Salty Topics: Exploring Oil Spill Impacts in the Gulf of Mexico


In April of 2010, a gas release on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused an explosion that caused devastation in the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days to make this oil spill the worst one in recent history. Because of this oil spill, the coastlines of states like Texas, Louisiana, and Florida have portions that were polluted by the oil spill in 2010, and there are still sightings of oil washing up on these state’s shores today. Nearly 8,000 marine animals, such as turtles and birds, were reportedly dead within six-months of the oil spill.

Even though the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred over six years ago, scientists and researchers are still discovering the oil spill’s effects on the Gulf of Mexico. Come join us and Dr. Monica Wilson as she discusses recent research findings and explores the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s impacts on habitats, aquatic wildlife, and human health.

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Register Today for Earth Day Everyday!

Earth Day comes but once a year! However, there are simple actions you can take in your daily life to contribute to the well-being of your family, your community, and your planet.

Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS Extension in Pinellas County are offering 2 Earth Day Programs-one for Youth and Family and a program for Adults.IMG_1043

On Friday, April 18th, students will learn about the habitats and critters that live in estuaries like Tampa Bay. Then, they will interact with a hands-on model of our coastal environment to learn how their actions can positively impact the Tampa Bay environment. Finally, utilizing a kill a watt meter, students can discover how much energy average household appliance use. The program best suited for children 6-12 years. Youth must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Register at

IMG_1647On Saturday, April 19th, the 3-hour hands-on workshop will include rainwater harvesting, energy conservation, and estuary-friendly living complete with 1-hour canoe excursion. Each participant will receive an Estuary to Friendly Living booklet, guide to Rain Barrels, insulated shopping bag, and home energy saving kit.  Participants may choose to purchase a completed barrel for $30, paid in advance (see ticket type). Barrel quantities are limited. Register at

Good News for Pacific Coast Salmon – Three Major Dams to be Demolished

Elwha River Chinook salmon

The removal of 3 dams will restore salmon habitat. (NOAA photo by John McMillan)

The demolition of three major dams built in the early 1900s (Condit, Elwha and Glines Canyon dams) will result in the restoration of important salmon spawning runs in the state of Washington.

The results are impressive. Folks living along the White Salmon River report their amazement to hear the racket that the salmon make: males thrashing and fighting for mates, and females digging their nests.

In addition to the importance of this spawning habitat for salmon populations, there is also another important benefit to other wildlife. Each spent fish (salmon die after spawning) can be thought of as a 25 pound sack of fertilizer, feeding birds, bears, and other animals in the watershed.

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Global Investment in Renewable Energy Research

China Number One, Followed by U.S. and Europe

China leads the way in investing in renewable clean energy technologies (wind, solar, biomass, biofuels, etc.).  China investments totaled approximately $54 billion in these technologies compared to about $30 billion in the U.S. China is by far the largest investor in wind energy sources at $45 billion compared to $17 billion in the U.S. This may come as a surprise to many folks as we often hear that China is building an average of one coal fuel power plant per week.  However, you may recall that in a past Marine Scene article, “A Tale of Two Chinas”, China seems to be determined to be a leader in renewable energy technology in the future.

The combined investments of the European countries is slightly behind that of the U.S. Interestingly, Germany, the fourth largest world economy, has just announced that it will retire all of its nuclear generating capacity over the next decade as the result of the nuclear accident in Japan. It will develop wind, solar and natural gas generating capacity to make up the difference.

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A Tale of Two Chinas

The same article that provided the information on offshore- wind electrical generation, also had some comments on China’s efforts to develop renewable power sources. I thought you would find the following interesting.

China has wildly contradictory policies on energy development and climate change, as if it were two separate countries racing in opposite directions. China has become the global leader in greenhouse-gas emissions, building a new, dirty, inefficient coal-fired power electric plant almost every week, particularly in its poorer western provinces.

At the same time, China’s eastern seaboard is increasingly prosperous and forward thinking. Eastern cities have become centers of innovation in development of high-tech, low-carbon power as they scramble to stem choking air pollution, slow contributions to climate change, and sustain blistering economic growth.

Indeed, China’s renewable-energy development is moving so quickly that it will soon be the international leader in wind and solar power. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, recently warned “China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power, and wind power”.

Offshore Wind–Testing the Water

Within a few years, wind turbines could be spinning off the U.S. East coast, their flashing blades capturing Atlantic Ocean winds and producing clean, renewable energy for coastal communities.

The U.S. Atlantic seaboard from Maine to South Carolina is blessed with a broad, shallow continental shelf where winds blow hard and steadily much of the time. Five northerner coastal states – from Delaware to Massachusetts – are poised to construct wind farms in the sea and recruit wind-power manufacturers in an effort to stimulate new green industries and jobs.

U.S. wind farms have sprung up across the Great Plains and the Upper Midwest from frozen Minnesota to sun-scorched West Texas, along rocky Appalachian ridgelines, in open spaces in New York and California and in the Pacific Northwest. Wind power accounted for 42 percent of all new electric generation capacity added in the U.S. in 2008.

Still, not a single turbine has been built in some of America’s windiest places – its oceans or Great Lakes. That will soon change. Within two years, if all approvals are acquired, Cape Wind, a project that will install 130 wind turbines five miles off the Massachusetts coast, could become the nation’s first offshore wind farm connected to an electrical grid.

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Governor Approves Offshore Natural Gas Terminal

A new liquid natural gas (LNG) receiving port to be developed off the coast of Tampa Bay promises to provide a new source of clean-burning fuel for Florida. Governor Charlie Crist announced his approval of the project in September; construction is expected to begin in 2011 with the new terminal coming online in 2013.

Port Dolphin Energy, a subsidiary of Norwegian-based international shipping company, plans to construct the deepwater port 28 miles off the coast of Manatee County. LNG tankers arriving at the port would connect to a natural gas pipeline running from the offshore terminal to Port Manatee and then inland for four miles before connecting with the state’s natural gas pipeline grid. The LNG would be returned to a gaseous state aboard the specially designed shuttle and regasification vessels (SRV’s) before being fed into the pipeline to serve customers throughout west central Florida.

The company estimates that the project will generate a direct economic impact to Manatee County and Port Manatee of $125 million over the next 20 years.

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Ice That Burns Could Be a Green Fossil Fuel

Natural gas locked up in water crystals could be a source of enormous amounts of energy – and if a new technology delivers what scientists are claiming, then it could even be emission-free too.

To the naked eye, clathrate hydrate looks like regular ice. However, while it is made up partly of water, the water molecules are organized into “cages”, which trap individual molecules of methane inside them.

Compared to other fossil fuels, methane – also known as natural gas – released less carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated. Nevertheless, burning it still releases carbon dioxide and thus drives climate change.

However, according to research presented this week at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, a new method of extracting the methane could effectively make it a carbon-neutral fossil fuel.

Due to their physical structure, clathrate hydrate cages “prefer” to have carbon dioxide at their cores, so if carbon dioxide is pumped into the hydrate, it spontaneously takes the methane’s place. As a result, it should be possible to simultaneously extract methane and store carbon dioxide.

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