but to end our addiction to oil.

Meanwhile, yesterday El Espectador printed this impactful article about Colombia's worst environmental disasters. As the paper points out, the leaking oil well is a minor disaster compared to Colombia's terrible deforestation rate, the innumerable rivers destroyed by illegal mining, and the Ciénaga Grande, a wetland on the Caribbean coast, is being steadily killed by roads, dikes and canals.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: