Texas Spill: Oil and Water Still Don’t Mix


Up to 11,000 barrels of oil spilled into a Texas waterway over the weekend, the largest spill in the state in nearly two decades. The spill, from a hole in the side of the 807-foot tanker Eagle Otome, happened in Port Arthur, where the state’s petroleum and shipping industries meet. The incident is expected to close the Sabine-Neches Waterway—which is used to transport oil to four Texas refineries—for at least five days. In a healthy dose of irony, the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce’s motto is, “Where oil and water mix, beautifully.”

The spill comes as Congress ponders passing an energy/climate bill that’s expected to include some expansion of offshore drilling in the United States. Indeed, it may be the inclusion of more drilling that gives that bill a fighting chance of passage this year. Republican supporter Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and a number of moderate Democrats have voiced desire for expanded drilling, and the White House has floated drilling as part of a “grand bargain” to get something passed. The Senate framework from Graham, John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) includes drilling provisions. Even many environmental groups have now accepted that additional drilling will likely be necessary as part of a compromise to get a cap on carbon dioxide.

Proponents of drilling often tout how environmentally friendly their practices are these days. But Saturday’s spill is a healthy reminder that no matter what you do to oil, there’s nothing very green about it.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.