Tag Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Geopolitics Revisited

by Caitlin Douglas

April 20th marked the one year anniversary of the largest accidental oil spill into an ocean that released 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Not long after the accident, I wrote a post on this website about the geopolitics of oil supply referencing Michael Bradshaw’s article on the Geopolitics of Global Energy Security. The stats Bradshaw provides on both the major suppliers of oil, and the countries with the largest reserves, still intrigues me.

The Society of Biology, on the one year anniversary, released a briefing on the spill which provided numerous links to news articles and official sites. The environmental impacts remain uncertain, with some people saying that the impact is less than anticipated, while others say that the full impacts will only be felt in the long-term.

The answer to my question of last year– will this disaster lead to a push for renewable energies, or lead to the exploration and exploitation of oil in more remote areas of the globe- remains largely unanswered.

Bradshaw, M. 2009. Geopolitics of Global Energy Security.  Geography Compass,  3(5): 1920-1937.

Society of Biology, 2011. Deepwater Horizon: what does 4.9m barrels of oil mean one year on?

An insight into the consequences of climate change?

Arctic sea iceMethane is a potent greenhouse gas. Human activities, e.g. farming, have resulted in the release of large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. However, in locations across the world, large amounts of methane and carbon are stored in soil or the sea bed. These are released gradually as a natural process.

In a Geography Compass paper, William Bowden raises concerns over this process as Arctic ice and permafrost (frozen ground) begin to thaw in response to climate change. Bowden suggests that stored methane and carbon may be released into the atmosphere, further contributing to the volume of greenhouse gases.

Switching our attention to the Gulf of Mexico, last April’s Deepwater Horizon oil leak also caused the release of a large quantity of methane. Research discovered that methane-absorbing bacteria multiplied rapidly in response. As a result, much of the additional methane was not released into the atmosphere.

The Arctic and Gulf of Mexico may behave very differently from each other. However, research into the Deepwater Horizon oil leak offers an insight into the potential consequences of much greater environmental change.

BBC News (6th January 2011) ‘Gulf of Mexico oil leak may give Arctic climate clues’.

Bowden, William B. (2010) ‘Climate Change in the Arctic – Permafrost, Thermokarst, and Why They Matter to the Non-Arctic World’. Geography Compass 3 (10): 1553-1566

Energy security

I-Hsien Porter

Our dependence on energy is increasingly fragile. In the US, oil companies are drilling deeper and taking more risks in response to the demand for cheap oil. In April, a Transocean/BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, resulting in a massive oil spill. Regardless of how the situation has been managed, it was the demand for oil that meant that the oil rig, with all its associated risks, was there in the first place. Energy supplied by fossil fuel is becoming more risky to obtain.

Meanwhile, on the Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, residents have been urged to use household appliances less as a lack of rain has reduced the amount of electricity generated through hydro-power schemes. Energy supplies are becoming more difficult to sustain.

In Belarus recently, piped gas supplies from Russia were reduced in response to a disagreement over payment for gas and the use of transit pipelines. Energy security is therefore not just a case of the geographical distribution of supply and demand, but is also dependant on complex social processes and international relations.

Michael Bradshaw deals with these themes in an article in Geography Compass, published in 2009. Bradshaw illustrates the multidimensional nature of energy security. For example, climate change policy is driving a reduction in reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels. At the same time, China and India’s rapidly developing economies are increasing their demand for energy, reshaping the challenges of energy security as they add their voices to the debate.

Geographers are well placed to understand the interface of the physical and political drivers of changing energy supply and demand. A key challenge remains in translating this into an understanding of energy security and the policies needed to sustain affordable and sufficient energy supplies.

