Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Interesting Mixed Metaphor - BP Oil Spill and Energy Efficiency

This story from Treehugger highlights an interesting quantification of the BP Oil Spill in terms of energy being wasted.
  • The estimated cost to clean up the oil spill ($40 B) is many times greater than the cost to retrofit 75,000 houses ($1 B) and save the energy equivalent of the gulf oil spill every year.
  • 75,000 houses = mid-sized U.S. city or large suburb of a major city, like Chattanooga, Tenn. or Providence, R.I.
  • A typical home energy retrofit costs around $10,000 per house -- before any utility or governments energy rebates are applied.  
Of course, wasted energy is only a small part of the problem. There is the matter of millions of barrels (>114 million gallons = ~2.7 million barrels in worst case estimate or ~30M gal for a more conservative estimate) of crude oil in the water:
  • Oil washing up in coastal habitats killing animals, destroying ecosystems and heading towards Florida and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Tons (>1.2 Million gal) of toxic chemicals being sprayed on it (dispersants) with unknown long term impact
  • The effect of the dispersed oil droplets sinking in the water column impacting sub-surface life.
  • Tons of methane, >20x more potent than CO2 as a green house gas, that have been released (around 2900 cu ft of methane per barrel of oil = 7.8 billion cu ft = ~112,000 metric tons = ~ equivalent to green house gas effect of emissions from 20,400 cars)
  • Increased hyopxic "dead zone" in the gulf (between 8% and 30% larger than normal) possibly from all the methane being pumped into the water along with the oil, further impacting the ecosystem.
  • The short and long term cost of health effects from the oil, chemical and gas exposure on clean up volunteers.
  • The resulting economic and job loss throughout the market chain as people cannot catch fish, sell fish, buy fish, so fishermen can't buy things thereby hurting local businesses which rely on the fishermen's income. (1% of Lousiana's economic output according to NPR)
  • More economic loss from the moratorium on deep water drilling (16% of the economic activity of Louisiana according to NPR).
  • The loss in stock value of BP impacting the retirement income and viability of retirement portfolios for large numbers of people, bringing further economic hardship on people already in the middle of one of the worst recessions in recent history.
So interesting comparison: yes... but sort of missing the big picture.