Greenpeace Launches Expedition to Study Impacts of Gulf Oil Spill
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08/11/10 Allie Wilkinson
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The Arctic Sunrise


photo by Allie Wilkinson

The environmental organization Greenpeace wants to uncover the true extent of the oil disaster in the Gulf. They’re launching a three-month research expedition from St. Petersburg.

Greenpeace and several academic institutions are setting course to sample the waters and marine life of the Gulf aboard their “Arctic Sunrise” research vessel. They think there’s no truth to the recent news that most oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster has been eliminated. Dan Howells is the Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director.

“We have been hearing over the last week or so from the administration and from BP and frankly, for the whole oil spill, that everything is okay. We honestly hope everything is okay, we hope everything is going in the right direction but we are going to go out with independent scientists from different universities from around the country and we are going to be doing everything form looking for whales, to testing plankton, looking for the oil plumes, water sampling, and we’re going to be going all over the Gulf of Mexico and doing this.”

The vessel leaves from St. Petersburg and will conduct research in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas before approaching the well-head. They aim to get at the true extent of how much oil remains. Marine biologist and oil spill expert Paul Horsman believes it’s greater than the 26 percent documented in the recent U.S. government report.

“The oil is there. It’s not just gone. And in terms of strongly disagreeing, I strongly disagree within the spin that has been put on this report, because if you actually look at the report in detail, and as always the devil is in the detail, you will actually find that some findings there, we would actually agree with. But oil has not gone, its still there. We just don’t know where it is.”

Horsman says discovering the truth won’t happen overnight. One research expedition won’t tell the story, and neither will two. Rather, he said it will be the accumulation of research from different entities.

“What our attempt is to try to provide a platform for independent scientists to come and do some work to try to provide, to begin to tell some of the next parts of the story of this spill. So look at this beginning of the next part of this story, a story that will be told over the coming weeks, months, if not years, and it will be written by scientists, it will be written in the faces of the fisherman you find in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the hotel people who have lost their living, and in people like Jo, who will continue to tell the story of the impact of this spill on their lives and livelihoods.”

In addition to the independent scientists and members of Greenpeace, long-time Gulf coast resident, Jo Billips of Orange Beach, Alabama, shared her own personal experience with the Gulf oil disaster.

“To watch what’s happened this summer, the Gulf being devastated by ignorance, and arrogance and negligence, has been a gut-wrenching and a heart-wrenching experience. To hear that the government and BP has closed the curtain on the situation and calling it over is amazing, because what we are seeing on the beaches of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida is that oil is still coming in. We still have dolphin washing up dead, and sharks washing up dead. We have a lot of sick people in different areas and we need to know what’s going on, and what really did happen.”

Howell added that disasters, like the Deepwater Horizon spill, will occur as long as America’s dependency on oil continues.

“A big reason for Greenpeace being here and a big reason for what we are doing is because the energy policy of the US has to change. The longer we keep on with a fossil fuel, or in this fossil fuel rut, we will keep having disasters like we had here.”

Marine biologist Horsman says disasters will continue to occur and the U.S. will keep falling behind other countries until the switch to clean energy.

“Dirty energy is causing huge environmental damage and we need to change. We need to shift to clean energy and unless the US gets on board with this, they will be left behind. China abd Asian countries are moving well ahead, faster than the US, in their clean energy technology development, and if the US misses this boat, they will be left behind.”

Greenpeace will share their findings during the expedition through their website greenpeace.org and will return to St. Petersburg for another press conference at the end of the three-month expedition.

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