Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘opinion’

December 14, 2007

Banning bunker fuel: Tread lightly expert says

An environmental chemist looking into the rush to ban the use of bunker fuel on ships, says the alternatives, especially diesel can be harder to cleanup. Christopher Reddy’s Open Forum piece in the San Francisco Chronicle and is worth a careful read:

“…Bunker oil is highly viscous, sticky, and floats. Bunker oil spills are visually obvious but the very nature of this product allows it to be cleaned up easier than diesel fuel. It can be boomed, skimmed and oil-covered objects along shorelines, often called dirty bathtub rings, can be removed. Diesel fuel is less viscous and harder to contain and recover. Once in the water, diesel insinuates itself into the lifecycles of plants and animals. Toxicity is always difficult to define, but in a relative manner, diesel fuel is significantly more lethal than bunker fuel.

Pure vegetable fuels and biodiesel are attractive alternatives but are not perfect. One marine spill of vegetable oil in Europe left behind a polymerized residue that one scientist argued was more persistent than petroleum fuels. Another spill of vegetable oil in Canada resulted in a large kill of birds. Biodiesel is used to formulate a range of mixtures from B2 (2 percent biodiesel mixed with 98 percent petroleum diesel) to B100 (100 percent biodiesel). While the biocomponent of biodiesel mixtures is much safer and less persistent in the environment, anything less than B100 will contain petroleum diesel with the same negative attributes…”

Read onward

November 14, 2007

David Helvarg: It smells like a gas station

David Helvarg: Death by the Bay, Opinion page, Los Angeles Times:

“…I’m sitting by the dock of the Bay — that’s what Otis Redding called the Berkeley Municipal Pier in his famous song. Only now it smells like a gas station. On the rock pile below me, a surf scoter — a diving duck — is using the bottom of its red bill to preen its oil-blackened feathers. It shakes its head and carefully repeats the process for the half an hour I’m there. When I make too sudden a move, it flaps its wings like it’s going to flee into the water, where it would likely die of hypothermia, its natural insulation ruined by the oil. I’ll see dozens more oiled birds this day: scoters, grebes, gulls, a rudy duck and cormorants.

The Berkeley marina behind me is one big, oily sheen. “Rainbows of oil” is a misnomer. Gasoline leaves rainbow sheens. Bunker fuel leaves green-and-brown streaks and smudges like marbled meat gone bad. It leaves floating tar balls and disks and globular curly-cue pieces, and concentrations of hard, asphalt-like toxic chips…”


See the full piece from the November 13, 2007 issue