Oil Spills Matter: Even In Landlocked Utah

Mar 26, 2014

On Saturday, a collision between a barge and a ship on the Houston Ship Channel resulted in nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil spilling into the water. The difficult to disperse sludge had reached 12 miles off the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday.

Media reports that now is the peak of the shorebird migration season, and that 10 oiled birds had been found and sent to a wildlife rehabilitation center as of Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Joseph Tainter, a professor of environment and society at Utah State University, calls the spill a reminder of the price of society's dependence on oil.

"I think it would be useful to look at this as an indicator of the problems that arise from using oil, and the way that we have sort-of trapped ourselves into a way of life in which we don't have any real alternative except to use oil."

Tainter said that as natural resources are limited, and as society attempts to satiate it's growing and unsustainable desire for oil, the risks will only increase, and Utahns should pay attention to the spill.

"The Utah environment isn't affected by this particular spill in the Houston Ship Channel, but we've seen spills in Utah particularly along the Wasatch front over the last few years," he said.  

Media reports the closure of the channel forced more than 80 ships to wait to enter or leave the bay, severely hindering trade in one of the busiest ports in the U.S.

The AP contributed to this report.