Bradshaw, M. J. (2009) “The Geopolitics of Global Energy Security.” Geography Compass 3 (5): 1920-1937

US Oil Spill coverage (BBC News, 30th June)

No rain puts Eigg on toast watch (BBC News, 29th June)

Russia ‘to restart’ full gas supplies after Belarus row (BBC News, 24th June)

Geopolitics

By Caitlin Douglas

April’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a sobering reminder of the environmental and social implications of the USA’s dependence on oil. In 2009, Michael Bradshaw wrote an excellent and enlightening article in Geography Compass on the ‘Geopolitics of Global Energy Security’. The USA accounts for only 5% of the world’s population but consumes 25% of its oil. It is the third largest producer of oil (8%) but still imports nearly 60% of its petroleum needs. America’s domestic supply of oil peaked in the 1970s and has been declining ever since, making it ever more reliant on imported oil.

Interestingly the five major suppliers of crude oil and petroleum products to the USA are: Canada (18%), Mexico (11%), Saudi Arabia (11%), Venezuela (10%) and Nigeria (8%).  Only a relatively small proportion of oil is sourced from the Persian Gulf. This balance may not, however, always be an option as the top five countries with proved oil reserves are in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE).

Securing and maintaining a reliable oil supply has been a key element of American foreign policy for several decades. President George W. Bush recognized America’s addiction to oil, but saw the key issue as the USA’s dependence on ‘unstable parts of the world’ rather than its consumption of oil. In his inaugural address, President Obama also recognised the country’s dependence on these volatile areas but called for the use of renewable energy to ease the reliance on imported oil.

The question now is whether the devastation and resulting public outcry over the recent BP oil spill will provide the support and impetus to develop renewable forms of energy or will it merely lead to the exploration and exploitation of the untapped oil reserves in US friendly areas such as the Gulf of Guinea.

IP address shortage to limit internet access Read Michael Bradshaw’s ‘Geopolitics of Global Energy Security‘ in Geography Compass

IP address shortage to limit internet access Look at BBC’s pictures on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak,  the Oil Spill Clean-up, and the Continuing Clean-Up

Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico: A disaster for the local society and ecosystems?

By Lee-Sim Lim

When Iceland and European countries  are facing the uncertainties from the eruption of Eyjafjallajöekull, the US is desperately finding solutions to the unexpected oil spill.  The incident happened at the night of 20 April 2010 at Gulf of Mexico, due to the blast of one of the BP’s oil rig, which further caused the rig to sunk and lead to the major oil spill.

Since the day the rig submerged, the spill already covered 12km2 and increased to 1500 km2 in a week time. Terry Macalister from the Guardian reported (6 May 2010), that the incident is estimated BP to face at least £15 billion loss. It is indeed a disaster to the company.  However, the local societies and ecosystems are actually far more likely to be the long-term victims.  It is believed to affect local wildlife and the coastal ecosystems as well as affect local economy which involves tourism.

During this period, the advancement of Geographic Information Science and Systems such as Geoweb enables organisations like NASA as well as the public to monitor and predict the oil spill since 22 April.  Geography Compass recently published Dr Paul M. Torrens’ review on the development of one of the computational simulation model class, agent-based models (ABMs) in spatial sciences, which involve its application in improving Geoweb and other behavioural geography technologies.

Based on the federal Mineral Service, there were more than 800 rig related accidents in Gulf of Mexico within the last decade, indicating the area which rich in both the natural resources and some of the US most important ecosystems may turn into disaster without handing their environmental problems carefully.

View the Read about how the incident affected the local communities so far at BBC News

Dr Paul M. Torrens’ review on ABMs and Spatial Sciences

View the Read about how the incident affected the local   communities so far at BBC News Tracking the oil spill since 22 April 2010 with CNN

View the Read about how the incident affected the local     communities so far at BBC News Unforeseen impacts of oil slick on the local society, wildlife and ecosystems of Gulf of Mexico

View the Read about how the incident affected the local       communities so far at BBC NewsComparing Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill with the past

View the Read about how the incident affected the local        communities so far at BBC News Read more on how BBC readers concerns when they wait for the news

Graphic source: NASA, 1 May 2010 (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/oil-creep.html)