Saturday, January 18, 2014

Trinidad and Tobago Deals with Massive Oil Spill

An oil refinery in Trinidad.  Click for photo credit.
It's South America week here at On the Brink.  I'm traveling here this week so I thought I would write some updates on what is on the minds of those concerned with sustainability in this region.  So far I've written about sustainability planning in the oil industry in Venezuela and problems with gold mining in Guyana.  Today we head just off the coast of South America to the country of Trinidad and Tobago which is dealing with the aftermath of huge oil spills that occurred over the last month.

Trinidad and Tobago is located off the coast of Venezuela.  It is sometimes classified as a Caribbean country and sometimes as a South American nation.  It has an abundance of energy resources including oil and natural gas.  In addition, it has many industries associated with this energy wealth including oil refining, petrochemical plants, and steel manufacturing.  With such huge energy resources, it also has tremendous risks for pollution.  As an island nation, it is particularly vulnerable to pollution problems, particularly oil spills.

Many in Trinidad are concerned over the impact of the
oil spill on tourism.  It hosts one of the most spectacular
Carnival celebrations in the world in the coming weeks.
Click for photo credit.
We all intuitively understand that islands are vulnerable to these types of problems because of their limited size and coastline.  During the recent oil spill in Trinidad and Tobago, miles of coastline were coated with crude oil.  There is only so much coastline in a place like this.  The severity of the problem and the concern of the public was high.

According to this article on the Huffington Post, there are conflicting possible causes for the oil spill.  The owner of the state run oil company stated that part of the cause was sabotage.  Others blame old infrastructure and a lack of oversight.  There is also controversy over the cleanup of the spill.  The government used a dispersant that is considered worse for the environment than oil when it is mixed with oil.

The massive size of this spill and the political implications of having a state owned oil company having these problems are making quite a bit of news in the region.  With Trinidad's famous Carnival approaching, it is many concerned about tourism.

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